Tag Archives: universities

An academic Brexodus is upon us

Lib Dem activist Dr Ruvi Zieglar has written for the Cherwell, Oxford University’s newspaper, on the effect of Brexit being felt by universities. Many European staff are leaving because of the uncertainties surrounding jobs, research funding and future prospects.

Ruvi says,

‘Brexodus’ is picking up speed: according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 130,000 EU27 citizens emigrated between September 2016-17, the highest number since the 2008 financial crisis.

Ruvi goes on to explain,

Nearly two years after the referendum, EU27 are still waiting for their post-Brexit rights to be secured….The draft Withdrawal Agreement hardly

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged and | 17 Comments

We must protect our universities’ freedom

Image result for universitiesIt is rare that governments get to do exactly what they want. Opposition parties, the judiciary and others have traditionally also wielded significant influence, tempering the more extreme ideas of those in power and highlighting the pitfalls of proposed policies.

This era of moderation is, however, coming to a close. Those who once held our governments to account are being systematically declawed.

Politicians who deviate from their party line are subjected to torrents of abuse and the threat of deselection. The House of Lords, with its essential powers of scrutiny, is ridiculed as stuffy and out of touch. And then there’s the Labour party, which is currently offering as much opposition to the Government as a hermit crab would to an Apache helicopter gunship.

The saving grace in all of this has been our universities and their academics, who have argued consistently on the side of reason and reasonableness.

But now our universities, too, are under threat.

It started with the gradual move – in which we were, sadly, complicit – from government funding to student tuition fees, turning higher education from a public into a private good and unleashing market forces into a domain in which they do not belong.

But it did not stop there. The new sector regulator, the Office for Students, has lost the policy-setting powers of its predecessor. The Prime Minister has launched a review of higher education funding that has more ‘red lines’ than a London bus map. And Vice Chancellors, who are forced to bear the brunt of this onslaught, have been demonised by MPs and the media for their salaries and expenses.

Whether or not this represents a concerted effort by the Government to emasculate our universities, the effect is the same. And we risk losing some of the last sane voices in the debate of our lives.

We have long been the party of thinking people, of academics and of students. We messed that up with our ill-advised coalition capitulation on raising tuition fees. But it is not too late to make amends.

So what should we do?

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 14 Comments

Vince: Government must act to secure university lecturers’ pensions

This smart little piece of digital magic sums up Vince Cable’s position on the university lecturers’ strike. He has called on the Government to underwrite the lecturers’ pension scheme.

The former Business Secretary, who was responsible for universities, called on the Government to intervene to stop lecturers being left up to £10,000 a year worse off in a letter to the current Universities Minister:

Dear Sam,
As you are aware, university lecturers have started 14 days of strikes due to drastic changes to their pensions. A lecturer can expect to be left around £10,000 a year worse off in retirement as a result.  Younger lecturers will be the worst hit; it has been estimated they could lose up to half of their total retirement pot. Lecturers are not well paid; the reward for their hard work has largely been in the form of relatively generous packages, including a defined benefit pension.

There is a large deficit of around £6-7.5bn in the scheme, so some work clearly needs to be done to bring this down urgently.  However, this does not necessitate the drastic action being taken – particularly given there are question marks over how the deficit has been calculated – notably a shift of the risk burden on to employees. Universities UK has shown few signs of being willing to compromise, which has led to an impasse that will harm the academic study of more than one million students.

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Layla to May: Sack “witch-hunt” whip

It’s not surprising that an MP for a university town is horrified at the actions of a Government whip in writing to universities demanding to know who is teaching what about Brexit on their campuses.

It was reported today that Chris Heaton-Harris, a leading eurosceptic MP and a senior government whip, wrote to vice-chancellors at the start of this month asking for the names of any professors involved in teaching on Brexit and the content of their lectures.

Layla who is also Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson said:

This chilling letter could have come straight out of a dystopian novel.

Conservative Brexiteers know

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If you thought our stance on tuition fees was controversial… – the case for Lifetime Education

 

Whether you are for or against our actions on tuition fees, we can’t pretend it’s not still an open wound for us. It’s an elephant in the room when talking to non-Lib Dems and when discussed between Lib Dems it leads to a row. The irony is that this all happened whilst higher and further education are in their death throes.

The current model of a child attending school, then choosing whether to enter the workforce until retirement at that point or to take a few years of higher education first, then never attending education for the rest of his/her life, will be archaic.

This week The Daily Mail took a break from bashing immigrants, judges or spinning the “What Can Give You Cancer” wheel and turned its attention on the threat posed by robots “ROBOTS TO STEAL 15M OF YOUR JOBS” their headline roared. Their headline isn’t wrong – whether it’s 15 million, 5 million or one in 11 jobs –many of the jobs humans do today will soon be automated by, for want of a less sci-fi description, “robots”. And, as the limitations of and the cost to produce these robots lowers, the more common they will become. We need to adapt to this.

