The Globalisation of Higher Education: Conference at The University of Nottingham

The Globalisation of Higher Education

Lord Dearing died in 2009 having left an indelible mark on UK higher education with his landmark 1997 report Higher Education in the Learning Society. He also had particular impact on The University of Nottingham, having been Chancellor from 1993 to 2000.

In recognition of Lord Dearing’s contribution to higher education, and to give others the opportunity to shape the debate on its future, The University of Nottingham will host the “Annual Dearing Higher Education Conference”. In 2011 the conference will take place at the East Midlands Conference Centre on Thursday 17 February.

Keynote speakers include David Willetts and Alan Langlands.

Details of the conference and registration arrangements can be found at the Globalisation of Higher Education site.

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True Crime on campus – the US version

True Crime from the USA

A series of True Crime on Campus posts has highlighted some of the strange goings on around the University of Nottingham that our Security Team have to deal with. Nottingham is far from unique though and similar reports are regularly carried in the Chronicle. Some examples of these, published earlier this year, follow:

1:17 p.m., September 13

Suspicious person: Complaint of a male subject, 30′s-40′s, wearing a suit jacket and holding a Bible while yelling at people between Luther Bonney and Payson Smith Halls. Officer responded and is familiar with the subject. Advised to lower his voice.

5:19 p.m., September 16

Welfare check. Report of a lady sitting in Bailey Hall who asked whether it was “safe to sit here.” Officer responded and spoke with the lady who is waiting for daughter to get out of class. All set.

12:08 p.m., September 21

Disturbance. The preacher is on campus yelling and interrupting students studying outside Luther Bonney Hall. Officer responded and issued a trespass notice for the Portland campus. The preacher will have to speak with the Student Life office.

4:38 p.m.

Suspicious person. Male subject has been sleeping in the middle stairwell of Payson Smith Hall for several hours. Officer responded and spoke with the subject who has a six hour wait between classes. Advised to wait in the 1st floor common area.

8:57 a.m., September 27

Theft complaint. Report of the theft of reading glasses from several offices in Wischcamper Center for the Muskie School. Officer responded and took a report.

Interesting. But not as good as ours.

Oxbridge Access: Private school v Free School Meals

New Sutton Trust report on access has some rather staggering data

The Sutton Trust report suggests that private school students are 55 times more likely to win a place at Oxbridge and 22 times more likely to go to a top-ranked university than students at state schools who qualify for Free School Meals (FSM). The Trust is proposing, quite reasonably, given the evidence, that the Government’s new £150m per year National Scholarship programme should be used to expand proven outreach work and pilot new approaches – rather than being solely directed to financial support for students. In terms of participation, the report makes a number of telling points:

The latest research from the Sutton Trust calculates that less than one student in a hundred admitted to Oxbridge between 2005 and 2007 had been an FSM pupil. There were only 130 FSM pupils out of 16,110 students in total – whereas nearly half the intake came from independent schools.

These stark university participation gaps are driven by significant gaps in attainment at GCSE level and before: pupils at fee-paying schools were three-and-a-half times more likely to attain five GCSE with grades A*-C including English and maths than the pupils from the poorest homes.

The position is not much better for the 25 most academically selective universities in England according the figures which are based on official statistics covering just under 2 million students enrolled at university over three years.

Only 2% (approximately 1,300 pupils each year) of the intake to these universities was made up of Free School Meal pupils, compared with 72.2% from other state school pupils and just over a quarter (25.8%) from independent schools. That means that independent school pupils were six times as likely to attend a highly selective university as those in state schools (the majority) not entitled to Free School Meals.

Whilst some of the recommendations in the report are, arguably, over-directive, the strength of the case here is undeniable.

Morrisons to pay students’ tuition fees

The shape of things to come?

A story from the Guardian from back in October noted that the supermarket chain said it will pay for students’ university fees if they enrol on a degree course it is sponsoring. Morrisons is to fund 20 undergraduates a year on a three-year degree course in business and management.

The supermarket admits the course will leave little time for the recreational side of university life. Students will not take university holidays, but will have an annual leave allowance. They will receive £15,000 a year and will not have to pay their tuition fees of £3,290 a year. The students are also guaranteed a job once they graduate and must work for Morrisons for at least three years. Teenagers apply through Morrisons rather than Ucas, the centralised system for all university applications in the UK.

Morrisons is not quite the first retailer to offer a degree: in June Harrods announced it was to offer two-year degrees in sales with Anglia Ruskin University. A week ago GlaxoSmithKline announced it would sponsor a module on University of Nottingham chemistry degrees – the first collaboration of its kind between a pharmaceutical company and a university. Tesco sponsors a pre-degree foundation course in retail with Manchester Metropolitan University and University of the Arts London.

An earlier post commented on the Harrods development along with a Wal-Mart programme in the USA. Following the Browne review outcomes we can expect more of this.

Proposals for reform of student immigration

Not very welcoming

Following the fun and games with the Tier 1 and 2 changes which may yet serve to keep the best academics out of the UK, the government has now turned its attention to Tier 4, students. According to the UK Border Agency , which is launching a brief consultation on proposed changes:

The government intends to reduce annual net migration to the UK to sustainable levels, in the tens of thousands a year. It has made clear that it expects the student route to make its contribution towards reducing net migration to the UK.

