Category / Doctoral College
Daniel Hills (FMC PGR) has recently returned from the European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA) European Media and Communication Doctoral Summer School. This year it was held at Tartu University, Estonia between 9th to 16th July.
Taken from the ECREA website, the summer school brings together members of the European research community to this summer school in order to debate contemporary issues in media, communication and cultural studies. The summer school aims to provide a supportive international setting where doctoral students can present their ongoing work, receive feedback on their PhD-projects from international experts and meet students and academics from other countries, establishing valuable contacts for the future.
It is a full on conference including a variety of back-to-back workshops, lectures, group feedback sessions and consultation every day for 8 days, and is extremely intense. To qualify for this conference, I had to supply an initial 500 word abstract of my PhD, and following being successfully shortlisted for the next round, produce an expanded 3,000 word introduction and summary of my research project, as well as a 10 minute presentation summarising my research plans as they were prior to the summer school.
There were 40 delegates selected and I was lucky enough to be one of them. The conference commenced at 09:30 on the 8th with a half day meet and greet so we could all get to know one another and our personal areas of research. This was followed by lunch and then into an afternoon of interactive workshops taking us to 6PM. This was followed by a welcome drinks party where we could discuss our first day over a glass of wine and provided a great opportunity to bond with my new peers. Over the following days, we would cover a further 16 workshops, 5 lectures and most importantly for me, individual feedback sessions. Our large group was broken into 2 groups or 14 and 1 or 13, and over the course of the work were give an hour dedicated to presenting our research (10 minutes) maximum and then to receive a structured feedback from lecturers and peers whom had already read my 3,000 word paper. This delivered invaluable feedback for me and gave me a plethora of new perspectives which I had hitherto not considered.
I gained a great deal of insights, useful techniques and a re-ignition of enthusiasm towards my research throughout the 8 days, and would encourage anybody whom is more than a year into their research to apply for the 2020 version. I graduated with 10 ECTS points on the final day, but more importantly new-found knowledge and a new direction to progress with my PhD, and a whole lot of new friends and peers. I am planning on writing a paper with one of my new friends whom is interested in a similar field to my own. All in all, the ECREA European Media and Communication Doctoral Summer School has been one of the most useful academic experiences of my career to date.
Daniel Hills is a PhD researcher in the Faculty of Media and Communication at Bournemouth University, and is focusing his research in advertising planning and practice theory, aiming to complete in 2020.
Jeffrey Wale (FMC) has won a place on the Law in Context Early Career Workshop organised by the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies at the University of Oxford in September 2019. This followed an open competition involving PGRs submitting their PHD thesis in 2019. Ten applicants were chosen to participate and the best papers from the workshop will be considered for publication in the International Journal of Law in Context. Jeffrey will be presenting his doctoral research titled Regulating Medical Decision-Making: A Qualitative Study of Fetal Reduction in Multiple Pregnancy.
The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) run several fellowship schemes, a number of which are open to post-doctoral researchers. There are currently two fellowship roles with open applications.
- British Psychology Society (applications close 30 August)
- UK Research and Innovation Internships scheme (applications close 12 August)
These are 3-4 month placement fellowships, to experience working within a research and policy environment.
You can read the experience and viewpoints of outgoing POST intern, Fabiola Creed, here.
STEM for Britain, hosted by the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, is a poster competition for early-career researchers, and will take place in the Houses of Parliament on Monday 9th March 2020.
Applications for posters will open on Monday 23rd September 2019 to early career research scientists, engineers, technologists and mathematicians to exhibit posters in one of the following five areas:
- Biological and Biomedical Sciences
- Mathematical Sciences
Prizes will be awarded for the posters presented in each discipline which best communicate high level science, engineering or mathematics to a lay audience.
BU is inviting expressions of interest from those who would like to apply by Thursday 12th September. Please email Lisa Andrews, RDS Research Facilitator with two sentences on what your poster would cover. Applicants will be shortlisted on Monday 16th September. Those chosen to apply, will be supported to do so ahead of the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee’s external deadline of 2nd December.
Full details of the competition and exhibition, including the application form will be made available on www.stemforbritain.org.uk from 23rd September.
On Thursday 4 July CsJCC and NRG supported a one-day workshop that demonstrated and explored database use in Humanities Research. This was a two-part day that aimed to introduce participants to the possibilities of this approach, and then moved to discuss potential collaborative projects. It was attended by FMC colleagues and doctoral students researching multiple subjects (including English, Marketing, Advertising, Law, Journalism, Computer Animation, and Radio), and two external scholars.
Ian Stephenson (Senior Lecturer in Computer Animation and Faculty Data Champion) led the morning session, a gentle introduction to using standard query language (SQL) to ask complicated questions of multiple existing data tables. Research generates data, either during primary research or in the form of meta-data where we annotate and organise existing media. While simple notetaking can work at first, greater structure often becomes necessary as projects grow and evolve. Ian demonstrated how small, free programmes such as Postgres can easily be installed (without cost) on a laptop, providing the same power and flexibility as that of commercial datacentres to store and organise essentially unlimited amounts of data. This allows data to be securely stored, well organised, and shared between researchers, allowing us to ask new questions of the data, beyond the scope of the initial investigation.
This workshop grew out of Ian’s development of Julia Round’s database of Misty stories (available at www.juliaround.com/misty). Julia’s project explores the nature of the stories in the British girls’ comic Misty, and also contains supporting information on their creators, origins, and so forth (courtesy of online communities of scholars and fans). Her online database is searchable and will help interested readers find information on these things, but by its nature it’s not capable of asking more complicated questions. Ian developed this research into a relational database or series of interlinked tables, each focused around a subject such as stories (type, length, themes, character, etc), people (artist, writer, letterer, colourist, editor, etc), publication details (title, co-title, issue date, price, cover image, tagline, free gift, etc.), and so forth.
SQL thus enables us to ask questions that link all of this information. For example:
– In what months were new titles launched?
– When did price hikes take place and how does this look if adjusted for inflation?
– How long did merged comics titled usually last?
– Were boys and girls titles different in terms of pricing, story length, or other factors susceptible to numerical analysis?’
– Which artists’ work appeared on the covers most frequently?
– Which artists’ work appears in the internal colour (centre) pages most frequently?
– Which writers and artists most frequently worked together?
In his brief demonstration, Ian showed us some interesting statistics on a number of subjects. These included identifying patterns in story crossover points, i.e. where serials overlapped; the price rises in comics (which prior to the 1980s were not significant in the context of inflation and as compared to newspaper periodicals); and that almost all new titles were launched in February or at the end of the summer. In this way, participants saw how reconstructing simple spreadsheet data as a relational database allowed it to be expanded, interrogated and repurposed. By sharing such datasets, the borders of existing research projects can be extended and interdisciplinary and collaborative projects can be taken to new levels.
The afternoon session invited interested participants to discuss how we might collaborate on developing such a project. Discussion points included a review of what is out there already (sites such as the Grand Comics Database, Jinty blog, Girls’ Comics of Yesterday, Great News for All Readers, Down the Tubes, and so forth), and identification of what these sites do and don’t offer. It was felt that even the most inclusive sites such as the GCD don’t allow complex searches and that most sites/blogs are set up with a singular aim in mind. We thus agreed there was a demonstrable need for a live shared resource that would provide students, researchers and fans with access to a much wider dataset along with the ability to ask complex, interlinked questions of this data.
We were lucky enough to have a brief discussion with a colleague from the Law Department who advised us on copyright issues when including quotations and images, and also IP rights when incorporating data gathered by other people or the templates created to contain this. Images in particular will need to be kept within private circulation and database rights will need to be explored further to ensure we have the correct permissions from contributors.
To develop this project, first steps will be to find some server space to host this dataset. In the longer term, we will reach out to the academic and fan communities for the spreadsheet data currently held by individuals, using our existing networks and also through conference presentations demonstrating the value of this potential resource. Later steps will include expanding the scope of the database to a global level, and developing tools to allow contributors to directly add data, via funding bids or other initiatives.
The proposed database has clear benefits as a data discovery tool, with a demonstrable need from the community of comics scholars at multiple levels. It will have impact as a teaching aid and a source of primary data that will lead to research outputs.
The Doctoral College plays a central role in the development of the postgraduate research community, culture and environment here at BU. On 1st & 2nd July 2019, the Doctoral College Research Skills and Development Officer (Natalie Stewart) attended the UK Council for Graduate Education (UKCGE) Annual Conference with this year’s theme ‘enhancing postgraduate research cultures’ hosted at the University of Salford, MediaCity, Manchester.
