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Showing posts from March, 2019

The Secret Life of Students: From Faraday to the Interrail Generation

An excellent meeting earlier this week was organised by WONKHE in the marvellous setting of the Royal Institution lecture theatre. The discussion revolved around ‘The Secret Life of Students’. My immediate thoughts go to the ghost of Michael Faraday listening from his laboratory in the basement. What would he be thinking? Much of the technology in the room would not be there without his discoveries. Yet he might wonder how many scientists were attending the meeting or, failing that, understand the science behind the technology. Equally, bearing in mind he educated himself from a poor background, he might wonder about why, in the intervening 200 years, there is still a discussion of how to ensure greater equality of opportunity. The meeting itself has been reported by WONKHE in great detail and this is of considerable credit to them. An excellent summary is posted on its www site at: ‘What happened at The Secret Life of Students?’ Only the lonely. The backdrop to the meeting

Social Mobility Commission: Where are they?

The reincarnated Social Mobility Commission (SMC) restarted its mission last year with a promise of greater action. The urgent need for something positive to happen is undoubted. But what has it done so far and what are its plans? It seems little has changed and it may fall like the previous incarnation did in 2017. The Government’s idea of ‘Social Mobility’ on trial. Conservative Employment Secretary Norman Tebbit remarked in 1981 in the midst of rapidly rising unemployment, “I grew up in the 30s with an unemployed father. He didn't riot; he got on his bike and looked for work and he kept looking 'til he found it.” At the time, this seemed to be the full extent of the Government’s policy on social mobility. Almost 38 years have elapsed since then and one wonders if much has changed. He also said later that, “Parliament must not be told a direct untruth, but it’s quite possible to allow them to mislead themselves.” That was prophetic and sets the scene for the current

Who cares for our students when no longer in care?

The latest policy paper yesterday from the Department for Education demands better support for care leavers to access and participate in universities. With ‘Principles to guide higher education providers on improving care leavers access and participation in HE’ there comes a very belated recognition that such students face enormous challenges. Who pays for this and the amount involved are questions that should have been addressed more fully. TEFS now calls for a new charter for ALL students to have equal support available to them regardless of circumstances. The reality for many students is far from the personal experiences of government ministers as described in the Guardian ‘Academics Anonymous’ this week with, ‘My struggling students desperately need maintenance grants back’ .  The TEFS ideal of ‘One casualty is one too many’ might be a better ‘principle’ to set from the outset. Too little too late. The policy is belated because the adverse fate of those in care, or

“Bums on seats”: The government’s cynical view.

Members of the government have revealed their true colours far too often this week in a series of woeful 'faux pas'. One may have flown under the radar, but was noticed in some quarter s. In response to news that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to drop-out of university, the Education Secretary, Damian Hinds added another with universities are only interested in "bums on seats". This will not be likely to be accepted as fair and, along with its irresponsibility, it reveals a superficial attitude to how to help such students. An eagle-eyed journalist with the Independent Newspaper this week spotted a trend in the latest HESA statistics on student drop-out rates after first ye ar. ‘ Poorer students now even more likely to drop out of university than richer peers Independent 7th March 2019’ . The report is based upon the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) data 2016/17 ( HESA Non-continuation: UK Performance Indicators 2016

Waiting for Augar......... UPDATE: Can Augar survive the 'bombardment'?

Since posting ‘Waiting for Augar’ on Friday, more has happened over the weekend that further feeds the chaos surrounding consideration of post-18 education. There are far too many conflicting views bouncing around and Augar must be steadfast in seeking to address unfairness and inequalities for students whilst remaining 'independent' in this turbid political environment. The Telegraph reported on Sunday that Augar was likely to report “later this year” in ' University loans may be blocked if A-level students fail to get three Ds.' They add further strength to the existing rumour about minimum grades to qualify for loans with, “Whitehall sources said there was a "broad consensus" on the need for a national minimum threshold to help reduce the number of students taking "Mickey Mouse degrees" which cost more than £9,000 per year and do little to boost the salaries of graduates.” Surely such leaks constitute interference and pressure on Augar. Mean

Waiting for Augar………………

How much longer do we have to ‘Wait for Augar’? Do we have to wait for ever? Or maybe until another generation of disadvantaged become too old to complain? There is no rush from the advantaged establishment and government to change things and there seems little appetite for reform. In the meantime “The essential doesn't change.” Samuel Beckett in 'Waiting for Godot' offered sound advice with, “Let us not waste our time in idle discourse! Let us do something, while we have the chance! It is not every day that we are needed….To all mankind they were addressed, those cries for help still ringing in our ears! But at this place, at this moment of time, all mankind is us, whether we like it or not. Let us make the most of it, before it is too late!” This week should have seen the delayed publication of the Philip Augar ‘Review of Post-18 Education’ emerge into the light of day. Announced on the 19th of February 2018 ( Prime Minister launches major review of post-18 ed