My first post on this site about Brexit was in February 2016. I had found some articles from a university perspective, on why we should stay in the EU. Here we are, almost five years later, on the other side of all that, and the consequences for HE of our leaving are starting to show.
Britain mourns a cherished education exchange program ended by Brexit – The New York Times Once able to study and work anywhere in the European Union without a visa, young Britons will now be treated like people from any other country outside the bloc when it comes to applying for educational programs — or jobs. The withdrawal is also a blow for Britain’s vaunted universities, a powerful symbol of its soft power in Europe and around the world, and an important source of income for the country.
But don’t worry though, the government has a cunning plan.
New Turing scheme to support thousands of students to study and work abroad – GOV.UK The programme will provide similar opportunities for students to study and work abroad as the Erasmus+ programme but it will include countries across the world and aims to deliver greater value for money to taxpayers. The UK will reap the rewards from the investment, by boosting students’ skills and prospects, benefitting UK employers, and supporting Global Britain’s ties with international partners.
Is that to be our brand name now, ‘Global Britain’? 🙄
And the Brexit trade agreement itself doesn’t exactly inspire much confidence, does it?
Brexit deal mentions Netscape browser and Mozilla Mail – BBC News Experts believe officials must have copied and pasted chunks of text from old legislation into the document. The references are on page 921 of the trade deal, in a section on encryption technology. It also recommends using systems that are now vulnerable to cyber-attacks. The text cites “modern e-mail software packages including Outlook, Mozilla Mail as well as Netscape Communicator 4.x.” The latter two are now defunct – the last major release of Netscape Communicator was in 1997.
There were a number of significant worries about what the start of this academic year might look like for university recruitment. But perhaps things will be OK.
The results comes as British universities are becoming cautiously optimistic that most have avoided the worst scenarios anticipated following the worldwide coronavirus outbreak and the exam grading turmoil that engulfed UK schools. Several institutions have said that student recruitment has held up across the board, with few domestic students opting to defer their studies, while international students numbers appear not to have fallen as feared.
There’s no shortage of advice out there, for universities …
Higher education: reopening buildings and campuses – GOV.UK This guidance is designed to help HE providers in England to understand how to minimise risk during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and to provide services to students to ensure they can have an enjoyable experience, while staying as safe as possible. We recognise that providers have been working to prepare for safe reopening and this update is designed to support finalisation of these preparations and provide clarity on some issues raised by providers.
Pupils return to school across England and Wales as Jeremy Hunt backs call for ‘rapid testing’ in classrooms – London Evening Standard [T]he former health secretary Jeremy Hunt backed a call from epidemiologist Professor Neil Ferguson for “rapid testing” to be introduced in schools, using a similar model to that used in Germany … “I think he is right, and the reason he is right is because we know something now we didn’t know back in January, which is that about 70 per cent of the people who transmit coronavirus don’t have any symptoms at all and so that makes it much harder to get public consent for things like sending people back to school or going back to offices and so on because it is a silent transmitter and even a silent killer sometimes. The way you get round that is by having very quick, very effective large-scale testing.”
Germany faces a ‘roller coaster’ as schools reopen amid coronavirus – The New York Times Germany, like other countries that have managed the pandemic fairly well, was quick to deploy widespread testing, effective contact tracing and tests with rapid results. Crucially, that has helped keep the rate of community transmission low. So far, the lesson from Germany, Denmark and Norway, among the first countries to start the new school year, is that schools can reopen and remain open — if they build on that kind of foundation. But most countries, and most parts of the United States, simply can’t match those conditions.
This isn’t just a problem for schools, of course.
Fears over COVID-19 spread in universities as students set to make ‘UK’s biggest annual migration’ – Sky News The start of a new university year is “the biggest migration of people on an annual basis in the UK,” Jo Grady, UCU general secretary, says. “That’s a million students, moving across country, cycling in and out of lockdown zones, of bubbles, of homes, into new cities, where we are not track and tracking those students, we are not testing those students,” she said. “We are seriously concerned that if the government and universities do not step in and discourage this… we could see universities becoming the care homes of the second wave of COVID-19.”
The area is home to Manchester University’s main accommodation block, and businesses are quietly gearing up for what is usually one of their busiest months, without quite knowing what the return of students will bring. Promoters would usually be dotted on street corners, attempting to lure twentysomethings with £1 shots. But now, when students arrive, they will be greeted by floor markings, hand sanitiser, and signs reminding them to keep socially distanced.
