Tag Archives: higher education

In Full: Kirsty Williams’ challenge to Welsh universities over Brexit

This week, Kirsty Williams, the Liberal Democrat Welsh Education Secretary, made a speech at Cardiff University about the challenges facing the sector caused by Brexit. She called on universities to strengthen their links to the community at this very difficult time. Here is her speech in full.

Prynhawn da pawb. Good afternoon everyone.

Thank you Colin, and many thanks to colleagues here at Cardiff University for hosting this event today.

It’s great to be here in the Postgraduate Teaching Centre, where professionals from industry and masters students mix and study in the same great location. It is a real state-of –the art facility, one which reflects ambitions to engage strongly with the local and global economy.

One of Cardiff University’s main purposes is to “contribute to the social, cultural and economic development of Wales”. It says so in the university charter (so it must be true…!)

Such civic ambition, in common with our other universities, was the product of a national, political and educational awakening.

As the Aberdare Committee of 1881 noted, there was a “widespread desire for a better education system in Wales” in the second half of the 19th century. The establishment of our own university colleges was central to the fulfilment of that desire.

I know that ambitions for an even better education system in Wales are shared, and demanded, across the country even now. Our national mission is to ensure that all citizens benefit from an equal opportunity to reach the highest standards. I am ambitious, and optimistic, about our collective ability to shape a system that is modern, excellent and innovative.

Universities are critical to that national mission. They should be open and outward-looking, connecting the civic, social and economic.

I want to take the opportunity today to share some thoughts on the role of universities as civic institutions.

  •   The challenge and necessity of civic engagement following the EU referendum;
  •   The role of universities as stewards of community, city and country;
  •   And the importance of innovation, a start-up culture and international links.

    Just before I move on, I’d like to congratulate the sector in Wales for achieving it’s highest-ever student satisfaction level in the National Student Survey last month – outperforming England in fact.

    Although we don’t take the narrow view of students as just a set of consumers, delivering the best possible student experience is a fundamental priority.

    BREXIT NEXT STEPS

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Why does the Tory Government want students to be even poorer?

If you’re a prospective undergraduate student, you’ll have been shocked to see a number of universities, including Durham and Royal Holloway, offering courses above the £9000 a year threshold, which has now been increased to £9250. If you’re a current student or have confirmed your place for September 2016, you’ll be even more shocked to find out that your tuition fees could potentially increase, after you agreed on a price.

When applying for university, both student finance and my school assured me not to worry about the student loans: I would only be paying it back if I earned £21,000 and until I was 50 years old, and I would be getting a lovely bursary to support me through too, due to coming from a low income family. Of course that’s all changed and I will now be in about £60,000 worth of debt due to doing a four year course and my reliance on the bursary from Student Finance England. With tuition fees rising, is there really any incentive for students to go to university in the UK?

Jo Johnson said that ‘higher fees lead to better teaching’, yet the QS top 100 universities is not entirely dominated by British universities, with only 15 English universities making the top 100 and three Scottish universities making their way to top 100 (all of which are free to Scots and EU Nationals). In comparison there are a number of EU universities making the top 100 which have no tuition fees to EU students, including Germany, Finland and Denmark, with others offering incredibly low fees such as the Netherlands and France and many of these cheap or free courses are offered in English. That’s a lot better value for money if it’s £9000 a year (potentially more) cheaper for the same quality of education and same standard of universities.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 20 Comments

LibLink: David Laws – The road to student retention

David Laws has been writing for Times Higher Education focussing on the worrying number of disadvantaged students dropping out of higher education:

The UK government’s target to double the number of disadvantaged young people going to university by 2020 is laudable. Access to higher education offers a platform for young people to succeed and is central to establishing a meritocratic society.

Nevertheless, while access provides the foundations, it doesn’t build the house. If we’re really serious about meritocracy, we have to be ever vigilant about what happens to young people once they are at university too.

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged and | 11 Comments

LibLink: Clare Tyler: Why the class gap is holding back state school students

Private schools educate 7% of pupils, but account for 42.5% of Oxford students. This statistic, according to Baroness Clare Tyler, puts the UK behind even Harvard, the most elite US university.

