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Showing posts from August, 2019

Widening access in Scotland at WARF factor three

The Scottish Funding Council is conducting a consultation about the future of, and how they have been spending, considerable funds (circa £15m per year) on widening access to the universities that it funds. This is called the Widening Access and Retention Fund or WARF. The consultation closes on Friday 13th September and TEFS has looked at the context of the WARF support for universities to illustrate the complexity of the situation and the challenges that still lie ahead.

The Scottish Funding Council is responsible for funding further and higher education in Scotland. This is one of the most important responsibilities of any agency working on behalf of us and our elected government. There has been a long standing concern from all political quarters about fairness of access to universities for students from backgrounds and areas that are deprived or have historical low participation rates in higher education. As it stands now, far more students from such backgrounds move from schoo…

Students working in term-time: Commuter students and their working patterns

This article and analysis shows that commuter students are more likely to be employed in term time and also more likely to work longer hours. Two recent studies of commuter students (one a quantitative and the other a qualitative analysis) attending six universities in the London area revealed that commuter students were at a disadvantage in terms of outcome when compared to their peers. There is an urgent need for institutions to consider the actual time that their students have to study as the main measure. This is a way to integrate the time pressures of other activities such as commuting and employment that all add up to less time for studying.
The general conclusion of the two studies was that “travel time remained a significant predictor of student progression or continuation for UK-domiciled full time undergraduates at three of the six London institutions”. This is perhaps not surprising for someone who spends much of the day travelling and the recommendation is that the framewo…

The A-Level results are out: The big fish in small ponds to be released

When finishing  school at the age of eighteen, I set off from home to start a degree.  A teacher told us that we were going from being “big fish in a little pond to little fish in a big pond”. I remember thinking that I was already a little fish in a big pond but was being released into an ocean. It was exciting. The certainty was that there was only one way for me to go; and that was up. This week sees another generation of students released into the ocean and the excitement is surely mixed with trepidation in increasingly uncertain times. Although fewer achieved higher grades, there were the usual dampeners in the media about slipping standards. Faith in the accuracy of the system is also dissipating with grade boundaries leaked the day before and revelations about possibly inaccurate grades. Yet hordes of excited young people will descend upon our institutions by the end of September regardless.

Yesterday saw the release of the A-Level results for England, Wales and Northern Ireland…

Students working in term-time: Challenging the ‘disadvantage’ shibboleth

It is generally assumed that students under the most financial pressure have less family support and come from disadvantaged areas and state schools. This means that they may need to seek employment during term time when in Higher Education. However, this may not be universally the case as a combination of loans, grants and bursaries across the UK can offset many problems. But those from more advantaged areas and backgrounds can also find themselves under financial pressure. Their families may have little to spare or refuse to assist their children into adulthood when at university. They are above the threshold for support in loans or grants. Such students are caught in the middle of a ‘disadvantage’ trap that affects their lives despite being labelled as ‘advantaged’. The shibboleth of ‘disadvantage’ should be addressed in seeking equal opportunities for all students.
A recent TEFS analysis of data from the AdvanceHE / Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) Student Academic Experien…

Want a top job? Get ‘polished’ or have your hopes dashed

The BBC programme  ‘How to Break into the Elite’ struck a chord with people like me, and possibly many others, this week. It was painful to watch as it exposed a raw nerve that many of us have ignored for a long time. The idea of perception and connections overriding ability and talent oozed across the screen as the programme developed its main thesis. The conclusion from ace broadcaster, Matthew Wright (formally of the Wright Show on Chanel 5) that “guns” and “revolution” might be the solution was not a flippant suggestion. That the BBC aired what could be seen as an incitement to violence seemed incredible. But there it was.
‘How to Break into the Elite’ was aired by BBC2 on Monday evening of this week. Its content will reverberate across the social mobility landscape. The gif accompanying this above has a quotation from the programme that suggests that the gap between the graduate jobs available and the number of graduates was the "dashed hopes of an entire generation". It…