But maybe everything will be OK?
Why heading back to school isn’t as big a risk as it sounds – Wired UK “What’s happened between June and now, is that we now know that young children, so those under ten, have negligible risk from the virus and don’t appear to be transmitting it much either,” says David Strain, clinical senior lecturer and honorary consultant at University of Exeter Medical School. “In June, we knew that the children could catch the virus, and they had no disease. But we didn’t know, at that point, whether they could then take that virus home and spread it on to their parents and grandparents.” One worry is that children will spread the virus to vulnerable members of their household – an elderly relative or shielder. But, luckily, children aren’t as contagious as adults. […]
What is clear is that children staying out of school is hugely damaging – not just in regards to the loss of education, but whether the children come from vulnerable settings, are neglected at home, or at risk of domestic violence. Schools provide a refuge for these children. “We’ve seen an entire generation lose six months worth of education – for some this is their formative years,” says Strain. “This is further driving health and educational inequalities.”
“The government needs to be bold, and on the sort of scale that saw hospitals built in weeks, and workers paid in furlough, to make sure no child is left behind. If not, they risk losing a generation for good. The stakes are simply that high,” she said.
Any lessons from history?
Schools beat earlier plagues with outdoor classes. We should, too – The New York Times The subsequent New England winter was especially unforgiving, but children stayed warm in wearable blankets known as “Eskimo sitting bags” and with heated soapstones placed at their feet. The experiment was a success by nearly every measure — none of the children got sick. Within two years there were 65 open-air schools around the country either set up along the lines of the Providence model or simply held outside. In New York, the private school Horace Mann conducted classes on the roof; another school in the city took shape on an abandoned ferry.
Distressingly, little of this sort of ingenuity has greeted the effort to reopen schools amid the current public-health crisis.
If schools do have to close again, we’ll be better prepared next time, right?
Coronavirus: how can teachers prepare better for remote learning? – Tes The principle of generative learning is that there are activities that we can ask pupils to do in which they create new learning for themselves. All these activities involve pupils taking new information from a source – such as teacher explanation, a written text, video clip etc – and then going through the process of: selecting relevant information; organising it; integrating it into their prior knowledge.
There’s a mountain to climb, even without any further closures.
Pupils three months behind as new term starts, study claims – Schools Week The research has prompted warnings that catch-up must not be seen as a “quick-turnaround solution”, with schools facing a “range of barriers” as they reopen. The survey also found that almost half of pupils need “intensive catch-up support”, with those from the most deprived schools and institutions with the highest proportion of pupils from BAME backgrounds “in greatest need”.
Next year’s exam season will be rolling around before you know it.
Perhaps some people need to go back to school more than others.
Ofqual chief Sally Collier steps down after exams chaos – BBC News “This move follows the failure of the statistical model that led to this year’s grading fiasco, but the fault is not hers alone,” said the head of the Association of School and College Leaders, Geoff Barton. “Ministers have questions to answer over the extent to which they scrutinised and challenged the methodology and reliability of the statistical model, particularly given the enormity of the task and the importance of getting it right.”
Everything that went wrong with the botched A-Levels algorithm – Wired UK “This whole story has really highlighted the problems that there are around automated decision making, in particular when it’s deployed by the public sector,” says Tennison. “This has hit the headlines, because it affects so many people across the country, and it affects people who have a voice. There’s other automated decision making that goes on all the time, around benefits, for example, that affect lots of people who don’t have this strong voice.”
Can algorithms ever make the grade? – Ada Lovelace Institute Hindsight delivers 20:20 vision, as we know. But Ofqual should have been aware that it was deploying an algorithm against a backdrop of existing public scepticism towards algorithmic systems, and an environment of tenuous trust in Government data use. It needed not only to meet, but to exceed existing standards for transparency and accountability, to avoid doing indelible harm to public confidence in data-driven decision making. […]
It would be easy to blame Ofqual here, but the choice of goals – in algorithms as in policy more broadly – is a political question, not just a technical one. Professor Jo-Anne Baird, a member of Ofqual’s Standing Advisory Group, has publicly stated that Ofqual was specifically directed to deliver exam results that controlled grade inflation, and within those parameters, this algorithm is the best you can get. So why did the public have to wait until results day in August to find out that this was the goal?
