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Notions of an ‘intolerant’ university that polices and controls the speech, behaviour and political standpoints of students are increasingly pushed by right-wing commentators. Along with the obligatory references to cancel culture, ‘woke bullies’ and de-platforming, Donelan informs us of trigger warnings supposedly placed on Harry Potter novels and Orwell’s 1984 being deemed too upsetting for students to read. These are cartoon constructions that convey the Right’s contradictory portrayal of a university as an odd community of people who are simultaneously ‘intolerant bullies’ and ‘snowflakes’ demanding safety from offence. This portrayal is a phantom.
The Council for the Defence of British Universities invites submissions of essays on key challenges facing Higher Education in the UK today and possible solutions to them. Authors may take a creative, research-based or autobiographical approach, drawing on international experience where appropriate. Up to three prizes of £1000 each are available!
The Council for the Defence of British Universities invites applications to undertake research into any aspect of higher education in the UK, including governance, policy, curricula developments, and staff and student welfare and wellbeing. Comparisons between Britain and other countries are especially welcome. Up to £7,500 of funding is available! Applications are invited from tenured academics, the precariously employed and independent researchers.
Graduates from the world’s top 50 non-UK universities can apply to come to Britain through a new visa scheme. Ministers hope the “high potential individual” route, which launches on Monday, will attract the “brightest and best” at the beginning of their careers to work in the UK. Successful applicants with a bachelor’s or master’s degree will be given a two-year work visa, while PhD-holders can apply for a three-year visa. Government guidance states that beneficiaries can then “switch to other long-term employment visas, if you meet the eligibility requirements”. The route is open to graduates from the top 50 non-UK universities, who hold a degree, equivalent to a UK bachelor’s or postgraduate degree, awarded no more than five years before the date of application.
UK visa scheme for graduates of ‘top 50’ universities ‘elitist’ – Times Higher Education
The UK’s new visa scheme for graduates of the world’s top-ranked universities is facing criticism for unfairly favouring alumni from richer nations and undercutting the country’s own international student strategy. As part of a “high potential individual” visa route, anyone who graduated from leading non-UK universities in the past five years will be eligible for a work visa lasting two years, or three years if they hold a PhD from that institution. Graduates will be able to apply regardless of where they were born, and will not need a job offer to apply, the government announced on 30 May. To qualify, graduates must have attended a university that featured among the top 50 of at least two of the world’s main university rankings, including Times Higher Education, QS and the Shanghai Academic Rankings, in the year they graduated. Overall, a total of 37 universities – among them 20 US institutions, including Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Duke universities – are listed on the Home Office’s website.
International students would be more likely to consider studying in the UK if they were allowed to stay and work for three years instead of two, a survey suggests. Foreign students have been able to stay on and work in the UK for two years after completing their course since July last year, when the government reinstated the two-year post-study work visa after years of pressure from universities. Vivienne Stern, the director of Universities UK International, said vice-chancellors wanted the government to review whether the two-year visa forms were “a barrier to employing international graduates”, and ensure the UK had a “competitive post-study work offer”. The change would bring the UK closer to Australia’s approach, which offers overseas graduates a post-study work visa of up to four years – depending on their course and level of study. In 2018, Australia overtook the UK as the second most popular destination for international students after the US. A survey of 100,000 international students by the education analysts QS showed that two-thirds would be more likely to consider studying in the UK if the post-study work visa was extended.
Government plans to make it harder for people to go to university and to force students to pay more of their loans back will only entrench inequality. Students don’t have the ear of the government. We’ve known this for many years. It was the case before I became Vice-President for Higher Education almost two years ago, and I’m sure it’ll be the case after I leave this position. But the Tories’ inability to acknowledge our basic concerns has never stopped shocking me. A couple of months ago, the Tories announced plans to make it harder for students to go to university and to force us to pay more of our student loans back if they do go. Since then, research has come out exposing just how brutal these changes will be. It’s dawned on me that when it comes to students, there’s one word which is central to this government’s approach. Inequality.
With the consultation on these plans closing today (6 May), it’s worth recapping what the Tories are proposing. They want to stop people from getting a student loan if they don’t get C grades (now grade 4s) in both Maths and English at GCSE, as well as making graduates begin repaying their loan when earning £25,000 per year (rather than £27,295 per year currently) and increase how long they repay from 30 to 40 years. This won’t be a minor change for young people; the recent Spring Statement confirmed that this will land students and graduates with a £35 billion tab over the next five years.
Each undergraduate costs England’s leading universities nearly £2,000 as tuition fees and teaching grants fail to fully fund a degree, and that amount is likely to double soon unless the government acts to fill the gap. A submission by the Russell Group of research-intensive universities – including the University of Manchester and University College London – to a consultation on higher education funding revealed that the average cost per student was £1,750 more than they receive in tuition fees and teaching grants. The government’s plans include a freeze on undergraduate tuition fees at £9,250 until 2024-25, which would lead to the deficit per student widening to £4,000, according to the group of 24 universities. The fee for English undergraduates has been fixed at £9,250 since 2016. Tim Bradshaw, the Russell Group’s chief executive, said the long-term funding squeeze would inevitably affect the UK’s skills pipeline.
