Universities

We refuse to act as external examiners until universities deal with staffing issues | Letter | Education

The scourge of insecure contracts (Thousands of UK academics ‘treated as second-class citizens’, 20 January) is sadly just one of the staffing issues that universities must urgently commit to dealing with. We write as senior academics to say we will be resigning as external examiners, and/or refusing to take on new examining contracts, for courses at universities and colleges across the UK, and to urge colleagues to join us. We are refusing to act as external examiners because although we…

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Senior UK academics protest over pay and working conditions | Education

Senior academics are refusing to act as external examiners – a vital part of higher education assessments – in protest at pay and working conditions in UK universities, and are urging colleagues to join them, potentially disrupting this year’s results for students. British universities rely on external examiners to independently validate the results of undergraduate and postgraduate courses, meaning that mass resignations would cause headaches for universities in the setting and marking of exams. A letter to the Guardian signed…

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‘People can’t learn about treatments they need’: why open access to medical research matters | Education

In December 2002, a Belfast teenager made world headlines after his father, Don Simms, won him the legal right to access an experimental drug. Jonathan Simms had been diagnosed with variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), a cruel and fatal neurodegenerative condition that gives sufferers an average of one year to live. After receiving the drug pentosan polysulfate, Jonathan lived for another 10 years, defying all medical expectations. The court ruling made medical history: until that point the drug had only ever…

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Thousands of UK academics ‘treated as second-class citizens’ | Education

Thousands of academic staff at British universities are being treated as second-class citizens on precarious contracts, says a report highlighting the “alarming rise of mass casualised labour” in higher education. The report by the University and College Union claims institutions have created a pool of low-paid staff to teach undergraduates, conduct research and work in libraries, despite having advanced postgraduate or other academic qualifications. It calls on the Office for Students, the higher education regulator in England, to require each…

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Third of non-EU university students in UK come from China | Education

The number of students from China at British universities increased again last year, with the latest figures showing that recruitment of Chinese students outstripped those from other countries. The Higher Education Statistics Agency’s breakdown of students in UK higher education last year showed that the number of students from China rose above 120,000 for the first time, accounting for more than one in every three non-EU students. While the number of new students coming from EU countries rose by 2%…

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Record numbers of state school pupils offered Oxford places | Education

State school pupils have won nearly 70% of Oxford University’s undergraduate places next year, a record level that represents a remarkable turnaround in the university’s intake over the last five years. Oxford announced that 69% of the offers it made this week were to British students from state schools or colleges for courses starting in October 2020, of a total of 3,909 sent to British and international applicants. Five years ago, state school applicants to Oxford received just 56% of…

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Boris Johnson says the Erasmus scheme isn’t under threat. Do you trust him? | Layla Moran | Education

I never thought I’d see a student exchange programme trend on Twitter. People have told stories of studying and working abroad through Erasmus, sharing tales of friendships built, skills learned, and lives changed. Why? Because MPs voted against my amendment to keep the UK in Erasmus after the Brexit transition period. And people are angry. The benefits of Erasmus are sobvious to the thousands of people who take part in the programme. Each year, more than 17,000 students at UK…

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Universities must overhaul the toxic working culture for academic researchers | Anton Muscatelli | Education

Academic research is an exciting, creative and varied endeavour, yet there is growing evidence that our culture has developed unhealthy levels of anxiety and stress. As the UK increases research and development spending – all the more important after Brexit – we will see much-needed growth in the number and significance of researchers. Yet it’s clear that we also need to make changes to their working conditions. This is underscored by a new survey from research funder Wellcome, which says…

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Sussex University offers students up to £100 for strike distress | Education

The University of Sussex is offering students up to £100 if they suffered “distress and inconvenience” during recent strikes, becoming the first British university to give compensation to students in the middle of industrial action. The move is a sign of the increasing efforts by universities to resolve student complaints swiftly and head off action through the courts or regulators that could lead to more damaging penalties. Sussex launched its “industrial action ex gratia scheme” this week, with an email…

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‘How can we compete with Google?’: the battle to train quantum coders | Education

There is a laboratory deep within University College London (UCL) that looks like a cross between a rebel base in Star Wars and a scene imagined by Jules Verne. Hidden within the miles of cables, blinking electronic equipment and screens is a gold-coloured contraption known as a dilution refrigerator. Its job is to chill the highly sensitive equipment needed to build a quantum computer to close to absolute zero, the coldest temperature in the known universe. Standing around the refrigerator…

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How to be a commuter student – and keep your social life | Education

I felt an immense pressure when choosing which university campus I wanted to attend. In the end, it was the cost of Cambridge’s student accommodation that swung my decision to commute from home. But I couldn’t help feeling that I’d be depriving myself of a social life. Fellow commuter student Eleanor Penny faced a similar dilemma. “Many people made me feel like I would be missing out by not moving into student accommodation,” she says. “I suffered from mental health…

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Sacked or silenced: academics say they are blocked from exploring trans issues | Education

On the December morning that Jo Phoenix, professor of criminology at the Open University, was to give a lecture at Essex University on trans rights in prisons, Twitter roared into action, with several Essex staff and students tweeting allegations that a “transphobe” would be on campus. By 10am Phoenix was warned by a member of university staff that some students were threatening to shut down her lecture, as they said LGBT+ staff and students wouldn’t feel safe if Phoenix gave…

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Universities divesting from fossil fuels have made history, but the fight isn’t over | Zamzam Ibrahim | Education

Today the student movement made history by announcing that more than half of UK universities have committed to divest from fossil fuel companies. Since 2012, students have campaigned to marginalise companies like Shell and BP which profit from climate breakdown. The campaign, supported by the National Union of Students,People & Planet and Students Organising for Sustainability UK, has shown the power of students taking collective action. The University of Glasgow was the first UK university to divest in October 2014,…

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In the 2020s universities need to step up as a central pillar of civil society | Jonathan Wolff | Education

Higher education review of the decade? Hmm. The 2010s will be remembered by me as the age of the academic league table. Global, local, research, teaching, or knowledge exchange; official, unofficial, by newspaper or blogger. Give academics a new league table performance indicator, and we’ll go a-chasing, with all the dignity of a soap opera character at the Boxing Day sales. And what is in store for the 2020s? Brexit planning suggests universities will be keener still to inch up…

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Universities fail sexual violence survivors. Will new rules change the culture? | Education

Universities have been warned by the higher education watchdog for England that they could lose their status and public funding if they fail to improve how they tackle harassment and sexual misconduct. But do the proposals go far enough if they are to tackle the “epidemic” of sexual harassment in UK universities? ‘Universities need to change their cultures’ Tiffany Page is co-founder of the 1752 Group, which lobbies to end sexual misconduct in universities, and a lecturer in sociology at…

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Universities could lose funding if they fail to tackle harassment | Education

Universities could face losing their status, including public funding, if they fail to improve how they tackle harassment and sexual misconduct, under proposals from the higher education watchdog for England. New sanctions being put forward by the Office for Students would allow the regulator to explicitly require a university to address harassment and sexual misconduct as a condition of its registration. Any university in breach of that condition would face being deregistered, meaning they would lose state funding, barred from…

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