Category / Fusion themes

Re-thinking the Profession of Project Management for Sustainability

Project management contributes trillions to the global economy; driving business innovation and converting politicians’ promises into new systems and constructions that are intended to improve everyday life.

Sustainable development is a global priority and yet sustainability and project management do not sit comfortably together.  There is tension between the long-term focus of sustainable development and the inherent pressure on projects to deliver against short-term measures of success.  Furthermore, projects regularly fail.  For example, Meier (2017) suggest 71% of projects in 2015 failed or were challenged.  The financial, social and environmental costs of wasted resources and lost opportunities each year are also measured in trillions across the globe.

The UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals

Dr Karen Thompson and Dr Nigel Williams, both from the Department of Leadership, Strategy and Organisations, recognise that principles of responsible management and sustainability must be effectively incorporated into project management research and practice.  Without responsible project management, projects are likely to hasten degradation of the environment and increase tensions in society.  As a growing population competes for scarce resources, human conflict across the globe is likely to worsen.  Responsible management of projects is therefore globally significant.

An international, cross-disciplinary workshop to think about Responsible Project Management was recently hosted by Nigel and Karen at BU.  One focus was the project manager competencies because Wheatley (2018), among others, argues that enhanced project management capabilities would increase the beneficial impact of projects.  A central premise to emerge was that managing projects responsibly will require project managers to go beyond delivering defined results for specific customers to managing the impact of their activities on society and the environment.

The workshop brought together leading academics and practitioners to begin exploring the concept of Responsible Project Management, with a particular focus on what competencies project managers require to think and act responsibly.  An amazing 43 people engaged with us over two and a half days.  Feedback collected formally and informally was incredibly positive.  One outcome is recognition that the role of a project manager need to shift from a functional role, to leading and facilitating sustainable change.

Steve Knightley

The event began with a relaxed and informal afternoon with Steve Knightley, multi-award-winning musician/song writer, who shared his journey of creating a sustainable business.  The following day, BU’s Deputy Vice Chancellor, Professor Tim McIntyre-Bhatty, welcomed participants and shared his vision of the future, including BU2025.  Other participants from BU included the Head of BU’s Programme Management Office, Jackie Pryce; BU project managers; and Sustainability Manager, Neil Smith.  Colleagues Dr Mehdi Chowdhury, Senior Lecturer in Economics, Tilak Ginige and Dr Sulaf Assi, both from the Faculty of Science and Technology, and several BU students contributed presentations and stimulated discussion.

External participants included Professor Darren Dalcher, Director of the National Centre for Project Management; Professor Andrew Edkins, Director of the Bartlett Real Estate Institute and Professor of the Management of Complex Projects; Professor Gilbert Silvius, thought leader and author on sustainable PM from the Netherlands, and other UK academics.  Representatives from two professional bodies – the Association for Project Management (UK) and the Project Management Institute (USA) – reflected a range of practitioner perspectives; Arup Director Rob Leslie-Carter joined us via Skype, and Rowan Maltby, Project Consultant at Pcubed participated.  Sustainability thinking was used to provoke discussion and challenge norms, led by a Director of the Association of Sustainability Practitioners, Gwyn Jones.  We discussed B-corps, a new type of business organisation where the aim is to deliver value to stakeholders without preference.  Unlike not-for-profit organisations, B-corps recognise the importance of profit, because without profit a business is not sustainable.  Organisation and governance of B-corps reflect a need for stewardship of resources and impacts across a wide range of stakeholders, including the environment, users of outputs, staff, suppliers, and the wider community.

The workshop generated ideas about making project management a profession that goes beyond a technical function delivering outcomes defined by others.  We suggested a range of competences and understandings project managers will require if projects are to be managed responsibly in the future, such as dealing with uncertainty, ethical complexity, and better anticipation and mitigation of damaging unintended consequences.  Workshop outputs included ideas for research bidding, writing papers, learning, teaching and module content.  Already we are collaborating on a guide for project practitioners to begin sharing the ideas with national and international audiences.

References

Meier, S.R. 2017. Technology Portfolio Management for Project Managers. Available online: https://www.pmiwdc.org/sites/default/files/presentations/201703/PMIW_LocalCommunity_Tysons_presentation_2017-02.pdf [Accessed 7 July 2018]

Silvius, A.J.G. 2017. Sustainability as a new school of thought in project management.  Journal of Cleaner Production. Vol. 166. Pages 1479-1493

Wheatley, M. 2018.  The Importance of Project Management.  ProjectSmart. Available online: https://www.projectsmart.co.uk/the-importance-of-project-management.php [Accessed 8 July 2018]

Come and be a part of cutting edge Spine Biomechanics Research!

Research participants needed! 

The Centre for Biomechanics Research (located at the AECC University College, Parkwood Campus) is currently conducting a study investigating low back joint motion patterns in pain free adults. This study has National Research Ethical approval and aims to establish normal spine motion, which will support future investigations into low back pain and its possible treatments.

To collect the required data, pain free volunteers between 30 and 70 years of age are needed who are willing to have their low backs scanned with a method called ‘Quantitative Fluoroscopy’. This will take place in the AECC University College Chiropractic Clinic and takes no more than 1 hour.

