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Showing posts from April, 2021

The end of an era of teaching alongside research: A tribute to Thomas Brock

The title and the image might seem a departure from the usual offering from TEFS. To a degree this is correct, but there is a purpose in highlighting the essential link between research and teaching at university level, and how that link is being broken. The fracture of this vital cog of education at a high level impacts all students in a way that is damaging perceptions of a university and its purpose. Performance management, REF funding, and the resulting ‘teaching only’ contracts reported by Times Higher Education this week, have set us on a dangerous course. This post is by way of a tribute to the late researcher and teacher, Thomas Brock, who passed away earlier this month. His story is a lesson in how research and teaching have more value when in combination. He carried out ground-breaking research and teaching in another golden era of discovery. Every microbiologist since 1970 knows who he is through his textbook ‘Biology of Microorganisms’. In the midst of the current COVID-

Pandemic student employment: Over 75,000 lose jobs but job market survives collapse

The title illustrates how the same data can be presented to give different impressions. There is currently a general perception that most students are employed in the hospitality industry and the closure during the ongoing pandemic lockdowns have resulted in a collapse of the job market for them. But things are not so simple. Analysis of the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) employment data indicates the student job market has not totally collapsed. This is good news for some students who managed to secure furlough pay or employment of some kind. However, the 5% loss of employment between February 2020 and February 2021 equates to over 75,000 fewer students in employment. This partly explains why the hardship support from the government has been inadequate and needed to be topped up. It also indicates that pressures on employed students continued into the lockdown. Not all students are affected. The recent employment statistics illustrate clearly how there is a two-tier ex

Students return to exam stress: UPDATE

UPDATE 21st April 2021 . Since posting, the Guardian reported on Sunday 18th April 2021 what we all feared with ‘Rise in students asking to repeat year after campus shutdowns’ . This comes as little surprise as anxiety about online exams rises fast with there being little point in returning to campus after the 17th May this term. The National Union of Students has called for funding to allow students to repeat the year if they have been disadvantaged. Universities will have to take such requests very seriously. However, with student numbers set to rise in 2021, this will become a major problem. Original post. With students only allowed to return to university campuses from the 17th of May, the announcement comes far too late to change much. Most examinations will start in early May and will be online. Returning to campus will seem a pointless exercise for most students. The added anxiety of sitting exams will be more acute for first year students who will not have sat a formal exami

Office for Students: Meet the new boss……….

The idea that the new boss is always the same as the old boss is a well-worn adage that seems to apply most times. But, in the case of the Office for Students this week, there was an exception. Career politician, James Wharton took over the direction of the Office for Students (OfS) as its chair. Eager to please his political masters, his first move was to be interviewed by the Telegraph where he could lay out his priorities. During the biggest crisis for universities and students in decades, he cites his main priority as "Free speech” . To further this aim, it is reported that he threatens to use his new powers, which include the ability to fine and deregister institutions as well as ban degree courses from recruiting new students, if universities and linked clubs fail to uphold speech rights. His next priority is reported as urging universities to do more to boost their intake of white working-class boys. This is falling well short of dealing with the challenges ahead and he wi

Covering a tangled web of racial bias, poverty, and inequality with whitewash

The final report of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (CRED) emerged this week and triggered a flood of complaints. Accusations of a ‘whitewash’ cut deep and should not be dismissed. The report’s many omissions and faults led to an assault on the credibility of both the report and the commissioners behind it. A golden opportunity has been lost and will be difficult to retrieve. There is no doubt that racial inequalities, prejudice, and racism exist across our society and are very emotive issues. Yet the idea of ‘institutional racism’ is dismissed by simply redefining it in narrow terms. The report’s main observation is that poverty and socioeconomic factors are key influences on the glaring disparities. But this is hardly a new observation and certainly not a ringing endorsement of ongoing government policies designed to entrench inequalities, regardless of the bluster and rhetoric. Success in Higher Education is a key element in progress and racial discrimination must not