Higher education

Academies versus universities

by reestheskin on 19/09/2018

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This is essentially about the importance of the ‘Long Now’.

What’s the point of scholarly academies? | Times Higher Education (THE)

Academies can also argue for different research priorities from universities, he pointed out. As if by “magic”, when universities create their own research strategies, “they all focus on medical sciences and life sciences”, he said. But their motivation is often financial, as they want to host subjects with strong economic links, he said.

On the contrary, academies are better placed to make the case for the less lucrative humanities and social sciences, he argued, and do not need to generate corporate research funding, meaning that they can be more objective about what type of research is needed to help society. One of the key roles of academies is “thinking about the societal consequences of new knowledge”, Professor Loprieno added.

Identifying with the problem

by reestheskin on 12/09/2018

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Is identity politics ruining democracy? | Financial Times

School leavers and manual workers have propelled Britain into Brexit and Donald Trump to the White House. Universities once thought they were the answer to inequalities of identity. Now they realise they are part of the problem.

Money matters

by reestheskin on 11/09/2018

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USS crisis: can the pension system be reformed? | Times Higher Education (THE)

As such, the 2004 Pensions Act is a prime, but by no means unique, example of well-intentioned but inept financial regulation. Over-prescriptive, it has led to the demise of the defined benefit schemes that it was designed to protect. If proposed changes to the USS are implemented, there will be no defined benefit schemes of any significant size outside the public sector open to new members.

University accommodation

by reestheskin on 05/09/2018

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The business model is the same as everything else that is booming, from iPhones to residential property: as long as it can be bought with debt, the price matters a lot less, and vendors, middlemen, creditors all make big margins.

FT

Universities: the year ahead

by reestheskin on 04/09/2018

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We need to demonstrate much more clearly that Universities (and their leaders) are listening and acting. Much of the criticism levelled at HE is legitimate so the sector needs to take action to transform both itself and in turn the opinion of some of the public. This can be achieved through greater transparency relating to fees, funding and value; an even more proactive approach to the big issues (diversity, mental health, social mobility, relationships with business) and a collective and authentic approach to sharing all that is great in UK HE.

Link

This is no solution, more a symptom of the sort of thinking that got us here.

Free med school at N.Y.U.

by reestheskin on 04/09/2018

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Surprise Gift: Free Tuition for All N.Y.U. Medical Students – The New York Times

N.Y.U. said that it had raised more than $450 million of the $600 million that it anticipates will be necessary to finance the tuition plan. About $100 million of that has been contributed by Kenneth G. Langone, the founder of Home Depot, and his wife, Elaine, for whom the medical school is named.

To date, only a handful of institutions have tried to make medical education tuition-free, according to Julie Fresne, senior director of student financial services of the Association of American Medical Colleges, a nonprofit organization that represents medical schools.

Link

Opinion | How to Get the Most Out of College – The New York Times

“The more you regard college as a credentialing exercise, the less likely you are to get the benefits.”

Enlightenment: its just business, OK?

by reestheskin on 09/08/2018

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As the FT reported Monday, the Middle Eastern kingdom expelled the Canadian ambassador, reacting against Ottawa’s support for jailed human rights activists.

Saudi Arabia also said on Monday that it would suspend all its educational exchange programmes with Canada. An official told state television there are more than 12,000 students and their families currently in Canada. They will be transferred to universities and schools in the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, he said.

In English-speaking countries, higher education sectors have become highly reliant on flows of international students. China, which provides over 60,000 new students to the UK each year, is the most commonly cited example. The Saudi Arabian episode serves as a reminder that the trend extends further afield.

Link

I also know of examples where (despotic) foreign regimes, seek to use their collective bargaining to influence how a particular university behaves. Money doesn’t talk — it swears.

MacIntyre’s lecture and Harré’s tutorial were doubly life-changing

by reestheskin on 07/08/2018

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The title above and quotes below are from this article by Lincoln Allison. To create teaching machines, you need to make teaching so bad that even the machines can do it. We are almost there.

