News round-up: Are coroners obscuring the number of student suicides?

The mental health of both academics and students comes under scrutiny, and a survey shows that most students don’t feel they are receiving value for money when it comes to teaching


Cardiff plans review after suicide of ‘overworked’ lecturer

Times Higher Education, 08/06/2018, Rachael Pells

Cardiff University has said that it will review the support available to staff after it emerged that a lecturer who took his own life had complained about his heavy workload.

Malcolm Anderson, a 48-year-old accounting lecturer, fell through a glass roof soon after arriving at work on 19 February this year and died of his injuries, Wales Online reported.


University leaders raise fears coroners ‘obscuring true student suicide figures’

i news, 07/06/2018, Richard Vaughan

Concerns are mounting among university leaders that coroners are obscuring the true number of student suicides. The higher education sector is in the grip of a mental health crisis, with recent research suggesting the suicide rate among UK students is higher than among the general population of their age group. Bristol University in particular has suffered a spate of suspected suicides with 10 students from the university dying in the last 18 months.
But vice-chancellors have privately raised fears that the full extent of the issue of student suicides is not known due to the way the deaths are reported by coroners.

In April, researchers from the Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention, at Hong Kong University, published a figures showing that between 2007 and 2016, the UK student suicide rates increased by 56 per cent – from 6.6 to 10.3 per 100,000 of the population.


Economics and medicine graduates earn most, finds report

The Guardian, 07/06/2018, Richard Adams

Students studying economics and medicine at British universities are likely to gain the largest financial benefits from their degrees, outstripping even the considerable advantages enjoyed by private school students or people from the wealthiest backgrounds, a study has found.

An Institute for Fiscal Studies report, using several years of evidence gathered from education and taxation data, showed the higher pay for graduates in a small group of subjects remained even after adjusting for student background and school type.


Minister attacks ‘threadbare’ courses at English universities

Times Higher Education, 07/06/2018, Anna McKie

Analysis of graduate earnings by the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows that there are a “clutch of underperforming degrees that are not delivering for students” in English higher education, universities minister Sam Gyimah has claimed.

The IFS analysis looked at previously published Longitudinal Education Outcomes data, which had shown how the subject that a graduate studied – and the university they attended – made a huge difference to earnings.


UK academics oppose visa monitoring regime for foreign staff

Times Higher Education, 07/06/2018, Rachael Pells

UK university leaders are being urged to review their attitudes towards foreign staff and students, following fresh reports of visa holders being ‘unfairly monitored’ and even threatened with home visits by nervous administrators.

Institutions say that efforts to record the whereabouts of international employees and students on sponsored visas are necessary to comply with Home Office regulations, but union representatives argue that the requirements are being misinterpreted and create a ‘hostile environment’ for foreign workers.


Stressed students unhappier than other youngsters

The Times, 07/06/2018, Rosemary Bennett

University students are significantly more unhappy and anxious on average than other young people the same age, a study has found. Only 17 per cent of undergraduates feel happy most of the time, compared with 33 per cent of all 20 to 24-year-olds, many of whom will be working or training and are most likely to be still living at home with their parents.

The findings, in the 2018 Student Academic Experience Survey, come as universities are under growing scrutiny over the pastoral care they offer students, especially as they make the transition from home and school.


Background, subject and university ‘all impact earnings’

BBC, 07/06/2018, Unattributed

Family background, subject choice and university have a significant impact on English students’ earnings five years after graduation, new data shows.

Figures compiled by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) show economics and medicine students earn about 60% more than history and English graduates.


Good value, not good teaching, recognised at ‘gold’ providers

Times Higher Education, 07/06/18, Anna McKie

Undergraduates at UK universities rated gold in the teaching excellence framework are more likely to feel they are getting value for money. However, they do not feel they are taught any better than students at silver or bronze institutions according to the annual Student Academic Experience Survey conducted by the Higher Education Policy Institute and Advance HE.


Students want more hours for their tuition fees

BBC News online, 07/06/2018, Sean Coughlan

Students want more teaching hours at university – as an annual survey shows that fewer than two in five think they are getting value for money. The survey of 14,000 UK students found tuition fees, teaching quality and lack of contact hours were the biggest causes of dissatisfaction.

Measures of well-being, such as anxiety among students, have also worsened.


