Category / PG research

This part of the blog features news and information for postgraduate research students and supervisors

HE policy update 22nd January 2024

This seemed like a good moment to explain what the Lifelong Learning Entitlement is really about and what it means for universities (spoiler: a lot of administrative work and not much else, in the short term), and this update also includes some horizon scanning by UKRI, some data on staff numbers and applications and a bit more on financial sustainability, as hard to get away from in stories about the sector this month.  And there is more besides.

Politics and Parliament

Lots of time spent this week on the Rwanda bill, with work for local MP Michael Tomlinson in his new role as Illegal Immigration Minister. The two deputy chairs of the Conservative Party resigned their roles yesterday along with a PPS but the Rwanda bill was passed unamended and has gone to the Lords where there will be more challenges.

Meanwhile it isn’t a manifesto but there is a campaign brochure from the Labour Party.   It says “we will be able to seize the opportunities of advances in AI, digital, life sciences and technology as drivers of economic growth”.  It presents again the 5 missions we discussed in issue 1 of this update. On education: this is the closest to a reference to HE: there simply aren’t enough high-quality pathways onto apprenticeships, and technical education. So we will have to keep waiting for the detail.

And if you missed it, constituency boundaries change for this election.  There were originally going to be major changes locally but those were dropped in the last round of reviews, so not much is changing here.  However, there might be implications elsewhere: there is a BBC article here.  One point to note is that Chris Skidmore stood down on environmental issues and there is a by-election planned in February: but his constituency is one of those disappearing.

Ongoing legislation

Research and knowledge exchange

Business and innovation

UKRI have published a position statement on their “commitment to improve the research and innovation environment for businesses seeking to scale up, through enhancing the support that we offer alongside private capital to help them invest, innovate and grow”.

As well as confirming some of the things they already do they will be:

  • launching a new digital guide to help businesses, along with investors and researchers, to make the most of UKRI products and services to commercialise research
  • launching new £20 million proof-of-concept funding in 2024 to support researchers to spin out scientific discoveries into exciting new products and services
  • ensuring that UKRI’s core offer of training to new doctoral research students improves awareness and experience of commercialisation and entrepreneurship, building on existing opportunities that allow students to work with businesses
  • creating a joined-up funding pathway over 2024, working with the British Business Bank and UK Export Finance, to enhance access to finance for scaling businesses

The Science Minister, Michelle Donelan, gave a speech about “scaleups” on 16th January.  It has unicorns, silver bullets, powder kegs and goldmines.  There is a lot in in it apart from those theme park elements, but this bit caught my eye:

  • Regulate to innovate is not just some slogan that I happen to use – I think it is a commitment I make to businesses across the country. 
  • And that is why I am backing the Regulatory Horizons Council report, published today, and committing to reviewing the recommendations to become unapologetically ambitious in our regulatory approach. 
  • And that is also why this year, I will develop a regulatory support service specifically designed to help science and tech companies to navigate rules and regulations.  Because we know that regulation isn’t just about dry ink on the statute books. I believe the behaviour of our regulators and regulatory simplicity is absolutely key.  

What is the Regulatory Horizons Council?  The Regulatory Horizons Council (RHC) is an independent expert committee that identifies the implications of technological innovation, and provides government with impartial, expert advice on the regulatory reform required to support its rapid and safe introduction. Find the membership etc at the link.

Here is the report and its recommendations:

  • Recommendation 1: DSIT, working with the Department for Business and Trade (DBT) .. should ensure that regulators are empowered with the tools and resources to better support innovative startups and scaleups.
  • Recommendation 2: DSIT should work with relevant partners to embed a greater understanding of regulation, and earlier engagement with regulatory issues, within the early-stage business community.
  • Recommendation 3: Government and regulators should continue to build the knowledge base on pro-innovation regulation, and particularly the impacts on start-ups and scaleups.

Emerging technologies horizon scan

In December, UKRI published an insights report on Innovate UK’s 50 emerging technologies that could be part of our everyday lives in 2040 and beyond.

Although there are 50, the report is only 39 pages: the list is in the contents page (and it does briefly explain what they all are).  The world has been very focussed on the risks of new technology, AI in particular, in recent months, but this is a very hopeful list, focusing on the problems that can be solved rather than disruption and destruction.  The report does note the ethical challenges (in the context of AI in particular) and sets our five questions to consider:

  • As technology is more embedded in our bodies, will humans turn into something new and different? What makes us human will be increasingly questioned.
  • Should AI be allowed to make decisions on our behalf? All aspects of business and society will be transformed through AI and computing.
  • If humans can expect a century of good health, what does this mean for employment, pensions or housing? The quality and length of our lives will be greater than ever before.
  • Will a shift towards cleaner, affordable energy change the way we live and work? A transformed energy system could help new industries to thrive.
  • What will a vast expansion of our understanding of the world mean for the UK economy? The UK’s ability to draw on its research and business strengths will help us solve big problems and seize opportunities.

Quantum missions

In the context of the above, the government announced 5 “quantum missions” in November: there are likely to be more funding rounds for research and projects in these areas.