Taking part in this study means that you are helping to advance science which will benefit many patients in the future. Additionally, this is an excellent opportunity for healthcare students and staff to learn more about this emerging technology.

Please contact us at cbrstudies@aecc.ac.uk if you are interested in taking part and we will send you more information about this study. We are looking for approximately 100 more volunteers, so we’d like to encourage you to spread this information to family and friends who can also be welcomed as participants.

 

Kind regards

Alan Breen (Professor of Musculoskeletal Research)
Alex Breen (Post-Doc and Technology Lead)
Emilie Claerbout (Bournemouth University Student)

 

Plastic pollution: could we clean up the ocean with technology?

File 20180720 142405 1lpfc4u.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
www.shutterstock.com

Rick Stafford, Bournemouth University

Our oceans are threatened by three major challenges: climate change, overfishing and pollution. Plastic pollution is of growing concern, and has gained international attention from governments, media and large sections of the public, partly fuelled by last year’s BBC documentary Blue Planet II and its images of sperm whales and seabirds entangled or ingesting plastic debris.

Despite the attention plastic pollution has received, some scientists think this is the least important of the major marine threats, and that climate change and fisheries need more urgent attention.

This is not to say that plastic is not a major issue – it is, especially in some parts of the developing world, and in large open ocean gyre systems where ocean currents meet and all that they carry accumulates. Research has also found that microplastics (small fragments which form as larger plastic pieces are broken down in the sea) are found in seafood, and plastic may even accumulate as it passes up the foodchain.

The Ocean Cleanup

One reason why plastic pollution seems to get more attention than other threats to the ocean is that the issue may have a technological “fix”. The Ocean Cleanup is the flagship tech solution to marine plastic and proposes using several 600-metre long barriers to float in the ocean current and catch plastic drifting in the surface waters of the gyres.

Invented by a then 19-year-old student, the idea has come in for criticism in recent years with concerns ranging from the project’s ability to reach microplastics to it causing harm to wildlife.

Nevertheless, the Ocean Cleanup has captured imaginations by trying to reverse the problem of ocean plastic on a large scale.

We’re familiar with the idea that we can all do something to prevent plastic ending up in the sea, such as refusing plastic straws and carrying a refillable water bottle. However, while we need to use less, we also need to produce less, and throw away less of it. This means not only individual behaviour change, but changes in industrial processes, and government policies worldwide.

The visual impact of plastic pollution and high levels of public interest might be fundamental to some solutions. In many countries, local beach cleans are a regular occurrence, and are rapidly gaining in popularity. It has also been suggested that despite plastic hotspots in ocean gyres, eventually, many large plastic items will wash up on beaches, and that a significant proportion of plastic waste ending up in the sea comes from coastal or riverside communities.

Most plastic enters the ocean from the shore and accumulates in ocean ‘gyres’, where different currents meet.
www.shutterstock.com

Think global, act local

This provides hope for community networks to be formed that can combat plastic pollution at a local level. These networks need to expand beyond beach or river clean-ups to involve and engage multiple groups and individuals in society.

These stakeholders, who have a shared interest in healthy oceans, should include local retailers who can provide deposit return schemes on bottles and other recyclable materials and even reduce or eliminate the sale of products such as plastic straws, disposable coffee cups, plastic bags and takeaway containers.

Local councils could set up rubbish and recycling facilities for beach goers and enforce penalties for littering and fly tipping near beaches and rivers.

Communities in charge of managing their local environment have been shown to be effective in coastal areas, but issues always arise with the scaling-up of these approaches to national or international levels.

There is clearly a need for policies which support local initiatives, rather than combat them. For example, government policies should immediately call for bans on non-essential plastic packaging rather than “working to a target of eliminating avoidable plastic waste by the end of 2042” as the UK’s 25 year environmental plan currently indicates.

Beach cleanup events can engage communities in halting the flow of plastic into the ocean.
www.shutterstock.com

Remaining non-essential packaging should urgently be made recyclable, and recycling incentive schemes, such as payment for recycling, need to be introduced quickly, beyond the approaches used by local retailers.

Technological solutions can and should form part of our approach to environmental problems, whether plastic pollution or climate change. However, they can only be part of a solution.

Schemes which change attitudes and empower communities at a local level can be effective worldwide, but they need support from national and international policies to bring about real change. At present, pollution and natural resources are dismissed as necessary casualties in the pursuit of economic growth.

The ConversationSupport for seaside communities in policy is missing, and until it is in place, no high tech miracle will step in to save us.

Rick Stafford, Professor of Marine Biology and Conservation, Bournemouth University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Can a scientific name save one of Earth’s most iconic freshwater fish from extinction?

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The iconic hump-backed mahseer.
J. Bailey, Author provided

The mahseers are an iconic group of fish found throughout the fast-flowing rivers of South and South-East Asia. Characterised by their large scales, attractive appearance and potentially vast size, the mahseers have long been afforded saintly status as “God’s fishes”. They are also known to anglers as some of the world’s hardest fighting freshwater game fish, earning them the reputation of “tigers of the water”.