The lessons we all must learn from the A-levels algorithm debacle – Wired UK The statistical problems within the algorithm – such as the ability to only award a certain number of each grade per school – could have been spotted before it was deployed. But external expert advice was ignored months before results day. Members of the Royal Statistical Society (RSS) offered to help Ofqual in April, but faced five-year non-disclosure agreements if they wanted to be involved in the project. The RSS experts said they believed some of the issues with the algorithm could have been avoided if independent expert advice was taken.
How might Ofqual have avoided this turmoil? – HEPI Ofqual were set a nearly impossible task: Provide students with the grades that they would most likely have achieved had they sat their exams, while maintaining overall national standards for prior years, and protecting groups from being systematically advantaged or disadvantaged. The methodology arguably failed on all three aims. The situation we’re left with is in many ways worse. But could this all have been avoided had the methodology been better designed and communicated?
School exams and Covid: what could the UK have learned from EU? – The Guardian The French education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, announced in April that the country’s 740,000 final-year students would be awarded an average grade for each subject based on coursework and tests during the first two terms. Local juries assessed and – if necessary – adjusted students’ grades according to national averages and on schools’ past examination records. The pass rate for the 2020 bac was over 95%, more than seven percentage points higher than the previous year, forcing the government last month to create about 10,000 extra university places for September in the most popular subject areas.
Students get ‘bizarre’ rises from moderated grades – Tes A headteacher of a West Yorkshire school said that, in one case, a pupil forecast a grade 1 in a subject had been given an 8 after the Ofqual moderating process. He also had 12 students in the same subject where final grades were four grades higher than the centre assessed grades produced by the school.
Ofqual have set out how GCSEs and A levels will be awarded this summer, following the cancellation of this year’s exams. It’s not just about the students’ mock exam results, but nor is it just a grade they’re after.
a centre assessment grade for every student in each of their subjects: that is, the grade they would be most likely to have achieved if they had sat their exams and completed any non-exam assessment. Judgements should balance different sources of evidence such as: classwork; bookwork; any participation in performances in subjects such as music, drama or PE; any non-exam assessment […]
the rank order of students within each grade for each subject – for example, for all those students with a centre assessment grade of 5 in GCSE maths, a rank order where 1 is the most secure/highest attaining student, and so on. This information will be used in the statistical standardisation of centres’ judgements – allowing fine tuning of the standard applied across all schools and colleges
That last point could be a non-trivial matter, to say the least, though you can see why they’re asking for it.
It’s great to see some universities overhauling their applications processes to become more diverse, but something that caught my eye earlier was this new kind of offer being made to applicants.
‘Conditional unconditional’ offers on the rise – BBC News
Conditional unconditional offers give students a place – regardless of their A-level grades – on condition they make the university their firm first choice. Critics say they encourage students not to work hard to get the best A-levels.
You could say that about any kind of unconditional offer, of course. As Mike Ratcliffe, Nottingham Trent University’s Academic Registrar, explains below, this new type of offer does have the worrying feel of ‘pressure selling’ about it.
The evidence against conditional unconditionals doesn’t stack up – Wonkhe
One concern expressed around conditional unconditional offers hinges on when a conditional offer made via UCAS is converted to an unconditional offer if the student accepts that provider as their firm choice, in particular if there is an arbitrary time limit. This is the source of the potential, it has been suggested, for universities to engage in “pressure selling”. In our view, there should be no need to require a student to choose before they have all their offers or outside of the standard UCAS decision dates.
But going back to that point about potentially disincentivising students to do well at their A-Levels, he suggests that’s less of an issue.
Another concern is whether applicants with conditional unconditional offers are more likely to coast through the remainder of their level 3 qualifications and thus miss their predicted grades. National data show it is the applicants with higher predicted grades who miss their grades the most; at NTU it is these very students to whom we make conditional unconditional offers. Our statistical modelling suggests that only a tiny proportion (1.2%) of the variables explaining our students’ propensity to miss their predicted grades can be attributed to holding conditional unconditional offers. This is consistent with the UCAS analysis in its End of Year Cycle report in 2018 which concluded: less than 2 per cent of applicants that missed their predicted A levels by two or more grades in 2018, did so as a result of holding an unconditional firm.
I was amused by this other article on WonkHE from Paul Greatrix, the Registrar from Nottingham’s other university, about the latest developments in online courses—‘nanodegrees’. I don’t think he’s a fan.
