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My articles November 8, 2016

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Brexit will hit demand for UK HE differently across the globe (Wonkhe, 8-Nov-16)

Blogs for the Guardian (various)

Blogs for The New Statesman (various)

Blogs for Left Foot Forward (various)

 

Premier League Prediction 16-17 August 13, 2016

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It’s that time of the year, to pin my colours to the mast and predict 1-20 for the new Premier League season.

Arguably, this is the hardest season to predict for decades with by my count 7 teams standing a credible chance of winning, and 10 teams who could go down.

1 – Chelsea

Another new start for Chelsea. They still have a quality squad, finished the season strongly and the absence of European football could see them crowned 16-17 Champions. Success will likely depend on the durability of John Terry, and goals from Diego Costa and Michy Batshuayi.

2 – Manchester City

Probably the strongest squad on paper, but unconvinced that even with £47m Stones that defensive frailties have been addressed. But the world’s best coach, and a quality squad should see them challenge for the title right down to the wire. The Manchester derby

3 – Manchester United

Four huge summer signings should start to change the fortunes for Manchester United. Mourinho will no doubt bring his usual grit and organisation to the team, but this is still a team in transition and imagine it make take the team a little while to gel.

4 – Tottenham Hotspur

An outstanding season last campaign, which fell away at the final furlong. So Spurs. I fear they will struggle to repeat the feat of last year, but this is a young team which is still improving. So far only Wanyama and Janssen have been added which gives them stability. But 4th would still represent a good season, particularly if the next prediction is correct…

5 – Arsenal

This might finally be the year when Arsenal fall shout of Champions League qualification. Arsene is, and has been a great coach. But his stubbornness in the transfer market is baffling. Surely a world class centre back and centre forward away from challenging for the title, football has a horrible way of sending managers out without a bang. In the last year of his contract, this would be stain on a pretty remarkable 20 years for Msr Wenger.

6 – Leicester City

Last season was incredible, and Ranieri is right in many ways to say that to retain the title would be an even bigger surprise than winning it for the first time. Kante has been replaced with Mendy, so the formula will be much the same as last year. But can the magic be repeated? European nights at the King Power will surely be memorable.

7 – Liverpool

Jurgen Klopp has brought a new lease of life into Anfield, and a new style of play. They are a team moving in the right direction, but whether they can leapfrog the teams above them remain to be seen. There has been a huge overhaul of the squad, and surely it will take time to gel.

8 – West Ham United

Had it not been for the Leicester fairytale, Slaven Bilic would surely have been manager of the season (in a tight contest with Pochettino). 9 new signings have bolstered the squad, but not obviously the first XI. Their biggest signing was keeping hold of Payet, who will be one of the most feared players this campaign.

9 – Stoke City

Mark Hughes has taken Stoke to a new level, surpassing the feat of the solid if uninspiring Tony Pulis team. Other than Joe Allen, it’s been a fairly quiet summer, although they have publicly stated their interest in Saido Berahino. Defensively solid, and competitive in midfield, their front line is the weakest link in an otherwise good Stoke team.

10 – Everton

Everton have left their transfer business late in the summer, only opening the cheque book once John Stones had been sold. Koeman was clearly an astute manager, efficient and impressive at Southampton. Toffees fans will hope he can replicate this at Goodison. Perhaps the most important acquisition might be Steve Walsh (as Director of Football) from Leicester, but we may not see the returns on this in the first transfer window.

11 – Southampton

Southampton have continued to surpass expectations, managing to overcome the loss of key players (and successive managers). Claude Puel is an unknown quantity in England, but his credentials at Monaco, Lyon and most latterly Nice has been impressive.

12 – Crystal Palace

At the start of 2016, the Eagles were 5th in the league and Alan Pardew was the nailed on replacement to Roy Hodgson. But a terrible run of league form in 2016 has caused concern among Palace fans, and whilst Townsend and Mandanda are sound acquisitions beginning the season with a forward line of Connor Wickham and Frazier Campbell doesn’t scream goals. If Benteke (as rumoured) can be signed, 12th would be plausible. Otherwise I fear 40 points might not come until toward the end of the season.

13 – Swansea City

Swansea finished the season well, and now a busy summer of incoming and outgoing transfers. Now an established team in the Premier League, Swans will be hoping they can glide into the top half, but I fear they may fall just short.

14 – Bournemouth

The rise and rise under Eddie Howe has been incredible. Last season was particularly impressive as they survived with games to spare, and were without some of their most influential players for much of the season. Second season blues has caught many clubs over the years, but I think the Cherries could better their finish from last campaign. With Arsene Wenger set to retire at the end of the season, another solid finish could see Howe linked with a big move.

