It seems HE can be free

It need not always be about the money.

A debate is under way about the cost of higher education
But the most powerful arguments for free university are about values rather than economic efficiency. To politicians like Mr Sanders, a post-secondary education is a part of the basic package of services society owes its members. There are broad social benefits to a well-educated citizenry, because new ideas allow society as a whole to prosper and cultivating an informed population in an increasingly complex world probably takes more than 12 or so years of schooling. Amid constant technological change, a standing offer of free higher education may represent an important component of the social safety-net. Universality reinforces the idea that free education is not an expedient form of redistribution, but part of a system of collective insurance undergirding an egalitarian society. To progressive politicians, means-tested services send the message that government programmes are for those who cannot help themselves, whereas universal programmes are a means by which society co-operates to help everyone.

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More money for schools from the Co-op

The Co-op, what I still think of as that little corner shop on the high street, has announced a multi-million pound plan to expand its Co-op Academies Trust programme, and wants to treble the number of schools it sponsors.

Co-op to turbo charge academy schools plan
The Co-op is already the UK’s largest corporate sponsor of Academies, having opened three in the last year to take its current total to 12. Under the existing strategy, the Co-op takes over predominantly weak schools in economically challenged communities in the North, putting in place ambitious turnaround plans.

This announcement has made its rounds across the news websites, including The Sun.

Co-op plans to take over 28 more failing schools after turning around 12 academies
The group, best known for its stores and funeral services, took on its first academy in Manchester in 2010.

This one, from the Yorkshire Post newspaper, adds it on to an article about its announcement of a nationwide scheme to stock local products in its stores.

Co-op announces plans to support local producers
“W​e want these businesses to thrive in our communities and so we don’t seek exclusivity for instance – our ambition is for our stores to be at the heart of local life, connecting communities together and offering great quality products when and where our members and customers need them​,” he added.​

[…]

The ​Co-op ​said its a​cademies have enjoyed huge success, with a strategy designed to empower teachers and young people to work together for a better education and a better community, in line with the Co-op’s own values.

Tes.com emphasises the geographical aspect of the news.

Co-op ‘turbo-charging’ academies sponsorship in bid to boost the North
The announcement comes after a report by Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield last month highlighted that children from poorer homes in northern England face an education gap that starts before school and widens over time.

The Northern Powerhouse Partnership has also called on businesses in the North to do more to help close the skills gap with the South.

The Telegraph’s account is from a more financial viewpoint.

Co-op returns to profit as it bounces back from bank woes
The Co-operative Group’s boss shrugged off the chaos afflicting Britain’s high streets as the mutual announced it had returned to the black after selling its stake in the troubled Co-operative Bank.

The company, which runs food shops and funeral parlours as well as offering insurance and legal services, made a pre-tax profit of £72m in the year to Jan 6, up from a £132m loss the year before.

[…]

The Co-op also announced plans to sponsor 28 academy schools in the next three years in addition to the 12 it already has. It hopes to hire 250-300 workers from the schools by 2022, but Mr Murrells said the move was based on its aim to “do good in society” rather than for business reasons.

This must be all too much for the Independent. Yes, the Co-op’s doing well at the moment, but it won’t last.

Co-op: Roaring back and in the black but is it just a bit too busy?
That sort of thing is what might make long term watchers of this institution shudder. Just a bit. It has uncomfortable echoes of what the business used to do in the bad old days when it was cursed with executives who, as eventually became clear, were much better at politicking and unveiling grandiose plans with great fanfare than they were at business.

A university union rep unhappy with their university’s spending?

I think it’s traditional to mock corporate rebrands and be appalled at the sums of money involved swapping one little logo for another little logo, but the timing of this one could have been better.

University of Portsmouth under fire over £800,000 rebrand costs as departments face cuts
Dr James Hicks, city university branch secretary of the University and College union, said: ‘I don’t understand why they would spend so much money on a logo and shortly after that say we’re having difficulties and might need to make savings. ‘You would assume they would have thought this through and it would be a little more joined up.’