She wrote for the Huffington Post in the wake of a damning report on social mobility in the UK.

At Oxford, the percent of state school students hasn’t budged since 2002. And today, just 14.3% of Oxford’s students come from the bottom half of households by income. Whilst one in five children are on free school meals, this can be said of just one in a 100 Oxbridge graduates.

She argued that universities and government must do more to make sure that people’s circumstances of their birth don’t define their future.

Making our best universities more accessible is only one of the many steps we need to take to create a fairer and more socially mobile society. It’s not that our bright low-income students aren’t working hard–in fact, research shows that state school students in Russell Group universities with the same A level grades are 50% more likely to graduate with a first class degree compared to their independent school peers.

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Willie Rennie makes fair student finance a Scottish budget priority

There is no doubt that Willie Rennie is being brave in his choice of priorities for this year’s Scottish budget. In truth, the SNP have an overall majority at Holyrood so they don’t need to give any sort of ground.They have done the last few years, though. Last year, they gave extra money for childcare and free school meals in response to Willie Rennie’s persistent pestering. The year before it was college places.

This year, he’s taking a bigger risk. There’s an issue which in the context of the Holyrood parliament represents one of our finest hours and in the context of Westminster our worst. It’s tuition fees. Way back in 1999, Liberal Democrats fought an election saying tuition fees would be dead if they were in government and they kept that promise. We know what happened in 2010. We shouldn’t have done what we did, but, as I wrote at the time, Vince had actually managed to create a system that was fairer than the one it replaced:

However, if there were a way to get it wrong well, he’s probably done that.

Imagine for a moment if the Tories had been in power alone. I very much doubt that their Business Secretary would have tracked down Lord Browne and bent his ear about the importance of the recommendations being fair and progressive. And they are to a point. To play Devil’s Advocate a bit here, if we can’t have no tuition fees (and I’m not conceding that we can’t), then isn’t this a better option than anything else? Nobody has to pay out anything to actually go to university so access isn’t denied to those from less affluent backgrounds in the way it would be today.

And Labour? Would they, still in Government, be talking about a Graduate Tax? Of course they wouldn’t. They’d bung on the fees – although I’m not so convinced that they would have necessarily covered all the angles.  I mean, it’s coming to something when it takes a Tory to bring up the issue I blogged about earlier about interest accruing if someone takes time out to look after children. He confirmed in the House today that interest would not accrue under these circumstances.

Annoyed though I might be with him, I have to at least give some credit to Vince for taking an hour’s worth of utter tripe from the Labour benches with patience and humour. I’d rate him above just about any Labour minister you might care to mention and definitely any Tory. I loved his line about the road to Westminster having the skid marks of unenacted pledges all over it.

Y

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Why Lib Dems shouldn’t keep schtum about tuition fees

tuition fees vote“University tuition fee rise has not deterred poorer students from applying”. That was the headline in The Guardian this week reporting new analysis by the Independent Commission on Fees chaired by Will Hutton:

The raising of tuition fees to £9,000 has not put off students from disadvantaged backgrounds from applying to university – although the gap in applications between those from wealthy and poor backgrounds remains wide, according to new analysis. …

The commission found that university application rates for 18-year-olds in England have continued to recover from their post-rise lows, with application rates for 2014 entry – including students who will receive their A-level results on Thursday – almost two percentage points higher than in 2010.

While students who are not eligible for free school meals – available for pupils from households earning less than £16,000 – remain more than twice as likely to go to university, the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students has narrowed from 30.5% in 2010 to 29.8% in 2013.

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LibLink: Tim Farron – In 2010, we promised to deliver the Pupil Premium. In 2015, I want us to promise to deliver the Student Premium

Tim Farron speaking - Some rights reserved by Liberal DemocratsLib Dem party president Tim Farron has given his personal backing to the Lib Dems promising a Student Premium – modelled on the well-received Pupil Premium – at the next election. First proposed by his colleague Stephen Williams, Tim writes the Student Premium “could potentially change the game in terms of student uptake, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds”. Here’s an excerpt of his article for the April issue of the magazine, Politics First:

The Pupil Premium is being delivered only because the Liberal

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