Students now represent the largest proportion of non-EU net migration. We need to ensure that the number of international students coming to the UK is broadly in balance with the number leaving.

The government’s policy aim is to ensure that only genuine students who are committed to their academic study come to the UK, with a presumption that upon completion they will leave promptly. This consultation sets out our proposals for achieving this aim.

You can respond online to this consultation here. (It is not entirely reassuring that UKBA is using survey monkey for this rather important consultation. At least it’s cheap I suppose.)

Commenting on the launch of the consultation, Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group, said:

“It is crucial that the UK continues to attract the very best academics and students from around the world if we are to maintain our global standing in higher education. There is a fierce global market for the best academic talent, and our track record in attracting international staff and students has made a very important contribution to the considerable success of UK higher education to date.

“Changes which make the visa regime stricter can severely diminish the international attractiveness of a nation’s universities. It is crucial that the immigration system continues to support the efforts of our leading universities to attract talented people who have a legitimate interest in studying, teaching, or carrying out research here.

Universities are a big export business, bringing in £5.3 billion a year to the UK economy each year (according to UUK). The consequences of this change could be disastrous. Surely we should be seeking to sustain this rather than seeking to turn off the tap?

Providing information that helps students with HE choices

New consultation on providing information that helps students make the right higher education choices

HEFCE has launched a consultation on information for prospective students:

Schools, colleges, universities, student unions and a wide range of other bodies are being asked to comment on the information that higher education (HE) providers publish to help prospective students choose the course and institution that are best for them.

They are invited to respond to a consultation being conducted by HEFCE, Universities UK and GuildHE. The consultation mainly concerns a proposed Key Information Set (KIS) which all publicly funded HE providers in England and Northern Ireland would be required to publish for each course on their web-sites.

The press release continues:

The consultation is informed by the results of research commissioned by HEFCE, and undertaken by Oakleigh Consulting and Staffordshire University, which identified the information current and prospective students identified as ‘very useful’. This mostly relates to costs, satisfaction and employability. Information about the fees for each course will also be included.

The intention is that information will be presented in a standardised format on each university and college web-site, looking similar for all courses at all institutions, thus making the information potentially more useful, comparable and accessible. Discussions are also taking place about how the information can be linked to the UCAS web-site.

But do prospective students really need more information? And is this kind of standardised set of data really going to help inform decisions. Or will most students turn to other sources such as The Times League Table rather than this sort of information. Guess we’ll find out.

MBA Courses on Facebook. Yeah, right

Nothing to see here, move along now

The Chronicle of Higher Education carries a report on a great piece of publicity from a small private London college:

Facebook has changed the way students, faculty members, and administrators communicate outside the classroom. Now, with the introduction of the London School of Business and Finance’s Global MBA Facebook app, Facebook is becoming the classroom.

The Global MBA app—introduced in October—lets users sample typical business-school courses like corporate finance and organizational behavior through the social-networking site. The free course material includes interactive message boards, a note-taking tool, and video lectures and discussions with insiders from industry giants like Accenture Management Consulting and Deloitte. This may be a good way to market a school, notes an observer from a business-school accrediting organization, but it may not be the best way to deliver courses.

Unlike most online business courses, the Global MBA program will not require students to pay an enrollment fee up front. Instead, students can access basic course material free of charge and pay the school only when they are ready to prepare for their exams. School administrators hope that letting students “test drive” the online courses before actually shelling out the tuition money will boost graduation rates.

According to their website they expect, conservatively, to have half a million users in the first year. The courses at this School, which has only been around for a few years, are validated by a number of UK universities, including the University of Wales (which has recently had some issues with validated provision in Malaysia). But this really looks like a fantastic promotional achievement designed to boost profile rather than a major educational innovation. Bit surprising that it got quite so much coverage in the Chronicle therefore.

More visa uncertainty

Position on visas still not clear

The Guardian has a story on the latest government position on changes to the visa regime.

Whilst on the face of it there does seem to be some movement in response to the concerns expressed by universities, there are still significant uncertainties:

But young scientists applying for visas may face serious difficulties because their incomes are often so low. Previously an MBA or a £150,000 salary guaranteed enough points to secure a visa, but a PhD scientist on a typical academic salary fell short. Scientists are concerned that the government will fail to address this disparity under the new scheme. A further problem is that scientists are awarded three-year visas for posts that can last much longer, forcing institutes to use two consecutive visas for each researcher.

“The average postdoc here lasts four or five years, so each consumes two slots and that is crazy. There are people here who are very nervous about whether they will be allowed to stay and finish their work,” Rigby said. “It is bound to be a disincentive for bright young things to come to this country.”
visa
Catherine Marston, policy adviser at the Universities and Colleges Union, echoed Rigby’s concerns. “It causes difficulties for people who are already here in the UK. If their visa runs out, they will use up one of your allocation if you decide to support them. If you don’t decide to support them they will have to leave the country.”

Professor Rigby said the government must revise its “one size fits all” approach to immigration. He said the rules should be changed to accommodate scientists by giving PhDs more points and awarding visas for the full duration of an academic post.

The uncertainty doesn’t help. It sends out the signal that UK HE is not open for business. The proposed changes to student visas are likely to exacerbate this. Hard times indeed.

NB, Catherine Marston is the most excellent policy advisor at Universities UK, not UCU as stated in the report.