Over the past 30-40 years the amount of careers available to people who enter the workforce without a higher education has reduced dramatically, with more people being accepted into universities and the ICT revolution of the 1990s seeing many low-skilled jobs move overseas – this, I would argue, has led to the rise of the anger against globalisation amongst the white working class. A generation ago you could leave school, find a decent career – working your way up the ladder until retirement.  This career narrative is now on the endangered list and robots will knock it into extinction.

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Farron: Government doesn’t understand needs of universities or public perceptions of immigration

Universities UK has published the results of a poll carried out by ICM which shows that only a quarter of people think of foreign students as immigrants and that the vast majority of people think that foreign students make a valuable contribution and should be allowed to stay on to work here after graduation.

Two-thirds agreed that international students have a positive impact on the local economies of the towns and cities that they study in, and three in five (59%) agreed that their economic contribution helps create jobs.

The poll also indicated that seven in ten adults believe it is better if international students use their skills here and work in the UK for a period of time in order to contribute to the economy rather than returning immediately to their home country after completing their stud

 Almost half (47%) of those polled believed there should be no limit on how long international students should be able to stay and work in the UK after they have completed their study, providing they are employed and contributing to the economy.

Tim Farron had this to say about the poll:

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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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‘Good’ gender segregation and ‘bad’ gender segregation?

universities_uk logoI’ve just heard the Chief Executive of Universities UK be put through the mill on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme following its decision to publish advice that gender segregation might not necessarily be discriminatory as long as “both men and women are being treated equally, as they are both being segregated in the same way”. The guidance – which you can read here – is specific to invited external speakers at meetings on university premises.

I do not like gender segregation. At all. Maybe it’s the result of having …

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Opinion: A Liberal approach to Higher Education

University campusWhen people ask me why I’m a Liberal Democrat, I simplify it slightly. Yes, it’s because I have a Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament and I think he’s pretty great, but it’s also because I quite like freedom, and I think it should be applied more liberally (see what I did there?).

I always describe Liberalism as being obsessed with freedom. It’s a very simple way of encompassing so many of the campaigns and issues we care so passionately about. We raised the tax threshold, because people on low incomes deserve freedom from a punitive tax burden. We legalised same-sex marriage because people deserve the freedom to marry whoever they see fit. The changes to benefits – controversial thought they are – are about ensuring that people aren’t beholden to the state without good reason.

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The good news on university applications in 5 graphs

While the attention of the world’s media was focused on an 8lb 6oz bundle of Royal joy, there was perhaps even more significant good news about young people that didn’t garner quite so much coverage: demand for higher education from young people is at or near record levels for each country of the UK in 2013. This was announced by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) yesterday, an analysis of patterns of demand from over 20 million applications for higher education from 2004 to 2013 — if ever there were a day to bury good news…

Here are five graphs which tell the story…

Demand for higher education from young people is at or near record levels for each country of the UK in 2013.

ucas figures - application figs 2013

Application rates for English 18 year olds have increased by one percentage point to 35 per cent in 2013. This increase is typical of the trend between 2006 and 2011 and takes the application rate back to the 2011 level, after its decrease in 2012. Application rates for 18 year olds in Northern Ireland have increased to 48 per cent, application rates in Scotland (32 per cent) and Wales (30 per cent) are similar to the 2012 cycle.

Application rates for young, disadvantaged groups have increased to new highs in England.

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Rennie challenges SNP to set fair access test for Scottish universities

The Press Association reports:

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie called on the Scottish Government to put a fair access policy in place, or extend the remit of the the Office of Fair Access north of the border. He said this would not only address the fair access gap for poorer students from England and Wales, but also improve the chances of Scottish students deciding to go to university.

Mr Rennie said: “With Scottish universities now able to set fees of up to £9,000 a year, and Edinburgh and St Andrews universities now the most expensive place to study in the

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Opinion: Pity the Scottish school-leavers when English fees rise

I’m a candidate in a council by-election in the Hillhead ward in Glasgow. I’m a Liberal Democrat, and the ward has a big old university slap bang in the middle of it. You’d think I’d be bricking it, wouldn’t you? After the tuition fees betrayal, students hate the Liberal Democrats, don’t they? Well they might do, but I’d like to explain how the real villains in Scotland are the SNP.

