srhe

The Society for Research into Higher Education

Paul Temple


Leave a comment

‘Alternative’ they may be, but ‘providers’ …?

By Paul Temple

Not that many SRHE members – I’m guessing here – will have called in on the London College of Business Sciences in Dock Road, E14. If you were planning a visit, you’d need to be sure that you hadn’t confused it with the London College of Business Management. Other traps for the unwary could be the London College of International Business Studies, not to mention the London College of Business Management and IT. Or indeed any one of a long list of for-profit colleges with the words ‘London’, ‘College’ and ‘Business’ in the title. The QAA has the thankless (and it seems to me pointless) task of inspecting these places. The London College of Business Sciences, to make a random choice, was established in 2010 and has changed ownership every year since then. It’s not then particularly surprising that the QAA in a report this year found that ‘The College’s…management of academic standards…is not fully effective’.

Continue reading


Leave a comment

Two information revolutions

Gavin Moddie

Gavin Moodie

by Gavin Moodie

As mooc mania approached its peak, the president of edX Anant Agarwal claimed in his video launching the platform on 2 May 2012 that ‘Online education for students around the world will be the next big thing in education. This is the single biggest change in education since the printing press’.

The claim was repeated many times and indeed had been anticipated 15 years earlier in 1997 by the management guru Peter Drucker who claimed: ‘Thirty years from now the big university campuses will be relics. Universities won’t survive. It’s as large a change as when we first got the printed book.’

http://www.forbes.com/forbes/1997/0310/5905122a.html

That seemed improbable since university lectures have been as important in the five and half centuries since the invention of printing as they presumably were for the three and a half centuries before Gutenberg. Continue reading


Leave a comment

This is an ex-Minister

Image of Rob Cuthbert

Rob Cuthbert, SRHE News Editor

The dramatic events of early July, when a major Government reshuffle unfolded,  appropriately coincided with the Monty Python reunion in London to remind us that perhaps the only thing deader than a just-purchased Norwegian Blue is a just-departed government minister.

The Cabinet reshuffle signalled the end of high office and political careers for several long-serving ministers, who announced their intention to leave Parliament after the 2015 election. The demise of the Minister for Universities and Science was not even the top story in Education, thanks to the demotion of Michael Gove, but it is the top story for higher education.

As is the brutal way in politics, the departure of David Willetts from his not-quite-Cabinet post was followed immediately by the obituaries, which fell into three camps. Continue reading


Leave a comment

Performance-based research assessment is narrowing and impoverishing the university in New Zealand, UK and Denmark

performance

The article below is reposted from the original piece published at the LSE Impact of Social Sciences blog It is reposted under Creative Commons 3.0.

 

Susan Wright, Bruce Curtis, Lisa Lucas & Susan Robertson provide a basic outline of their working paper on how performance-based research assessment frameworks in different countries operate and govern academic life. They find that assessment methods steer academic effort away from wider purposes of the university, enhance the powers of leaders, propagate unsubstantiated myths of meritocracy, and demand conformity. But the latest quest for ‘impact’ may actually in effect unmask these operations and diversify ‘what counts’ across contexts.

Our working paper Research Assessment Systems and their Impacts on Academic Work in New Zealand, the UK and Denmark arises from the EU Marie Curie project ‘Universities in the Knowledge Economy’ (URGE) and specifically from its 5th work package, which examined how reform agendas that aimed to steer university research towards the ‘needs of a knowledge economy’ affected academic research and the activities and conduct of researchers. This working paper has focused on Performance-Based Research Assessment systems (PBRAs). PBRAs in the UK, New Zealand and Denmark now act as a quality check, a method of allocating funding competitively between and within universities, and a method for governments to steer universities to meet what politicians consider to be the needs of the economy. Drawing on the studies reported here and the discussions that followed their presentation to the URGE symposium, four main points can be highlighted. Continue reading


Leave a comment

News values

Ian Mc Nay

Ian McNay

My interest [obsession?] with the way the press report HE issues has had several items to feed it recently. I had a spat, unpublished, with John Morgan of Times Higher Education over an article on 27 March on student number allocations by HEFCE headlined ‘No bonanza for those who left places unfilled’. The story opened with the assertion that ‘the big post-92s suffer’, having  proved [sic] ‘less popular’, and the third paragraph lists four of them.