But despite lots of interest in mahseers, their future is under serious threat as their rivers become polluted and blocked by hydropower dams in order to support a rapidly growing human population. Those fish that do survive are vulnerable to illegal “dynamite fishing” in which a blast kills or injures all aquatic life, allowing poachers to harvest anything that floats to the surface.

Of the 18 currently valid species of mahseer, the official IUCN Red List of Threatened Species currently lists four as endangered, one as vulnerable, and one as near threatened. The rest either lack enough data to reach a conclusion or haven’t been evaluated.

Recent research published by colleagues and I in PLOS ONE focused on the hump-backed mahseer, the largest and most endangered of all mahseers. The fish was once common throughout the Cauvery river and its various tributaries in southern India, but it is now limited to just a handful of small isolated populations. Weighing as much as a small adult human (55kg), this freshwater giant qualifies as megafauna, yet bizarrely it has remained a taxonomic enigma without a valid scientific name.

The Cauvery and its tributaries flow through the states of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
Central Ground Water Board, India

Until now. Colleagues and I discovered that the hump-backed mahseer is actually the same species as Tor remadevii: a mahseer that previously lacked a common name. Scientists first described Tor remadevii as a new species in 2007, based on a small sample of juvenile fish from the most southerly tributary of the Cauvery catchment in the state of Kerala. Little did they realise that the small fish they had discovered from this remote sub-catchment was the same as the monster mahseer found in the upper and middle reaches of the main river Cauvery.

The rise and fall of a freshwater icon

The hump-backed mahseer was first brought to the attention of the world’s anglers in Henry Sullivan Thomas’s 1873 classic, The Rod in India. During British rule, several huge specimens were recorded, including the still-standing world rod-caught record, a 120lb (54kg) monster captured in 1946 by a taxidermist from Mysore known as de Wet Van Ingen. Indian independence followed soon after, and the mahseer was largely forgotten by the outside world, with many believing the fish had been dynamited to extinction.

Although larger fish have been reported, this catch by de Wet Van Ingen still stands as the official world record.

That was until 1977, when the Trans World Fishing Team – comprised of three Englishmen –travelled to India and spent several months exploring the country’s rivers before reaching the Cauvery. There they found the hump-backed mahseer very much alive, and realised their sporting dreams by recording individual catches up to 92lbs (42kg).

This reignited global interest, and catch-and-release anglers from around the world flocked to the River Cauvery in search of the legendary fish. Local villagers found employment as angling guides, cooks or drivers, some of them rehabilitated poachers who realised that a live mahseer had renewable value, unlike the single value of a dead one at market. Patrols were set up to protect the species 24/7, allowing the ecology of the river to flourish.

Martin Clark of the Trans World Fishing Team with one of the fish caught in 1978.
Trans World Fishing Team, Author provided

But all was not what it seemed. Since their establishment in the 1970s, the angling camps had been collecting invaluable data which shed new light on the situation. When colleagues and I analysed these detailed catch records, we realised the hump-backed mahseer had almost disappeared. Although overall mahseer stocks were rising, the humpback itself was being rapidly replaced by a non-native and highly invasive species of mahseer, which had been deliberately introduced to the River Cauvery to boost stocks in the late 1970s. This led us to publish a paper in 2015, outlining the threat of imminent extinction facing the hump-backed mahseer.

So, what’s in a name?

The hump-backed mahseer has been known around the world by its common name, but confusion over its scientific name has prevented its inclusion in the IUCN Red List of threatened species. Given the fish is on the edge of extinction, it proved a significant challenge finding wild specimens from which to collect the DNA and associated evidence required to support a formal taxonomic clarification. Only after three years of expeditions was our team finally successful in finding a small population of humpbacks in a remote jungle section of the River Moyar, a tributary of the Cauvery.

The paper we recently published fixes the scientific name as Tor remadevii and should see the iconic species assessed as “critically endangered” in the next update of the Red List. The significance of the research published will afford this iconic fish the recognition and legislative protection it so urgently requires to develop robust conservation planning.

The ConversationHowever, in the long term, the fish’s future rests in the hands of the three Indian states with stakes in the highly-contested Cauvery river system – Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka. One hope is that the humpback mahseer will become a unifying force and bring these states together to protect the rich biodiversity and natural function of the Cauvery from further decay, allowing the river to continue to support the many millions of people who depend on it.

Adrian Pinder, Associate Director, Bournemouth University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Midwifery education article by Prof. Hundley

Congratulations to Prof. Vanora Hundley of FHSS on the publication of her ‘Editorial midwifery special issue on education: A call to all the world’s midwife educators!’ in Midwifery (Elsevier).  This editorial is co-authored by midwives Franka Cadée of the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) and Mervi Jokinen of European Midwives Association (EMA).  The editorial was written to accompany a Special Issue of the journal  focussing on midwifery education.  The Midwifery Special Issue addresses a wide range of topics from across the globe.  Whilst the editorial explores the challenges for midwifery educators from three different midwifery perspectives: (1) political; (2) academic ; and (3) professional association.