The conference had a strong focus on how institutions can support positive PGR cultures and communities in which students can realise their potential. We explored the value of PGR education, listened to experiences of PGR students and discussed what a thriving PGR culture looks like. We also heard from Dr Mark Bennett from FindAUniversity who surveyed prospective PGRs on their expectations of a research degree, findings of which could help inform future provisions.
Day 2 was filled with thought-provoking oral presentation and workshops facilitated by colleagues from Heriot-Watt University, Birmingham City University, Imperial College London and University of Bath. They had us discussing and reflecting on our institutional support for PGRs in particular the activities and events we offer and whether these are actually what students want, how we measure event success, how we support PGRs ‘writing up’ and those PGRs approaching their Viva Voce examination. (If you would like to know how the Doctoral College currently supports these areas please get in touch). For further conference highlights you can view the #UKCGE19 twitter feed.
I look forward to working closely with PGRs and colleagues to further enhance the PGR research culture here at BU.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any thoughts or ideas you would like to discuss regarding PGR support. PGRs can freely submit feedback and suggestions via the anonymous RDP Feedback Survey which remains open year round.
All rivers lead to the sea, which is why it is important to consider the health of both our rivers and oceans. To celebrate the United Nations’ World Oceans Day 2019 (https://www.un.org/en/events/oceansday/) Genoveva Esteban and Dan Franklin from BU’s Department of Life and Environmental Sciences, with help from Thomas Hardye Academy’s 6th Form students and science teachers, showed Prince of Wales (Dorchester) Year 1 pupils how to study the invertebrate indicators of clean water, by kick sampling. Not only is it an important sampling method, it’s great fun too! Pupils were thrilled with their findings and recognised the significance of keeping rivers clean. The activity took place at the River Laboratory near Wareham (Dorset). Dr John Davy-Bowker (BU Visiting Fellow and Freshwater Biological Association Fellow) is gratefully acknowledged for his help throughout the day.
Genoveva Esteban, Dan Franklin and Katie Thompson
Bournemouth University Charity Impact Fund is a fantastic way to facilitate engagement with charitable organisations if one wishes to increase the impact of our research as well as collaboration opportunities for our students. In my case, I will be organising the first ever Dorchester Science Festival during National Science Week 2020 with the aim of strengthening BU’s relationship with Dorset charities, and to reach out to the local community. Partners involved are the Dorset County Museum, Dorchester Arts, the Jurassic Coast Trust, The Institute of Physics, and the Thomas Hardye School Academy. Dorchester Town Council (although not a charity) is also a key partner to gain access to local venues. The longer-term ambition is to use this event as the basis for a Bournemouth Science Festival, an event that has never taken place. The date for the Dorchester Science Festival has now been fixed for Saturday 14th March 2020. You are all invited!
If you would like further information please contact Genoveva F. Esteban email@example.com
Although after the frantic weeks in early Spring we seem now to be in a political limbo, when nothing is achieved except an escalation in rhetoric and an increase in polarisation, actually, there’s quite a lot going on. Some of it looks like political legacy building, but hey, if it works…
Sharing access to health and social research in the UK
BU is gathering views internally on the consultation “Make it Public” by the Health Research Authority. Responses to an internal survey will inform BU’s institutional response.
The HRA’s consultation gives everyone involved an opportunity to influence the Health Research Authority’s future strategy to improve public access to information about health and social research in the UK. Please read the strategy before you answer the questions.
The BU survey is anonymous, however we have asked about your role at BU to inform our response. We have taken the content and questions directly from the HRA’s consultation. Please take time to complete it if you have experience in this area.
New Commission for Students with Disabilities
The Minster has announced a new body to speak out for students with disabilities…or actually, has renamed an existing group and confirmed he supports its work. Chris Skidmore announces new Commission to improve support for disabled students: 27th June 2019. The OfS is setting it up: [The Minister] ”has instructed the Commission to identify and promote good practice which helps those with disabilities have a positive experience at university. The Commission, formerly Disabled Students’ Sector Leadership Group (DSSLG), will use the DSSLG’s existing guidance for providers on supporting disabled students inclusively and look at what more needs to be done.”
Universities Minister Chris Skidmore said:
- Living with a disability should never be a barrier to entering higher education and as Universities Minister, I am determined to ensure disabled students get the support they need to have a positive, life-changing university experience.
- There are a record number of students with a disability going to university, but we must do more to level the playing field and improve the experience and outcomes for disabled students.
- It’s my personal priority that those living with a disability have an equal chance to succeed in higher education. I want to see all universities face up to their responsibilities and place inclusion at the heart of their access and participation agenda.
- The Commission will look at approaches which work well to improve support for disabled students, such as more inclusive curricula, restructuring support for students and enhancing learning and teaching environments.
All those who backed Boris on the basis that he would flunk a hard Brexit (eg George Osborne at the Evening Standard) seem to have their bluff called. This week Boris Johnson has written to Jeremy Hunt saying that leaving on 31st October is a “do or die” thing. So it looks like he has been nobbled by the Brexiteers , perhaps spooked by the reaction stories of his private life into thinking that his lead with the membership was slipping away. He looks pretty committed now. But he has also made lots of speeches suggesting it is all going to be very straightforward….(there’s a million to one chance of not getting a deal, apparently).
Jeremy Hunt meanwhile has refused to make such a robust commitment but continues to challenge Boris on a number of fronts and to present himself as the experienced negotiator.
Both of them sound like the US President from time to time. And they are both making huge spending commitments. They were both at the Pavilion on Thursday evening, and the local news showed Boris giving BU a tiny plug and also repeating his commitment (as we noted last week) to removing international students from the immigration cap.
Last week we talked about the possibilities for recess being cancelled – that seems unlikely, so we are likely to have an announcement of the new PM on 22nd July, a frantic couple of days in Parliament and then a recess that will probably end earlier than usual, with EU negotiations taking place in the background – if they can find anyone to negotiate with in what is likely to be a long hot European summer.
Local MP Tobias Ellwood was mentioned on Monday’s Radio 4 Today programme talking about the ‘nuclear’ Brexit option of taking down Boris Johnson’s Government through a vote of no confidence should he intend to push through a no deal Brexit to ensure exit from the EU on 31 October. Tobias states a group of 12 backbencher and ministerial Conservatives are already in talks and prepared to risk their careers, including losing their Conservative candidacy, to bring Boris premiership down if he pursues a no deal Brexit. This would be done either through ministers joining backbencher dissidents to vote against the Government (and party whip) or a larger group of MPs abstaining en masse so the Government loses the vote. Tobias also featured on BBC’s Panorama programme talking about this potential rebellion. If the Government lost a no confidence vote it would pave the way for a general election.
Research England have published the Real-Time REF Review evaluating perceptions and attitudes towards the Research Excellence Framework (REF).
- Views on the REF are not as polarized or as extreme as is commonly believed, or reflected in coverage of the REF in the media. Extremely negative views were in the minority, while a majority of respondents had neutral or moderately negative attitudes about the REF.
- REF has both positive and negative influences on research activity. The REF is seen to increase engagement outside academia and the use of open research activities, whereas game playing and impacts on creativity are deemed to be the most negative influences.
- Open access and research practices was the most consistently positive and impactful influence of the REF on both researchers’ own work and UK academic culture. Survey data suggested the move to encourage more open research practices was seen as the most positive change in REF 2021.
- Researchers generally saw the changes to REF 2021 in a positive light. Increased emphasis on open research practices was seen as the most positive change.
- It may be fruitful for institutions to share best practices in REF readiness rather than attempting to ‘reinvent the wheel’ as the REF process approaches the submission stage and as the new rules are more widely embedded
- Notably, women and independent early and mid-career researchers reported that changes made to REF 2021 were more likely to influence the expectations placed on them, although it was not clear whether these changing expectations would be positive or negative ones. The finding that early-career researchers report more influence is consistent with interviews, in which managers highlighted a disproportionate influence of the REF on early-career academics. The difference across genders is also noteworthy and merits future consideration
- Although not assessed in the survey data, analysis of the interviews conducted with university managers revealed some negative impacts upon the health and well-being of the research community with respect to the REF. With respect to the changes to REF 2021 where equality and diversity considerations are taken more plainly into account, most managers felt that this would have a positive impact upon the well-being of academics for whom equality and diversity issues were faced in the previous REF 2014. Analysis suggests that the new approaches to equality and diversity and reduction in outputs may lessen anxiety and stress caused by the rules of the previous REF cycle.
- However, notable findings are: that those who identified as submitting to Panel B – engineering and physical sciences – reported the most beneficial influences on research activities in academic culture, and that those from Panel D – arts and humanities – reported the least beneficial influence of the REF on research activities.