The SNP are in fact imposing thousands of pounds of up-front fees on each and every Scottish student and their families. “But the SNP have preserved free tuition!” I hear …

Posted in Op-eds and Scotland | Also tagged , and | 36 Comments

The Independent View: Coalition’s social mobility strategy failing

The government’s plan to improve social mobility has been dealt a series of blows over the past week. New education data show that trends towards a more ‘socially mobile’ Britain are pointing in the wrong direction.

Nick Clegg launched the government’s social mobility strategy last April, promising to ‘open the doors of opportunity’ to children from disadvantaged homes as they move into adulthood. Children from poor homes are half as likely to achieve five good GCSEs as their better off peers, and they account for less than one in a hundred Oxbridge students. Clegg rightly pointed out that …

Posted in Op-eds and The Independent View | Also tagged , , , , and | 8 Comments

How do the university application figures match up against my five questions?

On Sunday, ahead of the publication of the first tranche of university application figures, I posed five questions for judging what they meant. Now the full figures are out, how to do they compare to those five tests?

Let’s see…

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Five questions you should ask to make sense of the university application figures

Tomorrow the first UCAS application figures for this year are officially published, with some leaked figures having appeared in the Sunday Times today. Superficially the headline figures are not great with an apparent 10% drop. But I’m holding off forming a view until I’ve seen the full figures, because there are five key questions to ask about the figures:

1. Some courses, such as medicine, tend to have much earlier application deadlines than those for other courses. Are applications for those early closing courses dropping (which would indicate a problem) or is it that early applications for courses with later deadlines …

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Opinion: Why free university tuition for all is deeply regressive in today’s Britain

Political speeches are usually replete with statistics, numbers culled without context and thrown in the path of critics like metaphorical stingers strewn across a motorway.

But one statistic from Nick Clegg’s conference speech which deserves to live and breathe in its own right is that in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham (where I currently live) more than half of children progress from school to university. In the London Borough of Tower Hamlets (where I lived before moving to Hammersmith) the figure is that just 4% of children go to University. These Boroughs are thirty minutes away from ach other …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 34 Comments

Opinion: What Nick should say about tuition fees at the 2015 general election

More than any other issue, tuition fees have damaged the view of our party in the country as a whole. For what it’s worth, here’s what I think our leader should say about fees when going into the next general election:

I would just like to say a few brief words about tuition fees.

As a party, we entered the last election with a promise to oppose any increase in tuition fees. As a party, we then broke that pledge. That was wrong.

Nothing can justify breaking a promise like that. Nothing. We made a mistake and we have been punished

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Labour’s odd messaging: how the party was for reversing Coalition cuts before it was against them

Mark Pack has already highlighted the pitfalls of political opponents commentating on other parties’ conferences. And he’s right of course. But it didn’t stop him, so I won’t let it stop me…

I am genuinely puzzled by Labour’s key messages based on the first two days of their conference. Day 1 kicked off with the Big Announcment by Ed Miliband that Labour is now committed to doubling tuition fees (dressed up as only The Observer could as Labour committing to ‘slashing’ fees).

Regardless of what you think about the policy, and I think I’ve made my views clear

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Tim Leunig writes: The problem with Labour’s proposed tuition fees cap

Ed Miliband has seized the initiative at the start of his conference, announcing that Labour would cap student fees at £6,000 per year. This policy is superficially attractive, and is clearly designed to win over LibDem supporters who remain angry at the rise in tuition fees.

Today I have published an analysis of Labour’s proposal. It uses the Business Innovation and Skills graduate income “ready reckoner”, which is based on data from the ONS Labour Force Survey. The underlying data are as good as they can be, although of course predicting graduate incomes in 30 years time is a dangerous …

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Ed Balls has a new take on having your cake and eating it

There are two problems with a Liberal Democrat like myself blogging about Labour Party conference. First, as I’ve so often seen from the other side of the fence, an outside blogging about another party’s conference frequently misreads what is really happening. And second, no blogger can compete with Hopi Sen and his cat.

So caveats deployed and on to the confusion that Ed Balls’s speech today left me in. For he had two messages: first, that Labour can’t promise to undo the government’s cuts and, second, that many of the cuts are wrong. Either on its own would be a …

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Opinion: Ed Miliband’s tuition fees announcement – more a headline than a policy

On the eve of the Labour Party conference, Ed Milliband announced in an interview with The Observer, that he plans ‘to slash university tuition fees by a third’, by reducing the cap on tuition fees to £6,000. It’s a headline that appears to have been mistaken for a policy.

These past 15 months Labour has being decidedly light on policy. This surprised no-one. It was said of the previous Brown Government that Labour had run out of ideas; no-one seriously expected the ‘backroom boys’ who picked up Gordon Brown’s mantel to come up with new thoughts any time soon.