Stack ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap – get your micro-credentials here – Wonkhe
But despite all the hype around MOOCs and the like, universities and their traditional offerings have proved remarkably resilient and therefore the logical next step was for the MOOC providers to start offering actual qualifications themselves. Not traditional awards of course but excitingly named micro-credentials, nano-degrees and micro-masters courses all of which were described as ‘stackable’ qualifications and would, again, destroy universities with all of their tedious, fusty old style qualifications. […]
But given the treatment that MOOCs, advocates of ‘unbundling’ higher ed and those who favour the ‘uber-isation’ of HE receive in Audrey Watters’ wonderful list of the 100 worst ed-tech debacles of the last decade you have to ask if MicroBachelors™ or the like are going anywhere fast.
I’ve worked in a number of universities and know that it’s not easy being a university student; lots to worry about. And I know it’s not easy being the parent of a university student; lots to worry about. I’ve been the former, and in a year’s time, if all goes well, I’ll be the latter.
In this article for WonkHE, Alan Sutherland from Surrey SU considers the problems universities and parents have with each other’s expectations, and a possible way forward.
What part, however, are parents allowed and expected to play in the next few years? After a harrowing experience with a gaggle of angry parents, I thought it wise to take a closer look at the parental experience.
Indeed, Labour has announced plans to replace offers based on predicted grades with a new “fairer” system of post-qualification admissions. Under Labour’s plans, students would apply for their higher education place after receiving their results instead of the current system of predicted grades – which the party says penalises disadvantaged students and those from minority backgrounds.
My first reaction with these kinds of plans is to almost faint at the thought of the upheaval everyone would have to go through. Hundreds of universities, thousands of schools, millions of students. Would there have to be a pilot implementation with just a few schools? Or just a few universities? How would that work? Would that create a two-tier system? Could it really all be turned around in such a short timeframe? What if it all went wrong?
But then, if other countries can do it, why can’t we?
All of which makes Labour’s most recent suggestions of reforming the system a step in the right direction. Indeed, a 2019 report from The University and College Union revealed that post-qualification admissions were the global norm, and that countries the UK often benchmarks against – such as Germany, Singapore, Australia and the US – all use this system.
The OECD’s top five countries with the highest performing graduates also use post-qualification admissions – so it’s possible that students in those countries are being better matched to institutions and thriving accordingly.
Two days later, and the police have arrested someone for it.
Man arrested over UK’s Lancaster University data breach hack allegations
Names, addresses, email addresses and phone numbers were among the categories of data visible to the hackers. Fraudulent invoices were sent to some, the university admitted. With overseas applicants (of which Lancaster had 575 last year from non-EU countries and 375 from other EU countries) paying fees measured in the tens of thousands of pounds per year, the potential for high returns is great.
Our sources added that around half a dozen students had paid these fraudulent invoices. The highest undergraduate fees for overseas (non-EU) students is Lancaster’s Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) course at £31,540.
It’s more than a little embarrassing, as Lancaster University is one of a number of universities offering degrees in cyber security…
Cyber Security MSc – Lancaster University
In addition to the taught modules, you will also work on an individual research project, supervised by two academics from two of the four departments. Through this project, you will obtain an in-depth understanding of the theoretical and practical aspects of cyber security and technology. You will put the skills and knowledge you have developed throughout the year into practice and gain experience of tackling real-world cyber security issues.
Well, there’s a ‘real-world cyber security issue’ for you.
Headteacher Janet Sheriff confirmed the school has launched an immediate investigation and called on the exam board to apply ‘special consideration’ – although pupils and parents will only find out if the appeal has been successful when they open the envelope containing their results in August.
Thousands of students who have remained in the UK to fight to clear their reputations have spent the past five years attempting to prove that they are not guilty of cheating, but most have struggled because the Home Office has told them they have no right of appeal in the UK and must leave the country.
But then today we have this.
English test students may have been wrongly accused, says watchdog
About 2,500 students have been forcibly removed from the UK after being accused of cheating in the exam and a further 7,200 left the country after being warned that they faced detention and removal if they stayed. Many have protested their innocence; 12,500 appeals have been heard in UK courts, and so far 3,600 people have won their appeals.
Consider the case of the applicant who just misses the AAB threshold. Prestigious institutions which have had many of their AABs hijacked by even more prestigious ones (maybe SOAS) and would therefore like to have this person, may not be able to accept such students at Confirmation or in Clearing, because they will be constrained by the SNC; so there may well be a population of applicants too proud to accept the institutions able to accept them. Even students well short of AAB may not be willing to go to certain institutions in Clearing. Once London Metropolitan is full at £6k or less, will applicants be willing to pay £9k to go to UEL or will they decide that at that price it is better to miss out on HE? We don’t know.