- Further, in survey data, Panel C participants reported a greater influence of the REF on the quantity, quality, scope, and prestige of outputs they produced. This may suggest a challenge to meet expectations of the REF, particularly as interdisciplinary research is often located within this group of cognate disciplines.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid formally requested the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to review and advise on salary thresholds for the 2021 immigration system. All the details remain as we’ve already informed in previous policy updates, this simply triggers the requirement for the MAC to carry out the review (again) and report back to the Government in January 2020.
Sajid stated: “It’s vital the new immigration system continues to attract talented people to grow our economy and support business while controlling our borders. These proposals are the biggest change to our immigration system in a generation, so it’s right that we consider all of the evidence before finalising them. That’s why I’ve asked independent experts to review the evidence on salary thresholds. It’s crucial the new immigration system works in the best interests of the whole of the UK.”
In their last review the MAC advised the Government to continue with the existing minimum salary thresholds for the future immigration system. This means international entrants would need to be paid at least £30,000 (for an ‘experienced’ role) and new entrants (including recent graduates) at least £20,800.
The new review asks the MAC to
- consider how future salary thresholds should be calculated
- what levels to set salary thresholds at
- If there is a case for regional salary thresholds for different parts of the UK
- whether there should be exceptions to salary thresholds, e.g. newly started occupations or work shortage occupations.
HEPI have published Free Speech and Censorship on Campus defending free speech in Universities.
- HEPI say:the report recognises the concerns of those who wish to restrict free speech as a way of protecting others, but concludes that restrictions on free speech usually end up being counter-productive. Despite the UK’s Government’s strong rhetoric supporting free speech in universities, the paper claims the current single biggest threat to free speech on UK campuses currently comes from the Government’s own Prevent programme.
- Corey Stoughton, the author of the report, states:“…honest confrontation of legacies of discrimination and unequal distribution of power allow us to see how censorship replicates those problems and to focus on the real threats – like the UK Government’s ill-conceived Prevent strategy, which has had a demonstrable chilling effect on free speech in universities.”
- Nick Hillman, Director of HEPI, said: ‘We are delighted to be publishing this nuanced but firm defence of free speech. It challenges students, universities and, above all, Government Ministers to be more careful when they are tempted to impose new restrictions on free expression.There are few justifications for limiting free speech beyond current laws. That is true whether it is students wanting to block provocateurs from speaking or Government Ministers mixing up the prevention of terrorism with blocking legitimate free expression.’
In a debate on raising aspirations of secondary school pupils Dr Matthew Offord MP (Conservative) urged the Government not to view academic and technical education routes as two simplistic alternatives. He insisted that permeability and flexibility between different types of learning, throughout the academic journey would be crucial in underpinning increased social mobility and productivity. He also argued that HEIs must develop an understanding of T-levels to communicate entry requirements to prospective students and level 3 providers. He pushed the Government to drive collaboration between schools, universities and local Government. To raise aspirations within school age pupils he set out three elements to be addressed:
- interventions that focus on children’s parents and families
- interventions that focus on teaching practice
- out-of-school interventions or extracurricular activities
Shadow HE Minister Gordon Marsden (Labour) suggested the Government should pursue sustained and dedicated programmes, with children from a much earlier age, and with particular social and ethnic groupings. He also argued for the need to enact a robust, independent and wide-ranging review of admissions processes to higher education, removing unconditional offers and investigating the value of post-qualification admissions.
Nick Gibb (Minister for School Standards) stated “For the good of our economy, we need more young people to pursue degrees and careers in the sciences, including computer science. We have already seen excellent progress, with entries to STEM A-levels increasing by 23% since 2010”. The Minister reassured members that views expressed during the debate had been taken into account as part of the Post-16 review process.
Staff Mental Health
Q – Sir Mark Hendrick: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, with reference to the report by the Higher Education Policy Institute entitled Pressure Vessels: The epidemic of poor mental health among higher education staff, what assessment he has made of the reasons behind the increase in poor mental health among academics and the increasing numbers of university staff being referred to counselling and occupational health services.
A – Chris Skidmore:
- Mental health is a priority for this government which is why last week (17 June 2019) my right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister announced measures which overhaul the government’s approach to preventing mental illness. These measures include £1 million to the Office of Students for a competition to find innovative new ways to support mental health at universities and colleges.
- The Department for Education is also working closely with Universities UK on embedding the Step Change programme, which calls on higher education leaders to adopt mental health as a strategic priority and take a whole-institution approach to embed a culture of good mental health practice.
- The university Mental Health Charter announced in June 2018 will drive up standards in promoting mental health and wellbeing, positive working environments and excellent support for both students and staff.
- The Independent Review of the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers led by Professor Julia Buckingham has recognised issues of wellbeing and the challenges that arise from the use of short and fixed term contracts. Recommendations are currently under review and a revised concordat is expected by the end of June.
- However, universities are autonomous institutions and it is the responsibility of Vice Chancellors to give due consideration to the way their policies and practises impact on staff. This includes responsible use of performance management, workload models and other metrics to assure both student and staff success.
Changing nature of future work
The Learning and Work Institute has published Tomorrow’s World – Future of the Labour Market highlighting the shifts in employment culture and adaptive skills that young people will need for the future labour market. It suggests that young people will be increasingly likely to be self-employed, in busier jobs, need to adapt and more frequently update their skills because of the pace of technological changes and their longer working lives (50 years due to higher retirement age).
Some points from the report:
Young people will need a rising bar of skills needs and a wider pool of skills to enter and progress at work and to adapt to change. Changes in sectors and occupations, coupled with changes within existing jobs, imply an increased demand for interpersonal skills, cognitive skills, customer and personal service, English language, literacy, numeracy, digital, communication, team working, and management.
- A more diverse range of young people will participate in the labour market, with further increases in participation among women, people with disabilities, and other groups. This makes it even more important to tackle education and employment inequalities among young people, or these will have long-lasting impacts.
- Higher occupations and sectors such as health and social care are likely to continue to grow, and the nature of work will continue to change.
- There will be more opportunities for young people to work flexibly, with policy helping determine if this benefits both people and employers. Employment laws and the tax and benefit system need to support flexibility and security for young people. More workers in the workforce with caring responsibilities means employers will need to offer more flexible options.
- Longer working lives and economic change mean young people will need to be adaptable and flexible. A wider and deeper core set of skills will help young people adapt. Learning and social security systems must reflect this ‘new normal’.
Stephen Evans, Chief Executive of the Learning and Work Institute, stated:
“Young people are going to face huge changes during 50 year careers. Attention often focuses on the risk of robots replacing jobs, but further growth in self-employment and changing skills requirements in most jobs could perhaps have bigger impacts. Young people must get the support they need to prepare for this future. It is no good just focusing on the skills needed for jobs today, we also need to give young people the skills they need to adapt to future changes, many of which cannot be predicted accurately.”
The Sutton Trust has published Elitist Britain 2019.
The nature of Britain’s ‘elite’ is higher in the national consciousness than ever, with a series of events, including 2016’s vote to leave the European Union, putting a focus on the strained trust between significant sections of the population and those at the highest levels of politics, business and the media.
Social mobility across the UK is low and not improving, depriving large parts of the country of opportunity. This contributes strongly to this sense of distance. This study, conducted for the first time by both the Sutton Trust and the Social Mobility Commission, looks at the backgrounds of around 5,000 individuals in high ranking positions across a broad range of British society, and provides a definitive document of who gets to the top in Britain in 2019.
The report paints a picture of a country whose power structures remain dominated by a narrow section of the population: the 7% who attend independent schools, and the roughly 1% who graduate from just two universities, Oxford and Cambridge.
- Politics, the media, and public service all show high proportions of privately educated in their number, including 65% of senior judges, 59% of civil service permanent secretaries and 57% of the House of Lords.
- 39% of the cabinet were independently educated, in stark contrast with the shadow cabinet, of which just 9% attended a private school.
- Significant is decline of grammar school alumni among the elite (20%), down about 7 percentage points in five years, and a consequent rise in those educated at comprehensives (40%, up 9%). This reflects the abolition of the selective system in most of England during the 1960s and 70s, and the rise of the comprehensively educated generation to positions of power.
Access to professions
- Law, defence and the academic world had the highest level of these “elites”.
- University Vice Chancellors had relatively low levels of private school and Oxbridge educated members among their number
- Media – Britain’s media, including newspaper columnists, and high-profile editors and broadcasters, had some of the highest rates of attendance at independent schools and elite higher education institutions. Newspaper columnists, who play a significant role in shaping the national conversation, draw from a particularly small pool. Only 5% of newspaper columnists attended a non-Russell Group University.