I wouldn’t like to comment on the levels of marketing and recruitment expertise the UCU rep has – obviously it’s not £800,000 on just a logo – but after yesterday’s post about strike action, and the attention currently on VC pay, this could have been managed better.

Times Higher Education v-c pay survey 2018
Times Higher Education’s survey of vice-chancellors’ pay in the most recently reported financial year, 2016-17, reveals that Snowden’s total remuneration rose to £433,000 in 2016-17, while that of Breakwell – who announced last November that she would retire at the end of the current academic year – reached £471,000, a rise of 4.4 per cent. But even that salary looked paltry compared with the headline-grabbing £808,000 earned by Christina Slade of neighbouring Bath Spa University, a figure that – as THE revealed in December – included a £429,000 pay-off for “loss of office”.

Bath University vice-chancellor quits after outcry over £468k pay
“Professor Breakwell will receive more than £600,000 from the university, an enormous reward for failure, and will continue to exercise the authority which has generated the ‘climate of fear’ now openly talked-of on campus,” a joint statement from the campus unions UCU, Unite and Unison, said.

[…]

Ana Dinerstein, a member of the senate who last week voted no-confidence in Breakwell, said: “This is great opportunity for change that will start at Bath University and can spread throughout the sector. It can be a turning point.”

Or not.

The 2014 Grant letter

The 2014 Grant letter: another epistolary triumph
But enough of the content, what about the important stuff like length? At 22 paragraphs, excluding the covering letter, or 26 if you include the substantive comments in the letter, it is shorter than any of its three predecessors from the BIS duo which have come in at 36, 35 and 28 paragraphs long. It is pleasing though that the Secretary of State’s signature remains as cheerful as ever.

vincecablesignature

I’m not so directly involved with this side of university business these days, but this is a great summary. And the Twitter stuff’s been good too.

Reducing burden, or just moving it about a bit?

desk

Something that’s not going to affect many people out there in the real world, but still, a step in the right direction:

Trac burden cut after Hefce review
Universities are to benefit from a reduced administrative burden in supplying information about their costs, but government pressure to give more of such data to students has met with a cool response.

Having said that, for me that administrative burden is coming from a different direction. For instance this, thankfully not from my place…

Thousands of Winchester students lose out on loan money
Nearly 2,000 Winchester students have each lost out on £400 of student loan funding due to an admin blunder.

GTD, stats, fees

New GTD Setup Guide for Outlook 2010
For those of you on Outlook 2010, we just released a new Setup Guide to assist you in creating a rock-solid GTD system in Outlook. Since the 2010 version changed some ways things are done in Outlook, we created a new Guide specific to this version.

Correlation or Causation?
Need to prove something you already believe? Statistics are easy: All you need are two graphs and a leading question. Correlation may not imply causation, but it sure can help us insinuate it.

Tuition fees could bring bonanza for humanities
If the same fees apply for all subjects, humanities departments may benefit, says Jonathan Wolff – but creative arts and some social sciences may suffer.

Digital HE

HE Planning Blog: Core/Margin: Implementation
There is an element of the prisoners’ dilemma here because if the Government’s policies drive a few universities into bankruptcy that is a problem for those universities; if almost all the existing universities are bankrupted, that is a problem for the Government. Because a significant group of universities have moved, and the margin numbers have been substantially overbid, Government will be emboldened to keep pushing, and institutions above £7,500 (and below AAB) will begin to feel more threatened. We can expect to see a further wave of fee reductions next year.

What will drive the expansion of design in digital higher ed?
For a variety of reasons (that I will address in a future post), the software and content created for digital higher education has completely ignored the role of design – and it shows. However, there are a number of forces in play that may give the field of design a more central role in digital higher education.