However, what …

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Opinion: Ed Miliband starts off his conference week with a damp squib

Many years ago I knew Tom Baldwin when he was a cub reporter on my local newspaper. He is now Ed Miliband’s chief communications guru. He’s a smart cookie, so I am surprised that Baldwin and Ed Miliband have decided to use the traditional opportunity for a trumpet fanfare for their conference week (i.e the front page of The Observer) to announce a distinctly underwhelming policy.

“It’s the economy, stupid” – no more so than at a time like this. So why waste your golden chance for a big media blast by returning, dog-like, to the site of your own …

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£6k versus £9k tuition fees: the real impact in pictures

Today’s announcement by Ed Miliband that Labour would double, not treble, tuition fees from the current £3k pa has prompted much vigorous discussion already. But what would be the actual impact for different income groups of the change in policy?

To find out, I fed different figures into Martin Lewis’s Student Finance Calculator. I made one assumption: that all students would need to take out the maximum maintenance loan to live on while studying. Here’s what the figures show…

Who pays nothing?

With fees at £6k…

… anyone whose salary doesn’t exceed £15,600 in today’s money.

With fees at £9k…

… anyone whose salary doesn’t exceed £15,600 in today’s money.

What if you earn the national average wage?

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Ed Miliband on tuition fees: £6k not £9k. The reaction so far…

Rejoice! Rejoice! Labour has a policy.

Party leader Ed Miliband has vowed that, if Labour were in government now, they would double tuition fees to £6k from the current £3k level set by the last Labour government with immediate effect. In other words, they would undercut the Coalition’s £9k fees by £3k.

Here are some early thoughts:

1) The principle of cutting fees from £9k to £6k

The reality is the cut from £9k to £6k makes no difference to the monthly repayments that poorer students will repay once they’ve graduated and earning more than £21k.

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Opinion: Why millionaire graduates should stop whingeing about fees

According to new figures published this week by the Office for National Statistics, graduates earn 85 per cent more than people with only GCSE qualifications over their working lives. Extrapolated over a 40-year career lifetime, graduates are likely to earn almost £1 million more than those on current average pay of some £25,000 pa.

The latest statistics show that the differential has fallen from 95 per cent in 1993, though the level of earnings has increased substantially over those 18 years. Their publication may reopen the debate on student fees – and incite some resentment among non-graduate taxpayers …

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LibLink: Simon Hughes – Make university an option for all

Simon Hughes, Lib Dem deputy leader and author of The Hughes Report on access to higher education, recently had an op-ed in the Daily Express outlining the thoughts he sets out in that report.

Here’s a sample:

Last week I submitted my report to the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, with more than 30 recommendations on what can be done to improve access to higher education.

These do not focus only on university admissions but on what can be done to encourage young people to think about university from an early age.

This is crucial because from the age of 13 children

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‘The Hughes Report’: Lib Dem MP’s 33 recommendations to improve access to higher education

Last week saw the publication by Simon Hughes, the Government’s advocate for higher education access, of his report for the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister on how more young people can be encouraged to apply for university. It’s received little attention, perhaps understandably given the current frenetic news cycles — but it’s a shame because the report is a serious piece of work.

Though 45 pages long in total, it presents clearly, readably and concisely 33 recommendations designed to ensure that everyone, from young to old, has the chance to experience higher education. You can read the report in full below, but there are five aspects which struck me as worth highlighting:

  • Importance of early years: the report recommends that, from primary age onwards, ‘schools can play an important role in motivating children to think about their future career and start working towards achieving their dreams’. These range from work experience opportunities to, in particular, ensuring proper advice is available at age 13-14 ‘when a young person starts to make the choices of courses influenced by the qualifications they hope for and the careers they plan.’
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End of term report for Lib Dem MPs’ Class of 2010

As the House of Commons rises this Tuesday, the BBC’s Gavin Stamp gives new MPs of all parties his end-of-term report.

Here’s what he has to say about the new Lib Dem intake:

New entrants were small in number but still accounted for almost one in six of the Parliamentary party.

No new MPs made it into the ranks of ministers or were asked to head up a series of backbench committees designed to help the party retain an independent voice on issues outside the coalition.

However, Gordon Birtwhistle and Duncan Hames became parliamentary private secretaries, the latter also finding time to

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John Pugh writes: is an apology in order?

There was little real choice about choosing to enter the coalition. There was little real choice about addressing the nation’s colossal budget. There was no way to avoid risking unpopularity.

As the Liberal Democrat councillors took the bullet for the coalition on local election day and Conservatives emerged relatively unscathed, it must be asked whether the extent of our defeats was avoidable. To put it another way could we have played the coalition game better – both in terms of presentation and in terms of policy?

The answer is unequivocally yes and for that reason MPs owe an apology to …

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