- Police and Crime Commissioners were more likely than those elected at local council level to have attended independent school, 29%, the same as MPs.
- Civil service permanent secretaries (59%), Foreign Office diplomats (52%), and Public Body Chairs (45%) have among the highest rates of independently educated in their ranks. Despite recent efforts to overhaul entry into the Civil Service, its highest levels remain highly exclusive, with 56% of permanent secretaries having graduated from Oxford or Cambridge, and 39% having attended both a private school and Oxbridge.
- The chairs of public bodies were more likely than their CEOs to have come from exclusive educational institutions; 45% from independent schools compared to 30%. This may reflect the age of such post-holders as well as their social class background.
- Women are under-represented across the top professions (5% of FTSE 350 CEOs, 16% of local government leaders, 24% of senior judges, 26% of permanent secretaries and 35% of top diplomats). Socio-economic class and gender can often combine to create a ‘double disadvantage’, with women from lower socio-economic backgrounds less likely to be socially mobile. Interestingly for women who do make it to the top, their journeys do not always look the same as those of their male peers. In a variety of sectors, women at the top are less likely to have attended Oxbridge than their male counterparts.
- The Creative Industries had the lowest levels of these groups; however, among the wealthiest members of the TV, film and music industries, university attendance was higher (42%), with about a quarter attending Russell Group institutions. Also 38% of independent school attendees, although the number attending comprehensives has risen by 18% since 2014.
Policy recommendations from the report:
Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Sutton Trust and the Education Endowment Foundation, stated:
“Britain is an increasingly divided society. Divided by politics, by class, by geography. Social mobility, the potential for those to achieve success regardless of their background, remains low. As our report shows, the most influential people across sport, politics, the media, film and TV, are five times as likely to have attended a fee-paying school.
“As well as academic achievement an independent education tends to develop essential skills such as confidence, articulacy and team work which are vital to career success. The key to improving social mobility at the top is to tackle financial barriers, adopt contextual recruitment and admissions practices and tackle social segregation in schools. In addition, we should open up independent day schools to all pupils based on merit not money as demonstrated by our successful Open Access scheme.”
The Association of School and College Leaders released this statement:
“We need to do many things to break this cycle but a good start would be for universities and industry to do more to recognise the background of candidates through the greater use of contextual recruitment and admissions practices, as the report recommends.
Industrial Strategy developments – tourism sector deal
The government have published the Tourism sector deal – the latest in a string of sector specific plans linked to the Industrial Strategy. They have also published an International Business Events Action Plan outlines how government will support the events industry in attracting, growing and creating international business events.
We have pulled out the actions from the sector deal below:
- The government will work closely with industry on the rollout of two new T Level courses to help deliver the hospitality and tourism workers of the future.
- The government will continue working with industry, through ‘Fire It Up’ and other campaigns, to promote apprenticeship and the opportunities for careers in the hospitality and tourism sector.
- The government will engage fully with industry during its Post-16 Qualifications review to ensure the sector has an opportunity to feed into future policy development.
- `The Department for Work and Pensions will continue its partnership agreement with the hospitality industry to help provide its customers with a structured route into work in the Sector.
Sector action to support tourism
- The sector will create 30,000 apprenticeship starts each year by 2025, covering all grades, from entry-level roles up to degree-level apprenticeship, and across a range of disciplines.
- Employers will commit over £1m of funding to an ambitious retention and recruitment programme to revolutionise the pipeline of talent that joins the sector.
- A new industry mentoring programme will be developed to support 10,000 employees each year. This will aim to enhance careers as well as helping to ensure talented people remain within the sector.
- The sector will increase the percentage of the workforce receiving in-work training to 80 per cent.
- The government will pilot up to five new Tourism Zones to increase visitor numbers across the country. More information about the bidding process will be released later in the year, with a view to commencing projects in 2020.
- Tourism Zones will also receive a range of support co-ordinated by central government.
Sector action to support tourism
- Tourism Zones will be developed and delivered by businesses local authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships (in England) who will determine the specific priorities of an area.
- A range of larger businesses have offered training and support for small and medium enterprises within Tourism Zones.
- Alongside the Sector Deal the UK government’s International Business Events Action Plan 2019-2025 has been published and sets out the steps the UK government will take to support the UK to maintain its position as a leading destination for hosting international business events in Europe.
- The UK government will achieve this by providing support in relation to the six key drivers that event decision makers consider when determining where to host an event, from providing government advocacy to financial support.
Sector action to support tourism
- The Events Industry Board, set up to advise government, has identified two priority areas which they can help and support – skills and infrastructure. These priorities are being considered by working groups set up by the Board and will report later in the year.
- The UK government will make travel to the UK and around the UK easier for tourists through the development of its Maritime and Aviation strategies, as well as a number of rail policy developments.
- The UK government is investing in a number of projects across the Museums, Heritage and Arts sectors that will enhance visitor’s experience. These include supporting the conservation work at Wentworth Woodhouse, the development of a new interpretation centre at Jodrell Bank and the development of England’s Coast Path, the world’s longest coastal path.
- The UK government will launch a new £250k competition to improve broadband connectivity in conference centres. This will be a UK wide competition.
- The UK will build on its excellent existing offer, to become the most accessible destination in Europe.
- The British Tourist Authority will increase their publicity about accessible travel and provide inbound visitors with increased information about the accessibility offer in the UK through a brand new website.
Sector action to support tourism
- Industry will create an extra 130,000 bedrooms across the UK by 2025 – a significant increase of 21 per cent in accommodation stock.
- Industry will continue to invest in tourism attractions and innovative products, to remain a global leader in the experiences the UK offers visitors.
- The sector will support the UK government’s ambition to be most accessible destination in Europe. They will take forward a number of measures, including better coordination of accessible itineraries online, and increasing the visibility of people with accessibility issues in promotion and marketing campaigns
- The government has supported the British Tourist Authority development of Tourism Exchange Great Britain. Launching in June 2019, this is an online business-to-business platform, which will connect tourism suppliers to global distributors.
- The UK government has provided £40k to the Tourism Alliance in England to carry out further research on how, where and why businesses within the sector obtain advice on compliance, which will inform the shape of further advisory services including Primary Authority.
Sector action to support tourism
- The industry and British Tourist Authority will work together to create a new, independent Tourism Data Hub, which can help the sector across the UK to better understand visitors’ preferences for location, activities and products in real time. It will also enable the sector for the first time to gather better data about the people choosing not to holiday in the UK
“The Action Plan lists a set of criteria that events will need to meet in order to qualify for the UK Government’s support. This includes criteria on the minimum number of delegates and the proportion of those travelling from overseas. It then outlines the UK Government’s support offer across a number of areas. Key actions include:
- Government advocacy – A comprehensive advocacy package will be offered – ranging from Ministers being available to write letters of support in order to help with bidding for events to offers of hosting delegates in historical Government property;
- Financial support – We will continue funding the VisitBritain led Business Events Growth Programme,and look at opportunities for expanding it, especially where business events are identified as critical to meeting the UK’s key economic sector objectives; and,
- Arrivals and welcome – The Border Force and UK Visas and Immigration will offer a relevant support offer to delegates.”
Life Transition Point Learning: The Learning and Work Institute published Learning at Life Transitions focussing on the importance of understanding the needs of adult learners particularly at the key points in their lives when they might be more or less likely to take up learning opportunities. In particular, these points can be parents returning to work after caring for young children and also people preparing for retirement.
Transition back to work after caring for children:
- Adults, and in particular women, with caring responsibilities who are outside of the labour market are under-represented in learning
- Taking parental leave or returning to work can act as a trigger to engage in learning. This can result from greater time or a change in attitude or perspective.
- Returners also face a range of barriers to learning. Adults returning to work after caring for children tend to face significant challenges in relation to work and time pressures, primarily related to childcare
Transition into and through retirement: Participation in, and decisions about, types of learning opportunities alter as adults retire. Although participation in learning tends to decline with age, those approaching retirement have higher levels of participation than the national average.
- Moving into retirement can create space to consider learning for enjoyment for the first time. The perceived value of learning can often be greater than at previous life stages, with many adults placing greater value on the role of learning, particularly in relation to providing intellectual and social stimulation.
- Adults facing retirement experience a range of barriers to engaging in learning. Attitudinal factors, such as feeling too old, not wanting to learn or the perception that their skills and capabilities may have deteriorated can be common.
