Tagged / Research communication

Engaging with the media – scary or essential?

Wonkhe have an excellent new blog out: Why aren’t there more academic experts in the media?

Written by Justin Shaw, a HE Consultant at Communications Management, it is part of his campaign to ensure the academic voice is heard. He would like to see a proliferation in colleagues sharing their evidence-based expertise both with policy makers and the population.

For the blog Justin interviewed 30 of the most prolific ‘media active’ academics to understand the enablers and barriers in taking up media opportunities and what they would say to media-hesitant colleagues to help them take the next step.

Here are some excerpts – but do make time to read the full (short) blog:

The belief that it is far better to anticipate, lead, and take control of media opportunities (rather than suffer in response or serve as a moaning bystander) is one of the main findings that has emerged from interviews with some of the UK’s most committed “media active” academics.

A significant finding is that these academic media advocates simply now regard working with journalists as part of the job. Not only that, but they also stress that it is now (more than ever) a duty and an obligation – especially in an era of growing media input from the subjective and the “ill-informed” (most commonly defined as: shoot-from-the-hip politicians or rent-a-quote personalities drawn from reality TV shows).

While their journey as a go-to media expert has been challenging, and certainly there are some hard lessons to learn on the way, they say that we have now come to a point where academics just have to be bolder, must stand-up and project their knowledge, their evidence, their experience, and they must simply just seize the initiative. Without taking this stand then academics will be crowded out as the voices of reason

“So often politicians and policy-makers present things as facts, but there’s no evidence base for this, so I feel obliged to point out that there is a big body of work and evidence that isn’t being drawn upon, just being the critical voice to say “have you thought about the implications of what you are saying?”. The value of it is that it allows the public to have a more rounded view of the situation, so they can make their own minds up, based on evidence.”

The blog goes on to explain that the skills of an academic researcher and lecturer are the best type of skills to prepare for media engagement. So in short, you’re already got it in the bag.

The blog concluded by considering how the professional services teams around the academic, such as BU’s Press Office, BU’s RDS Impact and Research Comms colleagues, and BU’s Policy Team, can be useful additional support mechanisms – both for media experienced and novice colleagues. Get in touch if you’d like more support or to discuss how you could connect with the media or parliament.

RKEDF events next week – spaces available

 

There are spaces available at the following events next week:

Day Date Event and booking link Facilitator
Monday 17th June Ethical Decision making in Practice Dr Helen Kara
Tuesday 18th June Using Creative Research Methods Dr Helen Kara
Thursday 20th June Research Communication Day RDS & M&C

Please follow the links to find out more and to book. The workshops with Dr Helen Kara are now also open to PGRs, who do not need line manager approval to attend.

Book now so that appropriate catering can be arranged.

 

Policy update for w/e Friday 21 April

General Election: The general election (#GE2017) has been announced for Thursday 8 June meaning Parliament will dissolve on 3 May. In local news Oliver Letwin (West Dorset) was reported as announcing he will stand down and not contest the next election; however this related to 2020 and he has confirmed he will contest 2017.

Current bills must receive Royal Assent before Parliament dissolves or fail; therefore a ‘wash-up’ period will likely take place to hurry key bills through. The ‘wash-up’ business must be agreed between the Government and the Opposition. Its a time when deals can be made, although its likely the Government may tighten ranks to push through a bill with the main thrust of its intent intact.

Select committees are wrapping up their business with several inquiries prematurely closing their requests for evidence. The chairmanship of several select committees will also change as Members can only chair a committee for the maximum of two parliaments or 8 years (Standing Order 122A).

Purdah, commencing at midnight tonight, will impact and delay the TEF year 2 results, the release of the full LEO (Longitudinal Education Outcomes) data, the Schools that Work for Everyone white paper, and other announcements including the appointment of the Chief Executive for the Office for Students.

 

HERB: The next stage for the Higher Education and Research Bill is ping pong, where the Commons respond to the Lords Third Reading amendments. Currently, no date is scheduled for ping pong and the bill is absent from next week’s published parliamentary business. With Parliament’s dissolution looming speculation abounds on the bill’s fate, its likely it will be considered on Thursday where the parliamentary business has been left unspecified. Opinion divides on whether the Government will concede or hard line to push the bill through. The House of Commons Library has published a useful briefing paper summarising the Lords Amendments. Furthermore, Research Professional reportthe amendment to widen the grounds for appeal of Office for Students decisions is understood to have been accepted by government”, no authoritative source is provided to confirm this, although as one of least controversial Lords amendments it seems plausible.

