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Showing posts from November, 2020

Is post-graduate research a ‘middle-class’ sport?

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 as a major blow to students struggling to keep their research going.  The implications for social mobility and ‘levelling up’ are profound and will reverse slow advances made over many years. More alarming is this statement on the UKRI www site ‘Doctoral students advised to adjust projects for COVID-19’ from Professor Rory Duncan, UKRI Director of Talent and Skills, “Altering the outputs of your work or changing the data you work with as a result of the pandemic does not diminish the standard of your doctoral education”. This is so unprofessional it beggars belief. In fact an

Friday the 13th may not be a good day to announce a post qualification admissions plan

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

Students heading home for Christmas: Lucky for some

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 state of UK universities in lockdown

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