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Showing posts from April, 2019

The Social Mobility Commission gets out of first gear and gets mobile.

With little warning, The Social Mobility Commission (SMC) released today its belated, and somewhat fiercely critical report, ‘State of the Nation 2018-19: Social Mobility in Great Britain’ . It is a final and comprehensive attestation of failed government policies. There now seems to be an unseemly rush to get further research going and to spend the £2million promised by government. The report was promised when the revamped SMC started in December of last year and scheduled originally for March 2019. The extent of the report itself indicates that much of it must have arisen from efforts prior to the SMC relaunch , and before the new board had settled in. Although The SMC is supposed to “monitor progress towards improving social mobility in the UK” (see What the Social Mobility Commission does ), the report strangely observes that, “The Commission’s remit does not extend to Northern Ireland” that is certainly in the UK and where the situation is undoubtedly worse. The l

Higher Education Data: Is the tail wagging the dog?

The Higher Education Statistics Agency ( HESA ) works on behalf of our universities to gather key data about their member institutions. HESA’s value is that it gathers in one place, and makes generally available, a list of key data that paints a picture of the size of universities and how well they are working and progressing. Its work is central to the idea of openness and transparency. It is also crucial to gauging how things change over time. With regard to widening access for disadvantaged groups, it reveals the extent of work still to be done. The type and quality of data about such students is at the core of this mission. Now HESA is consulting its member organisations about how non-statutory ‘voluntary’ data should be gathered and accessed. To an outsider, it might seem that the HESA tail is attached to the universities and is wagging the OfS dog as it tries to go forward. OfS data strategy triggers other events The publication of the Office for Students data st

UPDATE: POLAR whitewash fails to cover all surfaces.

The debate about how best to measure widening access to our universities is heating up. This is in the period leading to the impending deadline for the consultation on university data requirements by HESA . The hastily arranged consultation has been extended and now closes on the 3rd May 2019. It follows th e suspension of the Data Futures programme for at least a year due to pressure from the universities.  The consultation itself looks like a further attempt to pre-empt the deliberations of the delayed Augar ‘Review of Post-18 Education and Funding’ whose call for evidence closed a year ago. Gathering the right data is at the core of assessing widening access to our universities. It must not be covered in more ‘whitewash’. The recent debate on the relevance of using POLAR methodology to gauge the success of widening access to our universities has reached a crescendo on social media. Rather than lead, the government is reacting and trying to wriggle out of the situation. But the

Grade inflation and contextualised admissions to university are stirring up a wasp’s nest.

This week saw further political pressure exerted upon universities regarding so called ‘grade inflation’. Much of the criticism is poorly thought through and fails to recognise that many students have for a long time improved their attainment between school and university. This comes as no surprise to most university academics who teach. Increasing the numbers of students admitted to our universities inevitably involves admitting those with lower A-Level grades. That a significant number then ‘raise their game’ at university to achieve good degree results should be considered as a signal to the elite universities to start accepting more contextualised admissions. A broader assessment of students that takes into account the context of their earlier education and circumstances should be expanded across the whole system. An article in the Times earlier this week ( University grades: Firsts for quarter of students with lowest A levels ) managed to stir up a veritable 'was

Social Mobility Commission – “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is enemy action.”

A revamped Social Mobility Commission (SMC) was launched last year with a promise of much greater things to come. It came after a long gap in its existence and the abject failure of its previous incarnation. Blame was laid firmly at the door of a neglectful government that starved it of resources.  TEFS ( 22nd March 2019 ‘Social Mobility Commission: Where are they? ) recently reported little progress had been made and we are now in the middle of April 2019. It seems that once again the SMC has dropped below the parapet fearful, or simply unable, to come out and fight for the people that need fairness the most. The SMC web site is still lacking in important information. The declarations of interest of the SMC board members still dates back to 2016. Despite the promise of monthly meetings, there appears to have been none reported since January as of today. A February meeting was intended to be a regional meeting. At the outset of the relaunch the government stated that, “in Marc

Data of Futures Past: Whose fingerprint is on the return key?

No, it's not the name of a new X-Men film, 'Back to the Future' sequel or Moody Blues revival album. But it seems 'Data Futures' is on hold for now and has slipped backwards in time. We are left wondering whose fingerprint is on the return key. A lot seems to have happened since the Office for Students (OfS) released its Data strategy 2018 to 2021 on 29 November 2018 (Reported by TEFS 30th November 2018 ‘Who counts the beans? Revisited: Just when you thought you were safe ).  Much of the strategy was predicated upon the main data provider, reconfirmed recently as the Higher Education Statistical Agency (HESA), delivering its new 'Data Futures' programme. However, by the 12th of March this seems to have fallen into disarray. Back in November 2018, the immediate response of HESA to the OfS data strategy was to announce a consultation early in 2019. The HESA online consultation opened last week (27th March) and closes very soon on the 29th April. Th