  • By 2035, there will be accessible, UK-based quantum computers capable of running 1 trillion operations and supporting applications that provide benefits well in excess of classical supercomputers across key sectors of the economy. 
  • By 2035, the UK will have deployed the world’s most advanced quantum network at scale, pioneering the future quantum internet. 
  • By 2030, every NHS Trust will benefit from quantum sensing-enabled solutions, helping those with chronic illness live healthier, longer lives through early diagnosis and treatment. 
  • By 2030, quantum navigation systems, including clocks, will be deployed on aircraft, providing next-generation accuracy for resilience that is independent of satellite signals. 
  • By 2030, mobile, networked quantum sensors will have unlocked new situational awareness capabilities, exploited across critical infrastructure in the transport, telecoms, energy, and defence sectors. 

And the other Horizon (Europe)

You can’t have missed it, but the UK is now an associate member of Horizon Europe from the start of 2024.  You can read more on the UKRI website here.  The Horizon Europe work programmes are listed here.

Small but beautiful

Research England have also announced the results of the second round of the “expanding excellence in England” fund. Research England is investing £156 million to support 18 universities across England to expand their small, but outstanding research units. The list of projects funded in round two (and round one from 2019) is here.

Regulation

These policy updates so far this year have included a lot of regulatory content, focussing on the OfS, but did you know that many other regulators may have an interest in aspects of education at universities, and this makes for a challenging and potentially burdensome situation.

Research Professional reports on an event sponsored by the Higher Education Policy Institute and AdvanceHE, which Keith attended this week, at which the VC of London South Bank University raised this issue:

  • Phoenix pointed out that if a level 4 or 5 course is taught as part of a degree, then it is regulated by the Office for Students, but if it is a standalone qualification such as a higher national certificate and taught in a college, it is overseen by Ofsted.
  • Similarly, if higher technical qualifications are taught in higher education, they are quality-assured by the OfS in universities but by Ofsted or Ofqual in further education, while level 4 apprenticeships are overseen by Ofsted regardless of where they are offered.

Of course it is even more complicated than that, as apprenticeship funding is overseen by the ESFA (the Education and Skills Funding Agency, part of the Department for Education), making them an important regulator for HE too.  If you haven’t heard of the ESFA, then here is what they do: it isn’t obvious from this that it includes degree apprentices delivered at universities; but it does.

As an executive agency of the Department for Education, and on behalf of the Secretary of State for Education, ESFA is responsible for administering funding to deliver education and skills, from early years through to adulthood.  

ESFA funds education and skills providers, including: 

  • maintained schools and early years institutions, through local authorities 
  • academy trusts 
  • special schools 
  • colleges 
  • independent training providers (ITPs) 
  • high needs institutions 

ESFA is responsible for: 

  • £67 billion of funding for the education and training sector, ensuring timely and accurate allocations and payment to education and training providers 
  • providing assurance to Parliament that public funds are spent properly, achieving value for money for the taxpayer and delivers the policies and priorities set out by the Secretary of State 
  • provides, where necessary, financial support for providers

Outstanding OfS consultations

Just a reminder of the ones that are ongoing or we are expecting outcomes on from the OfS:

  • Consultation on a new free speech complaints scheme: open until 10th March: BU is considering a response
  • Consultation on the approach to regulating students’ unions on free speech matters: open until 17th March
  • Consultation on the inclusion of higher technical qualifications in student outcome measures: closed November 2023
  • Consultation on a new approach to regulating harassment and sexual harassment-this one has been closed since May 23 so there should be an outcome soon

And two Department for Education ones:

Apprenticeships

In the last couple of updates I have mentioned the government focus on apprenticeships, which is being supported by funding provided by the OfS to support the development of new L6 apprenticeships.   On 17th January the outcome of the latest funding competition was announced, with £12 million being allocated.  The list is here (BU is on it).

Applications and admissions

UCAS have published the end of cycle 2023 data.

Sector:

  • Overall applicants fell in 2023, the peak was 2022
  • 18 year olds had grown (slowly in some years) since 2014 when this data starts until 2023 when the number fell back
  • More females than males applied in every age group

As well as the more general picture there is also data for nursing, which shows tor UK applicants there is a fall in application numbers for most age groups since 2021 but applications for 18 year olds and over 35s remain higher than they were in 2019, and the over 35s are now the biggest group, as they were in 2020 (and almost were in 2021).  The proportion of male applicants over 35 is also higher than the other groups.

Midwifery applications have also fallen since 2021 but remain higher than 2019 for 18 years olds and the over 35s, 18 year olds being by far the largest group with the over 35s just squeaking in at second.  The gender data is interesting: tiny numbers of male applicants.

Wonhke have an article and analysis: there are a little over a thousand more English domiciled applicants who have accepted a place at a Russell Group provider this year than last. Everyone else (excluding alternative providers) has lost accepted applicants over 2022, but (as UCAS is always keen to remind us) the “last regular year” comparison to 2019 looks a bit rosier. There are loads of charts and even a map.

Student experience, wellbeing and finances

Cost of living: This year’s updates have covered this ongoing issue; the Russell Group published a briefing this week on the impact of inflation on the maintenance loan and what their members are doing to help. The briefing also points out: The shortfall is compounded by the freeze on the parental earnings threshold used to calculate maintenance loans in England. Students with a household income of less than £25,000 are eligible for the maximum loan, but this figure has been frozen in cash terms since 2008. It is estimated that had this threshold increased with earnings, it would now sit at £35,000, making many more students eligible for the maximum support.