 

Student migration: Frequent in the press this week (Times, Huff Post, Wonkhe, Reuters) was Theresa May’s rumoured U-turn on counting overseas students within the net migration figures However, there are no firm commitments and the position is neatly summarised by THE: May is “offering to change the way that student numbers are calculated, with the promise of further concessions”; the government is likely to offer a “regulatory compromise” in how overseas student numbers in Britain are calculated. On Thursday Theresa May told the BBC: “We want to see sustainable net migration in this country, I believe that sustainable net migration is in the tens of thousands.” A recent UUK ComRes poll highlights that only a quarter of the public consider students to be immigrants. We wait to see how migratory targets are tackled in the Conservatives election manifesto.

 

2018/19 EU Students: The government has confirmed that 2018/19 EU students will remain eligible for undergraduate and masters student loans and retain their home fees status even if the course concludes after Brexit. EU students can also apply for Research Council PhD studentships for the duration of their study.

 

Industrial Strategy – HE research commercialisation: HEFCE have launching the Connecting Capability Fund (£100 million) as part of the government’s Industrial Strategy to support university collaborations and research commercialisation. It is intended to help universities to deliver the industrial priorities, forge external technological, industrial and regional partnerships, and share good practice and capacity internally across the higher education sector. It is expected to be channelled through the Higher Education Innovation Funding (HEIF) programme with the first round deadline set as 10 July.

 

Other news:

The Common’s Science and Technology select committee have published: Industrial Strategy; Science and STEM skills. It urges government to increase the R&D investment and make up net shortfall for international collaborative research lost through Brexit, alongside stepping-up measures to increase children and students STEM skills.

Research Councils UK have launched the £700k Strategic Support to Expedite Embedding Public Engagement with Research (SEE-PER) call aiming to better embed support for public engagement with research in higher education institutions The call will be open for a limited time, assessed by panel over summer 2017, with activity commencing no later than 1 October 2017.

British businesses winning the Queen’s Award for Enterprise (2017) have been announced, the winning product/service for each business is listed in the Gazette. Among the winners is Poole based BOFA International Ltd (fume extraction).

Rachel Hewitt, HESA, writes for Wonkhe to provide feedback on the new DLHE consultation. HESA report 80% support for the proposed survey design and a mixed response to the financial model mainly due to lack of information. A final version of the model is earmarked for publication later in June. Hewitt states: “We now want to ensure that HE providers have certainty over the implications of the review outcomes, and to enable them to start reviewing their systems and processes”, and commits to sharing information through the rolling FAQs.

HEA and Action on Access have published: What works? Supporting student success: strategies for institutional change.

HE Policy Update w/e 7th April

Higher Education and Research Bill: the Bill passed its third reading in the House of Lords this week with little fanfare. An amendment relating to the ‘transparency duty’ (publishing further information on applicants’ backgrounds for better WP policy targeting and transparent admissions) was moved but withdrawn. This followed reassurance from the government that they will require the Office for Students to consult on the transparency duty. Eight minor government amendments were agreed, full details can be read in Hansard. The Bill will reappear in the Commons after the Easter recess, when as noted in last week’s update, the opposition and cross bench amendments are expected to be removed.

Brexit: The Commons Select Committee for Exiting the EU released their report The Government’s negotiating objective: the White Paper. Wonkhe report that not all members of the committee agreed with the conclusions in the report. Pages 68-71 cover science and research and reiterate previous calls from the sector for the immigration system to support researchers and students and for the UK to continue to participate in Horizon 2020.

Tuition Fees: In a non-binding debate in the House of Lords, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Labour) moved that the House of Lords regrets the 2016 changes to the tuition fee regulations and loan conditions which have worsened circumstances for some students, particularly WP and part time students. Lord Stevenson stated it is “virtually impossible to challenge what the Government are doing” and suggested that fee increases, the ending of maintenance grants, and introduction of income-contingent tax liabilities had not achieved what they had set out to do for the public purse whilst burdening students with ever-increasing debts. He asked for clarification on the “huge gap” in public finances the system was creating and explained that his motion would call on the Government to report annually to Parliament on the impact on the economy of increasing graduate debt, provide estimates of payback rates and an estimate of the annual cost to the Exchequer of the present system. Stevenson and other Lords also criticised the linking of fees to the TEF.

