News round-up: Oxford’s progress on diversity has been ‘glacial’, and geography is the chosen subject of the privileged

Discussions about how to improve access for less advantaged students show no sign of abating – and subject-level TEF comes under attack from the Russell Group

‘Relax A-level grades for some medical students’

BBC, 24/05/2018, Katherine Sellgreen

Academic entry requirements for medical degrees should be relaxed for students applying from the worst UK secondary schools, researchers say.

A study from the University of York says these students should be able to drop one or two A-level grades.


Subject-level teaching excellence framework plans ‘flawed’

Times Higher Education, 24/05/2018, Anna McKie

Higher education groups have said proposals to measure “teaching intensity” and grade inflation at UK universities are “flawed” and should be removed from future plans for the teaching excellence framework.

In its submission to the government’s consultation on the subject-level version of the TEF, the Russell Group says that the plan to use the number of teaching hours and class sizes as a measure of quality would misinform students and “risks undermining institutional diversity”. This is because different aspects of learning, such as working independently, are important but difficult to quantify, the submission says.

Oxford faces anger over failure to improve diversity among students

The Guardian, 23/05/18, Richard Adams and Caeliann Barr

Oxford’s glacial progress in attracting students from diverse backgrounds has been revealed in figures showing that more than one in four of its colleges failed to admit a single black British student each year between 2015 and 2017.


Oxford University involved in Twitter row with David Lammy

BBC, 23/05/2018

Oxford University has apologised to David Lammy after retweeting a post labelling his criticism “bitter”.

The original tweet, sent by a student, was in response to the Labour MP saying Oxford was “a bastion of white, middle class, southern privilege”.


Oxford’s Wadham College: Diversity drives standards up, not down

The Guardian, Richard Adams, 23/05/2018

While many Oxford colleges struggle to admit a diverse range of undergraduates, Wadham College stands out as showing what can be done when a college’s leadership and governing body are committed to the cause of widening access.

While some colleges such as Mansfield, Somerville, St John’s and Lady Margaret Hall have also developed innovative access schemes, Wadham’s commitment can be measured in the 68% of state school students it admits, compared with its neighbour, Trinity, admitting just 41%.


Geography finds its place among elite

The Times, 23/05/2018, Rosemary Bennett

The geography degree has replaced Classics as the favourite choice of the privileged, admissions figures from Oxford University suggest.

Only 12 students from disadvantaged backgrounds are on its geography course, less than 6 per cent of the total. Of the 204 students on the course, 192 are from the three higher social groups and more than half of those are from private schools.


Are the humanities in crisis? If they are, how can we save them?

Times Higher Education, 23/05/2018, Matthew Reisz

Rob Paige, provost emeritus of Arizona State University, has spoken of “indicators of clear and present danger to the humanities”. Yet Blaine Greteman, associate professor of English at the University of Iowa, has argued that “the humanities death watch for the past 60 years” is marked “both by its recurring character and its disconnect from objective fact”.


Six times as many new medical students from London as from north-east

The Guardian, 22/05/2018, Press Association

There were more than six times as many students from London taking up places to study medicine and dentistry last year as there were from north-east England, analysis shows.


Greenwich University fined £120,000 for data breach

BBC, 21/05/2018

The University of Greenwich has been fined £120,000 ($160,000) by the Information Commissioner.

The fine was for a security breach in which the personal data of 19,500 students was placed online.


US public universities ‘more efficient on teaching’

Times Higher Education, 20/05/2018, Simon Baker

Public universities in the US are the most efficient at educating the general population but the large multi-campus nature of many institutions can hinder research efficiency, a study has suggested.


The paper, by two academics based in France, also found that being located in a major city can significantly boost research efficiency for US universities.



Academia is built on exploitation. We must break this vicious circle

The Guardian, 18/05/2018, Anonymous

Anonymous blog about the working environment for academics and students at British universities. Recent research has found that over 30% of PhD students develop a psychiatric condition. This is a higher rate than for people working in defence and emergency services, which is about 22%.


I’ll have a first, please: 30% of students to get top grade

The Times, 16/05/2018, Rosemary Bennett

Almost a third of students taking their finals this summer are on course for a first, according to a report that says rampant grade inflation means a new top category will have to be introduced.

It added that 30 per cent of students predicted that they would get a first and 54 per cent were expecting a 2:1. No one thought they would fail. Students are able to give a fairly accurate prediction of their final grade, with the majority completing modules as they go along that contribute to their final mark.