The report’s recommendations for Policy:
- National lifelong learning strategy – It is vital that every effort is made to harness the opportunities presented by the 4th Industrial Revolution, while ensuring that no one – including those seeking to leave or return to the labour market – is left behind.
- Increase investment in lifelong learning – Government should reverse the decade-long fall in real-terms investment in lifelong learning to drive economic growth, promote social justice and support inclusive communities
- Personal learning accounts – Government should develop and trial a personal learning account model, as a mechanism to both stimulate greater engagement in learning and provide a vehicle through which investment in learning by the state, employers and individuals can be aligned and optimised.
- As part of the wider development of the National Retraining Scheme, the government should give particular attention to how returners can be supported to upskill and retrain to re-enter the labour market.
- Access to apprenticeships. Flexible timetabling and blended learning options to facilitate part-time and flexible apprenticeship models should be developed and promoted.
Dame Ruth Silver, President of the Further Education Trust for Leadership
The changing nature of work and of retirement mean that these transitions are changing in nature and need to be rethought. People are more likely to move between jobs, or to need to re-skill or up-skill, than they were 20 or 30 years ago. They are also much more likely to continue working after ‘retirement’, or to seek different ways of combining work and life, and not only when approaching the sort of age traditionally associated with retirement. Transition is increasingly a part of our everyday life; an ongoing consideration.
The leaders of every general further education college in England have written an open letter to the Chancellor and Secretary of State for Education urging them to “answer the calls from business” and respond to the “challenges of technological change and Brexit” by urgently investing in the country’s technical and vocational education system by implementing the main recommendations of the government’s recent Post-18 Education Review. The Augar Review called for, amongst other things, an end to the 17.5% cut in education funding for 18-year-olds, support so that everybody, regardless of age, to achieve to at least level three, and a rebalancing of the traditional post-18 educational landscape.
- In many respects the Augar Review represents a wider emerging consensus across England. We are sure that you will agree with us and other key stakeholders that further education colleges have been neglected, and that there is now a growing appreciation of their unique role, value and potential. What we now need are decisions and commitments: with your political leadership, support and resolve, colleges will be able to build on what they already do to reach more employers and more adults and make the differences our economy and society need.
David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges said: It is extraordinary to have every leader in every general further education college in the country collaborate like this. But then these are extraordinary times. These college leaders are uniquely placed at the hearts of their communities, working closely with local, national and international business, supporting individuals to get on in life, and driving the social mobility agenda. Government needs to listen to them if they’ve got any chance of tackling the major issues this country faces, now and in the future.
Welsh Digital Skills: the Welsh Government have published a strategic framework for post-16 digital learning to increase the continuity of learning experiences and transition from compulsory to post-compulsory learning provision. Vision and aims:
- Clear, nationally agreed standards for digital skills are in place to enable learners and staff to meet industry, private and public sector requirements, building on the digital competences developed during compulsory schooling
- The coherence and accessibility of digital learning is increased through a range of curriculum delivery methods that are appropriate to learner and employer needs
- The benefits of digital technology, and possible barriers to their achievement, are understood by all staff including senior leaders
- A culture of collaboration ensures that information and best practice are shared to drive effective use of digital skills to support leadership, learning and business processes
- Staff, learning and business resources are aligned to enable efficient support of the continually evolving digital requirements of post-16 education
Kirsty Williams, Welsh Education Minister, stated: Our Economic Action Plan highlights the importance of businesses adapting to the opportunities and the challenges presented by new technologies in order to grow the Welsh economy and pursue our aim of prosperity for all. We can’t predict exactly how technology will evolve over the next decade, but we can equip our post-16 learners with the confidence and capability they will need to use digital tools in their work and their everyday lives.
What’s your favourite subject?
The British Academy published a YouGov Poll revealing the nation’s favourite school and university subjects. The study, entitled, ‘a nation of enquiring minds’ reveals that:
- Given the opportunity to start a university degree tomorrow, UK adults were most likely to choose a subject in the humanities and social sciences –
- 28% would opt for either the humanities (14%) or social sciences (14%),
- engineering and technology (10%)
- mathematics and computing (10%)
- medicine (9%) .
- English (17%) and history/classics (15%) topped a list of the nation’s favourite school subjects,
The report finds that arts, humanities and social sciences (AHSS) graduates look forward to strong employment prospects. It states AHSS graduates are as likely to have a job, as resilient to economic downturn, and just as likely to avoid redundancy as STEM graduates. However, AHSS graduates are more flexible (more likely than STEM graduates to voluntarily change job or sector).
Professor Sir David Cannadine, President of the British Academy, said: “The humanities and social sciences help us to make sense of the world in which we live so it is little wonder that the desire to study these subjects at school and university is so great. We not only love the humanities and social sciences in the UK but we also excel at them. Graduates from these disciplines are highly employable and able to weather the changes of a fluctuating job market, while our researchers are disproportionately successful in international funding competitions, punching well above their weight on the world stage.
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Information for Postgraduate Research Students & Supervisors
The Researcher Development Programme (RDP) Brightspace unit has been refreshed. This should make accessing resources and workshops quicker and easier. So what’s changed?
- Content is no longer divided by Vitae RDF domains, instead all workshops are merged into one area and all online content has been merged into a separate area.
- Some workshops have been combined in one content area, for example milestone preparation, research philosophy, research designs and research methods.
- ‘Additional resources’ information will continue to be added to workshop contents to supplement workshop learning – so check these out.
- These changes have been reflected in the quick links on the homepage.
The feedback form remains live. It is always valuable to hear your thoughts and views on all aspects of the RDP to ensure its meeting your needs.
The new RDP brochure is currently in design and will be available (in print and PDF) from early September; the new design will reflect these Brightspace updates. Workshop dates and times will also be released in early September and ready to book.
Although RDP workshops have finished for this academic year, you still have access to all online content including the 18 research skills masters programme online modules, the new Video Arts e-learning and videos and much more online content.
If you have any questions regarding your researcher development or the resources available to you, please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best wishes, Natalie.
Chloe Casey is a first year PhD student from the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences who is researching the mental wellbeing of postgraduate researchers (PGRs). Research suggests that the prevalence of poor mental health is higher in PGRs than in other student populations or the highly educated general public, yet few researchers have implemented interventions to promote wellbeing in doctoral students. We follow Chloe as she attends her first academic conference in Brighton: The UK Council of Graduate Education’s first annual conference on the Mental Health and Wellbeing of Postgraduate Researchers, where she presented with her supervisor, Dr Steve Trenoweth.
En route to Brighton from Bournemouth on the earliest train I have ever boarded. I thought I would do some work to distract myself from worrying about the presentation, whether I’ve chosen the right outfit or if people will think I’m smart enough to be there!
I don’t know what I was panicking about, everyone from professors to other PGRs were really open and willing to learn from each other. Apart from my initial worry: ‘is everyone in the world researching the same topic as me?!’ I realised that although there were consistent themes we all seem to be approaching the issue using different methods.
A conference highlight for me was listening to John de Pury from Universities UK discuss their wellbeing strategies through the PGR lens. There was a real sense that the HEI sector and policy makers are starting to take note that PGRs aren’t the same as other students and need support tailored to their needs.
The break-away sessions were a great opportunity to network with other researchers and HEI professionals in smaller groups. As a PGR myself, my favourite session was ‘Fail again, fail better’, celebrating failure as a wellbeing intervention for doctoral students. Research is a rollercoaster, it’s exploratory, frustrating and rewarding. We should honestly share our ups and downs with others, not to normalize struggle, but engage with failure as a positive, learning process.
I loved the use of a life grid in a research project from the University of Lincoln; it visually showed the highs and lows of doctoral study and what we all experience as PGRs.
Our presentation of Steve’s study results was well received and I heard some really useful feedback about my research proposal. Dr Gill Houston from UKCGE chaired our session and said we should come back to present the results of my research in 2020. I’m so glad my supervisor provided me with the opportunity to practice presenting and to promote my own research. I’ve had the chance to exchange ideas and build relationships with some great contacts.
I’m so glad I took the time out of studying to attend the conference, the experience was invaluable. It’s reassuring to know as a researcher that you are working in an exciting, up-and-coming topic area, but also as a doctoral student to hear the collaborative efforts of the HEI sector, policy makers and researchers to promote wellbeing and encourage a positive postgraduate research experience.
The photo of the week series is a weekly series featuring photos taken by our academics and students for our Research Photography Competition, which provides a snapshot of some of the incredible research undertaken across the BU community.
This week’s photo of the week, ‘Happy Place,’ is by Chloe Casey, a PGR student from the faculty of Health and Social Sciences.
