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Showing posts from February, 2020

Mentoring and finance for widening access offer some hope of success

Mentoring and finance for widening access offer some hope of success. Download .pdf file
The most recent data from HESA (Higher Education Statistics Agency) on widening participation at our universities shows that little has changed over recent years. The proportion of young students entering from lower participation areas has remained virtually static at around 11% in recent years. It appears that efforts by many institutions to improve the situation are not working well. Yet there are numerous voluntary organisations offering advice and mentoring that are independent of the universities. These are making headway and may indeed be preventing the numbers from backtracking. However, without financial and other incentives, the situation is unlikely to improve. Some more radical suggestions have emerged this week and they merit serious consideration.


Earlier this month HESA released their latest statistics on widening participation at UK Higher Education Institutions (HESA Widening partici…

"Turn on, Tune in, Drop out": Why are more UK students dropping out?

"Turn on, Tune in, Drop out": Why are more UK students dropping out? download .pdf file.
The idea of dropping out was attached to some ideological aim in the past. The title is a quotation from Timothy Leary to a large crowd of young idealists in San Francisco in 1967. He said it was a "metaphor of the present". He later said that to drop out was a "commitment to mobility, choice, and change". Times have changed and to drop out today is, in the eyes of universities, an admission of being beaten and failing. But the reality for most is that it is a cry for help and support in a grossly unfair system afflicting the few who are vulnerable.
Recent media reports of increases in student drop-out rates since the introduction of higher fees in England and Wales in September 2012 have caused some concern (Express and Star ‘Two thirds of universities and colleges see rise in drop-out rates’ 3rd January 2020). The analysis was carried out by the Press Association and …

Science vs Government: The ultimate game of chess

Science vs Government: The ultimate game of chess .pdf file
There seems to be a terrible vacuum in media coverage of the chaotic reshuffling of ministers in our new government. The positions of Higher Education Minister and Science Minister attracted scant attention in media announcements so far, and even today there is confusion about where exactly lies the responsibility for science. The power struggle between No 10, the science establishment and a new science minister in the middle begins. It may resemble a giant game of chess with adversaries facing off across a board made up of pieces that are universities and vested interests. The end might be stalemate but the hope is a win-win outcome will prevail.
Times Higher Education (THE) has done very well in being vigilant in their coverage of the issue. On Friday, they revealed ‘Michelle Donelan named universities minister as science split off’. Then today they further reported that ‘Universities fear loss of policy focus as ministerial…

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss? New University and Science Minster(s)

As this posting is written, the new cabinet of ministers is meeting in London. The confusion surrounding the announcements yesterday has been the subject of much media attention. But hiding in the wings is uncertainty and speculation about who the universities or science minister(s) might be. The lack of a formal announcement may signal two possibilities. Either universities and science are of little consequence to the government or are they simply scared of the challenge and are not sure what to do or who to trust? The latter indecision is more likely as the primary advisor at No 10, Dominic Cummings presses for radical change from a more cautious government. Reports that the Government is exerting more control from No 10 does not sit well with many people.

Despite the uncertainty, Times Higher Education announced late last night that Michelle Donelan was to replace the outgoing Chris Skidmore. On the face of it, an Oxford graduate in History was being replaced by a History and Politi…

Education from Cradle to Grave: Everyone's invited

The latest in a series of annual conferences on the topic ‘Education from Cradle to Grave’ took place in London yesterday. The theme of the conference this year was ‘Climate change, power and society’; a concern that is affecting most younger people who are rightly worried about their futures. It is certainly the case that they will bear the greatest burden of rapid change in the very near future. The changes required to reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses, and then reverse the emissions, will make the technological changes of the last 50 years begin to look small. The political and societal changes will also be seismic as the scientific and technological imperatives become reality. We will have to match up to the challenge at all levels. Will this emerge as a fairer and more equal society or will the divisions between those with and those without resources?

Humanity has become used to burning fossil fuels to feed its appetite for goods and travel around the world. This era must com…

Reading from the Book of Knowledge: Going mobile

Here TEFS considers access to information and knowledge for contemporary students and how the changes in technology may have increased inequality in education. Access to knowledge has improved only for those who have the technology readily to hand. Others with fewer means may find themselves falling behind. In the past, library access was easily open to all students and there was a distinct ‘egalitarian’ atmosphere. The advent of the www opened up a gap in access as costs of the technology precluded poorer students. This gap persisted for many years. Only now is it closing and a new era of higher education can start. The information in the physically dense encyclopaedia volumes of the ‘Book of Knowledge’ is now readily available on a mobile phone. This transition has happened in less than 30 years and in my working lifetime. The next phase will see a rapid expansion in online teaching and universities will have to abandon their large classes. Instead they will have to supplement onlin…