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In a week when the government reshuffled its cabinet, HE issues that made headlines gave the newly-appointed universities minister a taste of things to come, says Stephen Isherwood, Chief Executive of the Institute of Student Employers .
The past week’s events and news are a sign of turbulent times for UK universities, warns Nicola Owen, Deputy Chief Executive (Operations) at Lancaster University.
Mike Ratcliffe, academic registrar at Nottingham Trent University, reflects on issues emerging from a packed week of higher education news.
The Office of the Independent Adjudicator for higher education has reported almost a 21 per cent rise in the number of complaints it received from students last year – rising to their highest ever level at 2,371.
New plans for teacher training contained in the Education White Paper Educational Excellence Everywhere have some merit, but need further development: preferably with the help of the university sector, argues James Noble-Rogers, Executive Director of the Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers.
From a teacher education perspective, the Education White Paper 'Educational Excellence Everywhere' was a bit of an under-done Curate's egg; good in parts but not yet fully boiled. The Universities’ Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET) and the university sector hope to help bring it to the boil over the next few months.
The good news is that at least some ITE providers will receive an allocation of places that will allow them to plan the number of new teachers they will be expected to train to meet the needs of schools in their areas and beyond. That will help avoid some of the catastrophic scenes experienced this year, where a rigged system of recruitment controls led to a rush to recruit, and the perverse spectacle of prospective teachers arriving for interviews only to be turned away at the door. The one concern that we have is whether this stability will apply to all providers, or only to the favoured few.
Replacing QTS with a longer process under which teachers only receive full recognition after a period in the classroom is also a potentially good idea. For it to work, however, new teachers will need access to structured early professional development that builds on and complements their initial training, and which allows time out of school to maintain links with their ITE providers and to reflect alongside their peers. Without this, the new system could in practice turn out to be little changed from the one that we currently have, which would mean another missed opportunity.
There are some very welcome references in the White Paper to the importance of CPD and to research, something that has been overlooked for far too long. We hope that this long overdue recognition will extend to Master's level CPD, which is proven to have a positive impact on both retention and the performance of teachers in the classroom. It may be too much to hope for now, but maybe we will start to move again towards a Master's qualified teaching profession. That really would improve the status of teaching, as well as incentivising high calibre new recruits.
There continues, unfortunately, to be an assumption that 'school-led' training (whatever that actually is) is somehow superior to the more traditional school-university partnerships. There is of course no evidence for this. All routes into teaching make a valuable contribution and all should be allowed to flourish on an equal footing. That is why it is disappointing that the only new ITE providers that will be accredited are SCITTs, despite the role that university partnerships could fill and despite the fact that universities are, on average, much better at filling places.
Finally, there are the proposals to establish new university centres of excellence. This idea has potential and is very interesting. Although a lot will, as with the rest of the White paper, depend on the detail.
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