Skip to main content

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.

Meanwhile the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, Chris Skidmore, protests on twitter that “the Augar post-18 review is an independent one which will reach its independent conclusions”.

Yet in his interview with Times Higher Education on the 7th of February ‘Chris Skidmore: don’t put a lid on university access’ he was reported as saying that he does not support the introduction of minimum grade thresholds for entering higher education. The very stuff of Augar.

It seems he was a little more careful in his speech at Nottingham Trent Universi
ty* last week Universities Minister calls for greater improvement on access’. This was very long on the extensive problems of widening access and not a great advert for his past government failures. These were addressed without a single mention of Augar. He also managed without any mention of the financial difficulties of so called ‘disadvantaged students’. He failed to address the practical problems that bedevil widening access such living and maintenance costs or rising accommodation costs. Hopefully Augar will.

*Note that Edward Peck is the Vice-chancellor of Nottingham Trent University and is on the Augar review panel.


Mike Larkin, retired from Queen's University Belfast after 37 years teaching Microbiology, Biochemistry and Genetics.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Bristol University student death: Inquest raises many concerns

The inquest into the tragic death of Bristol University Student, Ben Murray, took place this week; almost 12 months since he took his own life.* The coroner recorded a verdict of suicide earlier today but warned the University that it should make detailed inquiries after each death (BBC News ‘University of Bristol told to learn lessons after Ben Murray's suicide’ ). The anniversary of his death is this Sunday the 5th of May. Spring comes as a time of hope for most people but for others it can be a time of considerable anxiety and stress. This is especially the case for students approaching the examination period. As a close colleague of mine often pointed out, “they are all someone’s child”. Our hearts go out to the family of Ben Murray and friends as the inquest goes over again the events of a year ago. The pain is further exacerbated by media reports that he had little or no support in what was his first year at university. The BBC reported that ‘Bristol University studen

A radical overhaul of examinations is needed as soon as possible: UPDATE

UPDATE 23rd March 2021 Since this idea was posted in January, there has been considerable thought across the sector about what would be best for the future. These are very well laid out in a collection of short essays reported last week by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI). The twelve essays, from different authors and different perspectives, in  ‘Where next for university admissions? ’ are edited by Rachel Hewitt  who sets out the many pitfalls surrounding examinations and university admissions. It seems there are those in favour of post qualification admission (PQA) to university as it should help the least advantaged students. However, arguments against this are presented that means caution must be taken. A powerful response to the HEPI report by the  'The Fair Access Coalition: 10 requirements for a fair admissions process' adds further to the debate. The suggestions are sensible but falls short on demanding adequate resources for students throughout their studi

Higher Education and the ‘intelligent plumbers’ theory

A common tactic when found out is to divert attention elsewhere. The release of student data from 2018/19 by the Department for Education (DfE) yesterday, ‘Widening participation in higher education: 2020’ and ‘Statistics: further education and skills’ tells the same sorry tale of a wide gap in access to universities between the most and least advantaged students. To divert attention from these stark facts in advance, the government used a diversionary tactic by attacking the effectiveness of universities and thus pointing the blame for poor social mobility someplace else. Advocating improvements in further education, something cut back by the same regime for years, hides the real intention. It seems that class divisions will be further exacerbated and any concession to universities fuelling improved social mobility has been abandoned. But the flawed theory is that at least the elite rulers will get access to intelligent plumbers . Three years ago, I heard a leading ‘You