15 – West Bromwich Albion

With Tony Pulis at the helm, there shouldn’t be a problem with relegation, but they might not hit 40 points until May. So far they have only signed Matt Phillips, but TP has said he wants another 5 players at least. Will the new Chinese investment arrive in time for Pulis to get the players in he wants?

16 – Watford

The forward line of Deeney and Ighalo last year was incredible, as was the tactical approach from Flores. Much will fall on the shoulders of the forward line once again, but like Crystal Palace their league form in 2016 was not great. Another team with a new manager (Walter Mazzarri), we wait to see how they will set out their stall.

17 – Middlesbrough

Defensively Aitor Karanka organised a formidable team in The Championship last season, and that was the bedrock of their promotion success. Much will depend on goals from Negredo, and if they can continue to be tight at the back I think they might do enough to survive.

18 – Sunderland

Sam Allardyce pulled off a great late season recover for the Black Cats, when they looked down and out. David Moyes did a terrific job at Everton, but it simply hasn’t come off for him then. Summer signings don’t inspire confidence, and I fear this might be the season their luck finally runs out.

19 – Burnley

Burnley won plaudits for their determined approach 2 seasons ago. Dyche managed to get the team straight back to the top flight, but summer signings have been limited so the team will be much the same as the promotion winning team from last season. However I fear they may be a little short in quality and depth. But last season, I predicted Leicester City would finish 19th.

20 – Hull City

The only surprise would be if Hull City don’t finish bottom. The money which had been pumped in under the Alam chairmanship appears to be drying up, and what was already an uphill climb would seem insurmountable. Just 1 signing (from AFC Wimbledon) they are arguably weaker than last season. I expect to see them fall back into The Championship.

Other predictions:

Top scorer – Sergio Ageuro

Manager of the season – Antonio Conte

First manager to be sacked – David Moyes

 

PS – if you’re interested here is my prediction for 2015-16:

https://aaronporter.wordpress.com/2015/08/08/premier-league-2015-16-prediction/

Premier League 2015-16 Prediction August 8, 2015

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  1. Chelsea – although they haven’t strengthened the squad (as yet), surely the team to beat.
  2. Arsenal – matched Chelsea from January onwards last season. Cech also improves the team, but still look like a world class centre forward and centre back away from the title.
  3. Manchester City – like Chelsea they haven’t appeared to improve their squad as yet. And some key players may be past their best (Toure, Kompany). But any team with the likes of Aguero and Silva will still grind out results.
  4. Manchester United – LVG has overhauled the squad again, and more business likely. Their success will depend on how quickly some of the new signings can bed in.
  5. Liverpool – Rodgers has made a raft of signings, but tactically he is often outsmarted. The pressure could mount if they make a sluggish start.
  6. Stoke City – my prediction for the surprise package this season. Under both Pulis and now Hughes, Stoke have steadily improved. This summer some exciting additions could take them to the next level.
  7. Tottenham Hotspur – Spurs are building a team of young, homegrown talent many of whom have promise for the future. But this is a long term project and some of the signings might not come off just yet, also Kane will under pressure to replicate his goals from last year.
  8. Southampton – Koeman managed to confound critics with another stunning season last campaign, now with added Europa league commitments the top 6 might be beyond them. But 8th will still be a good return.
  9. Crystal Palace – the transformation under Alan Pardew has been sensational. Cabaye is a quality addition, and if one of Connor Wickham or Patrick Bamford hit a rich vein of form the Eagles could improve on their excellent 10th placed finish.
  10. Swansea City – Gary Monk has continued to get the best out of a good squad, playing great football. Expect another solid season.
  11. Everton – last season was a little underwhelming for the Toffees. But as yet, Martinez has not really been given the funds to strengthen the team. May be another slightly under par season ahead.
  12. Newcastle United – Steve McLaren is a good manager, and perhaps he will bring some much needed stability to a club who seem in constant self inflicted turmoil.
  13. West Bromwich Albion – Pulis will surely deliver comfortable mid table safety. Well organised and disciplined, expect them to pull off some outstanding results against some of the ‘bigger teams’ and maybe be a Cup run too.
  14. West Ham United – being unceremoniously dumped out of the Europa League by Romania’s Astra Giurgiu might be their salvation. Bilic is obviously unproven at Premier League level as a manager, a crucial season ahead for the Hammers before the (tax payer funded) move to the Olympic Stadium.
  15. Aston Villa – the loss of Delph and Benteke will be significant. Sherwood has brought in reinforcements, and despite a decent run under him last season I remain unconvinced that a manager who appears built on bravado alone will really set the world alight this season.
  16. Bournemouth – the rise and rise of The Cherries has been formidable. Eddie Howe has developed a philosophy and approach which might even prove successful in the top tier. They will surely be everyone’s second team this season.
  17. Watford – able to draw on a quite sublime scouting network, they have made some impressive acquisitions. Survival will surely depend on bedding in the new players quickly, and Deeney being able to step up a division.
  18. Sunderland – Dick Advocaat pulled off a great escape last year, but I can see some of the luck they had last season running out this campaign.
  19. Leicester City – the appointment of Claudio Ranieri is a gamble for me. Although Nigel Pearson appeared at times to be mentally unstable, the unity and performance he got from the Foxes last season was incredible. I can’t see that the Tinkerman is the right man for Leicester. I hope to be proved wrong. Somehow I can imagine Sam Alladyce in the dugout at the King Power before the end of the season.
  20. Norwich City – the progress under Alex Neil was sensational last season. Some experience in the squad, but currently Cameron Jerome will be relied upon to score the goals to keep them up. I’m not sure that will be enough.