Why ‘students as customers’ is bad for policymaking
Are students becoming more like customers? Do they consider themselves consumers? In the abstract, it is a philosophical question, except that it is so emotive in the higher education context that it is rarely approached with philosophical objectivity.
Colleges lose licences in immigration crackdown
More than 470 UK colleges have been barred in the last six months from accepting new foreign students from outside Europe, the Home Office says. They either had licences revoked or did not sign up to a new inspection system – part of government efforts to curb abuse of the immigration system. It estimates the colleges could have brought in 11,000 students.
Universities UK response to Home Office update on student visa changes
Beyond the substance of these arrangements, it is essential that the government considers the way in which the rules are communicated externally. It’s important that the UK appears ‘open for business’ to those individuals who are genuinely committed to coming to the UK to study at one of our highly-regarded universities. We must also be conscious of the impact that cutting down on pre-degree courses is having on our universities. Many universities operate pathway programmes with a range of providers. It is estimated that more than 40 per cent of all international students arrive through this means.
What kind of worrier are you?
And this list actually made me feel better because, while I checked off the majority of them, I realized I still have plenty of things to worry about that I hadn’t even thought of! Score!
Productivity Future Vision
In 5-10 years, how will people get things done at work, at home, and on the go. Watch the concept video to get a glimpse of the future of productivity, then explore the stories and technology in more detail.
Take a more realistic approach to your to-do list with the 3 + 2 rule
At the morning you think you can do a, b, c, d, e. But then something goes wrong with b and you spend much more time on it than you anticipated. Subsequently you can’t finish c and d and you feel like you haven’t done enough. Let it be. Instead of having unrealistic expectations, just acknowledge that you can do only 3 big things and 2 small things. Do them and call it a day!
Google takes buzz saw to Buzz, other appendages
And, as announced in July, Google Labs is shutting down – the site’s last day is Friday. So long, Buzz, Code Search, Jaiku, Google Labs, and the University Research Program for Google Search – and thanks for all the fish. ®
College students limit technology use during crunch time
But while students pare down to essential technology at crunch time, some were inventive in the way they had used it earlier. Two thirds said they had used social media for coursework during the term. In post-interview discussions, students mentioned Facebook for coordinating meetings with classmates, and to a lesser extent, YouTube tutorials to understand material not clear in either textbooks or classroom instruction.
Online Evaluations Show Same Results, Lower Response Rate
Students give the same responses on paper as on online course evaluations but are less likely to respond to online surveys, according to a recent study. … The only meaningful difference between student ratings completed online and on paper was that students who took online surveys gave their professors higher ratings for using educational technology to promote learning.
Rosie Waterhouse: Save us from the tyranny of student surveys
Over the next three months, final-year undergraduates at British universities will be encouraged to take part in the National Student Survey commissioned by the Higher Education Funding Council. The NSS is just one of an ever-increasing number of surveys and forums by which students are invited to give “feedback” on their university experience.
What day is it? It’s Data Privacy Day!
Take a moment and think about what Google knows about you. Correspondence and contacts via email, schedule via calendar, interest via feed reader, purchases via Checkout, and most importantly your day-to-day via search. How do you feel about a single company knowing that much about you? Don’t you want to know how they use all that data and more importantly, how they protect it?
Diagnosing the tablet fever in higher education
Tablet-style computers could be game-changers for colleges, bringing in a new era of classroom collaboration and pushing the adoption of electronic textbooks over a tipping point. Today’s announcement by Apple Inc. of the iPad tablet has education watchers predicting a wave of student purchases, major textbook publishers rejoicing, and at least one college saying it will consider giving them to all incoming students. But wait — it might be time to take a deep breath to let the excitement of the sales pitch fade.
Academics in art and design have drawn up a plan to tackle stubbornly low scores for student satisfaction in the National Student Survey
[D]espite efforts to improve the ratings, art and design still does not perform well in comparison with other subject areas, according to a forthcoming report, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better: The Paradox of NSS Scores for Art and Design. […] The widely held view was that the pedagogy of art and design subjects, where students are encouraged to explore and navigate their own way through projects with support, was poorly served by NSS questions, which were felt to relate more to subjects with a highly timetabled, often lecture-based, structure.