Crisis talks to be held over student fees

Councillors are to hold top-level talks with university bosses to try to help students hit by Government changes to the funding of secondary and higher education.

Senior council members and administrative officers of Education Leeds hope to meet representatives of the city's universities, colleges and schools early in the New Year to discuss the long-term impact of the new legislation, which they fear is likely to affect the city's most disadvantaged children.

The decision by the city council to arrange the crisis meetings follows the angry student protests over rising tuition fees - and the abolition of the Educational Maintenance Allowance paid to school students.

In November, a delegation from Leeds University Students' Union asked councillors to help lobby local MPs and support their battle against the Government's plans to increase tuition fees from the current figure of 3,000 to as much as 9,000 a year.

Coun Jane Dowson, council Executive Board member for learning, said there was now widespread concern that the clock was being turned back to a two-tier education system which would widen the gap between rich and poor.

According to the latest statistics, around 9,000 school students in Leeds currently qualify for the EMA grant, originally introduced to encourage young people from poorer backgrounds to stay on at school post-16.

Aim Higher, a national programme aiming to widen participation in higher education by raising the aspirations and developing the abilities of young people, was also abolished in November 2010.

Coun Dowson said: "I am very disappointed at the increase in tuition fees which has been introduced by this Tory/Liberal Democrat Government.

"We as an administration are now committed to working with the universities, schools and colleges to look at the impact of continuing cuts.

"While we can't affect what the Government does, we can make our feelings known and try to make sure that the children of Leeds get every opportunity."

In a report today to the Executive Board, councillors were told that the number of undergraduates studying in the city is currently around 41,000. Around 13,500 school-leavers go on to be full-time students in Leeds or elsewhere each year.

But the soaring cost of higher education has already impacted on the number of youngsters in the UK chasing places.

Figures up to Christmas show a 20 per cent increase in applications submitted, with an additional 8,000 candidates this year chasing the same number of places as last year. Nationally, a total of 335,795 candidates are now chasing places for 2011 entry.

As many as one in three, however, may be turned away ahead of tuition fees tripling in September 2012.

University sets sights on foreign students

Leeds Metropolitan is aiming to ensure its financial future by strengthening its links with educational institutions across the world.

The university has just appointed Andrew Disbury as its first-ever Director of the International Office as senior figures acknowledge the need to attract more overseas students - and increase revenue.

According to a recent report from lecturers' union UCU, Leeds Metropolitan University is at "high to medium" risk of closure or merger because of the Government cuts in funding for higher education which mean it could lose as much as 48.3m by 2014.

According to an LMU spokesman, Mr Disbury's appointment represents a "strategic re-focussing" towards student recruitment.

The new appointee has joined from the University of St Andrews in Scotland where he spent three years as Director of Student Recruitment and Admissions.

Before that, he worked at the British Council in China where he was responsible for education relations between the UK and China.

He said: "Leeds Metropolitan has always had an international office but the previous strategy was to increase the international awareness of Leeds-based staff and students by developing partnerships overseas.

"Other places concentrated on bringing international students here and when you look around we are about five per cent below the norm of around 10 per cent.

"International students who paid full fees were previously the icing on the cake, but now they are going to be the butter inside the cake and a fundamental ingredient of any institution. We will be looking for quality students who will contribute much to the life of the city."

Mr Disbury, 48, studied Chinese at Leeds University 30 years ago.

He added: "In a way I have come full circle. The staff here have been wonderfully welcoming and it's a fantastic opportunity."

In another key LMU appointment, Professor Ieuan Ellis has been chosen as Dean of the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences.

He joined the university in 2004 as an Associate Dean and was subsequently awarded a personal chair in 2006 as Professor of Assessment, Learning and Teaching in Healthcare Education.

A member of the Board of Governors, he currently serves as elected Vice-chair of UK Council of Deans of Health, advising on national policy developments in education and research in healthcare and higher education.

He is also the elected co-chair of the National Allied Health Professions Professional Advisory Board advising the Department of Health on workforce planning. He practised as a physiotherapist in the NHS and private sector before developing his career in higher education.

Maths pupils are on to sum–thing

PUPILS at a Leeds school are celebrating after beating their rivals from all over the country to get full marks in a national number crunching contest.

The Four Nations Maths Challenge,which was held just before Christmas, was open online to all school-age pupils in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland with thousands of youngsters taking part in the competition.

And Corpus Christi Catholic College from Halton Moor, Leeds, made it to an impressive no 1 out of over 1,500 schools taking part in the event, which was held over five days in November.

A quick-witted group of 27 Year 8 pupils gained the highest total of school points in the UK and were triumphant in the contest, which is designed to improve students' aptitude in mental arithmetic and their knowledge of the mathematical curriculum via IT software called "Mathletics."

In the individual section of the competition, Corpus Christi pupils James Bannister and James Weaver each garnered over 30,000 points to finish in the top 70 out of the thousands students who took part.

Corpus Christi headteacher Mike Woods said."This is a really great achievement for the pupils and for Corpus Christi Catholic College as a whole.

"To be the top school throughout the UK is a fantastic achievement and it shows that our pupils are indeed some of the best in the country.

"We are very proud of their results and applaud their victory. This really shows what our pupils are capable of."

In all, some 1686 schools from across the UK took part in the Four Nations Maths Challenge – answering almost 37,000,000 questions throughout the week of activity.

The winning team from Corpus Christi was presented with their trophy at a special school assembly held in honour of their achievement.