(more…)

Is another tuition fee hike on the horizon? May 11, 2015

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Originally posted on Progress website:

http://www.progressonline.org.uk/2015/05/11/is-another-tuition-fee-hike-on-the-horizon/

Is another tuition fee hike on the horizon?

In 2010, the first big flashpoint for the coalition government was the very public and very brutal, at least for the Liberal Democrats, clash over whether to increase tuition fees. The independent Browne review suggested no fee cap whatsoever. The Liberal Democrat manifesto had promised their abolition, the National Union of Students campaign pledge signed by all Liberal Democrat candidates opted for a freeze on fees and the Tories had not really said anything at all. Eventually the coalition opted for a fee cap of £9,000 a year, the Liberal Democrats broke their promise and the rest, as they say, is history, a bit like most of the Liberal Democrats members of parliament who broke the pledge.

But as soon as the vote to increase fees squeezed through parliament, passed by 21 votes, it became clear that issues of sustainability were coming to the fore. The resource accounting and budgeting charge for the new fee regime continued to rise steadily, and well beyond projections from BIS. By the end of the parliament, the latest figures suggested that for every £1 loaned to a student, 48p would never be paid back. Figures from the public accounts committee suggest that by 2042, the tuition fee black hole could be as big as £90bn, a system which critics described as costing students and the taxpayer more money than the previous regime, while part-time enrolments fell by 40 per cent during the last five years and universities are, privately at least, very concerned about the first generation of £9k students and their willingness to stump up yet more fees for postgraduate courses.

Labour’s policy on tuition fees in the last parliament was always unclear. In their respective leadership campaigns, both Ed Miliband and Ed Balls suggested they preferred a graduate tax. During the fees debate in parliament the Labour position was simply that it opposed what the coalition was proposing and then after months and months of uncertainty and internal wrangling over the feasibility of a graduate tax, the manifesto finally opted for a reduction to £6,000. In opposition, Labour should have had an easy time criticising the coalition on tuition fees, but without a clear and compelling alternative it always felt like they did not exploit that advantage. Liam Byrne was impressive as the shadow minister for higher and further education. He engaged thoughtfully with the sector and seemed prepared to think about the wider challenges for universities beyond the headlines generated by tuition fees. When the Times Higher Education magazine polled academics just before the 2015 election, nearly 46 per cent cited they would back the Labour party. Byrne’s robust and evidence based approach will have been a large contributor to that. However, it was not clear that the thoughtfulness demonstrated by the shadow minister made its way into the Labour manifesto on higher education.

So against this backdrop, and with a strong body of opinion that higher education funding is already unsustainable and wider questions about regulation of the university system there will be some pressure to look at the question of tuition fees once again. Speaking at a post-election briefing hosted by Pearson and the Financial Times this morning, Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the RSA and formerly head of the Number 10 policy unit in the Blair years, suggested that a further increase in the fee cap would be likely this parliament. He went on to say, that it appeared the government really only listens to the Russell Group of universities and a number of their vice-chancellors have already gone on record as saying that the cap should increase further.

Whatever the new government might be thinking, Labour needs to be more thoughtful than simply arguing against whatever might be proposed. Labour’s approach needs to consider the interplay between schools, further and higher education policy, and the contribution that employers can make toward both funding and appropriately contributing to curriculum and assessment. There needs to be a credible position on funding, but that should not just focus solely on full time undergraduates. There is a crisis in part-time funding, and the postgraduate system is also under pressure and shows signs of being woefully underrepresented by those from non-traditional and working-class backgrounds, these all need to be taken into account.

