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T otal E quality F or S tudents is about equality of opportunity and equal access to time and resources for all regardless of disability, gender, ethnicity or a low income background.  This should be the overarching aim of all education that unlocks the full potential in our citizens. Many students are held back from achieving their full potential because of their circumstances. Even one student failing because of financial pressures on time and resources is a tragedy – one casualty is one too many. At University did you: Repay fees? Work part-time? Have what you needed? Have a life? Succeed? Many now do not have these basic advantages. If you did, then please do something about it.  “ Courses of higher education should be available for all those who are qualified by ability and attainment to pursue them and who wish to do so .” Robbins Report, 1963 This did not include “ and as customers have at least £9000 per year available for fees and can feed and house themselv
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Office for Students: Meet the new boss……….

The idea that the new boss is always the same as the old boss is a well-worn adage that seems to apply most times. But, in the case of the Office for Students this week, there was an exception. Career politician, James Wharton took over the direction of the Office for Students (OfS) as its chair. Eager to please his political masters, his first move was to be interviewed by the Telegraph where he could lay out his priorities. During the biggest crisis for universities and students in decades, he cites his main priority as "Free speech” . To further this aim, it is reported that he threatens to use his new powers, which include the ability to fine and deregister institutions as well as ban degree courses from recruiting new students, if universities and linked clubs fail to uphold speech rights. His next priority is reported as urging universities to do more to boost their intake of white working-class boys. This is falling well short of dealing with the challenges ahead and he wi

Covering a tangled web of racial bias, poverty, and inequality with whitewash

The final report of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (CRED) emerged this week and triggered a flood of complaints. Accusations of a ‘whitewash’ cut deep and should not be dismissed. The report’s many omissions and faults led to an assault on the credibility of both the report and the commissioners behind it. A golden opportunity has been lost and will be difficult to retrieve. There is no doubt that racial inequalities, prejudice, and racism exist across our society and are very emotive issues. Yet the idea of ‘institutional racism’ is dismissed by simply redefining it in narrow terms. The report’s main observation is that poverty and socioeconomic factors are key influences on the glaring disparities. But this is hardly a new observation and certainly not a ringing endorsement of ongoing government policies designed to entrench inequalities, regardless of the bluster and rhetoric. Success in Higher Education is a key element in progress and racial discrimination must not

Testing times for Northern Ireland academic selection

A series of reports from the UNESCO Centre at the University of Ulster t his week coincided with the setting up of a new independent review panel to look at the divided Northern Ireland education system. The selection test, or 11+, used for secondary school selection dominates the media coverage. With tests cancelled for the 2021 intake due to COVID-19, there is increasing pressure to abandon them or make major reforms. The socioeconomic divisions caused are also put to the test. These are compounded by two parallel systems running along sectarian lines. So called ‘integrated’ education is advancing slowly and has a long way to go. Reforms of GCSEs and A-Levels will also enter the equation and could precipitate a greater seismic shift. There will be considerable support for the status quo from those who benefit, and nothing will shift without greater public confidence. However, the time is right to redouble efforts to make the system fair and equal. Increasing numbers of children fro

The science and technology revolution will be forged in the embers of a smoking ruin: UPDATE the cuts extinguisher

UPDATE 30th March 2021 Speaking on BBC Radio 4's 'The World This Weekend' on the 21st of March 2021, Paul Nurse attacked the likely cuts in the UK’s science budget with "Over £1bn cuts just at the time when science is saving the nation. It makes no sense". Nurse is a major influence as the Director of the Crick Institute, itself looking at major cuts, past Royal Society president and winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize for medicine. 2015 review of UK research councils led to the formation of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) that brought science closer to the centre of government. It seems his well-considered report about strategic leadership of science policy through the research councils has been discarded. A lack of leadership has somehow failed to work out how the UK’s involvement in Horizon Europe is to be funded. The result is uncertainty seen by TEFS back in December . This could amount to up to £2 billion and a loss of at least 10,000 scientists. Earlier this