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Showing posts from September, 2018

Labour Party Conference 2018: National Education Service and a tale of Two Cultures

Report from the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool 2018.

The gathering earlier this week in Liverpool marked the largest conference in the history of the Labour Party. The sheer size of the packed hall must have taken the breath away from the many first time delegates attending. It was impressive and had the atmosphere of an impatient government in waiting.

Brexit crisis the main focus.

The issue of Brexit and the impassioned call for a people’s vote dominated the event. On Sunday a massive demonstration of pro EU supporters of all ages and from all walks of life descended on the venue. A sizeable delegation stayed outside the main entrance throughout and pressed delegates to back a new referendum.

Inside the hall, events unfolded in dramatic style. One hundred and fifty Labour constituencies had arrived with motions that they had passed to call for a people’s vote on Brexit. Some wanted a new referendum. Delegates sat for six hours on Sunday evening to thrash out a composite motion …

For some a University becomes a dark place: stress, fees, loans and no grants.

A new term is now upon our universities and, amidst the excitement of new students arriving, we should find time to reflect upon mental health and the enormous pressures on students. There is a rising tide of recognition that students are under much greater pressure that ever before. This affects their wellbeing and studying capability.  For some students, a university can become a very dark place. However, universities are now taking the risk of suicide very seriously indeed. One factor is financial stress and there are now calls from various quarters for government to ease the financial pressure on students. Something that can be done if there is a will.


Students are coming under significant stress.
At its annual conference on 5th September, Universities UK (UUK) launched its ‘Guidance for universities on preventing student suicides’ [1]. The detailed document became available on its www site the following week [2]. This comes on the back of earlier advice from UUK on ‘Student mental …

First Anniversary of TEFS

First anniversary of TEFS: Background commentary on news and developments in Higher Education and impacts upon students. TEFS is posted every Friday with a view to influencing those who deliver and govern higher education provision in the UK. It is especially important for students from different backgrounds and situations to be given an equal chance.

Today is the first anniversary of when Total Equality for Students (TEFS) was born. The first posting was on the 19th September 2017: ‘When is a university not a university’. This was at a time when yet another generation of students was preparing to embark upon their studies and, after 36 years at Queen's University Belfast, I was no longer part of that transition. I miss the excitement badly but it was time to move on and start a fresh challenge.  I could only start my efforts from the perspective of a simple scientist and naturally adopted a scientific approach to gathering background data before setting out to take actions or cond…

The Great University Finance ‘Bubble’

And so the ‘bubble’ expands. It goes from 'fiscal illusion' to 'fiscal delusion'. The cycle of public debt-fuelled loans and borrowing cannot go on for much longer and it is likely that Philip Auger will bring everyone down to earth and burst the expanding ‘bubble’. There is a pressing need for government to be more open and honest about the mess that is growing and a root and branch reform of the funding of universities will be required. This should include consolidating facilities, research support and infrastructure as well as student fees. The current government must accept blame for the ‘bubble’ and whatever government we elect must in turn take responsibility for planning effectively after the ‘bubble’ bursts. That is what they are elected for and paid to do. Creating a false market in student education and housing, then absolving themselves of any blame when things go wrong, is not acceptable. Those responsible should be held to account. Students that are pushed…