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Showing posts from May, 2019

Augar stirs up the system: The ripples will go far beyond his remit

The Augar review is the first comprehensive review of post-18 education since Robbins in 1963. The surprise is that the Augar bucket did not entirely leak out its contents. It is detailed and starts to reverse the outcomes of the sixty four page Browne review of 2010; that looks feeble by comparison. Browne led to uncapped student numbers, increased fees and loans that spiralled out of control. That decision, along with removing maintenance support for students, now looks like a poorly planned expansion of HE. The Augar report concentrates on the expansion of FE at the expense of HE and student fees but has serious hidden consequences for university finances. These will affect jobs, research output and the range of courses on offer; particularly in the STEM area, where limiting top up grants can control student numbers in these more expensive subjects. Augar may have unleashed many unintended consequences rippling well beyond his remit and across research effectiveness. It is therefor…

May is almost over, so it must be time for Augar

In the midst of the European elections, Brexit and the resignation of the Prime Minister today, several crises are now crashing together to exert a profound effect on the futures of young people across the UK. One of these is approaching fast in the form of the Augar Post-18 Education Review. It will present the next government with a major challenge that might even match that posed by the Robbin’s report back in 1963. Its recommendations were left for a new Labour government to deal with from 1964 onwards.


There is intense speculation that the delayed Augar report must be released before the prime minister steps down on the 7th of June. This is inevitable since the BBC announced that “Tuition fees cut expected as Theresa May's legacy” (BBC News 16 May 2019). She will surely leave this on the desk of the new leader who might be lucky to last two months before an election.
What are the constraints on Augar?

We should not forget that the review panel is very small. Along with Philip …

The five thousand-year old question remains

The question of how to educate our young people has been around as long as people have been organised. The evidence from the remains of the five thousand-year old community of Neolithic people at Skara Brae shows an organisation and sophistication that must have been held together by education and cooperation. How this is best achieved to ensure our futures is still being debated. Rising above the simple 'value for money' approach will be needed to bring our larger communities together to survive.
Yesterday morning I was walking around the remains of the five thousand-year old settlement at Skara Brae on the Island of Orkney. Along with others before me, I was pondering the challenges for the community of people that called this place home. Youngsters had to learn fast and did not expect to live much beyond thirty years old. It is over 5000 years old and was occupied by Neolithic people from about 3180 BC. There is a familiar sense of  high level organisation and ingenuity. Th…

Building a Fair Access Framework: Hitting the nail on the head

The Scottish Government has unveiled its Fair Access Framework via the Scottish Funding Council this week. Their commissioned research has led to a 'Toolkit' that ‘hits the nail on the head’ with regard to the need for financial support for disadvantaged students. Hopefully it will hammer home the message to government where others have failed.

Edinburgh University School of Informatics hosted the launch of the Scottish Government’s Fair Access Framework this week. This move is taking one more step along the long road to securing equal access to education beyond school for everyone; regardless of circumstances. The event itself was organised by the Scottish Funding Council, that oversees Further and Higher education funding in Scotland, and will be followed by a larger ‘Fair Access’ conference in Perth in June.

The delegates were welcomed by the Principal of Edinburgh University and heard the Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, Richard Lochhead say tha…

Student choices: Check yourself before you wreck yourself

The Office for Students (OfS) hosted an event to discuss ‘Fairer access and participation’ in central London earlier this week. Although only a half day event, it was ‘sold out’ and attracted a considerable amount of interest across the UK. Things are changing as the steamroller starts to roll.
Twitter comments come under #fairerfutures. Video of the meeting was streamed live and is still available on YouTube at ‘Insight event: fairer access and participation’ with clips at the OfS www site.
The agenda had three main themes that covered aspects of contextual admissions, the BAME attainment gap and local students. It seems some major issues emerged in discussion and the policy environment is somewhat fluid. For university administrations, this would seem to be anightmare and stability is needed. This must not however be the status quo, but rather a step up to a fair and well defined system that eliminate the effects of disadvantage on students’ success.

What did we learn?

The discussion …

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 student '…