HE fees

Offa releases details of revised access agreements
Proposals by 25 universities and colleges to cut their tuition fees so they can bid for 20,000 cut-price undergraduate places in 2012-13 have been approved by the Office for Fair Access, but it has led to only a small fall in the sector average of £90 to £8,071. … The National Union of Students said that by switching funding from bursaries to fee waivers to “cope with the moving goal posts of funding policy”, the universities that had revised their access agreements had taken £13.8 million “out of students’ pockets”.

HE standards, e-mail

Watchdog finds fault with Leeds Met validation
The Quality Assurance Agency has raised concerns about Leeds Metropolitan University’s validation of degrees. The watchdog said this week that it had “limited confidence” in the institution’s management of academic standards for courses delivered by partner colleges.

The price of a University drop-out 4: Time for some numbers
The data takes into account HEFCE decided partial completion premiums and the reduced funding delivered for each masters and post-graduate student (because they pay entirely for their course), and is, basically, quite complicated. The data I compiled (in slightly raw, Google doc form) was drawn from HEFCE-released data from 10/11, and is free for anyone to play with, so if you want to see how your university fares for non-completion rates, take a look. So what can we take from this? I think the most interesting discussions will be for the future, and how the whole system will dramatically change why tuition fees sky-rocket.

A “zero email” policy that makes zero sense
According to this article (also covered by the WSJ), the French IT company Atos has discovered that its employees are becoming less productive because of the increasing onslaught of email. … the CEO announced that the company will BAN EMAIL. This is a technology company with 74,000 employees. No more emails – internally, at least, as a few people outside the company still use the tool. If you work in X business, shouldn’t you make sure your employees are good at X?

Asana, Kindle, student finance

Facebook’s Dustin Moskovitz has new project: Asana
A home screen for work like Facebook is a home screen for goofing off.

Asana – Task Management for Teams
If you’re looking for a tool to help you keep your projects organized, especially if you work on those projects with other people, Asana is a new webapp that can help you keep on top of your to-dos, get updates from other people helping you, and capture everything you and your team are doing in one place so everyone can refer to it quickly.

Amazon Kindle owners can now check out books at the local (US only!) library
The process is simple: supported libraries will allow users to visit their web site, enter their library card number, find the books they want to read, and click “send to kindle” to have the book transferred to their Kindle ereader or smartphone running the Kindle mobile app. The libraries have control over which titles are available and how long the book will be “lent out” to you, but when the lending period is up, the book will vanish and automatically be “checked in” at the library again.

Independent Taskforce on Student Finance Information
Our aim is to help future students and parents in England tackle the myths and misunderstandings surrounding the recent changes to student finance by bringing together best of breed resources from various stakeholder organisations. We want higher education Information, Advice and Guidance (IAG) providers to have access to the best unbiased education tools so that they can cut through the controversy and provide clear and informed guidance to prospective students.

Databases, student debt, HE social media

The ten most amazing databases in the world
The 10 most amazing databases in the world do more than store knowledge. They provide researchers with new ways to solve long-cold crimes, predict economic recessions, measure your love life, map the universe and save lives.

Young adults see student debt as growing unmanageable, poll finds
Young adults agree that college is becoming increasingly unaffordable in today’s economy even as it is becoming more important, according to a recent poll released on Wednesday by Demos and Young Invincibles, two research and advocacy groups.

Confusion reigns as student fees fear takes hold
The communication of student fees has been described as a “national scandal” as a poll shows 59% of people in England feel they have little or no understanding of the new finance system. The news comes as thousands are expected to hit the streets today to protest about rising tuition fees. Many wrongly believe they cannot afford to go to university.

16+ universities dive into Google+ brand pages
Since Google+ launched brand pages Monday, universities across the world have wasted no time setting up pages for their communities to follow. Interestingly, their early approaches have differed greatly. While some view the page as an advertising tool to perspective students, others are expressing school spirit and engaging with their student body.

