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Showing posts from August, 2018

Office for Students or against students?

The public face of a long established public body expires today when the Higher Education Funding Council (HEFCE) takes down its web site domain [1] and all vestiges of its existence finally transfer to the Office for Students (OfS) [2]. This is effectively a merger as the OfS took over many of the functions of HEFCE and the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) earlier this year [3]. On the face of it, these changes appear relatively benign with two non-departmental public bodies or Quangos merging into one. The research functions, including REF, were shunted into the singular organisation ‘Research England’ that operates as a new council within UK Research and Innovation established from April this year [4]. Yet a closer look shows that the changes will have considerable implications and potentially profound effects upon universities, how they function and how they develop better access policies. There is a danger that the potential of more ministerial control over a single organisati

Going Dutch on Student Mental Health.

The announcement in June by Sam Gyimah, the Higher Education Minister, of a “new package of measures” on student mental health offers some hope and acknowledgement from government that there is indeed an increasing problem of poor mental health amongst our students. The proposed ‘University Mental Health Charter’ is a good idea but there is scant attention paid the plight of students that find themselves under crushing financial pressure. Recent observations in the Netherlands emphasise the need to accelerate our efforts in the UK. With so many young people about to embark upon their education after school in the next few weeks, it would be good if they could get better access to financial help as well as ‘mental wellbeing’ help in the coming months and years. Hiding in the press in the last week was a report of increasing mental health problems amongst students in the Netherlands. Times Higher Education reported: ‘Dutch doctors warn student mental health problems are rising’

A-Level Playing Field or not: Have things changed over time?

We need to be sure that no one is  disadvantaged because of their circumstances through arbitrary decisions on  setting grades. We live in an information driven world that is revealing a tarnished history in fairness and opportunity in this respect. It engenders a level of cynicism and mistrust that has to be countered by example at every turn. Time will tell if the A-levels have indeed become fairer or that the old biases remain Yesterday saw the release of the A-Level results for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Many thousands of young adults had prepared themselves for an event that is most likely to change their lives.  T he day before saw the release of the BTEC results that will also shape the lives and careers of a generation. Last week the Scottish Highers emerged with the same effect. The usual media coverage accompanied the events; often celebratory but sometimes laced with somewhat vindictive questioning about slipping standards. There seems little point in

The Student Loans Company chasing vulnerable students: A very worrying trend.

Background to the Student Loans Company's (SLC) adverse publicity about spying on 'vulnerable' students. More openness from the SLC about how they are making decisions is needed urgently and a simpler approach would help. All students should have an equal chance to study to fulfil their full potential. This should be the motto of the SLC etched deeply into the foundations of the whole organisation. When news broke this week that the Student Loans Company (SLC) had started ‘spying’ on students who were claiming student loans [1] on the basis that they were estranged from their families, it seemed that they had stooped to a new low in their already low reputation. Questions were asked about the logic behind their move. It appears that SLC had singled out at random 150 students who were in receipt of full maintenance loans because they had declared they had no family to support them. Of these, 81 were deemed to have misrepresented their situation. The SLC had trawled