Congratulations to all three authors!
Prof. Edwin van Teijlingen
Centre for Midwifery, Maternal & Perinatal Health (CMMPH)
Reference:
  1. Hundley, V., Cadée, F., Jokinen, M. (2018) Editorial midwifery special issue on education: A call to all the world’s midwife educators!, Midwifery 64: 122-123  

HE Policy update for the w/e 20th July 2018

Free speech still in the news

The Higher Education Policy Institute has published a report on free speech on campus – Cracking the code: A practical guide for university free speech policies. This is the last report to be written for HEPI by Dr Diana Beech before she goes to work for Sam Gyimah as policy adviser. [Those readers who met Diana when she attended our recent policy meeting or read my blog about the event will know that this is a good thing – Diana is well informed and positive about the sector and open minded rather than partisan –we’re looking forward to seeing her impact.]

HEPI say about the report:

The report finds some worrying loopholes in existing codes of practice, including:

  • overlooking new types of meetings afforded by social media and digital technologies;
  • failing to publish updated policies following internal reviews;
  • neglecting to provide codes in a wide range of accessible formats such as braille or audio;
  • not hosting codes in the public domain; and
  • not linking to necessary supplementary materials such as room booking forms and risk assessment protocols.

This new guide is intended to assist university boards and committees when formulating or updating codes of practice on freedom of speech to ensure policies are as efficient and user-friendly as possible.

The foreword is written by Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, who says:

  • Overall, I find most universities positive, conducive places for healthy debate. When you compare the lively conversations that take place on UK campuses to those that are openly or more subtly squeezed out, or plain banned, in other countries, our universities look like bastions of free speech. And yet … Not everything is perfect. A minority of students do seem remarkably intolerant and unwilling to hear others’ views. It’s not even a left / right split. Sometimes the fiercest disagreements come between people who all regard themselves as progressive. Challenging student meetings can get bogged down in red tape about the rules of debate and their interpretation. It is also sometimes contested who can speak, what they can say and the degree of dissent that is permitted.”
  • And “In my view, bad ideas are most soundly defeated by good ideas. Bigoted opinions should never be given a free pass. They should always be protested and countered. But the best way to do this is usually by subjecting them to open debate, to show why they are factually and morally wrong.”

The recommendations are lengthy, but then this is a complicated area:

  • “To optimise the format of codes of practice on freedom of speech, we recommend universities:
    • include a cover page to the code detailing the document’s history, including key information on the date of its approval, the next date of review and contact information for the responsible officer;
    • consider formulating the codes in other formats (such as braille or audio) to ensure the widest possible readership;
    • enhance the usability of the codes by employing hyperlinks throughout all online versions of the policies, as well as writing out web addresses in full in an appendix to the code (or in footnotes or endnotes) to ensure this information is not lost when the codes are printed out;
    • make use of additional appendices to the codes to host vital supplementary documentation including application forms and additional guidance, so that this information is all housed in one place;
    • visualise application and assessment processes in the form of process flowcharts wherever possible, to allow event organisers to easily understand what is required of them and to ensure the policies are as simple as they can be during the design process;
    • take care to define what the code covers both in terms of meeting size and meeting format; and
    • outline the precise remits of the code if intended, for example, to be applicable to students’ unions, in other countries, in constituent parts of a university with otherwise autonomous governance structures (such as Oxbridge colleges) or in faith-based institutions, where contradictions may occur with religious doctrine (such as Canon Law in Catholic institutions).
  • To optimise the processes surrounding the codes of practice on freedom of speech, we recommend universities:
    • regularly review and update their code, particularly in line with developments in relevant legislation;
    • ensure the latest versions of the code are swiftly approved by relevant university boards and committees, and published accordingly on university websites;
    • keep a visual record of where the code has been disseminated to allow university committees and boards to decide whether this is appropriate and sufficient at the next review meeting;
    • avoid requesting information from speakers or event organisers that could be deemed unreasonable or offputting (such as routinely requesting copies of speeches before they are made);
    • include in the code reasonable timescales for both the initial application to host an event or external speaker and the appeals process;
    • offer in the code assistance to event organisers – such as PA systems or added security provisions – to give an event the best chance of going ahead before considering it for cancellation;
    • consider including a disclaimer in the code to cover more lengthy and complex decision processes over appeals (although every effort should be made to stick to the original timescales outlined as above); and
    • consider employing the expertise of an assessment panel, as opposed to just one accountable officer, to help in the case of deciding whether more complex or controversial events or speakers should go ahead.
  • In addition, higher education institutions – particularly in England – may consider producing additional governance documents, such as statements of commitment to the codes of practice. This will not only help institutions to become clear about what their codes of practice are for, and what purpose they serve, but also help them to prepare for life under the Office for Students and its new Regulatory Framework, which may well require providers of higher education to justify their policies and processes in more detail in the future.”

Sir Michael Barber was on the Today programme on Thursday – he refused to say that stopping organisers requesting speech in advance was going to be OfS policy (the OfS is not a bureaucratic organisation or a rule maker, but a regulator, he said – we aren’t sure about this distinction without a difference either) – but he did say it was a good idea.