The most particular annoyance for me was the doubling of seminar size from nine to 18 – allegedly to free up time for research. As if anyone is going to develop the capacity for original thought because they have two or three more hours available in the week! To some of my colleagues, this was merely a technical change, but to me it was the abolition of the real seminar, the thing we should have been most proud of in the English university system.

….

It was part of a general deprioritising of teaching. I remember a colleague looking at her extremely poor ratings on student “feedback” and remarking gaily: “I’m really not very good at this, am I?” She had just had a book published that was extremely well received, and she couldn’t care less that she was failing in her core duties to communicate her ideas within an academic community. Her remark stiffened my resolve to leave – especially once students picked up the vibe about the level of staff interest in teaching and became less challenging and more instrumental.

Much of what I have seen and heard of UK universities in the 14 years since I retired seems to relate to what I would consider proper university teaching about as much as “value” tinned food relates to fresh food. And I think that just as there are people who have never tasted fresh food, there are people who have not experienced real lectures and seminars.

Talking the politics of Higher Ed

by reestheskin on 02/08/2018

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Talking Politics: Strike

This is one of the best accounts of what has happened to Higher Ed in the UK. The host is David Runciman, and the guest is Stephen Toope, VC of Cambridge. Helen Thompson and Chris Brooke, feature.

It is about much more than the strike, and I have not heard any better account of the recent politics of Higher Ed in the UK. To me at least, whatever the forces lined up against them, the universities have been caught sleeping and are going to be punished for their fall from grace. Locally, I do not think the message has got through.

The link for the series of podcasts is here.

“On being the right size*”

by reestheskin on 24/07/2018

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Leading the pack was the University of Sydney, which increased its overseas enrolments from about 15,530 in 2014 to 30,943 in 2017.

“Secret report reveals snowballing international student numbers” THE.

This will end not in tears but in devaluation. The same is true over here too, and you can understand why the ‘multiversity’ is going to take the ‘university’ down with it. See: UK universities’ research funding deficit soars to £3.9 billion.

* JBS Haldane

In your Prime, why bother indeed?

by reestheskin on 23/07/2018

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Rather than go to university—why bother, when she could discuss John Donne as well as any other Edinburgh girl?—she took a course at Heriot-Watt College in precis-writing. That helped shape the economy of her sentences

Muriel Spark was born 100 years ago. Economist

There is always time for another bubble

by reestheskin on 20/07/2018

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If universities are now financialised operations, they are subject to financial disruptions of their own.

FT

Nature Cannot Be Fooled

by reestheskin on 19/07/2018

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Education is probably the field in which we deceive ourselves the most, because the damage only appears decades later. We pretend that all children learn at the same rate and in the same way. Every teacher and parent knows this to be untrue, and to deny it is folly. But deny it we do.

Jonathan Katz.

The fatal attraction of meaningless metrics

by reestheskin on 18/07/2018

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The Scylla and Charybdis of the subject level TEF is that the aggregation of students into groups large enough to make meaningful statistical analysis possible debases the validity of the analysis by treating disparate groups of students with a variety of educational experiences, studying different subjects, located in disparate units of university governance, as if they were in fact homogeneous. Randomness is not something the Office for Students or the Department for Education can change. Without a robust account of how they intend to deal with it, the prospects for a viable subject level TEF look poor.

Link

No time for sex at home, please

by reestheskin on 17/07/2018

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This article from the Economist is much more nuanced than you might think — especially about all the benefits of attending school that are unrelated to what specifically goes on in the classroom. But if you couple it with a close reading of Bryan Caplan’s ‘The Case Against Education’ then it is hard not to feel that the academy has been guilty of failing to check out their own entrails before passing judgement on everybody else’s.

It sounds like a counsel of despair. If every child went to school, millions more would sit in woeful, boring classrooms. But while this sounds awful, it would probably still be good for them, their families and broader society. For, as Justin Sandefur of CGD points out, there is plenty of evidence that even when children do not learn much at school, they still do better for having gone.