Lifelong loan entitlement

This has been a long running story and we have reported for several years on the various legislative changes and consultations but it all still seems a bit remote and confusing: the new funding system will be in place for entrants to HE from September 2025.

This is about two things, really:

  • putting funding arrangements for university degrees and other post 18 higher level courses on an equal footing; and
  • the “lifelong” bit: enabling flexible and modular learning including to support returning or mature learners

The real change is in the mechanics of funding for universities.  In preparation for modules and to support the “LLE personal accounts” the funding basis is switching to a system based on credits, not academic years.

Last week I talked about the OfS funded short course trial that had a microscopic take up.  I wonder if the public accounts committee will be interested in the cost/benefit of that £2m investment?

There’s a blog here that the OfS wrote in October 2024 on the changes for HE that the LLE will bring:

Over time, we think this will lead to some or all of the following changes:

  • Universities and colleges will offer standalone modules from existing courses
  • Students will be able to build a full qualification by completing different modules, across different courses, from different universities or colleges
  • Students could end up studying at several universities or colleges at the same time, or across multiple departments in a single higher education provider
  • Students will be able to study modules that will give them the skills or knowledge they need to progress their career without the intention of building or completing a full qualification.

If there is a growth in LLE funded modular study, we also think there might be a shift to:

  • Universities and colleges changing existing …courses to an LLE fundable modular format
  • …An increase in modular study overall, not only LLE fundable modules
  • A decrease in the number of employers paying for continuing professional development (CPD) related courses as individuals will receive funding for standalone modules; [and] an increase in employers encouraging employees to take up CPD related modules as they will not need to fund them.

But if you are still puzzled about what it is all really about, and what it means in practice for universities, the Department for Education have published a guide in the form of a policy paper this week. sorry this is a bit wordy!

The summary: so far not very revolutionary.

From the 2025 to 2026 academic year, the LLE loan will be available for:

·       full courses at level 4 to 6, such as a degree or technical qualifications

·       modules of high-value technical courses at level 4 to 5

Under the LLE, eligible learners will be able to access:

·       a tuition fees loan, with new learners able to access up to the full entitlement of £37,000, equal to 4 years of study in today’s fees

·       a maintenance loan to cover living costs

Targeted maintenance grants will also be available for some groups such as learners with disabilities, or for support with childcare.

An additional entitlement may be available in certain cases – for example, for some priority subjects or longer courses such as medicine.

Learners will be able to see their loan balance through their own LLE personal account. This will help them make choices about the courses and learning pathways available.

So the devil, as always, must be in the detail.  What is covered, see below, again, fairly straightforward, except the bit about modules. 

But that isn’t coming straight away “The government will take a phased approach to provide modular funding. We expect to expand modular funding to more courses from the 2027 to 2028 academic year.”

Eligibility:

·       The LLE will be available to new and returning learners.

·       For returning learners, the amount they can borrow will be reduced depending on the funding they have previously received to support study.

·       LLE tuition loans will be available for people up to the age of 60. Learners who are over 60 may still qualify for maintenance support, though not a tuition fee loan.

·       Eligibility criteria for the LLE will track existing higher education (HE) student finance nationality and residency rules.

Courses: the LLE will be available for:

·       full years of study at higher technical and degree levels (levels 4 to 6)

·       modules of technical courses of clear value to employers

From the 2025 to 2026 academic year, the LLE will fund:

·       full years of study on courses currently funded by HE student finance including:

o   traditional degrees

o   postgraduate certificates in education (PGCE)

o   integrated master’s degrees (a 4-year programme that awards a master’s degree on top of a bachelor’s degree)

o   the foundation year available before some degree courses start

·       all HTQs, including both full courses and modules of those courses

·       qualifications currently funded by advanced learner loans where there is clear learner demand and employer endorsement

·       modules of some technical qualifications at levels 4 and 5 currently funded through advanced learner loans with a clear line of sight to an occupational map and evidence of employer demand

So what does this mean for students?  The main change is that tuition fee and maintenance loans will be available for a wider range of courses.

The entitlement

New learners (those who have not yet received government support to undertake higher-level learning) will be able to access a full entitlement equal to 4 years of full-time tuition. This is currently equal to £37,000 across 4 years, based on today’s maximum fee limit of £9,250 per year.

This means a student could use their £37,000 to pay for more than 480 credits of learning, depending on the per-credit cost of the course. For example, if a student can borrow £37,000 and they use £7,000 for a 120-credit course, they would have £30,000 of the LLE left for other courses, regardless of the size or duration of the original programme.

Returning learners …who have not used it all will have access to a residual entitlement. For example, a typical graduate who completed a 3-year degree worth £27,750 in today’s fees will have a £9,250 residual entitlement.

An additional entitlement above the core 4-year entitlement will be available for some priority subjects and longer courses such as medicine.

Maintenance loans

Maintenance loans are designed to help learners with living costs while they study. There is a maximum claim amount based on a student’s course, location and personal circumstances.