Smita Jamdar of Shakespeare Martineau tweeted a response thread which is worth reading:

  • So the JCHR may have said universities should not ask for details of what will be said, but as long as that guidance remains in that form I do not think it is fair to ask universities to carry the risk. Government needs to work out what it wants and make some policy changes.”

Student Loans, RPI & HE Funding

The cost of student loans and how it is presented in public accounting is an issue that has been bubbling for a while. Both the Commons Economic Affairs Committee and the Treasury Committee reviewed the treatment of student loans in the public accounts during 2018. The timing is fascinating in the context of the Government’s current review of post-18 education – often described as the fees and funding review, but as we know, it is not only this. We wrote about this in our policy update on 6th July.  Andrew McGettigan, who spoke at the recent Wonkhe conference eon this, has now published a blog on Wonkhe setting out his argument in full – this is well worth reading.

The debate has now moved on as this week two bodies proposed alternative methods of accounting for student loans, one from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) and the other from the Office for National Statistics.

The Times explain the financial trickery:

  • Currently student loans are treated as a normal loan for the purpose of the public finances, which means that the cash transfer does not show up as borrowing but as an asset. Interest payments owed, but not necessarily paid, by former students show up as receipts and reduce the deficit. The effect is to improve the deficit in the early years as interest is capitalised. When students fail to meet repayments and loans are written off 30 years later, the loss is incurred as spending.

It is only at the point of writing off the loans that they count as expenditure and negatively affect public spending statistics. If the government sells off the loans before the write-off is due, that moment of reckoning will never arrive and the government will never, so far as the public accounts are concerned, have had to demonstrate direct public expenditure on student finance. Its benefit is that it provides sustainable funding for HE. Arguably therefore, HE does not have to fight with other departments to secure an adequate share of public funds.

OBR’s chairman Robert Chote speaks of the system saying it:

  • flatters the impact of student loans on the public finances and creates a perverse incentive to sell them, even at a loss…. Capturing the impact of student loans in measures of the public sector deficit and debt is not straightforward, because the full impact of any particular cohort of loans takes more than three decades to fully work through…”

The OBR estimates that the government’s plan to sell £12bn worth of older student loans by 2020-21 “will deprive it of £23bn of future repayments”. 

This article on Research Professional provides more detail on alternatives to the current treatment. It goes on to note that the HE Review has been instructed to make recommendations that do not worsen the spending deficit.  Research Professional explain that:

  • changing the way student loan repayments are presented in the public finances would automatically add to the deficit and would not only hamper Augar’s review but also make it next to impossible for chancellor Philip Hammond to meet his own spending targets. This is before you factor in the money—as yet unaccounted for—promised to the NHS and all the other demands that will be made by Brexit.
  • A degree of collusion is evident between the two reports, with the OBR’s working paper citing the one from the ONS. In short, both put up a range of different accounting models and invite us to pick one, with a strong steer that we should go for a hybrid model that would classify the estimated part of the loan that will be repaid as a loan, and the estimated part that will not be repaid as a grant or direct upfront expenditure.
  • The effect of each of the accounting models is significant, with the hybrid model immediately adding 0.7 per cent to the public spending deficit. All the models considered present the public finances in a less favourable light than the existing system, with a commercial model of revenue and expenditure for loan repayment, as you might find in the banking industry, adding 1.1 per cent to the deficit by the mid-2040s.”

This presents a challenge for the HE Review as it is expected to work within public spending constraints. Research Professional note that any short-term change would almost certainly mean higher education having a negative impact on the public accounts. This could put universities in line for budget cuts.

Retail Price Index

The use of the Retail Price Index (RPI) to calculate the interest owed on students loans is another challenge. RPI has been denounced as an inappropriate statistic that inflates the amount students are required to pay back. The Economic Affairs Committee has investigated the use of RPI and considered its possible reform. The Committee session spanned several topics, including a focus on its use within HE. John Pullinger (Chief Executive of the UK Statistics Authority) said he did not wish to unilaterally change the RPI as it would result in some parties getting windfall gains and others losses. However, he felt the reform of RPI would definitely happen at some point in the next ten years. He stressed the need for the change to be ‘choreographed‘ with changes by the Treasury and the Bank of England (BoE). It was put to him that it was the role of the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to come forward with an alternative proposal (to move away from RPI) for the chancellor for due consideration.

On the use of RPI within student loan accounting Lord Burns highlighted that ONS felt the economic nature of student loans closely matched the definition of a loan in national accounts. Whereas consideration could be given to the proportion of loans not expected to be repaid. John responded within the historical context noting that when student loans first came about they were considered by the national accounts team to be loans, which was how they had appeared in the national accounts since. He said the response to the committee on this issue during the loans enquiry could have been more ‘nuanced’, but this is essentially what happened.

John Pullinger went on to note if student loans will be sold, maybe they should not have been considered as loans at all.  Since April the ONS had been considering how they should be treated, which had resulted in five new options. (Watch the Committee session for more detail on this.) He went on to state the ONS had now ‘opened the box’ and was looking at the issue carefully, he mentioned a decision would be made by December.

He was also asked to comment on the suspicions that the reforms to student finances had constituted a ‘fiscal illusion‘ (see the two reports out this week mentioned above) to reduce the deficit. He confirmed he was observing recent developments with regard to this point.