Some benefits are economic. Attending school for longer is associated with earning more in later life, in part because those with additional schooling are more likely to get non-agricultural jobs and move to cities. This may indicate that young people are in fact learning something useful at school that is not being picked up by researchers. But it could also be a signalling effect: a shopkeeper may prefer workers who stayed at school for at least five years.

One is simply that if girls are at school they are not having sex at home

Exams and the internet

by reestheskin on 16/07/2018

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Algeria Shut Down the Internet to Prevent Students from Cheating on Exams

Via Bruce Schneier. The solution in New South Wales, Australia was to ban smartphones.

A theory of everything

by reestheskin on 11/07/2018

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the problem is that education has become the default solution to everything.

Andrew Keen, in How to Fix the Future. A speaker at last year’s OEB meeting. Worth a read.

MOOCs revisited

by reestheskin on 09/07/2018

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One selling point of MOOCs (massive online open courses) has been that students can access courses from the world’s most famous universities. The assumption—especially in the marketing messages from major providers like Coursera and edX—is that the winners of traditional higher education will also end up the winners in the world of online courses.

But that isn’t always happening.

In fact, three of the 10 most popular courses on Coursera aren’t produced by a college or university at all, but by a company. That company—called Deeplearning.ai—is a unique provider of higher education. It is essentially built on the reputation of its founder, Andrew Ng, who teaches all five of the courses it offers so far. Link

The MOOC story is like so much of tech — or drug discovery for that matter. Finding a use for a drug invented for another reason often offers the biggest payback. This story has barely begun.

The educational singularity — just went by.

by reestheskin on 28/06/2018

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This article (Can vocational education make a comeback?) is about vocational training and higher ed in Australia. It contains some nice examples of dishonesty driven by financial gain. For example:

Regulators didn’t blink when a private college suddenly started charging A$22,000 (£12,350) for a web design diploma that cost about A$4,500 elsewhere, or when a competitor’s student population snowballed from about 300 one year to almost 12,000 the next.

Or how about these examples:

The light regulatory touch encouraged scores of scams, known in Australian parlance as “rorts”, as unscrupulous colleges pushed the rules to the fringes of criminality. In one infamous case, a Melbourne college awarded football club members certificates in outdoor recreation for a few nights of “learning” on their own premises. It gave participants and their clubs A$1,500 kickbacks, bankrolled from state government subsidies worth up to A$5,000 per student, and called them “scholarships”.

In another case, the directors of a soon-to-be-bankrupt college paid their shareholders – including themselves – A$15 million in dividends, on the same day that Australia’s consumer watchdog launched proceedings to recover tens of millions of dollars in improperly obtained student loans. The company subsequently collapsed with unpaid debts of about A$80 million, having swallowed A$222 million in loans.

Well, what do you expect? This is the higher ed equivalent of imagining that you can ‘install democracy’ everywhere overnight; or that you run a company based on legal contracts between its own employees. But what really caught my eye, was this critique of current higher ed in favour of shorter vocational courses (it is about the money, what else!).

This discourages degree-educated people from obtaining top-up training in areas such as coding and data analytics, which are now vital to many occupations. Such needs are best met through short VET courses after graduation, Gallagher says, because digital skills taught as part of three- or four-year degrees will be obsolete by the time people leave university. “The half-life of those skills is getting shorter and shorter,” he says.

I cannot think of a better definition of what higher education is not about than this. Now surely we know what degrees not to fund.

 

 

This discourages degree-educated people from obtaining top-up training in areas such as coding and data analytics, which are now vital to many occupations. Such needs are best met through short VET courses after graduation, Gallagher says, because digital skills taught as part of three- or four-year degrees will be obsolete by the time people leave university.

“The half-life of those skills is getting shorter and shorter,” he says.

Inter alia

Regulators didn’t blink when a private college suddenly started charging A$22,000 (£12,350) for a web design diploma that cost about A$4,500 elsewhere, or when a competitor’s student population snowballed from about 300 one year to almost 12,000 the next.