HE data, SharePoint

Space utilisation: practice, performance and guidelines – UK HE Space Management Project
The guidelines discuss ways of collecting the relevant data on both predicted and actual utilisation; evaluating current performance and the reasons for it; calculating the inefficiency multiplier; reviewing targets; and developing measures to optimise utilisation.

Is SharePoint a records management system? – podcast « Thinking Records
Last Friday Brad Teed (CTO of GimmalSoft) and I discussed whether or not SharePoint could be regarded as a records management system. We recorded the discussion for the ECM Talk podcast series.

'Audit Culture'? Sure about that?

This Times Higher Education article annoyed me this morning:

No plaudits for ‘audit culture’
Academics in the UK have to devote themselves to “gaming the system and distorting their output” because of the “elaborate audit culture” that has developed around higher education.

That is one of the opinions put forward in A Manifesto for the Public University, a new collection of essays by campaigning academics in opposition to the coalition’s university reforms.

Writing in the book, published next month, Michael Burawoy, a British professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, argues that the sector has been the victim of bureaucratic attempts to simulate market competition.

This regulation is now being deployed to teaching as well as research, he argues. Together with “commodification”, universities are facing twin pressures that are “destroying the very basis of (their) own precarious autonomy”.

Professor Burawoy’s essay is one of seven in the book, edited by John Holmwood, one of the academics behind the Campaign for the Public University, which has launched an alternative to the higher education White Paper.

And so on and so forth 

What annoyed me about it was the lazy way it was using terms like audit and bureaucratic when describing the position we’re in. The usual baddies. Strikes me we’re only where we are because of politics, not bureaucracy. It’s not too much audit that started messing with our funding positions and set us off down this track to the market. If anything, we’ve either not got enough audit or have too much of the wrong kind.

There’s lots wrong with where we are now, but if we just go back over the whole ‘academic v administrative’ themes, as THE is wont to do, then heaven help us.

HE admin, education

AUA Postgraduate Certificate in Professional Practice
You are a professional with a rewarding career, and the PG Cert in Professional Practice appeals to managers and administrators right across the spectrum of UK higher education. It is validated by the Open University. If you wish to extend your understanding of the sector in which you work, as well as increase your professional abilities and career prospects, then this PG Cert is ideal for you. You’ll enjoy a highly flexible programme allowing you to balance professional development with the rigour of academic enquiry. You will also be allocated a Mentor to help you along every step of the way. The programme leads ultimately to a level 7 postgraduate professional qualification.

The quest for knowledge is good in itself and helps the country thrive – Will Hutton
A culture of scholarship, the role of the teacher as teacher and the quest to know for the sake of knowing are to be replaced by a culture of consumer utility in which student choice and business need are kings. This is to be forced on universities by creating a new artificial market for student places and by research funding to be allocated less by what is intellectually compelling than what is commercially, and quickly, exploitable.”

E-Learning to save the day?

How Big Can E-Learning Get? At Southern New Hampshire U., Very Big
Academe is abuzz with talk of “disruptive innovation”—the idea, described by Harvard’s Clayton M. Christensen, that the prestige-chasing, tuition-raising business model of higher education is broken, and that something new and cheaper, rooted in online learning, promises to displace it.

HE funding, productivity

Letter from BIS to Vice Chancellors and Principals with more info on the £6 billion of savings, £836 million from their department
One of this country’s greatest assets is the strength of our university and college system … We are all going to have to do more with less and stop doing some of the things we currently do.

Also, what the hell’s going on with Vince Cable’s signature?

AJ Jacobs: My colossal task burden
The stereo is silent. The TV black. The room dark. I am focused on nothing but a glowing computer screen. I’m doing this because I have a problem focusing. My brain is all over the place. Unless I’m doing at least two things at once, I feel like I’m wasting my time. Phone and email. Watching TV, checking Facebook and reading the news online. Texting and peeing.