Under the LLE, the maintenance loan for living costs and targeted support grants, such as the Disabled Students’ Allowance and the Childcare Grant, will be made available for all designated courses and modules that require in-person attendance. Maintenance support will be subject to personal criteria such as income. This will broadly remain the same as the current criteria.

Repayments

The latest repayment arrangements apply as for students who started university this year.

And what does it mean for universities?

There will be a maximum financial amount per credit and a maximum number of credits that can be charged for in each course year, which will be set by the government.

We will treat certain course types under the LLE as ‘non-credit-bearing’. This means that different rules will apply. Non-credit-bearing courses include courses such as medicine and PGCEs, and courses where the provider has not assigned a qualifying credit value.

To support the LLE, the government will introduce a standardised transcript template to ensure a learner’s assessed achievements are always captured under the new modular, credit-based system.

There will be a new process for new providers and new qualifications.  This is properly new stuff and the subject of a lot of the ongoing work listed below, but probably not a lot of interest to readers of this update!

There is a separate paper on how tuition fees will work, from November 2023. This bit is confusing and implementing it will be tricky: lots of new reporting and forms likely to achieve this!

In the LLE system, we’ll set fee limits per credit. Credits are a measurement used by colleges and universities to identify how much learning is in a period of study. One credit generally equals 10 hours of learning by the student. This includes all tuition, assessment and any self-guided study in the student’s own time.

The credit-based system means that providers will only be able to charge for as much learning as they offer. A course containing 60 credits will have half the fee limit of a course containing 120 credits at the same provider.

The LLE system will have different fee limit rates. The limit-per-credit will depend on the type of study. There will be different limits for work placement, study abroad, and foundation years in certain subjects. Each of these limits may be lower if the provider does not have:

·       a Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) award

·       an approved access and participation plan (APP).

There will no longer be different limits for part-time study. Instead, each course or module will have a fee limit based on the number of credits it contains. This is subject to a course year maximum and a course maximum. This means that if a course contains 360 credits, its overall fee limit will be the same regardless of how many years it takes to complete.

Some courses will be non-credit-bearing. For these courses, we’ll allocate a default number of credits. For example, we’ll allocate a PGCE course 120 default credits. This is because currently providers do not always allocate the same number of credits to these courses, but the amount of content is always very similar.

Under the LLE system, we’ll calculate fee limits according to the number of credits in a course year, multiplied by a limit-per-credit. For example, if a year of a course contained 120 credits, and its limit-per-credit was £50, its fee limit would be £6,000.

The LLE system will no longer have different fee limits for accelerated study. Instead, the overall fee limit for an accelerated degree will be the same as the overall fee limit for the same degree (full-time or part-time).

There will be a cap on the number of credits for which providers can charge in each type of course. This ensures that credits are not added on to courses simply to increase tuition fees. Providers may offer additional credits beyond the maximum, but are not allowed to charge for them.

If a student repeats part of their course, the repeat study is not counted towards the course cap. For example, if a student on a 360-credit degree fails a 30-credit module and repeats it, the provider can charge them for 390 credits overall.

And those modules?

There are no restrictions on the number of chargeable credits in a module. However, a module must have the same number of credits as it does when it is offered as part of the full course.

Modules offered separately from full courses must contain at least 30 credits. This can include multiple smaller modules bundled together.

So what is next?

In spring 2024, we will:

·       launch a technical consultation on the wider expansion of modular funding

·       lay secondary legislation covering the fee limits for the LLE in parliament

·       communicate the details on the benefits of the third registration category

In summer 2024, we will: publish further information about the qualification gateway

In autumn 2024, we will: lay the secondary legislation that will set out the rest of the LLE funding system in parliament

In spring 2025, we will: launch the LLE personal account, where users can track their loan entitlement and apply for designated courses and modules

In autumn 2025, we will: launch the qualification gateway, an approval process that allows qualifications to access LLE funding (as noted above, not directly relevant to us)

Who are the staff at UK universities?

HESA published a bulletin about UK HE staff statistics as at 1st December 2022, on 16th January 2023.

  • Research Professional article here.
  • Wonkhe article here

The data shows an increase in the number of academic staff and non-academic staff employed in the sector since the previous year and a small decrease in the number of a-typical academic staff employed.

  • In 2022/23, 103,005 or 43% of academic staff were employed on contracts described as having a teaching and research function. The total for 2021/22 was 100,170 or 43%.
  • A further 36% of academic staff were on teaching only contracts. This percentage has steadily increased year-on-year since 2015/16, when it was 26%.
  • Among academic staff, 71,420, or 30% were employed on fixed-term contracts in 2022/23. Of full-time academic staff, 22% were employed on fixed-term contracts in 2022/23. In contrast, 43% of part-time academic staff were employed on fixed-term contracts, marking an eight percentage point decrease from 2021/22.
  • Of academic staff with known ethnicity, 22% were from ethnic minority backgrounds in 2022/23. This has increased from 16% in 2017/18.
  • Of the 22,345 professors with known ethnicity, 2,865 or 13% were from ethnic minority backgrounds. The majority of professors from ethnic minority backgrounds were Asian.
  • From 2021/22 to 2022/23 there was an increase of 40 Black professors.
  • The number of staff known to have a disability increased by 1,100 compared to 2021/22

Financial sustainability: Scotland

Last week’s update mentioned student number caps, which may soon be applied in specific cases (by provider, by subject) based on quality reviews by the OfS.  The government recently ruled out reintroducing more widespread caps in England after a consultation.  There have caps in Scotland, though, and they are about to be reduced.  Wonkhe reported this week on remarks in the Scottish Parliament:

  • Scottish finance secretary Shona Robison confirmed that at least 1,200 funded university places for Scottish-domiciled students will be cut following the Scottish government’s 2024–25 budget. Her remarks were made a scrutiny session with the Scottish finance committee – Robison told MSPs that the funding for additional places, instituted due to increased demand during the pandemic, was no longer sustainable.