The light regulatory touch encouraged scores of scams, known in Australian parlance as “rorts”, as unscrupulous colleges pushed the rules to the fringes of criminality. In one infamous case, a Melbourne college awarded football club members certificates in outdoor recreation for a few nights of “learning” on their own premises. It gave participants and their clubs A$1,500 kickbacks, bankrolled from state government subsidies worth up to A$5,000 per student, and called them “scholarships”.

In another case, the directors of a soon-to-be-bankrupt college paid their shareholders – including themselves – A$15 million in dividends, on the same day that Australia’s consumer watchdog launched proceedings to recover tens of millions of dollars in improperly obtained student loans. The company subsequently collapsed with unpaid debts of about A$80 million, having swallowed A$222 million in loans.

The case against education

by reestheskin on 27/06/2018

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This is a tweet from Dylan Wiliam — who knows more about education than…..well I am too polite to go there.

“goes straight to the top of my list of studies that I trust but wish were not true. I think it is the most important book on education I have ever read.”

He is referring to Bryan Caplan’s disturbing and excellent book. (The case against education). One comment of mine: not in all possible worlds.

Sausages, and ‘unprofitable activities’ (aka students).

by reestheskin on 08/06/2018

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Besides, “university league tables are like sausages: the more you know about how they are made, the less you want to [do with] them”.

“Research was structurally unprofitable even if you scored really well in the research excellence framework,” he claims. “It’s being financed by surpluses on taught master’s. I think that’s fine because part of the reason people came on the taught programmes was because the place was very highly ranked in research, and they thought they were going to be sitting at the feet of the best economists around. Academics had to understand the dynamic and deliver the teaching because that was what was paying for the research. Yet because of the history of underfunding [undergraduate] students [before the introduction of £9,000 tuition fees in 2012], a kind of mood gained ground in British universities that [all] students were an unprofitable activity.

Paris to London: Howard Davies on the finance sector and universities’ common interests | Times Higher Education (THE)

Neoteny as a business model

by reestheskin on 07/06/2018

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Vanessa Sefa, a second-year English and education student, has just completed the course. She wants to be a headteacher, and the course gives her an opportunity to learn about working with other people. “I keep telling my friends to sign up for it. Why wouldn’t you want to do it?” she says.

Ms Sefa says: “It’s almost a matter of co-parenting. Universities are the final step before we enter the real world, and as a parent they should ensure we are equipped for the future.”

Universities step up to demands for leadership training

Casual, and not just the dress code.

by reestheskin on 06/06/2018

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According to the job description for the chair of modern Greek studies posted last month, whoever fills the professorship part-funded by the Greek Laskaridis shipping family will not be paid an “official salary” from the university. Instead, they will receive an unspecified share of €20,000 (£16,730) from the Dutch Society of Modern Greek Studies to carry out numerous academic duties for, on average, one day a week.

The professorship, named after the late shipping heiress Marilena Laskaridis, lasts for five years, during which time the post-holder will be asked to teach, to supervise PhD students and to win research grants.

Despite being based in Amsterdam’s Faculty of Humanities, the professor would not be an employee of the university and would not receive any of the usual benefits enjoyed by other staff.

Link

On the academy

by reestheskin on 25/05/2018

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Business schools are being reinvigorated by the apprenticeship levy, with 40 out of 113 universities creating specific MBA courses to take advantage of the tax, according to a new survey.

Businesses are permitted to spend the money on MBAs, but only up to £18,000, compared with the typical course fee of £24,000 in the UK. Tuition fees at the top MBA providers can rise up to £80,000.

Several of the new courses, however, are stripped down to fall within the levy funding limits.

Those that back levy-funded MBAs, however, point to research by the Office for National Statistics, which concluded that a 0.1 rise in management effectiveness led to a 9.6 per cent rise in productivity.

