https://dfemedia.blog.gov.uk/2019/02/08/education-in-the-media-friday-8-february-2019/

Education in the Media: Friday 8 February 2019

Today’s Education in the Media blog looks at the opening of the final round of the Strategic College Improvement Fund (SCIF), the newly published HESA stats on university applications and our response to the Onward report on unconditional university offers.

Strategic College Improvement Fund

Today, Thursday 8 February, the Department for Education launched the final round of the Strategic College Improvement Fund (SCIF), a programme aimed at providing further education colleges with bespoke support, to help them boost the standard of further education on offer.

The £15 million fund is intended to help drive up standards across further education and will add to the fifty colleges across the country that have already benefited from increased bespoke support.

The Strategic College Improvement Fund was launched in June 2018, following an earlier pilot phase.  In total, fifty colleges have been successful in securing funding to work with a high performing partner college to share their knowledge to help tackle common issues – such as raising the standard of teaching or boosting learner attendance and retention.

Colleges who have received SCIP reported a number of positive benefits including how the funding helped them boost the quality of teaching and learning, strengthened their collaborative working approaches, raised aspirations and supported college-wide improvements in culture and leadership.

The application window for the third and final round of SCIF is open from today until Friday 8 March 2019. We expect to announce the successful colleges from the second application round in March.

Minister for Skills and Apprenticeships, Anne Milton said:

I’m absolutely thrilled that the Strategic College Improvement Fund has already supported 50 colleges to improve so they can provide their students with the best possible education.

This is the last opportunity to secure funding from the SCIF, so I would urge eligible colleges to apply now.

HESA stats on state school applications to university

The Independent, Guardian, Telegraph and Times all report on figures from HESA that show a slight (0.2%) drop in the proportion of students coming from state school, which now sits at 89.2%.  Much of the coverage does not reflect the small scale in the drop in numbers, instead choosing to focus the fact that this is the first time the proportion has fallen since 2011.

A Department for Education Spokesperson said:

Today’s release shows there needs to be further progress in widening participation in higher education, and that’s why we’ve introduced reforms to open up access and enable students to make informed choices about what and where to study.

The latest 2018 data from UCAS shows there were record rates of 18 year-olds going to university, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

We want more students from disadvantaged backgrounds going to the most selective universities and institutions should look at the data and their own admissions policies to make sure they are open to everyone who has the potential – regardless of background.

University unconditional offers

The Mail runs a story based on a report by the think-tank Onward, which is critical of the practice of giving pupils unconditional offers. The piece says the report is critical of universities employing the practice because it encourages pupils to take up unsuitable degrees when they may have been better served by vocational options.

The finding is based on an analysis of students’ wages after university and finds that students from institutions that offer high levels of unconditional offers have lower wages after graduation in many cases. The piece also contrasts students' earnings with the salaries of the VCs of the universities they came from, with many of those who go on to earn the least having VCs who earn the most.

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

 We set up the Office for Students to look out for students’ interests and gave it the strong powers it needs to crack down on institutions which are delivering poor outcomes for students.

Universities have to publish a justification for vice chancellors salaries and must also explain their use of unconditional offers. Where they are not justified the OfS have the concrete powers they need to take action, including financial penalties and in the most extreme cases they can consider and deregistration.

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