Then comes the table giving percentage reductions, where those with the biggest reductions are not post-92s, but Leeds, Bath and Surrey. The article comes to them in the fourth column, with a claim that their reduction was probably ‘strategic’. As a researcher, I looked for evidence of the different reasons behind reductions. There was none, since ‘figures were issued on a “no approach” embargo’ where no questions could be asked of institution staff. So, opinion, based on speculation, based on stereotypical bias, is presented as news reportage.

The reporting of research demonstrating the [not new] findings that state school entrants outperform those from private schools with the same entry qualifications, mentioned the recommendation to consider adjusting offers, and produced the usual protective outcry on the web page. Nobody reported the evidence from UCAS stats that grades are adjusted by Russell Group universities, where applicants from privileged backgrounds are more likely to get an offer than those with similar qualifications from less advantaged backgrounds.

Finally in this rant is the question: ‘what is newsworthy?’ In recent weeks, the Centre for Leadership and Enterprise at Greenwich has offered commissioned programmes for staff in the Nigerian Ministry of Education, including the permanent secretary, covering issues of policy on teacher development and deployment, vocational provision, standards, and school governance; and for senior staff from Ukraine – both sides of the country and the language divide – on leadership as a new Higher Education Law is developed.

I thought these together were newsworthy: a small centre working with staff from countries with challenging contexts and offering good news to balance the bad. I was wrong apparently. Judged by the University as not worth a press release or even a mention in the University’s daily coverage on its web pages.

There is, apparently, a ‘London effect’: had we been in Lincoln, or Teesside, or even at the university’s Medway campus, it would have been worth trying to get something in to the local press. London journalists are more blasé and world-weary, it appears, so nothing appeared. But at least you now know about it. I am due in Kyiv in October; if I get taken hostage, will that count as news?

SRHE Fellow Ian McNay is emeritus professor at the University of Greenwich.


Leave a comment

Ethnicity trumps school background as a predictor of admission to elite UK universities

Kurien Parel

Kurien Parel

Vikki Boliver

Vikki Boliver

By Kurien Parel and Vikki Boliver 

Last year an article in the Guardian newspaper described significant disparities in the success rates of white and non-white applicants to the University of Oxford, even among students who received top grades at A-level.  The article, by Kurien Parel and James Ball, reported that, in 2010-11, offer rates were around 1.5 times higher for white applicants than for ethnic minority applicants with the same grades, and up to twice as high in relation to Oxford’s two most oversubscribed subjects, Medicine, and Economics and Management. This pattern was found to hold even for students with 3+ A* grades at A-level.

Of course, A-level performance is not the only criterion for admission to Oxford or other Russell Group universities. Indeed, admissions decisions are often made before A-level results are known, on the basis of predicted A-level grades, prior grades achieved at AS-level and GCSE, references, personal statements, and other criteria. Moreover, certain degree subjects have certain A-level subject prerequisites.

Nevertheless, the figures reported in the Guardian appear to contradict claims made on behalf of Oxford University that ethnic differences in offer rates are due to ethnic disparities in academic attainment at schools as reflected in A-level grades coupled with the fact ethnic minorities apply disproportionately to more competitive subjects such as Medicine.

Some have speculated that ethnic minority applicants to Oxford have lower offer rates because they are more likely to have attended non-selective state schools. Such schools are thought to be less adept at helping applicants prepare for university-administered tests and admissions interviews than state grammar schools and private fee-paying schools.

Expand below to read the full article

Eloise Tan


Leave a comment

The National Forum for Teaching and Learning…a new voice in the Irish HE system

By Eloise Tan

In January of this year I started in my position as Educational Developer for the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning.  The Forum was established by Ireland’s Minister for Education and Skills with the mission to enhance teaching and learning in the higher education sector, inclusive of universities, institutes of technologies, and private colleges. Ireland’s National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 (often referred to as the Hunt Report) identified teaching and learning as a core mission for higher education and made concrete recommendations for enhancing teaching in the sector.

Starting a new role is always an adventure, but it’s not often that one gets the opportunity to start in a new role in a relatively new organisation. Continue reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 56 other followers