Business schools create new courses to tap apprenticeship levy

Go where the messes are

by reestheskin on 13/04/2018

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(Isaiah)Berlin had learned that if you studied them with philosophical intent, certain second-rate minds grappling with first-rate problems could teach you more than first-rate minds lost in the shrubbery. (Another reason, perhaps, that he abandoned analytic philosophy.).

Mark Lilla in the NYRB

Which for some reason reminds me of a quote from the Economist:

Professors fixated on crawling alone the frontiers of knowledge with a magnifying glass.

Higher education (but not so high after all)

by reestheskin on 10/04/2018

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A Wonke podcast well worth listening to featuring Matt Robb of EY Parthenon on higher education. I think it will all end in tears, but it has the virtue of laying out what is happening and — to use one a phrase I detest — the direction of travel.

Wonkhe podcast here.

Some selective notes below (not necessarily his views): there remains much misery to go around.

  • increasing rate of change
  • the nature of change
  • HE is increasingly commercial and internationalised
  • universities having to be more extroverted
  • HE sector facing segmentation
  • global elite versus high-end Russell and the low-end…..
  • (some) protection by grouping by brand
  • international students to drive research to drive rankings to attract students…
  • your ranking is under threat
  • rise of TEF
  • the TEF proof of ‘value added’ at bottom of rankings is the only defence against the ‘too many going to university’ argument. (Well, too many are going…)
  • the great challenge (for part of this sector) is to explain what teaching looks like if it is not research led teaching (which is not the mass of higher education).
  • contract lecturers ……more ‘financial’ flexibility
  • online / blended allowing……. more ‘financial’ flexibility
  • Segmentation rules!
  • University Leadership does not have the strategic competence or backup to run universities.
  • a nice analogy between spreadsheets, and strategy versus planning.

Never underestimate the ability of the UK to reflect on, and then destroy its own brands, particularly if consultants are involved.  You can make a lot of money as the ship goes down.

M&S mental health drop ins

by reestheskin on 03/04/2018

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Restaurants have also lagged behind retailers in offering “experiences”, as the trade jargon has it, rather than the usual broccoli. This is how the more innovative retailers now try to differentiate themselves in a crowded market. It also lets them do something with their underused floor space.  ….John Lewis, for instance, opened its 49th store in October with 20% of the space dedicated to eye tests, children’s car-seat fittings and free styling services for men. Selfridges, another big department store, marked the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 2016 by performing “Much Ado about Nothing” in store, and last year it staged concerts. Waitrose hosts yoga classes, and Marks & Spencer mental-health drop-ins called Frazzled Cafés.

People say we spend too much on health, but business does not view it this way. As things approach the margin, there is even more to sell.

Economist

Fear of the known

by reestheskin on 02/04/2018

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Universities are certainly putting their courses online. The question is “why?” I talked last week with a University President whom I have known for many years and asked him why he was building online courses. His answer, unsurprisingly, was “fear.”

Roger Schank

This is an old quote, but still redolent.

The financialisation of higher education

by reestheskin on 23/03/2018

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Nice article in the FT. It is about the increasing use of capital markets by UK universities, and the deal by Portsmouth is highlighted. It joins some dots:

Because the Portsmouth deal is private, so are a lot of the details about it – the borrowing cost, the contractual stipulations. But one aspect in the public domain is the emphasis placed on university rankings in the deal’s press release. ]Text below] From that release:

According to The Economist’s own ranking of UK universities, the University does more to boost its graduates’ earnings that any other university in the UK. The University was ranked 37th in the 2018 Guardian University Guide (having risen for the third successive year from 43rd in last year’s guide and 49th in 2016) and for the third consecutive year, it ranked in the top 100 young universities in the world, in the Times Higher Education ranking of universities which are less than 50 years old.

Even if it is not an explicit part of a lender’s investment process, university rankings are a critical part of the emerging financial infrastructure for universities. They mediate both the demand of student-consumers (in line with the guidance of their parents and schools) and the overall marketing process of debt issuance (lenders, we assume, will be reassured by high or rising rankings).