HE Funding

The House of Commons library regularly produces succinct briefing papers on topics to inform MPs. They have just released one on HE funding (England) which sits alongside more specific papers on student loan statistics, HE finance and the value of student maintenance support (all papers can be accessed here). The HE Funding paper itself covers all the main points in a simple way to draw together the myriad of HE funding changes in the last 6 years. Despite the Brexit furore Parliament is actually winding down towards recess. (Recess being the time when MPs return to catch up on their constituency work and take some time off.) With the release of the HE Funding briefing paper as summer reading just before recess one wonders what is in store for HE when Parliament reconvenes in September.

Cost Effective Universities – Student Spending

New analysis from Which? University reveals how choosing where to study can have huge consequences on the cost of living for students – with a potential disparity of £15,000 over the term of a typical degree between the cheapest and most expensive UK regions. Using data on student expenditure and the average cost of rent, Which? University ranked 12 regions across the UK to reveal the most expensive and cheapest areas for students to live.

Unsurprisingly London was the most expensive region (£14,200 average student living cost per year). Second were the South East and the East of England (both £11,000 per year). Northern Ireland was the cheapest (£8,800), followed by Wales (£9,500). The South West region is mid-table for cost. The student budget calculator on the Which? website shows BU coming in very reasonably at £10,824 per annum (Arts University Bournemouth comes in at £12,120 per year).

The rest of the analysis highlights familiar student finance themes:

  • 31% per cent of students said that money worries have negatively impacted their mental health/stress
  • 20% use their overdrafts to manage the cost of living at university, (10% rely on credit cards)
  • 46% rely on their parents to bankroll their living costs (remember there is an expectation that parents contribute anyway for students from certain household income bands)
  • 40% of students found the cost of university was higher than expected
  • 13% of students considered not continuing their studies due to financial difficulties

Which? use the analysis to advertise their student budget calculator tool which calculates average monthly expenditure, including a breakdown of rent, utilities and transport costs per university selected. It also factors in regional variables to improve accuracy in its predictions. With Clearing fast approaching Which? are keen to ensure students who are forced to change their HE plans have access to fast information on their potential new institutions.

There is an interesting section showing student spending habits.

Category Percentage of students that spent on the category
Water & Energy 99%
Food Shopping 98%
Mobile & Internet 93%
Interest & Hobbies 92%
Coffee & Tea 91%
Transport 88%
Other Expenses 88%
Going Out 83%
Take Away & Snacks 83%
Personal Care 82%
Clothing 66%
Alcohol & Cigarettes 57%
Bank Charges & Fees 54%
Holidays & Flights 42%

Research Commercialisation

There was a dialogue in the House of Commons on the commercialisation of university research during oral questions this week.

Chris Green (Bolton West, Conservative) quizzed Sam Gyimah on what steps he is taking to support the commercialisation of universities’ research.  Sam responded:

  • “we want the UK to be the place where innovators, researchers and entrepreneurs turn ideas into reality. Our universities have a strong part to play within this, alongside business. That is why we are funding, through United Kingdom Research and Innovation, support for research collaborations between universities and business. We also have the industrial strategy challenge fund, as well as higher education innovation funding and our Connecting Capability funding. All of those will help universities work together with business “

Chris Green took the opportunity to highlight the research partnership between the University of Tokyo and Imperial College London as an excellent example of how the UK can benefit from sharing innovation and technology. He asked Sam:

what more will my hon. Friend do to ensure that we continue to strengthen academic networks and communities post Brexit? Sam responded:

  • our research and innovation collaboration is important in what we do with the EU, but also globally in what we do around the world. That is why UKRI has established a new £110 million fund to explore and develop international partnerships with leading science and innovation regions. We will also bring forward an international science strategy in the autumn.”

Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield, Labour/Co-op) asked Sam if he would look at universities in the United States, such as Cornell University, which have different ways of paying and incentivising research on those campuses? Gyimah responded:

  • the reason behind UK Research and Innovation, which brings together all the research agencies in the UK, is that, for the first time, we have a strategic brain to direct UK research so that we can allow innovation and ingenuity to flourish in our universities. That is the best way to create returns that benefit the economy but also the best minds in our country.”

Research Funding and Talent

Q – Adam Afriyie (Conservative): How much funding his Department has provided to the UK science base in the last 12 months.

A – Sam Gyimah:

  • The principal research funding route is through UK Research and Innovation, which in 2018 alone accounts for over £6 billion of investment in research and innovation. I am proud that the Conservative Government have overseen the largest increase in scientific research and development funding that we have ever seen in the UK. We are investing an additional £7 billion in R&D by 2022, as a first step in delivering our ambition of increasing the UK’s R&D spend to 2.4% of GDP.

Q – Adam Afriyie As a former shadow Science Minister, I am very conscious of the increases in funding, particularly in cash terms, but I am also acutely conscious that it is not just cash but the availability of talent that matters when it comes to science, innovation and the industrial base. Given the recent concerns around Brexit and everything else, will the Minister reassure me that the availability of highly talented scientists will still be a priority for this Government?