The Labour party has much to be proud of for the way it oversaw a significant rise in students from the poorest background going to university and the development of a sustainable footing for British universities to compete with the best of the world during their time in government. But with new pressures ahead to find a sustainable funding model, the same level of thought needs to be given to universities once again.

#UniNumbers – how many universities have you visited? March 24, 2014

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Inspired by Paul Wakeling (University of York) and his blog on the number of universities he’d visited (http://theelbowpatch.wordpress.com/2014/03/23/confessions-of-a-campus-completist/), I thought it was about time I’d totted up the number of institutions I’ve managed to visit so far too.

I must confess that although I knew I’d been to a lot, I was surprised at how many. 125 to be precise.

My favourite campus of the 125 (so far) is Stirling, and the most impressive building is the Founder’s Building (at Egham, Royal Holloway).

I am genuinely intrigued if there is anyone who has been to a greater number, and whether I can find an excuse to visit the remaining 18.

Visited – 125
Anglia Ruskin University
Aston University
Bath Spa University
University of Birmingham
Birmingham City University
Bishop Grosseteste University
Bournemouth University
Brunel University
University of Bradford
University of Bristol
Buckinghamshire New University
University of Cambridge
Canterbury Christ Church University
Cardiff University
Cardiff Metropolitan University
Central School of Speech and Drama
City University
Courtauld Institute of Art
Coventry University
Cranfield University
De Montfort University
Durham University
University of East London
Edge Hill University
University of Edinburgh
Edinburgh Napier University
University of Exeter
University of Glasgow
Glasgow Caledonian University
University of Gloucestershire
Goldsmiths, University of London
University of Greenwich
Harper Adams University
Heriot-Watt University
University of Hull
Imperial College London
Keele University
King’s College London
Kingston University
Lancaster University
University of Leeds
Leeds Metropolitan University
Leeds Trinity University
University of Leicester
University of Lincoln
University of Liverpool
Liverpool Hope University
Liverpool John Moores University
London Business School
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Birkbeck, University of London
Institute of Education
London School of Economics
Queen Mary, University of London
Royal Academy of Music
School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)
University College London
London Metropolitan University
London South Bank University
Loughborough University
University of Manchester
Manchester Metropolitan University
Middlesex University
Newcastle University
Newman University
University of Northampton
Northumbria University
University of Nottingham
Nottingham Trent University
University of Oxford
Oxford Brookes University
University of Plymouth
Queen’s University Belfast
Regent’s University
Roehampton University
Royal Agricultural University
Royal Holloway, University of London,
Royal Veterinary College
University of Salford
University of Sheffield
Sheffield Hallam University
University of Southampton
Southampton Solent University
University of South Wales
Staffordshire University
St George’s, University of London
Swansea University
University of Strathclyde
Teesside University
The Open University
The Robert Gordon University
University for the Creative Arts
University of Aberdeen
University of Abertay Dundee
University of Bath
University of Bedfordshire
University of Bolton
University of Brighton
University of Central Lancashire
University of Chester
University of Chichester
University of Cumbria
University of Derby
University of Dundee
University of East Anglia
University of Essex
University of Hertfordshire
University of Huddersfield
University of Kent
University of Portsmouth
University of Reading
University of Stirling
University of Surrey
University of Sussex
University of the Arts London
University of Ulster
University of Warwick
University of the West of England, Bristol
University of West London
University of Westminster
University of Winchester
University of Wolverhampton
University of Worcester
University of York
York St John University

 

Not visited – 18
Aberystwyth University
Bangor University
Falmouth University
Glyndŵr University
Heythrop College
Institute of Cancer Research
Norwich University of the Arts
Queen Margaret University
Royal College of Art
Swansea Metropolitan University
The Arts University Bournemouth
University of Buckingham
University of St Andrews
University of St Mark & St John
University of Sunderland
University of the Highlands & Islands
University of the West of Scotland
University of Wales, Trinity Saint David
 

 

You’re just a punch-bag for the Coalition! January 10, 2012

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Aaron Porter, former NUS President and regular OpinionPanel blogger, asks whether savage cuts to young people’s services might be the result of young people failing to engage in politics.

http://www.opinionpanel.co.uk/panellists/2012/01/10/punch-bags-for-the-coalition-are-young-people-getting-beaten-up-for-not-engaging-in-politics/

Young people seem to be bearing the brunt of government cuts. Photo by asplosh

Over the last few years, young people could be forgiven for thinking that they’ve been the butt of a series of damaging government policies. The recent recession has seen youth unemployment soar to over 1 million, there are as many as 80 applicants for every graduate position, the Educational Maintenance Allowance has been scrapped, as has the Future Jobs Fund and the AimHigher programme. In the last 7 years we have seen tuition fees treble twice, first by Labour in 2005 and then more recently by the Coalition – despite an explicit promise by the Liberal Democrats that they would vote against any increase whatsoever.

