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Showing posts from March, 2020

Exam nightmare on and off campus - Updated

See additional comment today from Dennis Sherwood  Silver Bullet at the end of this posting.  With the impending summer examinations cancelled, or hastily arranged online, the coronavirus pandemic has applied the brakes for students in a very dramatic fashion. Most university students are currently at a loose end trying to study for something that might not happen, or might not be as expected. School and college students trying for university will have to rely on their teacher’s assessment. The fear is that the system will be unfair and favour the more advantaged students. This fear has been raised in several quarters and must be addressed by universities and the various examination boards. Equality of opportunity and fairness should be central to the system. Addressing this offers a chance to improve how assessments are carried out in the future and bring into sharp focus the inequalities that already exist. The examination ‘nightmare’ for

‘Man’ cannot live by bread alone is put to the test

This week has been momentous as emergency measures and lockdowns hit the UK along with most other countries. With the government finally releasing the reports and data that fed its ‘science-led’ approach today, comes a realisation that more should have been done sooner. Also, the impact on the lives of our people was understated in the last few weeks. The main casualty is trust. Whilst some seem surprised by the rapid onslaught of a virus, others are not surprised at all. There is a general sense that most organisations and government were caught ‘on the hop’ with few contingency plans. Amongst the near chaos, education is taking a back seat. The appreciation of art and culture is replaced by a struggle for survival of the economy and the lives of people affected. The effect on students of all ages is profound and some may see their sacrifice as the price to pay to protect older generations. This may become a price they cannot or do not want to afford as time goes on. Hiding in the

Impact of Coronavirus measures on the working student: The nudge that breaks the camel’s back

The measures taken today by the UK government mean that many small businesses will be forced to close and lay off their workers. With people voluntarily staying away from bars, restaurants and clubs, the impact will be profound. The government will be judged by how it supports people most affected and this will be their legacy. Since the majority employ students as part-time workers, it seems they will be hit especially hard. Add to this the loss of part-time work within universities rapidly shutting down many operations, and the effect will be catastrophic for those in most need. Even PhD students robbed of their pay from casual teaching that they rely upon will be affected. TEFS now calls upon universities and government to step in to help those affected. Emergency hardship funds should be urgently deployed. Having to drop out or fail courses because of lack of support is not an option. Loss of funding and rent arrears will be the ‘straws that break the camel’s back’. The measure

Government warning: "Squashing the sombrero" will damage your health

These were the words of our Prime Minister to explain the government’s strategy in dealing with the pandemic. It hides a high-risk strategy that will see a very large proportion of the population get ill to further the aim of building up ‘herd immunity’. The consequence will be numerous deaths. Behind the scenes, there will be families and children struggling to make ends meet in order to survive. The government must release emergency benefits to those most in need. Even more isolated will be the students with little family support and not much funding. They will urgently require more hardship funds to be released if they are to ride out the storm when in precarious employment. Now is the time for the government to take responsibility and ‘come clean’ with its citizens. It is not a time for frivolous remarks with so many lives at stake. The resulting deaths could exceed the numbers the UK suffered in World War II. Running with the herd. Most citizens of the UK will be s

The budget first-aid box and a research feeding frenzy

Publication of the ‘Budget’ earlier today caused some surprise because of the extent of spending planned and the borrowing associated with it. The full Budget 2020: policy costings are also available. The cost of tackling the Coronavirus outbreak dominated much of the early news, but this was expected. The WHO has this evening formally declared it a ‘pandemic’ and its Director-General pulled few punches with “We cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough: all countries can still change the course of this pandemic” yet “Some countries are struggling with a lack of resolve” . The Government may yet find the direct costs escalating and revenues declining as Coronavirus spreads. The funds deployed in the budget today may be the start of even greater financial stress. However, this has not deterred them from announcing large scale spending elsewhere and apparent expansion of state intervention in the economy. However, we wait to see who really benefits from

The hand wash budget

There has been considerable activity across various media outlets in predicting the budget and advising the new Chancellor. This is finally out tomorrow and any advice at this stage is obviously too late. It is possible that some indication about how universities are to be funded, and possibly the level of student fees, will be announced. But this is also likely to be deferred further until a detailed spending review later this year while we continue to wash our hands. The type of Brexit deal or ‘no deal’ is unknown and the high cost of tackling the Coronavirus outbreak alongside lower tax income will have to be included as a priority now. Meanwhile, the universities are in an unholy mess as they plan a retreat. Some will conclude that research is not sustainable under the present funding arrangements. TEFS has called for a complete overhaul of university funding that reflects the reality of the situation. This may be a bitter pill for everyone to swallow but the medicine has to be

Consuming the towering Eton mess in Higher Education

Consuming the towering Eton mess in Higher Education - download .pdf The last week has seen extraordinary news and confused reactions that expose the competence of our government to public scrutiny. The spread of the new Coronavirus has greatly challenged the understanding of our political leaders. Our trust in political leadership has been superseded by more trust in scientific advice with Boris Johnson saying at one stage that we will be “led by the science” . Indeed, we also need more rational scientific decision making across government to resolve the fine ‘Eton mess’ in which we find ourselves. The ongoing development of our Higher Education system has become a terrible mess. Planning seems conflicted and confused to the point that crisis may be around the corner. Problems are piling up like a towering ‘Eton mess’ that could easily topple over. Defining the challenge with accurate data, asking the right questions and methodical planning must supersede the political ideologies