A – Sam Gyimah:

  • The increase in funding is actually in real terms, but my hon. Friend is absolutely right: to succeed here, we have to be open to ideas and open to talent. He will have seen the recent relaxation in the tier 5 visa restrictions for scientists. We are also investing £900 million in UKRI’s flagship future leadership fellowships and a further £350 million for the national academies to expand their prestigious fellowships. When it comes to science, innovation and research, we are open for business.

Q – Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge, Labour): I am sure that the Minister saw the recent report from the Office for Life Sciences, which showed that R&D investment in the pharmaceutical sector fell from £4.9 billion per annum in 2011 to £4.1 billion in 2016—a decline of £800 million per annum. To what does he attribute that, and given that life sciences are so important, what does he plan to do about it?

A – Sam Gyimah:

  • I am aware that everyone in the life sciences sector has welcomed the life sciences sector deal. As part of our work to reach 2.4% of our GDP being invested in scientific research by 2027, we will be working with the pharmaceutical industry along with other industries to increase their research investment in the UK.

Another question clarified that an announcement on the national quantum technologies programme would follow shortly.

LEO

Robert Halfon (Conservative) questioned Sam Gyimah on LEO

Q – Robert Halfon: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what use officials in his Department are making of the Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) database.

AND

Q – Robert Halfon: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, when he plans to make data from the Longitudinal Education Outcomes database available to education researchers outside his Department.

A – Sam Gyimah:

  • The department has published seven statistical first releases and one ad hoc release for graduate employment outcomes using Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) data. These cover the employment outcomes for undergraduates and postgraduates one, three, five and 10 years after graduating. Figures are published at institution and subject level as well as national level.
  • Students’ ability to make informed choices is at the heart of the higher education (HE) reform agenda. We are keen that these releases are easily accessible by HE students. We have therefore launched a Higher Education Open Data Competition, which is part of the work we are doing to improve the way we provide information to students. The competition aims to give students full access to valuable data on graduate outcomes – including aggregated, publically available LEO data – on an accessible and innovative digital platform. By supporting the development of new tools, the competition will help all applicants, regardless of their background, make decisions that are right for them and get value for money.
  • We plan to make appropriate extracts of the data available in the ONS Secure Research Service, in late 2018. In addition to this, we currently make data available, under contract, to the following research groups: Centre for Vocational Education Research, Institute for Fiscal Studies, University of Westminster.

Mental Health

A Guardian article this week considered mental health within the university context and noted the rise in wellbeing services. While traditional counselling still has its place within universities it noted some had vastly reduced the availability of counselling. In response The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy publicly voiced their concern at the reduction in traditional counselling sessions.

Meanwhile HEPI published a new guest blog: Could data and analytics help to promote student wellbeing and mental health? by Professor Martin Hall. It considers how learning analytics is already used to improve academic attainment through analysing the students’ digital footprint and engagement with the university. It is used to identify students at risk and triggers supportive interventions where the student may be under engaging to underperforming. The blog describes how this could be extended to identify patterns that may indicate student mental health concerns. Allowing support to be offered before the student reaches crisis point. s

Technical Education

Q – Adam Afriyie: To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department has taken to put technical courses on parity with academic courses.

A – Anne Milton:

  • The government is transforming technical education to create a high quality system that meets the skills needs of businesses and is held in the same high esteem as our academic option. 15 prestigious technical routes will set a clear path to skilled employment through reformed apprenticeships and the new flagship T Level programmes. T Levels are a central part of the greatest shake-up of technical education for 70 years and builds on the recommendations made by the Independent Panel on Technical Education, chaired by Lord Sainsbury. They will provide a distinctive and rigorous technical alternative to A levels.
  • They are, however, just one strand of our ambitious new technical education offer. We also intend to undertake a review of qualifications at Level 3 and below so that those we fund serve a genuine and useful purpose, are of high quality and enable students to progress to meaningful outcomes.

Despite Anne’s response to the Parliamentary Question she caused a scandal this week by seemingly confirming T levels wouldn’t be fit for purpose at their point of launch. At the Commons Education Committee she was questioned on the timing of the roll-out of the T levels and responded “I’m a parent of four children. If somebody said to me ‘Your children can do this new qualification’, I would say ‘Leave it a year.’”  The Times covered the story: Anne Milton has advised teenagers who are considering taking up T-Levels to “leave it a year”.

Gordon Marsden, Labour’s Shadow Minister for HE stated:

  • “It’s astounding that the Minister doesn’t have confidence in her own Government’s flagship education policy. It is not acceptable for there to be one rule for the Government, and another for everyone else. The Department for Education’s Permanent Secretary has already said that T-Levels cannot feasibly be implemented on time without a serious risk to taxpayers’ money.”

Consultations

Click here to view the updated consultation tracker. Email us on policy@bournemouth.ac.uk if you’d like to contribute to any of the current consultations.

Other news

STEM: Jenson Button is leading the way for women in STEM in his calls for the motor industry to get more women involved in engineering. He said:

female engineers are already making a big difference in motorsport, but that we need a far higher percentage in order to address imbalances. It is vital to push for more women working in mechanical engineering. Many Le Mans championships have been won by female engineers so there is obviously no reason why more females can’t get involved, including the driving. I’ve worked with very competitive women at the highest levels of engineering, but we need many more to enter the field.”