The government will undoubtedly turn to the deficit as the explanation for their recent decisions to take the axe to many of the services young people have relied on. But cynics might claim that a lack of political engagement from young people could be the reason behind these particularly acute measures. If you consider the relatively small amounts of money that the government have saved in scrapping initiatives like the EMA and AimHigher, and compare that with similar amounts of money spent on schemes benefiting pensioners, such as free bus passes and the Winter Fuel allowance (both of which are not means tested), it poses the question why young people appear to have consistently taken the hit to the benefit of others in society.

So, are young people really doing enough to engage with politics? A quick analysis of voting statistics shows that when it comes to elections they clearly are not. In the 2005 general election, only 37% of 18 – 24 year olds turned out to vote. Whilst that figure rose to around 44% in the 2010 general election, in part due to a more focussed drive to register young voters, it still looks pretty paltry when you compare that to the 76% of over-65-year-olds who voted. Faced with difficult decisions on spending, the government appear to have made some crude political calculations and decided that spending cuts for pensioners would cost them more votes than spending cuts for young people. Politically speaking, they are probably right.

So why is it that young people are voting in such small numbers, and what can be done to rectify it? Firstly, it’s worth noting that this is an historic trend. It’s not just the under 25s of recent years that are voting in lower numbers; the under 25s have tended to turnout in much smaller numbers than their elder counterparts for decades.

As with many things, education clearly has to be at the heart of the solution. A number of commissions and studies looking at the issue of young people’s engagement with politics have flagged up how citizenship education could be improved in school to stress the importance of voting, and how it can help influence issues like employment, benefits, taxation and services. Interestingly, in the run-up to the 2010 election, research by YouGov and the Social Market Foundation into how people develop voting habits has found that those who are old enough to vote while still at school are far more likely to vote again than those who have to wait until their 20s for their first chance. In the 2001 election, for example, turnout among 27-year-olds was 49%, compared with 65% among 28-year-olds who had been old enough to vote in the 1992 election.

The campaign behind lowering the voting age to 16 has also gained momentum. There are some who feel that giving 16-year-olds the chance to vote will help to drive up youth participation overall by opening up the political process to them a little earlier. Particularly to combat the fact there are large numbers of 16 and 17 year olds who feel disenfranchised by being prevented from voting, especially when you consider they are old enough to pay taxes, get married, have sex and even die for their country. But others claim that 16 is too young, that they may not have had the time to properly form an opinion about voting and should therefore continue to wait until they are 18. At present, Austria is the only country in Europe that has introduced votes at 16.

At the end of 2011, analysis from credit information firm Experian found a worrying trend with the number of young people even registered to vote. According to their figures, only 520,000 who had turned 18 were registered, which is around 55% of those eligible. Yet this compares with an estimated 1.05m 18 year olds with Facebook accounts. It led to the understandably striking headlines that twice as many 18-year-olds had Facebook accounts, compared to being registered to vote.

So should voting be compulsory? In Australia this is the system they have, where all citizens above the age of 18 have to be registered to vote and fines are administered for those who do not vote. Whilst this unsurprisingly leads to higher voter turnout, I remain unconvinced that any compulsory system would really lead to greater genuine engagement.

There is proof that technology could provide the solution for encouraging greater numbers of young people to engage with politics, though. It is not that they aren’t interested in expressing an opinion, it’s just a feeling that the debate does not take place in a medium in which they feel it should. A lot is made of the fact that millions of people, huge numbers of them under the age of 25, are prepared not just to express an opinion but also to vote on a weekly basis for programmes like the X Factor and Big Brother. But in part this is because that vote can be made with the click of a button or a text message. Considering issues beyond reality TV talent contests, it was interesting to note that the Electoral Commission website www.aboutmyvote.co.uk had 1.8m visits around the last general election, nearly half of which came from 18 – 24-year-olds.

Whilst security and the ability to ensure that those eligible individuals are only able to vote once needs to be fundamental in any electoral system, surely it should not be beyond the realms of possibility for there to be proper consideration given to online voting for national ballots.

We shouldn’t ignore the fact that young people are simply not voting in great enough numbers. The real solution lies in education, technology and a change in culture: a huge shift in attitude toward voting and politics in general is needed to really start get young people punching above their weight, rather than consistently appearing to be the punch-bag for difficult political decisions.

