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Showing posts from April, 2020

To BTEC or not to BTEC – is that still a question?

The vacuum of decision making surrounding the arrangements for BTEC and other similar qualifications this summer has been partially filled by Ofqual. However, there is still a long way to go. The variety and complexity of how students are assessed falls mainly onto the qualification awarding organisation. This is exclusively Pearson plc for BTEC assessments. The outcome in relation to widening access and equality will be scrutinised with greater vigour later this summer as more light is shone onto an ongoing problem of disadvantage. The hope is that greater understanding of how fewer resources cause educational disadvantage will lead to a better and more equal future.


Ofqal finally announced on 24th April how they intend to deal with BTEC and other similar qualifications this summer. After they produced their guidance on 3rd April 2020, ‘How GCSEs, AS & A levels will be awarded in summer 2020’ in the absence of formal examinations, TEFS observed that there was no indication about h…

Competition or bust in Higher Education: a zero sum game

Universities, staff and students have set out their stalls in order to attract support from the government to offset the pandemic fallout. The sums of money involved are just as eye-watering as other predictions for the economy. Unfortunately, the various players are coming at this from very different perspectives and there are too many competing interests in what is becoming a zero-sum game. The government must demand cooperation and a consensus view of what is needed in a nonzero-sum game. A good start would be to focus on supporting students and maintaining the staff to teach them. Now is not the time to abandon students who have lost their part-time jobs or make redundant the staff that teach them. Especially those on short-term contracts. 

It is hard to believe that it is only seven days since TEFS posted ‘The loss of non-UK students leaves many universities out in the cold’. In the weeks leading up to last Friday, there was a rising tide of fear in our universities that a sudden …

The loss of non-UK students leaves many universities out in the cold

There have been calls from many quarters for our universities to prepare for radical change as the impact of the pandemic progresses over time. Some conclude that the open market in uncapped student numbers is fatally flawed and led us to be less prepared for a time of crisis. Any notion of there being short-term disruption is dissipating as the full impact emerges. There will have to be ongoing measures to combat the spread until an effective vaccine is deployed across the world. Meanwhile, university managements will be looking firstly at the bottom line and financial stability. They will be staring at ‘net liquidity’ and ‘liquidity ratios’ with some horror as income falls and they regret taking out so many loans for new buildings and paying themselves too much. The loss of international students will affect some much more than others. Meanwhile, thought must be given to supporting students and particularly those struggling with disadvantages. Hopefully, this period will not be mark…

COVID-19: Did universities plan for the rising flood waters?

“It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark” That was the 'planning' proverb used during the difficult times in the 1920s and 1930s. However, its origin is obscure and goes back to the 19th century. Whatever its origin, it holds as true today as it did in biblical times. Businesses and services that failed to build in contingencies and ‘redundancy’ are sinking fast as the pandemic 'waters' rise. Universities are no different. They are large and complex operations that have sought to maximise efficiency and cut costs with little room for redundancy. This approach is now being put to the test. Despite the pressure, it seems that there is some thought being given to offering fairness to students who are confused about how they will be treated. But time is running short for confidence to be retained.
Sustainability of universities in the face of huge financial losses has seeped into the mainstream media today. See BBC News ‘Coronavirus: Universities warn of going bust witho…

To BTEC or not to BTEC, that is the question: UPDATE

UPDATED Sunday 12th April 2020
It seems that Oqual finally responded to pleas from students and tried to reassure BTEC, and other students still waiting, that their plight had not been forgotten. A further announcement ‘Awarding vocational and technical qualifications this summer’ was made last Thursday, almost a week after the arrangements for A-Level results were issued. This was done just in time for the Easter weekend with a promise that “Calculated results for qualifications used for progression to higher and further education. Arrangements for other qualifications to be issued after Easter”.
The announcement doesn’t indicate how long after Easter they will have to wait.Indeed, it may be some time, even weeks, as the details reveal that,
“We are working with awarding organisations to finalise a list of qualifications that we will advise the Secretary of State should be in scope for learners to receive a calculated result. It will include many BTEC Nationals, Cambridge Technicals, an…