The voting was close and the motion to regret was agreed by the Lords.

Speaking for the Government Viscount Younger of Leckie expressed his disappointment about the vote and stressed that the Government’s policy intention remained to link fees to the quality of provision via the teaching excellence framework.

A second motion to regret has been tabled for Wed 26 April by Lord Clark of Windermere to move that the House of Lords regrets the introduction of tuition fees and removal of bursaries for NHS students.

Science Communication: The Science and Technology select committee have reported on their inquiry into science communication. The report notes that public interest in science is high and rising yet most people still lack a personal connection or understanding of science, and there is low trust in science journalism. The committee report concurs with the Stern recommendation for REF to synonymise impact with associated policy-making. Furthermore, the Government has abandoned the intended anti-lobbying clause in government contracts and grants because for research grants it sent the wrong message, discouraging instead of encouraging the widest and fullest possible science communication and engagement.

The full report examines communication of science, including through social media and reaching young people. It also tackles the misrepresentation of scientific results in the media. Highlighting inaccurate interpretations of statistics, and distortion of results to sensationalise the story as source of public suspicion. The report calls for government to ensure that a robust redress mechanism is provided for when science is misreported.

It also recommends exploring multiple aspects of diversity, instead of just gender, so young people have a wide range of role models to inspire them to pursue STEM careers. There is an interesting section (paragraphs 13-21) on outreach to schools and young people in relation to the STEM skills gap and whether science communication has a role to play in addressing the STEM gap particularly through redressing negative messaging.

Recruitment: The latest UCAS statistical release reconfirms the known drop in applications – UK students down by 4% (c.25,000), EU 6% down, international applications increase by 2%.

Apprenticeships: It’s been a busy news week for apprenticeships – the Apprenticeship Levy for business is now in force and the Institute for Apprenticeships was launched on Monday. It has been confirmed that degree apprenticeships will be regulated by HEFCE (QAA) through the Annual Provider Review process, with the quality of training provision inspected by Ofsted, except where the apprenticeship standard contains a prescribed HE qualification – this will be assessed through joint working (HEFCE/Ofsted).

A recent Commons select committee report on apprenticeships has criticised the government’s apprenticeship policy stating it will not resolve the skills gaps as it is not sufficiently focussed on specific sectors nor targets key regions where training is lacking. The Committee also warns that schools are still failing to promote non-university routes.

Technical and Further Education Bill: this Bill has been amended and passed by the Lords. The Lords debate noted improvements are needed in learner support when private providers fail, alongside clarity for targeting apprenticeships in the engineering, construction, IT skills shortage areas. The Bill will now return to the Commons. If you would like more

Other news:

The Times covers Exeter University’s online masters degrees – fees will be £18,000 (same fee for UK and international students).

Radio 4 broadcast A Degree of Fraud, which covered the contract cheating services that provide bespoke essays. UK Essays claim to have sold 16,000 essays during 2016. It is reported that students can purchase a guaranteed 2:1 essay within 12 hours for £450. The broadcast also recognises Lord Storey’s campaign for parliament to outlaw bespoke writing services. You may remember this was covered in an amendment to the Higher Education and Research Bill which was withdrawn following reassurance from Jo Johnson who has asked the QAA to take steps to combat the ‘essay mills’.

Wonkhe discuss Hobson’s potentially mobile international student survey and look at the positive and negatives of a branch campus with a nod to the Brexit context.

The Guardian presents case studies of two disabled students who are failing to complete their studies after the reduction in disability benefits. It highlights how the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is a ‘gateway benefit’ meaning students that lose it are then ineligible to access other supports such as universal credit or carer’s allowance. It is recognised that students with mental health disabilities are particularly affected.

Lily Boulle, student at the University of East London, went to Citizens Advice for help and found she was “locked out” of the benefit system. “There’s absolutely nothing you can get as a student unless you have PIP. It doesn’t make sense.”

The Department for Work and Pensions said: “Disabled students… may be eligible if they need to take time out from studying due to their condition.”

The Equality Challenge Unit published experiences of gender equality in STEMM academia which expresses disadvantages experienced by women academics (more teaching and admin, less research time, less training, limitations due to caring responsibilities) and intersects the data with ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability and age.