News at a glance

30th March 2012 at 01:00

Red tape reduction is tied up in knots

MPs have criticised the absence of a single organisation responsible for cutting the level of bureaucracy faced by FE providers. Publishing a report on the subject, Margaret Hodge, who chairs the Committee of Public Accounts, said: "We were frustrated that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which leads on policy for further education and which you would expect to accept overall responsibility, does not believe it should do that job." The MPs said that the Department had required its partner organisation the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) to cut its administration bill by a third, but had no "rational" view on how much red tape should be cut for providers. But the SFA said it regarded bureaucracy reduction as an inevitable consequence of its increase in provider freedoms and flexibility, so did not regard a bureaucracy reduction target as helpful.

Unison opposes profit principle

Unions called on ministers to block talks with a private equity firm that could lead to Barnfield College becoming the country's first for-profit FE college. Pete Birkett, chief executive of the Barnfield Federation, told The Observer that he had held talks with companies interested in investing in education with a view to becoming the first college to take advantage of provisions in last year's Education Act allowing for-profit colleges. The federation also runs three schools and a studio school, with plans for five more primaries. Unison has written to FE minister John Hayes asking him to block any deal. "The government cannot stand by and let our colleges and schools be run as profit-making ventures," said Jon Richards, the union's national secretary for education.

Way replaces Waugh at NAS

David Way, chief operating officer of the National Apprenticeship Service, has stepped up to be interim chief executive following Simon Waugh's departure today. Mr Waugh announced in January that he would be stepping down for personal reasons. He had also faced criticism over the quality of apprenticeships as the programme expanded at an unprecedented rate. Mr Way said: "Every month I meet many employers and apprentices who truly believe in the value and quality of apprenticeships. My role in leading the NAS is to support them and ensure their experiences are as good as they can possibly be."

Time called on late university admissions

Proposals to change the university admissions system so that students could apply after receiving their exam grades have been abandoned after the admissions body said there were "insurmountable obstacles" to the scheme. The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) said the shorter timescale for admissions was not practical and could jeopardise initiatives to support disadvantaged students. Instead, Ucas intends to replace the clearing system for applicants who have not met their offer requirements or who applied late with a "fair, managed, online process". It also plans to improve the Extra service, which allows applicants who receive no appropriate offers to make an additional application, so that they can hold a first choice and an insurance offer. HE minister David Willetts said: "The changes Ucas proposes to the admissions process will greatly improve the information and support available to applicants, allowing potential students to make more informed life-changing decisions about their future."

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