The Scottish caps on home students have had a direct impact on the finances of Scottish institutions and they have turned increasingly to the international market to make up the income as, like in the rest of the UK, the real value of domestic tuition fees falls.   The financial challenges for Scottish universities are described in this recent report from the Scottish Funding Council (4th Jan 24).

You will recall that there is a reason for these caps: the Scottish government funds tuition fees directly in Scotland for Scottish students, there is no tuition fee loan. The actual amount received was £7,610 for each Scottish student this academic year year (see a report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies from December 2023), significantly less than the £9,250 capped fee in England.

Institutional failure

Last week I talked about the OfS licence conditions in place to protect students in the context of a university closing down, perhaps as a result of financial issues.

Wonkhe have several blogs this week.

There is one from two members of Public First on what would happen if a large university ran out of money:

  • The DfE (rightly) puts in place lots of warning measures for schools in difficulty, and if a school or group of schools start to find themselves in real trouble, a lot of things kick into place. They can mandate that schools have cost cutters come in; they can prescribe significant changes to operating models; and they can both demand that the school or school group takes an advance from the state, whilst placing (pretty onerous) conditions that are attached to repaying that advance. And given that financial trouble often goes hand in hand with performance trouble, the government has pretty carte blanche to change leadership and management when a poor performance judgement is made….
  • Universities are, of course, not big schools. And it is their fiercely guarded autonomy – as safeguarded in HERA – which means we don’t have a clear set of state interventions. When the Westminster government made its various moves to extend a more market based HE system in England in the early 2010s, it was explicitly envisaged that some providers could exit the market – and that government wouldn’t step in. This was not a bug, but instead a positive virtue of the system…
  • There is no power in today’s legislation for the government to give “extraordinary support” to a particular institution. In a major failure scenario, they could theoretically want to support (or even force) a merger or acquisition. They could also want to support specific institutions financially to keep them open at least for an interim period. But both would likely require new legislation, potentially at speed, and all of this tells against a story of autonomy
  • …. This issue all relies on some very big P political questions. Which institutions might be allowed to fail – and which won’t? What does increased government intervention mean for institutional autonomy, an idea already much eroded in political and policy circles? What does it mean for the status of universities, and could they be reclassified as FE colleges as public sector bodies if the state gains more control over funding or governance? And how much is the sector as a whole willing to trade to save a small, but potentially significant number of institutions?

There is one is from two members of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) talking about what will really happen if a provider fails.

They point out the regime that applies to FE, for which there is no equivalent for universities:

  • the Technical and Further Education Act 2017 established an insolvency regime that applies to further education and sixth form colleges in England and Wales. This introduced a special education administration regime, which protects learner provision for existing students at insolvent colleges with the overarching duty to the learner

They conclude:

  • We have talked before about insurance schemes or a “pot of money” to help students in these situations. We often hear that many providers would not be willing to pay into a system as they do not think such a situation really impacts them.
  • But the impact on the wider sector, students and the reputation of HE must be worth further serious discussion, and we are increasingly finding that there is an understanding that this situation needs to be addressed. …..
  • Whatever the answer, students should not be the collateral damage. A provider closure can leave students significantly disadvantaged, with their experience of and faith in higher education ruined. The potential impact on some students’ mental health cannot be underestimated. The financial impact, in a system where students are at the end of a long list of unsecured creditors, could create significant hardship and may make it unsustainable for a student to complete their studies.
  • We cannot just wait for a large-scale disorderly exit to happen before we engage in a serious discussion.

MIL Eco-Lab: Media & Information Literacy for Healthy Ecosystems

logo - science, health, and data communications research group

MIL Eco-Lab: Media & Information Literacy for Healthy Ecosystems

Cluster Lead: Julian McDougall

This new research cluster, located in SHDC, will generate and support research to inform policy and practice for the role of Media and Information Literacy (MIL) in: promoting societal resilience to misinformation; improving the health of communication ecosystems and supporting better health, science and data literacies.

This new cluster will form an MIL Eco-Lab to support and grow capacity for:

  • Research-informed MIL, working with a theory of change;
  • Education and training in MIL (including for better health and science communications);
  • Designing third spaces for MIL practice;
  • Evaluating MIL for ecosystem health (moving beyond solutionism, for positive consequences and social change);
  • Intersecting with the work of the Media and Information Literacy Alliance charity in advocacy spaces (including health, science and data communications).
  • Fostering productive inter-disciplinary and international environments for doctoral research in MIL and pioneering research in the field, where significant, for health, science and data communications.