Thu 15 Dec: Guardian HE Network – First or Fail – Universities helping the economy and insular British graduates: first or fail? December 15, 2011

Posted by AaronPorter in First or Fail, Higher Education, Uncategorized.
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Universities helping the economy and insular British graduates: first or fail?

Two reports – the first highlights British universities’ economic worth, the second warns about the lack of internationalism

http://www.guardian.co.uk/higher-education-network/blog/2011/dec/15/universities-economy-british-graduates-fail

speedometer

Universities are driving economic growth says a report by Universities UK/ Photograph: Keith Leighton / Alamy/Alamy

Heading for a first … universities driving economic growth

With news this week that unemployment has increased yet again, and the eurozone crisis cutting the prospects for growth any time soon, a recent publication from Universities UK, Driving Economic Growth, sets out a series of compelling evidence on how UK universities play a critical role in driving the UK economy.

At a time of record teaching budget cuts, it reminds us of quite how big a gamble it was 12 months ago for the coalition to pass its higher education funding reforms, by what is still the closest vote margin it has faced to date.

The UUK report makes a forceful case for our universities, one which we can only hope the government will sit up and take notice of. Particularly striking is a map of the UK that shows the clear correlation between the number of people in a region with high level skills and the economic prosperity of that same region.

It also shows that whie the UK has indeed seen a sizeable growth in students over the last decade, we still lag behind the US, Canada and Norway in the percentage of people with a degree, coming 10th out of the OECD countries.

If the recent reforms to higher education do indeed lead to less people going to university, it won’t just be our universities that are worse off, but it will be our economy and society as a whole that lose out too.

Heading for a fail … British graduates’ international perspective

This week a report from the British Council and Think Global, Next Generation UK, painted a fairly bleak picture of the value that British graduates place on an international outlook and the benefit this could have on their work prospects. Business leaders in the UK feel that British business will fall behind unless young people are encouraged to think more globally.

Sadly, the timing of David Cameron’s European snub couldn’t have come at a worse time given the findings of this report.

There are worrying signs that the anti-EU and anti-immigration rhetoric coming from government could well have a damaging impact on education in this country. It is well documented that international students are significant net contributors to the British economy, so the short-sightedness of Theresa May and David Cameron in scaring them off is counter productive.

If we are to seriously realise the ambitions of the Next Generation UK report, it will require a more open-minded approach to wanting to study abroad from British students and further integration of international students here in the UK.

“Blue Skies” book contribution: ‘The students of tomorrow’ July 17, 2011

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“Blue Skies”: ‘The students of tomorrow’

By Aaron Porter –

http://pearsonblueskies.com/the-students-of-tomorrow/

 

Video contribution:

For those of you watching the recent debate on English higher education funding on our TV screens and on the front pages of our newspapers, you could be forgiven for thinking that higher education was predominantly made up of full-time undergraduates, largely aged between 18-22. Of course that is not the case, and is increasingly less likely to be the case as we start to get under the skin of an ever-changing and diverse higher education population.

Already the picture presented to us by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) shows us that around 4 in 10 students are part-time, 1 in 5 are postgraduates, and just under 1 in 10 are studying in a further education (FE) college. Putting to one side your opinion on the recent finance reforms – the debate is well-rehearsed – and making an educated guess about what may be in the Government’s higher education White Paper, we can be sure that the reforms are almost certainly going to lead to less traditional provision, and even more diversity.

As greater power is put in the hands of the future student, they are likely to choose to learn in different ways and at different times, and are almost certainly going to have different expectations to the students of today. In a speech just before the vote in Parliament on raising the tuition fee cap, I warned that students would likely bring about a “consumer revolution”, and whilst I feel incredibly uncomfortable about the idea of ‘students as consumers’, they will undoubtedly be more demanding about the experience they are likely to receive in the future.

So I suspect as the recent reforms take root, we might start to see an increasingly challenge to the current provision of higher education. The introduction of loans for around two thirds of part-time students is long overdue and welcome, and I hope that it will allow for more part-time students to study alongside part-time work. The pressure to enter full-time higher education at 18 years old will hopefully lessen, as the opportunity to study part-time later in life or even at 18 will now be more viable. And whilst both Browne and the Government missed the opportunity to really seize the mantle and deliver a funding system built on credit, the White Paper will have to address the issue of allowing students to move between and within institutions. The current system has been far too inflexible, in allowing a student to pick up credits over time, a system genuinely based on lifelong learning. Whilst I do not think Lord Browne nor the Government addressed this seriously enough, students will start to demand this in their actions. The idea of students increasingly spending time in different institutions, a period as a work-based learner, and switching between full and part-time study can no longer be prevented, as the student of tomorrow will be increasingly flexible and nimble to respond to the ever-changing demands of the labour market.

