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In the news: 17 March 2017

Lords call for international students to be removed migration figures

The Lords were back attacking the government's beleaguered Higher Education and Research Bill on Monday night. In perhaps the most high profile and damaging amendment yet, peers voted to have foreign students removed from migration figures - described by the Mirror as a "crushing defeat".

The Times Higher said the defeat represented a "significant rebuke" to Theresa May, who as home secretary and as prime minister has repeatedly ignored calls from the higher education sector to remove international students from net migration numbers.

Overall the government suffered six defeats during the report stage, and peers may yet push through further amendments at the third reading of the bill on Wednesday. The bill then returns to the Commons where MPs will remove or confirm the amendments. If they reject them, then matters return to the Lords, where peers can insist on their original changes, suggest alternative amendments, or back down. The Times Higher looks at the possibility of some "parliamentary ping pong" between the two houses.


Cabinet row over international students

The fallout from Monday's vote on international students was felt all week and on Wednesday Liam Fox has become the latest cabinet minister to call for international students to be removed from the net migration target, reports the Financial Times. The paper says that Amber Rudd, the home secretary, is also convinced of the cause, as is Philip Hammond, the chancellor of the exchequer, and Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary.

Elsewhere in the FT this week, Michael Skapinker says the prime minister's clampdown on international students is a mystery. He finds no good reason for her refusal to remove them from migration figures and reveals that when he asked an adviser to the Home Office during Theresa May's tenure as home secretary why she was so obdurate on the subject, he was told "it is a complete mystery".


Government must act to stem loss of FE teachers

The number of people training to teach in further education has dropped by more than a fifth in just one year. A report from the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) showed a 22 per cent decrease in the number of learners studying initial teacher education (ITE) courses for further education between 2013-14 and 2014-15.

Speaking to the TES, UCU head of further education Andrew Harden said: 'To attract people into further education, the government needs to do a much better job of selling the sector. Unfortunately, massive cuts to the sector, attacks on pensions and falling real-terms wages have had exactly the opposite effect.

'We have lost around 15,000 teachers since 2009 and if the government is serious about the role FE has to play in getting Britain match fit for Brexit and beyond, then it needs to deliver a more attractive role for current and potential staff, and help people to complete their studies.'


Damage of losing elite status vastly outweighs benefits to universities of earning it, warns study 

As parliamentary debate on the controversial Teaching Excellence Framework continues, Times Higher reports on a German study which shows that stripping universities of a marker of elite status hits their reputation and causes them to lose students, but the benefits of conferring it in the first place are negligible.

In the state of Baden-W├╝rttemberg, losing official excellence status was correlated with subsequent recruitment of 7 per cent less first-year students than would otherwise have been expected, according to co-author Berthold Wigger. However, Professor Wigger's research found that universities that won elite status for the first time enjoyed no bump in their student numbers.


Oxford comma the difference in dairy drivers' dispute

In the US, the Oxford comma has helped a group of dairy drivers from Maine in a dispute with a company about overtime pay. A US court of appeals sided with delivery drivers for Oakhurst Dairy because the lack of a comma made part of Maine's overtime laws too ambiguous.

The Guardian said the drivers argued that, due to a lack of a comma between "packing for shipment" and "or distribution", the law refers to the single activity of "packing", not to "packing" and "distribution" as two separate activities. As the drivers distribute - but do not pack - the goods, this would make them eligible for overtime pay.

Previously, a district court had ruled in the dairy company's favour, who argued that the legislation "unambiguously" identified the two as separate activities exempt from overtime pay. But the appeals judge sided with the drivers.

Last updated: 17 March 2017