Colleagues who are interested in finding out more about this cluster and discuss how your research can contribute, with no obligation to join, are invited to share your availability here for a zoom workshop later this month. And / or if you would like to chat about this 1-1, just email me and we can set that up.

Thanks for reading,

Julian

Postgraduate Research Showcase

Did you miss the the latest PGR Conference? Do not worry you can now visit the Atrium Gallery on Talbot Campus to view a selection of the posters that were exhibited on the day as part of the Postgraduate Research Showcase.

Half of the posters are now on display. These will then be swapped out for the remaining posters halfway through the exhibition, which will be displayed until Friday 23 February. Just visit the Atrium when it suits you to see some of the amazing research that is taking place at BU.

To mark the occasion, on Wednesday 7 February 15:00-16:00, we will be hosting the Showcase Celebration! This is a social event and is a great opportunity to support the PGR community, with cheese and wine on offer. Check out the Doctoral College Brightspace for more information and to book.

A Virtual Exhibition of the posters is also available via the BU website.

Any questions please email: pgconference@bournemouth.ac.uk

Best wishes,

The Doctoral College

CMWH leads the way with latest evidence on early labour

It has been a busy month for researchers in the Centre for Midwifery and Women’s Health. Academics have been reporting their findings on improving care and support for women in early / latent phase labour.

This has included a specially focused issue in Women and Birth edited by Professors Susanne Grylka-Baeschlin and Vanora Hundley.

The issue starts with an editorial by Grylka-Baeschlin S, Hundley V, Cheyne H et al (2023) Early labour: an under-recognised opportunity for improving the experiences of women, families and maternity professionals Women & Birth https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wombi.2023.09.004 

The issue includes the results of a randomised controlled trial by CMWH member Dr Rebecca Edwards:

Edwards R, Way S and Hundley V (2023) Let’s Talk Early Labour: The L-TEL Randomised Controlled Trial. Women & Birth https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wombi.2023.07.132  

and the results of the BALL trial by midwifery lecturer Dr Dominique Mylod:

Mylod DC, Hundley V, Way S, Clark C (2023) Can a birth ball reduce pain perception for women at low obstetric risk in the latent phase of labour? The Ball Assisted Latent Labour (BALL) randomised controlled trial. Women & Birth https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wombi.2023.11.008 

An additional paper by doctoral student Vanessa Bartholomew has just been published in Sexual & Reproductive Healthcare:

Bartholomew V, Hundley V, Clark C, Parris B (2024) The RETHINK Study: Could pain catastrophisation explain why some women are more likely to attend hospital in early labour. Sexual & Reproductive Healthcare https://doi.org/10.1016/j.srhc.2023.100941

The 15th Annual Postgraduate Research Conference – Thank You

Thank you to all of our presenters, poster exhibitors, session chairs and of course delegates who supported the 15th Annual Postgraduate Research Conference. It is always a highlight on the Doctoral College events calendar and we hope you all enjoyed the day.

We were thrilled with the energy and enthusiasm on the day, and we were delighted to see a strong turnout of PGRs and colleagues showing their support and helping to promote our positive PGR research culture and community across BU.

Last chance to submit your feedback!

If you attended, either as a presenter or delegate, we would love to hear your feedback via this anonymous feedback form.

Your feedback will help us improve future conferences so please let us know your thoughts.

Feedback collection will close soon –  15 December 2023.

Postgraduate Research Showcase

Did you miss the 15th Annual Postgraduate Research Conference? Do not worry you will be able to visit the Atrium Gallery to view the posters that were exhibited on the day!

Half of the posters will be on display from 2 January. These will then be swapped out for the remaining posters, halfway through the exhibition, which will be displayed until 23 February.

We will be holding a celebration event on the 7 February 2024, with more information to follow so watch this space!

A Virtual Exhibition is now available via the BU website.

 

You can see more of the highlights from the day on twitter #BUPGRConf23 and #BUDoctoralCollege. 

I look forward to seeing many of your again next year!

Arabella [Doctoral College Marketing & Events Coordinator]

What is the impact of doctoral research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences?- Online Event from the UKCGE


Online Event from the UKCGE: Free to BU Staff


The UK Council for Graduate Education (UKCGE) is the representative body for postgraduate education and research. As BU is a member of the UKCGE, staff can attend online events free of charge.

See below for details on next week’s online event:

Session Details Date, Time & Book
What is the impact of doctoral research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences? This online discussion, run in collaboration with The British Academy, will examine the impact of doctoral research in the arts, humanities and social sciences. 6 December

13:00 – 14:00

Book now

This event may be of interest to research degree supervisors and academic and professional staff who support our PGRs.

 

Conversation article: Big cats eat more monkeys in a damaged tropical forest – and this could threaten their survival

Aralisa Sheddon writes about her research which found that big cats in southern Mexico are increasingly preying on endangered howler and spider monkeys…

Big cats eat more monkeys in a damaged tropical forest – and this could threaten their survival

A jaguar in the jungle of southern Mexico.
Mardoz/Shutterstock

Aralisa Shedden, Bournemouth University

Monkeys are not usually a popular menu item for big cats. Primates are, after all, hard to catch: living in the canopies of large trees and rarely coming down to the ground. Jaguar and puma have varied diets and will normally hunt the species that are most common where they live, such as deer, peccary (a type of wild pig) and armadillo.