It will be the demands of the labour market that will increasingly mean students will want to re-enter higher education later in their working life. As the number of jobs an adult can expect to undertake in their working life continues to spiral upwards, so will the need to re-skill becoming increasingly important. Whilst the traditional campus experience will be important for lots of young adults, access to knowledge and skills will be the greater priority for older learners wanting to upskill or change careers later in life. At present the Open University stands out as the provider of education and qualifications to help the older learner change direction or reskill, but this will need to become the preserve of many more providers, as the UK seeks to keep its adult population with the required skills, and the UK economy competitive with our global competition.

And with an increasingly diverse pattern of provision demanded by future students, they will also have increased expectations of what they will receive too. In our own research NUS/HSBC Student Experience Research 2010;

65% of students said that they would have higher expectations if they were being asked to pay considerably more for their education.

Students, then as graduates, are not only being asked to pay considerably more for their higher education, whilst the government savagely cuts the teaching grant, the disastrously handled debate by Vince Cable and the government means that prospective students will be weighing up their options with real scrutiny, but also with concern about what the returns on their investment may be. With the jobs market still so bleak, and so many of the jobs that graduates went into employment with, such as the public sector, being savagely trimmed back, many students will be exerting their consumer traits onto universities with greater force than before.

The gauntlet has been well and truly laid down. In a new environment, with power in the ‘hands of students’ as David Willetts is so keen to remind us, then universities will need to respond. It can no longer be acceptable that student complaints are left to swill around the system for more than 60 days, at present some are still left unresolved for more than a year. The role of the personal tutor will become more important, as students will want and expect more personalised support to guide them through their learning. The quantity and quality of contact time, which has increasingly come under the spotlight will be an issue of even greater focus. The days when high profile academics are splashed around the university prospectus material, but then hidden away in a research lab away from undergraduate students will no longer be tolerated. Student-led protests against their perceived poor contact time, notably at Bristol and Manchester Universities will happen with increasing frequency unless institutions can respond, and meet rising expectations.

I have no doubts that improved information will be important both for the prospective and current student. The chance to make a more informed choice about what, where and how to study will be important, and then the chance to measure that against their expectations on arrival will be critical. But to ensure the greatest protection for students, we can not simply allow for market forces to run riot alone. The role of the students’ union will become even more important in holding the institution to account, and for the National Union of Students (NUS) to do the same with Government and the sector as a whole. With rights comes responsibility, and in the same way I know that students’ unions will be afforded greater powers as a result of the new flow of money through the student, I fully expect and welcome the need for Student Unions (SUs) and the NUS to increasingly base what we say on evidence, to back up our arguments with fact, but also to be more accountable and transparent to students too. The system will need to have greater regulation too in order to protect the student, and this will need to be forthcoming in the White Paper too.

The period ahead for higher education will undoubtedly be one of change. Whether we see a “consumer revolution” time will tell, and if it happens whether it will be for better or worse. But what is for sure is that talking about higher education and its students through the narrow lens of full-time 18-22 undergraduates enjoying the traditional campus experience will be less and less relevant, and it’s time we all started to get our heads around the landscape and demography of the new world.

Thur 14th July: Aaron Porter’s First or Fail: The Treasury and Office for Fair Access July 14, 2011

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Aaron Porter’s First or Fail: The Treasury and Office for Fair Access

http://www.guardian.co.uk/higher-education-network/blog/2011/jul/13/office-for-fair-access-treasury

This week, Aaron Porter examines Offa’s quick work on access agreements and the Treasury’s dashed hopes for average fees

Baby Black Hole

Heading for a budget black hole? Aaron Porter says rough estimates suggest the Treasury could be facing £600m shortfall. Photograph: AP/NASA

Aaron Porter gives his verdict on the good (heading for a first) and the bad (heading for a fail) this week.

Heading for a first: Office for Fair Access (Offa)

It was Mission Impossible. For what would normally take months, but had to be just weeks because of the Government’s rushed higher education funding policy, the Office for Fair Access miraculously managed to sign off the full complement of access agreements this week, for institutions wishing to charge more than £6,000 a year from September 2012, on time and on schedule.

Rather than simply getting the agreements signed off on time and constrained by their existing powers, Offa truly deserves recognition for seeking out a significantly increased outlay from institutions to support the poorest students, but for doing so in the eye of a political storm. Total access agreement funding will be £602m by 2015-16, the first year with three cohorts of the new fee regime students, compared with £407m in 2011-12.