Universities cannot deal with the student mental health crisis on their own, the head of the Russell Group has said following a spate of campus suicides. Dr Tim Bradshaw explained that the role of universities has had to expand far beyond academia alone as undergraduates these days need “more than just lectures and tutorials”. Institutions now invest huge sums of money and devote vast amounts of resources to supporting students’ welfare and wellbeing. However, he warned that supporting students’ mental health needs is not something universities can do “in isolation”. Writing in The Telegraph, below, Dr Bradshaw said that the NHS should be the first point of call for those struggling with mental illness, but universities have also had to play a front line role by identifying those who may be struggling and supporting them during treatment. “Universities have also recognised this is increasingly not a challenge that can be dealt with in isolation and are seeking out new collaborations with other universities, third-sector groups and NHS services to try and make sure that when help is needed the individual gets it from the right organisation,” Dr Bradshaw said.
The 18 to 21-year-olds enrolled today have already had to grapple with a multitude of harsh realities, from the pandemic to the fallout of the Ukraine-Russia war. But now, the cost of living crisis is completely overhauling their lives. Some students have resorted to using food banks, taking multiple jobs, or taking out loans to survive. While being skint felt like a natural part of student life for many of us, youngsters now are facing a crisis like never before. In fact, according to research by network Student Beans, 71% of students have stopped socialising as much, with 49% of them skipping a meal. A further 54% said they relied on money from family and or friends. Four in five students say they have felt personally impacted by the rising cost of food shopping, and almost just as many are altering their habits just to get by.
Eight universities will be inspected as part of a Government move to “drive up” standards in higher education, it was announced on Thursday. The investigations, launched on Thursday and focused on business courses, are the first in a series of “boots on the ground” inspections announced by Higher and Further Education Minister Michelle Donelan earlier this year. The inspections will look at teaching quality at institutions, as well as whether they are failing to deliver face to face teaching or address high dropout rates. The inspection of eight business and management courses will include an examination of “whether poor quality online learning has replaced face to face teaching to the detriment of students’ academic experience”, the Office for Students said. They will also look at whether courses meet the OfS’s new quality standards which came into effect in May. Inspectors will also consider the effectiveness of course teaching and students’ contact hours, as well as if students receive “sufficient” learning resources and academic support, with experienced academics leading the inspections. The OfS is not naming the universities and colleges under investigation but expects to publish further details later on.
The long-running industrial dispute over pension cuts and working conditions at UK universities appears to be faltering, after union branches abandoned a national marking strike due to start this week that could delay students from graduating. Last month, 41 branches of the University and College Union (UCU) backed a national marking and assessment boycott, supported by 86% of staff who returned ballots. But only 20 universities are going ahead with a boycott after opposition from branches and members led to national action being curtailed by the union’s executive in favour of letting individual campuses decide. The universities of Edinburgh and Durham were among those to pull out of the boycott last week, with Durham’s UCU branch instead negotiating a local agreement. The deal included a payout of up to £1,000 for every staff member and joint statements and commitments on workload and pensions.
Cheating has become a growing concern for British universities in recent years, with 2018 research finding that one in seven students have paid someone to write an essay for them (a practice called ‘contract cheating’). It’s an issue that’s been compounded by the sudden shift to online learning during the pandemic – The Guardian reported in 2021 that the number of requests for help sent in to a leading ‘homework help’ website rose by 196 per cent between 2019 and 2020. The Tab reported in 2021 that one private tutor was offered hundreds to sit students’ online exams for them. Another agreed to write a dissertation for £3,000. In a bid to crack down on cheating, the government recently announced that they would be introducing legislation to ban essay mills, but it’s unclear how effective this will be as most essay mills are based overseas and operate outside the UK’s jurisdiction. Plus – this goes without saying – it’s fair to say that a cheat is probably not that concerned with the rules anyway. After all, cheating is already banned within universities and offenders who are caught are usually punished, but that (obviously) doesn’t stop anyone who sets out to do it.
A group of MPs has called for an end to higher fees imposed on students from Hong Kong, calling them an “impediment to opportunity”. In a letter published in The Times, the MPs said the British National (Overseas) visa, which allows people from Hong Kong to live and work in the UK, “has been a great success”. But they added that “higher education rules create an unnecessary impediment to opportunity, since BNO visa holders are not eligible for home fees status until they have lived in the UK for five years”. The letter says BNO visa holders therefore face much higher fees than their British counterparts, while being ineligible for student loans, and adds that the exceptional status afforded to students from Ukraine should be extended to students from Hong Kong. Under the current system, students from Hong Kong face paying £22,831 a year more than domestic students for university fees. The letter has been signed by MPs across the political divide, including Steve Baker, Robert Buckland, Nus Ghani, Damian Green, Paul Blomfield, Rupa Huq and Liam Byrne. Government data released last week revealed that 113,742 people from Hong Kong had been granted BNO visas for the UK since the scheme opened on January 31 2021.