But jaguar and puma living in southern Mexican forests with a high human footprint (where wood and other resources are regularly harvested and there are large clearings for farms or expanding settlements) seem to be changing their feeding preferences to include more monkeys, according to new research.

Other studies have already found that when there is less of their usual prey around, big cats turn to alternatives. The changes in jaguar and puma diets that my colleagues and I recorded may indicate that the populations of these normal prey are shrinking, or that something in the environment has changed to make catching and eating primates easier.

This change in the diet of large cats could make the disappearance of primate populations in tropical forests like this one in southern Mexico more likely. This would, in turn, make the disappearance of large cats themselves more likely due to a lack of food, threatening the stability of an entire ecosystem.

On the trail of big cats

When forests are cut down or altered by loggers and hunters, primates are particularly affected, as many species depend on tall trees for food, shelter and to chart paths through the forest. Globally, more than 60% of primate species are threatened with extinction.

These changes to forests have also put large predators at risk. Understanding what is happening in these areas can inform more effective conservation measures, which may prevent species from disappearing.

The Uxpanapa valley in southeastern Mexico is one of the last relicts of tall evergreen forest in the country, and is classified as one of the most biodiverse areas in both Mexico and the world. It is home to jaguar, puma and many other species, including two endangered primates: howler and spider monkeys.

A black monkey in a tropical forest canopy.
Howler monkeys are native to South and Central American forests.
David Havel/Shutterstock

I led a research team that studied the distribution of primates in the Uxpanapa Valley for the first time. We recorded the number of primates and where they were found, as well as the type of forest they preferred.

Another team looked for large cats with the help of a dog which could detect their faeces, otherwise known as scat. Scat was collected to obtain DNA and determine the species that left it, whether it had any parasites, and what its diet was like. The team found out what prey these large cats were eating by using microscopes to study the hairs left in each scat. Special identification guides can link each kind of animal to its hair – each has a particular colour, pattern and shape.

Large carnivores maintain biodiversity and the functioning of an ecosystem by controlling populations of certain species – for example, herbivores that might otherwise harm trees or prevent forests regrowing. The presence of such predators can indicate an ecosystem’s health. Knowing what top predators are eating can tell us even more about how an ecosystem is functioning.

What we found

When we combined the data and information we collected, we began to understand that something out of the ordinary was happening.

Primates were the most frequent prey found in jaguar and puma scats, making up nearly 35% of the remains. Primate remains were also more likely to be found in scats collected from areas with less forest. Spider monkey remains, for example, were more likely to be found in scats collected in areas with more villages, and in forest that was regrowing after being disturbed.

A possible explanation is that where there are more villages, it is likely that there is more hunting and tree-cutting taking place. Where there is more hunting, the prey that jaguar and puma usually prefer might not be as plentiful. And regrowing forests do not offer primates the same protection as tall, untouched forests. These two factors may explain why large cats are eating spider monkeys more often here.

Jaguar and puma will usually eat the prey that is more abundant. If their preferred prey is scarce, they will hunt the species they encounter most. Similar to what we observed with spider monkeys, in areas where there was less tall forest, howler monkey remains were more likely than non-primate prey to be found in the scats, possibly as big cats found it easier to reach primates.

A pile of logs in a deforested Mexican plain.
Logging robs monkeys of hiding places from predators.
Eduardo Cota/Shutterstock

Less tree cover and overhunting of other prey (combined with general habitat loss) could explain the high rates of primate predation we discovered. Nevertheless, we need to continue monitoring these sites to fully understand these changes in large cat diets.

Our results highlight the importance of maintaining tall forest cover to ensure primates and other forest-dependent species can survive. They also raise the urgent need for conservation, before the negative effects of human activities on both primate and large cat populations become irreversible, and the ecosystems they live in are lost.


Imagine weekly climate newsletter

Don’t have time to read about climate change as much as you’d like?

Get a weekly roundup in your inbox instead. Every Wednesday, The Conversation’s environment editor writes Imagine, a short email that goes a little deeper into just one climate issue. Join the 20,000+ readers who’ve subscribed so far.The Conversation


Aralisa Shedden, Postdoctoral Researcher in Conservation, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Now Booking! Supervisory Development Lunchbite Sessions 2023/2024

The Doctoral College are delighted to launch the Supervisory Development Lunchbite Sessions for 2023/2024. More sessions will be added soon.

These one hour sessions are aimed at all academic staff who are new to, or experienced at, supervising research degree students and are interested in expanding their knowledge of a specific aspect or process in doctoral supervision. Session details and to book your place are available using the link below.

Each session will be led by a senior academic or service representative who will introduce and facilitate the topic. Staff will benefit from discussions aimed at sharing best practice.

Booking is via Eventbrite for Doctoral College sessions. Sessions also include UKCGE events. Bournemouth University is a member of UKCGE and the events listed are free to BU staff.

Please use your BU email address when booking.

Click here for further details and to book your place. For enquiries, please email doctoralcollege@bournemouth.ac.uk.

