jump to navigation

Thur 24 Nov – Guardian HE Network – First or Fail – Lord Browne and UC Davis chancellor Linda Katehi: first or fail? November 28, 2011

Posted by AaronPorter in First or Fail, Higher Education.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Lord Browne and UC Davis chancellor Linda Katehi: first or fail?

Lord Browne redeems himself with a new prize for engineering, but the chancellor at University of California, Davis comes under fire


Linda Katehi

A petition is calling for the resignation of Linda Katehi, chancellor, University of California, Davis. Photograph: Paul Sakuma/AP

Heading for a first: Lord Browne

Almost exactly one year after his much contested review into higher education was published, Lord Browne of Madingley returned into the spotlight this week as the chair of trustees for the foundation overseeing the new Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering. Unlike his funding review, this announcement was greeted with fanfare and the even rarer sight of cross-party support as David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband all got behind the new initiative.

Since the industrial revolution, the UK has arguably the richest history of any country when it comes to engineering, and while the United States, China and India have probably soared past us in recent years, the establishing of a new £1m prize here in the UK to reward the very best global engineering feats has undoubtedly set engineering hearts racing in this country, and further afield too.

Remarkably this is the first prize that the queen has put her name to, and given the interest it has sparked in the global engineering community it is already being talked about as a rival to the Nobel prize. If ways can be found to start exciting the imagination of the pupils in our schools too, as well as the engineers in our universities and in industry, then its contribution will be worth several times more than the £1m prize fund that will be awarded to the winners every two years.

Heading for a fail: University of California Davis

This week UC Davis was plunged into disarray as its chancellor Linda Katehi allowed riot police to disperse a rather modest gathering of students occupying a part of the campus. In the wake of Occupy Wall Street, emulated this side of the pond with a similar gathering outside St Paul’s cathedral in London, a number of tented protests have sprung up on university campuses in the US. Although US authorities tend to be rather less tolerant of occupations, few expected the show of force that was thrust on protesters at Davis.

After getting the green light from Katehi, riot police wasted no time in trying to clear the small gathering of students. As students chose to hold their ground, what happened next was truly dreadful. Within minutes police moved from persuasion to forceful removal, but most shocking of all was the repeated use of pepper spray directly in the faces and mouths of non-resisting students. The whole farce was caught on film and has spread like wildfire on the internet.

Faced with the video evidence, Davis has been forced into acting decisively. The chief of campus police, Annette Spicuzza has been suspended while an investigation attempts to get to the bottom of exactly what happened and who it was authorised by. But as it was Katehi herself who sanctioned the police actions, and although she instructed them to do so peacefully, thousands of people have signed a petition calling for her resignation – no doubt fuelled with the anger of seeing students unceremoniously subjected to pepper spray.

Whatever your opinions on occupation as a tactic, there can surely be no justification for the use of such outrageous police actions to disperse a group of students who are peacefully trying to make a point – whether you agree with them or not.

Tue 25 Oct: Huffington Post – Talent 2030 – Making 13 Lucky October 26, 2011

Posted by AaronPorter in Higher Education.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Talent 2030 – Making 13 Lucky


The last 12 months have seen a great deal of attention given to our higher education system. I was at the heart of much of the debate last year as President of the National Union of Students, in the midst of the unprecedented anger, media questions about value for money and the perennial debate about students as consumers or co-producers. But for all the focus on fees and funding, the importance of ensuring talented British students are given useful information and adequate advice and guidance to progress to study subjects that will be intellectually stimulating and a vitally important contribution to our economy, has been largely forgotten.

So I am delighted to announce that with the Council for Industry and Higher Education (CIHE), I will be leading a new national campaign, Talent 2030, to ensure young people gain access to the information they need and be encouraged to progress to careers in manufacturing and engineering. It’s timely not just because there is so much emphasis on ensuring that universities and industry play their part in promoting future economic growth, but also because the university starters of 2030 are being born this year, and the people likely to recruit, train and employ them are at university right now.

By practically every measure the UK has one of the strongest higher education systems in the world, second only to the United States overall. But for all the positives, there is a looming problem. The support given to the brightest and the best school pupils to eventually progress onto careers in manufacturing and engineering remains fragile, with women progressing in particularly small numbers. Over the last few months, the Council for Industry and Higher Education (CIHE) has overseen a task force co-chaired by Professor Nigel Thrift (Vice-Chancellor, University of Warwick) and Richard Greenhalgh (former Chairman, Unilever UK) looking at what is required of schools, colleges, universities, business and government to ensure the UK can leverage its potential in order to maximise our international competitiveness, and there are a series of recommendations which the Talent 2030 campaign will now pick up.

The most pressing recommendations centre on improving information about the changing nature and importance of green technology across our industries, better information on academic choices and the subsequent earnings premium and encouraging more young women to pursue manufacturing and engineering challenging the increasingly flawed myth that it is a male-dominated profession.

Talent 2030 will flag up relevant information and guidance, including activity directly in schools and with 13 year old pupils in year 9 onwards. Combating the fact there are still too many university applicants that aren’t informed about specific degrees required for certain jobs, A levels needed for particular degrees or the GSCE subjects that will allow you to progress onto the relevant further study.

Every year there are thousands of 13 year olds who are either prevented or simply not given the right advice about choosing to study triple sciences at GSCE which shuts off a whole series of future career options. And the situation is often equally bad when it comes to A level choices for those who choose subjects that universities won’t count when it comes to degree applications, or fail to choose certain A levels that are essential for certain degree subjects like physics or mathematics for many degrees in engineering and the physical sciences.

It’s easy to start playing the blame game, pointing the finger at who needs to fix this; government, schools, careers services or universities. But the truth is, everyone has a responsibility to set about fixing it. Talent 2030 will bring together stakeholders from across education and industry to interact directly with students and their parents. Our website,
www.talent2030.org will be a hub of information, facts and case studies with plans for a schools roadshow and resources for teachers and careers advice, as well as activity with universities and industry to open the doors to young people.

It goes without saying that there are of course careers beyond manufacturing and engineering which are just as important. But I am particularly struck at the black spot in information which affect so many young people in relation to careers in manufacturing and engineering, particularly as these are careers where subject choices particularly matter and the quality of support can be so woeful.

At a time when the eventual contribution that pupils currently in our schools and future graduates will make to society is so important, this is a vital campaign to ensure the brightest and the best teenagers are supported to make the decisions that are right for them, and to help the UK realise its potential.