The UK currently has the lowest percentage of female engineering professionals in Europe (11%)

Simpler R&D tax credits: The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has called on the Government to introduce a new tax credit to tackle the innovation productivity fap within small business in the UK. On Tuesday the FSB published a report revealing that 24% of small firms have not made any significant changes to products or ways of working in the last three years – with many held back by pressures on time and finances. The report noted that as well as improving support for the creation of ‘new to market’ innovations, the complexity of the R&D tax credit and Patent Box Tax relief systems must be simplified.

Research Costs: Research Professional consider the Transparent Approach to Costing report, published by the Office for Students, which says that UK universities received funding that covered less than 75 per cent of the full economic cost of research last year.

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New Security textbook published by BU academic

Shamal Faily has just published the textbook Designing Usable and Secure Software with IRIS and CAIRIS with Springer.

The book was written to help practitioners, be these UX designers, security architects, or software developers, ‘build in’ security and usability. The ACM Code of Ethics states that True security requires usability – security features are of no practical use if users cannot or will not use them. This book explains how usable and secure software can be designed using the IRIS framework and the CAIRIS software platform, and provides real case studies where security and usability is incorporated into software designs at an early stage. This is something most people agree should be done, but few people give advice on how to do it. This book helps fill this gap.

The book also helps educators and students by providing a resource for a course on Security by Design. As explained in the preface, this book was written to support our undergraduate and postgraduate Security by Design unit at BU, and pointers are included on how different parts of this book can support this or similar courses.

More information about this book can be found here. As the book will be used to support teaching at BU, soft and hard copies should be available from the library soon.

Doctoral Summer School – hard work and fun!

The European Media Management Association Doctoral Summer School is a bi-annual event that has previously been run by institutions in Germany, Spain, Sweden, Portugal and Zurich. This year the Advances in Media Management (AiMM) research group hosted an international group of doctoral students at BU.

Dr John Oliver, Associate Professor of Media Management, said that “our aim was to create a community of learning where doctoral students, media industry professionals, BU faculty and professional services staff fused media management theory and practice to define the next generation of media management challenges”.

On the social side, delegates were given a Dorset cider tasting experience, an opportunity to see the grave site of Mary Shelley (author of Frankenstein) and a Gala Dinner in The Library of the Miramar Hotel in Bournemouth.

Dr Oliver would also like to thank the Doctoral College for their support and those members of the AiMM team that helped plan and deliver what can only be considered to be an “excellent event” that has contributed to BUs international profile and reputation. Many thanks to: Dr Joyce Costello, Dr Chris Chapleo, Melanie Gray, Graham Goode, Maria Musarskaya, Muridzo Searchmore and Conor O’Kane.

Planning health promotion programmes: an Intervention Mapping approach

For those of you interested in health education, applied psychology or physical activity promotion, read on.

Last week I attended the annual Intervention Mapping course at Maastricht University, which provides a framework for decision-making when planning, conducting and evaluating complex interventions. As a physiologist and early career researcher the course introduced me to using a theory-led, systematic approach when devising multidisciplinary interventions. From my perspective, what to consider when planning an exercise/physical activity programme to improve mobility (and holistically quality of life) for frail older adults living in care home residences. Intervention Mapping comprises the following steps:

  1. Needs assessments (or logic model of the problem)
  2. Specifying the ‘change objectives’
  3. Programme design
  • themes and components
  • theory- and evidence-based methods for change
  • practical application
  1. Programme production
  2. Implementation plan
  3. Evaluation plan

It should be noted that this framework relates mainly to collaborative healthcare projects, involving multidisciplinary team-working with individuals that may include: behavioural scientists, physiologists, Allied health professionals, care home staff and council officials.

As a ‘cog in a wheel’ (i.e. physiologist working within healthcare teams), personally Intervention Mapping has influenced my methodological perspective and will inform my long-term research, but will have little impact in the short-term for laboratory-based studies. For the behavioural scientist or applied psychologist interested in health promotion, the course would be a great benefit. For everyone else considering healthcare projects incorporating behaviour change I wholeheartedly recommend. Plus, Maastricht is a cultural and gastronomical delight.

If you would like further information on the course and framework, let me know.

Dr James Gavin

Department of Sport and Physical Activity

Bournemouth University

Email: jgavin@bournemouth.ac.uk

New publication by CMMPH Visiting Faculty Dr. Luyben

Congratulations to Dr. Ans Luyben on her latest co-authored midwifery publication: ‘Conscientious objection to participation in abortion by midwives and nurses: a systematic review of reasons’ in the Open Access journal BMC Medical Ethics.  The UK co-authors are linked with Liverpool John Moores University and the University of Liverpool, whilst the third co-author is from Germany.  Ans works in Swtzerland and she is Visiting Faculty in the Centre for Midwifery, Maternal & Perinatal Health (CMMPH).

 

Congratulations!

Prof. Edwin van Teijlingen

CMMPH