Martin Lewis: Five changes to fix student finance

Financial Times, 07/06/2018, Martin Lewis
I lost it a little, while on the BBC’s Question Time programme recently. I’d just explained how student finance really works, when another panellist tried to use the standard trite political point scoring of a “£57,000” debt burden on young people. This type of misrepresentation needs calling out — and after years of throwing my sock at the TV while watching politicians say similar on the programme — I did, vociferously.


The number of black students at Oxford is far from ideal – but it is making progress 

Daily Telegraph, 07/06/2018, Lewis Iwu

It’s hard to look the data released by Oxford last month and conclude that the representation of black students at the university is anywhere near ideal.

There are Oxbridge colleges that have failed to admit a single black British student in recent years. However, it’s wrong to suggest that change isn’t happening. The university has announced an increase to next year’s access programme by 50 percent. In 2017, Oxford’s UK black intake was 1.9 percent Black, compared with less than half a percent in 1997. That’s a positive, though slow, trend.


Universities to adopt watered-down code for vice-chancellors’ pay

The Guardian, 06/06/2018, Richard Adams

Universities have agreed to adopt a voluntary code that would require them to justify repeated pay rises for vice-chancellors above those of other staff, after a year of controversy over high salaries.

But the guidelines published by the Committee of University Chairs (CUC) appear to have been watered down compared with a more detailed draft published by the committee earlier this year.


University entrants gaining better A-levels despite tougher environment

I News online, 05/06/2018, Richard Vaughan

Students are studying harder and gaining better grades than six years ago, despite tougher exams and a clampdown on grade inflation, new research has shown. An analysis by Universities UK reveals the average university applicant in 2017 had 340 UCAS tariff points – the equivalent of around three Bs at A-level, plus C at AS level. This compares with 313 tariff points in 2011 – or the equivalent of between BBC and BCC at A-level, plus C at AS level.

The research also reveals that the decision to lift the cap on the number of students universities can recruit has not led to universities lowering their entry requirements to ensure they fill places.


Universities now admitting twice as many BTEC students as they did a decade ago, figures show

Daily Telegraph, 05/06/2018, Camilla Turner

Universities are now admitting twice as many BTEC students as they did a decade ago, amid fears of falling standards. Higher education institutions have become ‘increasingly open’ to accepting school leavers with vocational qualifications rather than the traditional A-levels, a new report by Universities UK (UUK) has found.

In 2008, there were 49,250 students who were offered places at British universities with BTEC qualifications. But by 2017 this had more than doubled, with more than 100,000 BTEC students winning university places, according to figures from Ucas.


Sajid Javid pledges ‘fresh look’ at migration rules

BBC, 03/06/2018, Unattributed

Key parts of the UK’s immigration policy – including on foreign students and doctors coming to the UK – will be reviewed, the home secretary has said. Sajid Javid told the BBC there was a ‘perception problem’ over the decision to include students in net migration figures. And he said he would ‘think more carefully’ about the cap on the number of skilled workers given visas.


Pupils need better grades for university

The Times, 02/06/2018, Rosemary Bennett

The vast increase in youngsters going to university since 2012 has not led to tumbling entry requirements as feared. The average qualifications of students arriving to study has instead risen slightly in the past five years.

Last year the average student arriving at university had 340 UCAS tariff points, equivalent to three B grades at A level plus a C at AS level. This compares with 313 tariff points in 2011, equivalent to BBC or BCC at A level plus C at AS level. The analysis was published by Universities UK, the umbrella group for the sector. Some 390,000 students from the UK were accepted on full-time undergraduate courses at English universities last year, an increase of more than 100,000 in ten years.


Awarding university subjects gold medals is deeply flawed

The Guardian, 01/06/2018, Hetan Shah

The government’s teaching excellence framework, or Tef as it’s usually known, is supposed to eventually measure the quality of teaching in each subject at every university. The idea is that the data will help future students make improved choices about where to study, and that it will incentivise better, more transparent behaviour from universities. These are all laudable aims, but what if the tool isn’t right for the job?


See also:

Students more anxious than rest of nation, survey finds

Daily Telegraph, 07/06/2018, Jess Staufenberg

Fewer university students say they are happy and believe lives to be worthwhile, survey finds

The Independent 07/06/2018, Eleanor Busby

Students enjoy better mental well-being if they have heavier workloads

i News, 07/06/2018, Richard Vaughan