By Patrick Ainley
SRHE Fellow Patrick Ainley has written a blog for Policy Press on the implications of the merger of schools, colleges and universities in the Department of Education whilst research funding remains under the renamed Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy.
He speculates that with the Higher Education and Research Bill passing its second reading last month, the focus within English universities may switch away from previously privileged research towards prioritising teaching – or at least meeting the targets specified in the Teaching Excellence Framework.
Unexpectedly, the government are still demanding unenthusiastic employers pay £3bn for Cameron’s promised ‘3m apprenticeships’ while the Sainsbury Report on Technical Education and the government’s ‘Post-16 Skills Plan’ might fit very well with the new Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening’s ‘open-mindedness’ to bringing back grammar schools.
The full link to the article is available below
Book Review by James Hartley
Berg, M. & Seeber, B. K. (2016) The Slow Professor: Changing the Culture of Speed in the Academy, Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
In the USA and Canada there is a movement to reject ‘Fast Food’ in favour of something more nutritious – apparently called ‘Slow Food’. The title of this book is built on this analogy. The authors, two Canadian Professors of English, reject the language and the common currency of commercially framed universities in favour of something more substantive.
The Slow Professor has 4 chapters encased in an Introduction and Conclusion. The first chapter reviews the literature on academic time management. The authors prefer a slow-baked meal to the fast-food currently on offer – where overworked academics are taught extraordinary techniques to get on and publish their research (which often amounts to getting others – especially postgrads – to do your work for you). Readers are persuaded to enjoy their teaching and research – rather than to delegate it.
The authors provide many useful tips. Research with others often emerges from good conversations – working together can be more pleasurable than working alone – difficulties will be withstood and issues better discussed together – partners will trust each other – research topics will emerge rather than being imposed by funding models. In short, ‘Slow professors act with purpose, cultivating emotional and intellectual resilience to the effects of corporatization in higher education’.
All of this seems a bit odd or nostalgic in today’s climate – but what’s the harm in that? This text reminds us of what universities are (were?) for and where, gadarene-like, we are going.
James Hartley is Emeritus Professor of Psychology at Keele University. He is the author of ‘Designing Instructional Text’ (3rd ed. 1994, Kogan Page) and ‘Academic Writing and Publishing’ (Routledge, 2008).
By Vicky Gunn
It would not perhaps be an exaggeration to say that the last two months of higher education policy in the UK have been a little like an unimaginable soap opera in which the main protagonist was Jo Johnson and the main anti-hero, the higher education sector. Rapid change was ushered in south of the border through the English government’s commissioning of HEFCE to introduce the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). This happened at the same time as a radical overhaul of and, in some quarters, cuts to the UK-wide Quality Assurance Agency. ‘Another periodic rupture in the continuum of university and college accountability systems?’ Scottish VPs Learning & Teaching asked from our comfortable devolved zone, in which we debate the relative merits of quality enhancement over audit. Not quite. The intensity, cunning, and speed of the TEF’s introduction and its explosive amplification of the paradoxes of devolved education caught us by surprise.
There was a quick move to understand what the bigger picture underneath the TEF was and Universities Scotland organized an initial group (chaired by me) to establish a brief that would enable the Scottish universities to come to some sort of opening position about how to move forward with the TEF, when our own teaching quality system was so different to the one being proposed in England. We started with a few acknowledgements about the emergence of the TEF and its accompanying architecture as outlined in the White Paper: Continue reading →
By Steven Jones
In some respects, students at UK universities have never had it so good. Dusty old lecture theatres are being torn down and shimmering new ‘learning environments’ erected in their place. Between 2013 and 2017, outlay on buildings and facilities at higher-prestige institutions alone matched that spent on the London Olympics (BiGGAR Economics, 2014), with some universities issuing public bonds to raise extra coffers for campus development projects.
But how can the UK Higher Education sector be sure that its unprecedented levels of capital expenditure are leveraging commensurate ground-level pedagogical gains? Evaluation mechanisms, where they exist, tend not to be student-centred. For example, the Association of University Directors of Estates reports that income per square metre increased by 34 per cent across the sector between 2004 and 2013. While this might make for a healthy balance sheet, it tells us little about the ways in which staff and students engage with their environment. As Paul Temple noted in his 2007 report for the Higher Education Academy (“Learning Spaces for the 21st Century”), university buildings have the potential to transform how learning happens. The challenge for the sector is how best to assess their impact. Continue reading →