Event Date Time Location
Administrative Milestones to Support On-Time Completion 15 November 2023  

13:00-14:00

 

Online (UKCGE)

Administrative Checks for Examiners of Vivas: Right to Work Checks & Challenges  

22 November 2023

 

13:00-14:00

 

Online (UKCGE)

Chairing Viva Voces: What’s my Role? 22 November 2023 12:00 – 13:00 Online
What is the impact of Doctoral Research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences 6 December 2023 13:00-14:00 Online (UKCGE)
Milestone Panel Member: What’s my Role? 6 December 2023 12:00 – 13:00 Online
Wellbeing Support for PGRs at BU 30 January 2024 12:00 – 13:00 Online
Managing Difficult Students 6 February 2024 12:00 – 13:00 Online
Supporting International PGRs: Key Factors 14 February 2024 12:00 – 13:00 Online
UKCGE Recognised Research Supervisor Scheme 15 February 2024 12:00 – 13:00 Online
Supporting PGRs Requiring ALS 21 February 2024 12:00 – 13:00 Online
A Practice Led Thesis: The Supervisors Guide 19 March 2024 12:00 – 13:00 Online
AI and the Research Degree 20 March 2024 12:00 – 13:00 Online

Administrative Checks for Examiners of Vivas: Right to Work Checks and Other Challenges- Online Event from the UKCGE


Online Events from the UKCGE: Free to BU Staff


The UK Council for Graduate Education (UKCGE) is the representative body for postgraduate education and research. As BU is a member of the UKCGE, staff can attend online events free of charge.

See below for details on next week’s online event and an upcoming event in December:

Session Details Date, Time & Book
Administrative Checks for Examiners of Vivas: Right to Work Checks and Other Challenges This online discussion will examine some of the administrative issues faced by institutions in ensuring that examiners of vivas are appointed in an appropriate manner. For example a number of institutions have reported challenges with right to work checks for viva examiners. This discussion, led by the University of Westminster and held under the Chatham House rule, will allow colleagues from across the sector to share and discuss their own, and other institutions’, approaches in this area. 22 Nov 2023

13:00 – 14:00

Book now

What is the impact of doctoral research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences? This online discussion, run in collaboration with The British Academy, will examine the impact of doctoral research in the arts, humanities and social sciences. 6 December

13:00 – 14:00

Book now

 

These events may be of interest to research degree supervisors and academic and professional staff who support our PGRs.

 

Administrative Milestones to Support On-Time Completion – Online Event from the UKCGE


Online Events from the UKCGE: Free to BU Staff


The UK Council for Graduate Education (UKCGE) is the representative body for postgraduate education and research. As BU is a member of the UKCGE, staff can attend online events free of charge.

See below for details on next week’s online event:

Session Details Date, Time & Book
Administrative Milestones to Support On-Time Completion This online Town Hall discussion will focus on ways to improve completion rates amongst PGRs. Using a new initiative at the University of Sheffield as a starting point, attendees will have to opportunity to discuss & share challenges & successes in instigating administrative processes to support PGRs & their supervisors to completion. 15 Nov 2023

13:00 – 14:00

Book now

 

A reminder the following online events are coming up and may be of interest to research degree supervisors and academic and professional staff who support our PGRs:

Session Details Date, Time & Book
Administrative Checks for Examiners of Vivas: Right to Work Checks and Other Challenges This online discussion will examine some of the administrative issues faced by institutions in ensuring that examiners of vivas are appointed in an appropriate manner. For example a number of institutions have reported challenges with right to work checks for viva examiners. This discussion, led by the University of Westminster and held under the Chatham House rule, will allow colleagues from across the sector to share and discuss their own, and other institutions’, approaches in this area. 22 Nov 2023

13:00 – 14:00

Book now

What is the impact of doctoral research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences? This online discussion, run in collaboration with The British Academy, will examine the impact of doctoral research in the arts, humanities and social sciences. 6 December

13:00 – 14:00

Book now

 

Doctoral Supervision | New Supervisors Development Workshop

Whether you are a new supervisor, you plan to be one, or you have experience but are new to Bournemouth University, this development workshop is for you.

The workshop, which is mandatory for new supervisors, offers the necessary knowledge to supervise Postgraduate Research students by placing this knowledge within both the internal and external regulatory framework.

This workshop will cover the following key areas:

  • The nature and scope of doctoral study and the role of a supervisor
  • Purpose and operation of the BU Code of Practice for Research Degrees
  • Monitoring, progression, completion and the process of research degrees at BU
  • The importance of diversity, equality and cultural awareness
  • Student recruitment and selection
  • Keeping students on track – motivation and guidance

Book your place onto one of the Doctoral Supervision: New Supervisors Development workshops below. Further details about this workshop can also be found on the staff intranet.

Date Time Location Booking (via Eventbrite)
Thursday 16 November 2023 10:00 – 15:15 Talbot Campus (in person) Book
Wednesday 31 January 2024 10:00 – 15:15 Online Book
Tuesday 5 March 2024 10:00 – 15:15 Talbot Campus (in person) Book
Wednesday 15 May 2024 10:00 – 15:15 Lansdowne Campus (in person) Book