This photograph represents my ‘happy place’ where I escape my all-consuming doctoral research. The PhD experience is said to be difficult, autonomous and characterised by high workloads and pressure, so it is important that postgraduate researchers are encouraged to prioritise their own well-being throughout the journey. There has been much interest in the mental health of undergraduate students but there is limited research exploring factors underpinning the mental well-being of postgraduate research students specifically. However, preliminary results suggest a high risk of stress, anxiety and burnout in this population. It is documented that the organisational stressors that doctoral students experience can impact academic performance and attrition, but these require further exploration. Postgraduate researchers are often part of wider research teams and their output provides scientific advancement, societal and institutional benefits therefore programme attrition can pose significant personal and financial costs. Our research is concerned with exploring and understanding the promotion of well-being in doctoral students and developing methods to promote their mental health and resilience so they are best supported to thrive academically, achieve their personal goals and successfully complete their planned research.
The article titled “The effects of 8 weeks of inspiratory muscle training on the balance of healthy older adults: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study” has been published by Physiological Reports.
It is the first research to describe the effects of inspiratory muscle training (i.e. breathing exercises that improve the strength of inspiratory muscles) on static and dynamic balance (measured with the clinical tool mini-BEST) and functional mobility (such as Timed Up and Go and 5 sit to stand tasks) with community dwellers older adults (aged 65+).
The article is now fully available as open access here
To examine the effects of 8‐week unsupervised, home‐based inspiratory muscle training (IMT) on the balance and physical performance of healthy older adults. Fifty‐nine participants (74 ± 6 years) were assigned randomly in a double‐blinded fashion to either IMT or sham‐IMT, using a pressure threshold loading device. The IMT group performed 30‐breath twice daily at ~50% of maximal inspiratory pressure (MIP). The sham‐IMT group performed 60‐breaths once daily at ~15% MIP; training was home‐based and unsupervised, with adherence self‐reported through training diaries. Respiratory outcomes were assessed pre‐ and postintervention, including forced vital capacity, forced expiratory volume, peak inspiratory flow rate (PIFR), MIP, and inspiratory peak power. Balance and physical performance outcomes were measured using the shortened version of the Balance Evaluation System test (mini‐BEST), Biodex® postural stability test, timed up and go, five sit‐to‐stand, isometric “sit‐up” and Biering–Sørensen tests. Between‐group effects were examined using two‐way repeated measures ANOVA, with Bonferroni correction. After 8‐week, the IMT group demonstrated greater improvements (P ≤ 0.05) in: PIFR (IMT = 0.9 ± 0.3 L sec−1; sham‐IMT = 0.3 L sec−1); mini‐BEST (IMT = 3.7 ± 1.3; sham‐IMT = 0.5 ± 0.9) and Biering–Sørensen (IMT = 62.9 ± 6.4 sec; sham‐IMT = 24.3 ± 1.4 sec) tests. The authors concluded that twice daily unsupervised, home‐based IMT is feasible and enhances inspiratory muscle function and balance for community‐dwelling older adults.
The Universities Minister, has delivered the first in a series of four planned speeches on how the UK can best achieve its ambition to invest 2.4% of GDP in R&D by 2027. It was a surprising speech in some ways, short on announcements, although there were some, and long on wishful thinking. We’ve pulled out some bits below. For a healthy dose of cynicism/realism we recommend the annotated version by HE for Research Professional.
Investment – To achieve our target of 2.4%, total UK R&D investment would need to rise to around £60bn in today’s money. More than double our current investment levels. This would require us to have invested an additional sum of over £80bn cumulatively each year from 2017 across the public and private sectors.
People – It doesn’t matter how much money we pump into R&D over the years ahead, it won’t make the intended difference if we don’t have the right people in place. Ensuring a strong pipeline of talent will be essential for bolstering the UK’s research prowess. We are also going to have to substantially increase the numbers of people we have working in R&D in the same period – perhaps by as much as 50%. To put that in figures, that means we need to find at least another 260,000 researchers to work in R&D across universities, across business and across industry.
International staff and students – We are making it easier for international graduates to move into skilled work. International students studying for undergraduate level and above will be able to apply for a visa three months before their course finishes – enabling them to take up skilled work after their degree. They will also be able to apply for a skilled work visa out-of-country under the same preferential conditions as they would experience if they were to apply for a visa in-country. In addition, a reformed sponsorship system will provide a simplified and more streamlined system. This will be less burdensome for employers and will enable businesses to harness the talent they need more easily. We set out a clear ambition in our International Education Strategy earlier this spring: to grow the numbers of international students studying in UK universities to 600,000 by the end of the next decade.
Our current research culture relies on dominant power structures, where doctoral candidates and post-docs are largely dependent on supervisors or PIs for references and progression. This puts the power firmly in other people’s hands. Is it any wonder, then, that less than half of doctoral researchers report they would be likely to disclose any mental health and wellbeing issues to their supervisors? This closed culture urgently needs to change. So, I hope future joint work by the Office for Students (OfS) and Research England into the mental health and wellbeing of doctoral researchers can identify good practice to take forward in this area.
….the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers, first launched in 2008. …I am pleased that an independent review of the Concordat has just taken place to ensure it is up-to-date to meet the needs of today’s researchers. And I look forward to seeing the revised version of the Concordat when it is published later this summer. As Universities and Science Minister, I am serious about taking the Concordat forward. And I am pleased to be hosting a high-level meeting with the Chair of the Concordat Strategy Group, Professor Julia Buckingham. Alongside Sir Patrick Vallance and other key sector leaders, to discuss how we can further improve research careers in the UK.
I also encourage the OfS, Research England, and UKRI as a whole to look more widely at how the implementation of current policies affect researchers on the ground. The three higher education excellence frameworks – namely the REF, TEF and the KEF – are all integral to the way we govern and fund higher education, science, research and innovation. But we need to make sure they are not disproportionately affecting early career researchers and putting extra strains on their work. The recent headlines about universities spending around £87m on non-disclosure agreements since 2017 doesn’t help us to project an image of a sector that cares for its employees.
Academia in industry
For too long, there has been a stigma in this country around pursuing non-academic research careers. So, we should never look down on early career researchers if they opt for a career outside academia. Rather, we should actively encourage our PhDs and post-docs to see the merits of pursuing an R&D career in other sectors and industries. For one, we need to stop talking about jobs outside academia as being ‘second choice careers’ or ‘Plan B options’. For our 2.4% target to work, we need people to be actively considering research careers across the entire science and innovation system.
So, isn’t it high time we start to better connect graduates with the evident skills gaps we are experiencing right across our labour market? Yet, this isn’t going to be easy when many of their main role models inside universities know very little about careers in industry. And are themselves either unaware or unconvinced of the strength of research positions outside academia. There are schemes that aim to address this issue – such as the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Visiting Professors scheme. This funds senior industry practitioners to participate in course development, face-to-face teaching and the mentoring of Engineering undergraduates at a host university. It is a great programme, but it is not widespread practice. The difficulties aren’t just on the side of universities. Some employers are unused to recruiting PhDs and don’t fully understand the benefits that those with higher academic qualifications can bring to their workforce. I think of this as the ‘graduate paradox’ – the higher the academic qualifications you have, the less professionally qualified you may seem. This, I feel, is a particular UK problem we need to address.
Gaps – We still have some way to go to eradicate gender pay gaps in the sector and increase the proportion of women in academic and research leadership. Not to mention the number of Black and Ethnic Minority role models that will inspire others and show them a research career can really be for people like them.
- The 41 winners of the first ever Future Leaders Fellowships have been announced. The fellowships aim to develop early career researchers who will become world-leaders in their fields, intending for their research to maintain the UK’s reputation for being at the forefront of science and innovation. The winners share £40 million, with the scheme costing £900 million over 3 years. The projects funded include using cloud computing to monitor changes of all glaciers in the Arctic and Antarctic and how children’s adventurous play can lower levels of anxiety in young people.
- First call for the new Stephen Hawking Fellowships issued. Working with the Hawking family, UKRI will support up to 50 postdoctoral scientists in theoretical physics over the next five years.
Italian Partnership – Research England have announced their partnership with the Italian National Agency for the Evaluation of the University and Research Systems, ANVUR, which will support research assessment and the evaluation of knowledge exchange in English and Italian universities. David Sweeney, Executive Chair of Research England commented: “ANVUR is at the leading edge in the international landscape of knowledge transfer assessment and it was very helpful to discuss Italy’s research evaluation.”
