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All government’s stand or fall on their ability to plan effectively and turn those plans into reality. The COVID-19 crisis is almost a year into its effects and planning has effectively stalled. It seems the government has yielded to a form of virus-led anarchy that relies on private enterprise and people acting with common sense. The government reacted too late to the pandemic and has been playing catch up ever since. This week was no different with another interim spending review announced on Wednesday. Unexpected was the omission of universities and Augar along with support for students, grants, and fees. Reports that university finances are being reviewed behind closed doors by a former independent-schooled, unelected Lord with no university degree is concerning. Meanwhile, a crew of four, led by an unelected former minister are looking at the tricky problem of what to do, or not do, to universities that fall into financial difficulty. Called the ‘ Higher education restructurin
UPDATE 30th November 2020 There have been several communications to TEFS pointing out things missed by the original article below. Firstly, because most postgraduate researchers and not employed, they are not in a pension scheme and do not contribute to national insurance. That makes them cheaper graduate labour for research. Secondly, many other countries employ their postgraduate researchers for longer than three years and this can be can be up to five years. Thirdly, exceptions are medical graduates in the UK who are employed when doing a PhD or MD. Posting 20th November 2020 Hidden in media reports dominated by the US president’s election, COVID crisis, and the inevitable BREXIT chaos, came some very disturbing news about ongoing support for postgraduate research students. It seems there will be no automatic funding to allow for extensions of their projects coming from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) . Their ‘UKRI COVID-19 phase 2 doctoral extension funding policy’ has come
The temperature rose considerably this week with the prospect of ‘post qualification admissions’ (PQA) to our universities taking centre ground. UCAS jumped the gun on its university masters* at Universities UK (UUK) with an announcement on Monday of their position statement ‘UCAS Maps Reforms of Higher Education Admissions’ . Two options were suggested for consideration. One that UK students apply to university after their exam results, but this would mean delaying start of term to January of the following year. The other more pragmatic suggestion was that students apply well in advance but do not choose from their offers until later and start in October as usual. With UUK releasing their deliberations today alongside those of the government, it seems something will change soon. Oddly, the Office for Students review, that started in February, is now well hidden in the long grass. As a result, it seems reform may be driven by the universities in collaboration with their own admissions
By today, all universities will hope to have told their students the arrangements they will have in place to allow them to go home in December. The Department for Education (DfE) finally caved in to calls for an early ‘test and disperse’ strategy as TEFS called it in September. It comes too late this term but just in time for Christmas. There is now a very short window of opportunity open and little time for universities to plan. Most universities will not have a mass testing system in place while others will have anticipated such a move. A problem lies in the DfE offering no support in terms of finance or coordination and have dropped all responsibility onto the shoulders of individual universities. Dispersal without testing will be risky and potentially dangerous. Decisions on risk will also filter down to individual students and their families. Additionally, universities are expected to support all students that are not able to go home, or have no home base, and provide financial
The deteriorating situation in UK universities took a turn for the worse this week as concerns about finances and student welfare escalated. Things came to a head in Manchester yesterday with sizeable protests breaking out about ‘security fencing’ erected around the university halls of residence. With students across the UK seeking to get off campus to go home, it seems there is little appetite for looking at the numbers of those dropping out. For universities, escalating costs are unlikely to be matched by income if students abandon their accommodation and withdraw from Student Loan Company fees. Those students with the least advantages will, as usual, be the ones caught out in the cold. Now is the time for facing the data and its consequences, not for hiding from the raw facts. The news yesterday that the University of Manchester had suddenly erected security fences around its halls of residence came as a surprise. The aim appeared to be to lock in students to prevent them from le