But almost as soon as the government had announced that the upper cap would be set at £9,000 back in November, Nick Clegg and Vince Cable took to the airwaves promising it would only be “in exceptional circumstances”. Nick Clegg even went to Cambridge University to “promise” – a word he should learn to use carefully – that universities would be prevented from charging the maximum unless “they can prove that they can dramatically increase the number of people from poorer and disadvantaged backgrounds who presently aren’t going”.

Sadly, this was another Clegg promise which showed a complete lack of understanding for the context in which he was operating, this time misunderstanding the role and remit of the office – which is an access regulator, not a price regulator. You’d have thought that the clue was in the title, but then again the deputy prime minister doesn’t have the best track record of twigging things that seem blindingly obvious to everyone else.

However, for as well as Offa has done in the circumstances, its role and remit won’t suffice in the new fees regime. The government needs to stick to what it set out in the white paper and afford new powers to the regulator, and when the new Offa director is appointed later this year, his or her first task will be to give the organisation some teeth and start to measure institutions on their impact and results, not on self-imposed targets.

Heading for a fail: the Treasury

If Offa had a good week, then, sadly, the Treasury had a bad one. For as the ink dried on the access agreements, the dim and distant pipe dream that the average fee would be £7,500 (as Treasury figures assume) were banished once and for all. The Offa analysis shows the average fee is £8,393, which comes down to £8,161 once fee waivers are taken into account. That makes a whopping £616 off per student. It might not sound much, but rough estimates suggest this could lead to a budget black hole of as much as £600m.

This is a big headache for the Treasury, given it has already subjected the higher education budget to the biggest cut in its history over the next four years. With public teaching funds for the arts, humanities and social sciences already gone, it isn’t obvious what the Treasury will do next.

David Willetts has rightly stated his intention to see student numbers grow, and it is surely unthinkable to look at the remaining teaching budget largely concentrated on Stem subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), or the widening participation premium which would surely be politically unpalatable to touch.

It almost borders on a conspiracy theory, but perhaps David Willetts knew all along that the average fee would be higher than £7,500, and this far down the road would now be impossible for the Treasury to cut further. Time will tell.

Guardian: First or Fail – Pearson and the University of Wales (Thur 7th July 2011) July 10, 2011

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Aaron Porter’s First or Fail: Pearson and the University of Wales

Aaron Porter puts the University of Wales and Pearson under the spotlight this week. But which gets the First and which gets a Fail?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/higher-education-network/blog/2011/jul/07/pearson-university-wales

WBA World Heavyweight Title - Nikolai Valuev v David Haye - Nuremberg Arena

Photograph: Nick Potts/PA

Heading for a First … Pearson

Following the publication of the higher education white paper, Pearson the publishing giant has acted speedily to agree a partnership with Royal Holloway, University of London, this week, which will validate a degree drawn up and designed by Pearson.

This is the first major step taken forward by the private provider, just a week after the white paper. It allows them to enter the degree-awarding ring for the first time. Pearson has not hidden its desire to gain university status itself eventually and award its own degrees, but for the time being this will be seen as a real coup. Of course, Pearson has lots of experience in offering qualifications; not only does it own the exam board EdExcel, but it also offers BTecs and HNDs already.

Of course sceptics have heralded this as private providers simply looking to earn a quick buck , but in truth this is likely to lead to more diverse offerings for students and the chance for qualifications to be studied in different ways. If successful, we are probably only a few strides away from seeing the establishing of the Pearson University.

Heading for a Fail … the University of Wales

The past seven days has gone from bad to worse for the University of Wales. Once regarded as an academic heavyweight, the last few days have seen the institution lurch from one PR crisis to the next. First, question marks were raised about the integrity, and even the legality, of links between the university and colleges in Malaysia and Thailand offering their degrees, according to the findings of a review from the Quality Assurance Agency. Many commentators described it as “the most damning report” of its kind they had seen, and a rare move away from the judgment of “confidence” which the agency has given to 99% of institutions.

Not content with a kicking from the QAA, Wales’ education minister, Leighton Andrews, also put the boot in, describing the farce as bringing Wales “into disrepute”. And then, just as things seemed like they could not get any worse, talks about the formation of a new super-university in Wales fell apart as UWIC walked away from discussions with Trinity St David and Swansea Metropolitan University as a clear consequence of the fall-out from the QAA’s judgement on the University of Wales.

And then, the final cherry on the cake was news that the chief executive of Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, Professor Philip Gummet, in a leaked letter reported by the BBC to the chair of council at the University of Wales, stated the farce was “a significant failure of central processes, and of oversight of these processes by senior management and the council”. For the higher education community, this is pretty damning stuff.