The DfE have published the Postgraduate Master’s Loan evaluation. The Master’s Degree Loan Scheme was launched by the Government in June 2016, and was the first time that Government provided finance to contribute to costs for postgraduate master’s study. The aims of the loan were to:
- Increase take up of master’s courses
- Enable progression onto master’s courses for those who could not afford to self-finance or would have to delay starting to save up for a master’s course
- Improve the supply of highly skilled individuals to the UK economy
The evaluation follows up the first cohort of master’s students who started in 2016/17 with the new loan and found positive outcomes.
- Data from the HESA Student Record shows that there was a substantial increase in the overall number of Master’s students enrolling at English HEIs. This growth was driven by a 36% increase in enrolments from England-domiciled loan eligible students. (However, these figures may be overinflated as 2015/16 master’s students may have deferred starting their study a year to benefit from the loan in the following year. The report notes BAME students were particularly likely to do this with 61% reporting they deferred entry specifically for this reason.)
- Most HEIs interviewed (75%) said the number of enrolments from students onto courses eligible for postgraduate loans increased in 2016/17. Among those which reported an increase in numbers, the majority (84%) attributed this at least in part to the introduction of the Master’s Loan.
- Students themselves confirmed the importance of the Loan in enabling them to study. Nearly three-quarters (72%) of students starting their course in 2016/17 felt that they would have been unable to undertake their specific Master’s course without the Master’s Loan, while around a third (36%) agreed that they would “never even thought about studying a Master’s” if the Master’s loan had not been available.
- While there were no substantial changes to the age or gender profile of students, the proportion of Black students increased substantially between 2015/16 and 2016/17 (but see above).
- Quicker – Analysis of the HESA student record indicates a trend towards a greater proportion of full-time study. While the proportion of loan-eligible England-domiciled students studying full-time remained relatively constant in the period prior to the introduction of the loan (at 54-56%), this proportion increased to 62% in 2016/17.
- Sooner – 90% of master’s loan recipients “agreed that the Master’s Loan had enabled 14 them to begin postgraduate study sooner”. Students in receipt of the Loan were more likely to have progressed from undergraduate to postgraduate study within a year (48%) than those not in receipt of the Loan (23%). The main reason for this given by students in the qualitative interviews was that without the Master’s Loan, they would have had to spend several years building their savings in order to afford it
- Students in receipt of the Loan were more likely to say that their main reason for studying was to improve their employment prospects (20% compared with 12% of those not in receipt of the Loan). Prior to loan introduction (2013/14 cohort) more stated their main motivation was interest in the subject.
- Almost all students (94%) expected to receive at least one benefit as a result of their programme, five years after completing their study. 74% believed they would be earning more money, and a similar proportion (73%) expected to have more job choices. Being in a more senior role and being in a more specialist role were each mentioned by 70% of students, and 68% anticipated they would be in a higher pay band.
- There was no change in the proportion receiving either funding from their HEI or funding from their employer to pay for tuition fees. Hence, so far, there is no indication of the Master’s Loan ‘crowding out’ other sources of funding.
- 70% of Master’s starters in 2016/17 also worked (35% FT, 35% PT) – it was only 58% that worked in 2013/14. The evaluation notes a higher proportion of starters in 2016/17 funded all or part of their tuition fees through employment than the comparator group of 2013/14. 52% of students stated that without the loan for their living expenses or fees they may not have been able to undertake the course. However, 46% would have self-funded or found other methods to fund their course leading to questions on whether the loan is providing funding for those who could have afforded the course anyway.
- Interestingly (messages for UG differential fees perhaps?) were that 41% of loan students would have changed their study to afford a masters (a) 25% choosing a cheaper course, (b) 19% choosing a different course, (c) 22% choose same course but at a different institution. BAME students were most likely (33%) to change their plans.
- The master’s loan contributes up to £10,000 towards the fees/living expenses of master’s study. However, most respondents stated it was not enough and the difficulties of working coupled with the intensity of master’s study meant they had to rely on parents to top them up financially. There are potentially messages in here about inclusivity, hidden barriers to disadvantaged students, and potentially an influence on dropout rates.
- The evaluation suggested there is evidence that the Loan will help the sustainability of the HE sector. Most HEIs benefited from increased student volumes in 2016/17 and half reported that they believe the Loan will lead to increased revenue for them. There is evidence to suggest that it has benefitted medium-tariff institutions in particular.
- There is some evidence that the Loan has had an effect of increasing fees for Master’s courses (HEIs more likely to report increases on these courses (57%) than on courses not eligible for fees (41%)). DfE note this may warrant further investigation.
Do you know your pilot from your parliamentary review? What are the metrics used in the latest version of TEF and did you know that the criteria have changed? We’ve been updating staff at BU on the latest on the TEF, and on the staff intranet policy pages you can find links to our latest slides and a more detailed briefing note, as well as a link to BU’s submission to the Parliamentary review call for views.
Everyone has a view on what happened in the local elections and what it means for national politics – it means get on with Brexit, it means abandon Brexit, it means everyone is just fed up and protest voting for smaller parties and independents…. Your policy team are a bit idealistic sometimes (despite watching a lot of politics), and we are subscribers to the “people are probably generally voting on local issues locally” theory. We hope so – because these local politicians will be responsible for things that will happen locally for the next 4 years. So feelings about the council mergers and hospital changes, for example, will have had an effect in Dorset and BCP.
Of course national politics will have had an impact. There may be a general dissatisfaction with the Conservatives and some of that may be Brexit-related, but it could also be driven by concerns about social care and local authority funding more generally. It doesn’t seem to make sense that across the country many people abandoned the Tories for the Lib Dems if they genuinely want a no-deal Brexit. They may have been formerly disaffected Lib Dem voters going home – but in that case they almost certainly don’t want a no deal Brexit. The focus on climate change recently will of course have helped the Greens – people voting for green candidates who will drive local changes.
If you want to look at trends, the Commons Library has a lovely map. Otherwise we suggest there is a huge risk in leaping to too many conclusions and we recommend everyone turns their mind to who they will vote for in the EU elections. There is still a chance that MEPs will take their seats and keep them for some time so they could have a voice in the EU Parliament. And here in the South-West we have some sparkling candidates. You can’t vote for them, though – because of the list system (see this Research Professional illustration if you missed it before). Tactical voting will be a thing in these elections.
Brexit is still missing
The impasse continues. It seems unlikely that there will be a breakthrough in the short term. It could be a long summer of speculation and not much happening until another frenzy of last-minute-itus breaks out in September ahead of the Halloween deadline.
Last weekend Theresa May came under further pressure to resign, or to state a specific date for her departure. TM at least thinks that the local election results were a verdict on how she (and Parliament) has handled Brexit. She apologised for poor Conservative local election results (the Conservatives lost 1,300+ seats) stating: It is clear that the voters delivered their judgment in large part based on what is happening – or not happening – at Westminster. And, as Prime Minister, I fully accept my share of the responsibility for that. Meanwhile Jeremy Hunt and Dominic Raab appeared in high-profile newspaper profile pieces over the bank holiday weekend with their families – not too subtle positioning for an upcoming leadership contest. The PM continues to refuse to set out a timetable for her departure and is unlikely to step down until the Withdrawal Agreement is passed. Her spokesperson said she is here to deliver Brexit in phase one and then she will make way for phase two.
It has been confirmed that the UK will participate in the EU elections. However apparently Theresa May intends to make a fourth attempt to pass her Brexit deal through Parliament ratifying the deal by end of June so that UK MEPs do not take their seats in July. Maybe.
Theresa May is expected to offer a customs union offer to Labour (for a temporary period); however, the Labour/Conservative front bench talks have extended beyond the original timescale and the issue of a second referendum continues to be a sticking point. There has been no breakthrough with the Government insisting the negotiations have been constructive and detailed, however, Rebecca Long Bailey (Labour) was critical stating the Government had made no movement on their red lines. Talks continue…
In the meantime:
- The UK Government has signed a deal with Ireland to guarantee reciprocal Irish and British citizens rights are retained in each country in the event of no-deal.
- EU Settlement Scheme: The EU settlement scheme is now fully open and live. The Home Office communications state that during the testing phase 95% of EU citizens were able to use the mobile app to prove their identity remotely within 10 minutes. The application link is here.
Mental Health & Well-being
HEPI have issued a policy note Measuring well-being in HE covering HE staff and students. They argue for a differentiation between mental health and well-being so that the sector can better consider and understand the broader overall health of staff and students. They recommend more data is collected and published, ideally the markers being consistent across the UK and multi-year for applicants and graduates (as well as students and staff):
“Consistency across the UK allows for comparison in well-being between the different regulatory and funding systems across the four countries. International measurements would similarly allow for comparison between different models of higher education. Data collectors should work together to enable tracking of cohorts, allowing us to track the same cohort of students and staff over time.”
Rachel Hewitt, HEPI, author of the Policy Note said: ‘If we are to get a grip on the mental health crisis in young people that is heavily impacting on universities, we need to be collecting the right information to understand it. At the moment statistics on well-being and mental health are often combined, despite these being two separate issues with different ways they can be tackled. For universities to take the necessary action to address this issue, they need to better understand what they’re dealing with.
It is shocking that we have no public information on the well-being of staff that work in our universities. If universities are collecting this information, they are not being open about what the results are showing. This is at a time when staff in universities continue to be under pressure, with increasing workloads and insecure contracts rife. We need a consistent, public dataset on the well-being of university staff.’
In the meantime, the role of sport at university has been highlighted: Wonkhe has two articles on sport via its new Student Union service. Ben Vulliarmy, CEO of the SU at the University of York, writes about their Varsity programme with Lancaster (by the way, congratulations to BU for this week’s resounding win against Solent in our own Varsity event – well played all). And Richard Medcalf of the University of Wolverhampton writes about the need for evidence if sport is to be taken seriously as a contributor to student (and staff) outcomes:
At Wolverhampton we’re trying a few small steps to make this happen. We’ve developed a university sports board to connect this agenda into the decision making bodies of the university. We’ve combined the academic provision of sport with the participatory and performance arms of our offer to students and staff, to align the intentions of both under one organisational framework. And, importantly, we’re attaching student sport engagement to our student records system so we can see if there’s any relationship between students who participate and the wider university KPIs.
Care Experienced Students
The Centre for Social Justice have released 12 By 24 revealing that despite 10 years of intervention still only 6% of care leavers are attending University. It states: Looked After Children aren’t less clever than other children they are just less lucky and a care leaver is more likely to end up in a prison cell than a lecture theatre. The publication aims to increase care leavers at universities to 12 by 24.
This report shows that too many young people growing up in care feel university isn’t for them. They told us it is simply not what happens when you leave the care system…Improving attainment at school will always be the best thing we can do to help children from disadvantaged backgrounds get on. This report sets out the extent to which care experienced children still fall behind their peers. The message from a roundtable of experts conducted during this report was clear: If we want to see more children from disadvantaged backgrounds accessing university and higher education, we need to engage our young people in care much earlier to ensure that where they have fallen behind, they are given the help they need to catch up. The evidence contained in this report shows that if we act early enough, we will see more young people leaving the care system and entering higher education. Among all the facts and figures, this report presents a simple challenge to government and the higher education sector to do more to help young people who have had the worst start in life to have the best future. Many universities are working hard to improve these figures, but this report shows that barely a third of universities have set out detailed plans to take action to change the number of care leavers on their courses.
The report goes on to state there is too much variability in the focus and efficacy of Universities care leaver support schemes. Pages 15 and 38 are key reading, chapter 6 sets out what support mechanisms universities are currently offering and chapter 7 describes the ‘gold standard’ the Centre propose and call on the DfE to endorse. Read more here.
There’s a HEPI blog by Steven Spier, Vice-Chancellor of Kingston University about their approach to care leavers (and estranged students).
Still no news from the Augar team
A Parliamentary question this week confirms (again) that it will be released “shortly”. We predict (based on our own speculation rather than inside knowledge) that it won’t be until after the EU elections. It could come quickly as a major distraction from the mess after that. Or not.
Q – Gordon Marsden: whether postgraduate (a) loans and (b) other financial assistance will be included in his Department’s response to the review of post-18 education.
A – Chris Skidmore: The government’s review of post-18 education and funding is looking at how we can ensure there is choice and competition across a joined-up post-18 education and training sector. The review’s focus includes how we can encourage learning that is more flexible (for example, part-time, distance learning and commuter study options) and complements ongoing government work to support people at different times in their lives. The independent panel will report shortly, and the government will then conclude the overall review later this year. We will not speculate about potential recommendations, as we do not wish to pre-judge the outcome of the review.
Welsh PG student finance: Wonkhe report that postgraduate students domiciled in Wales will benefit from the most generous postgraduate student finance package in the UK, according to a Welsh Government announcement this morning. The variable mixture of loans and grants available has risen from £13,000 last year to £17,000 from August this year. All eligible students will receive a non-repayable universal grant of £1,000, plus a means-tested grant of up to £5,885 for students with a household income of up to £18,370. A loan will also be available, taking the total support up to £17,000, and funds will be available pro-rata for part time students.
Consultations and inquiries
New consultations and inquiries this week: UUK and Guild HE consultation on the draft Knowledge Exchange Concordat, linked to the KEF. RDS will be leading on preparation of a BU response.
Financial Deficit: BBC report that the number of English universities in financial deficit increases.
Unconditional Offers: The Times reports that some universities have taken legal advice following Damien Hinds’ calls to stop “conditional unconditional” offers and reduce the number of unconditional offers made overall. HE policy legal commentator Smita Jamdar confirms that Ministers can guide but not instruct the OfS in this area and that guidance must not relate to the criteria for student admissions – something Sarah has heard the Universities Minister confirm in person. Some Universities are calling on UUK to seek a judicial review. The Guardian story is here and includes a defence of the practice as well as attacking Damien Hinds for his intervention.
Industry input: The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority has announced that employers are being surveyed on what sorts of courses and skills they wish to see as part of ongoing plans to develop the University of Peterborough. The vision for the University is to be a trailblazer for other higher education institutions by embedding advanced technical learning within the curriculum. The aim is for the University to provide both the skills that local businesses urgently need, while also giving young people better access to well-paid, secure jobs and improved career prospects.
Mayor James Palmer said: “For the University of Peterborough to deliver on its ambition to be aligned with the needs of the local economy, we need to ensure we are reaching out to the business community to see what their demands and skills challenges are. The Combined Authority and its partners want the University to be turning out the kinds of skills that will allow our young people to hit the ground running in the 21st Century workplace. We know our economy has significant skills shortages, and a productivity gap, and so the input of local employers will be crucial in shaping the future of the University”.
Economic Justice: The Institute for Public Policy Research has published their economic justice report Prosperity and Justice – A Plan for the New Economy. It sets out a 10 point plan for economic reform and argues that economic policy should aim for both prosperity and justice. You can read a short summary of the report here. There are four recommendations relevant to the HE sector:
- The government should introduce a ‘Technology Displacement Fund’ to support workers displaced by technology to be retrained and supported back into the labour market. diffusion of digital technologies across the economy.
- Apprenticeships are important, but firms need to be able to deploy funds for a broader range of approaches to develop the skills of their workforces. They therefore propose that the current apprenticeship levy is abolished, and replaced by a ‘productivity and skills levy’
- At the same time, there is an important opportunity to give workers a better means of increasing take-up of skills training by giving them more autonomy. They therefore recommend the introduction of Personal Training Credits, to provide low-paid workers and unemployed adults with up to £700 a year to invest in their own skills.
- The adoption of a new immigration framework aimed at supporting the UK’s economic strategy as well as the vitality and cohesion of our communities and the dignity of migrants
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To celebrate the National Science Week we organised a Family Science Festival in Dorchester’s Corn Exchange (17th March 2019). The Festival was an incredible success, with more than 2,200 visitors exploring the science presentations and workshops organised by Bournemouth University in partnership with Dorset County Museum, Dorchester Town Council and the Thomas Hardye School. Our ambition is to make this festival an annual event, and rename it Dorchester Science Festival, which would run over a whole week-end. Many BU undergraduate and postgraduate students and staff were involved in the activities offered to the general public. Genoveva Esteban (co-organiser and master minder of the event), Dan Franklin, Matthew Bennet, Sally Reynolds, Adrian Newton, Marcin and Dominika Budka, and Stephen Watson’s hands-on activities were all enthusiastically received by children and adults. The atmosphere was captured on film by BU’s award-winning media production agency Red Balloon.
The event was sponsored by EU-Interreg project SAMARCH, the Royal Society of Biology, Dorchester Town Council and BU. We are also grateful to the ScienceIRL Project developed by the Indian River Lagoon Science Festival SAMA (Florida, USA) for sharing the “This is what a scientist looks like” T-shirt idea with us.
Postgradaute Researchers – did you know you have access to 18 online modules covering topics such as research methods and skills, ethics and career planning?
Epigeum’s Research Skills Master Programme provides postgraduate researchers with a broad range of essential skills.
Access all modules on the Doctoral College: Researcher Development Programme on Brightspace via the online modules tab.
To find out more, watch this short video.
If you have any questions about what is avaiable to you as part of the Researcher Development Programme please contact your Research Skills and Development Officer.