Kids online

February 17, 2018 Posted by Josef Shomperlen

Laptop with a wolf coming out of screen

Rangan Chatterjee is a GP and says he has seen plenty of evidence of the link between mental ill-health in youngsters and their use of social media.

One 16 year-old boy was referred to him after he self-harmed and ended up in AE.

“The first thought was to put him on anti-depressants but I chatted to him and it sounded like his use of social media was having a negative impact on his health.”

So Dr Chatterjee suggested a simple solution – the teenager should attempt to wean himself off social media, restricting himself to just an hour before he went to bed. Over the course of a few weeks, he should extend this to two hours at night and two in the morning.

“He reported a significant improvement in his wellbeing and, after six months, I had a letter from his mother saying he was happier at school and integrated into the local community.”

That and similar cases have led him to question the role social media plays in the lives of young people.

“Social media is having a negative impact on mental health,” he said. “I do think it is a big problem and that we need some rules. How do we educate society to use technology so it helps us rather than harms us?”

MPs to probe universities’ unconditional offers

February 17, 2018 Posted by Josef Shomperlen

Students in libraryImage copyright
Thinkstock

MPs are to review whether students applying to universities are being offered unconditional places in order to secure their fees.

The number of unconditional offers made by universities rose more than 17-fold in five years.

Unconditional offers mean students do not have to worry about the grades they get in their A-levels.

Robert Halfon, Conservative chair of the Education Select Committee, said he was “very concerned” about the issue.

“It’s one of the reasons why our committee is doing a value-for-money inquiry into universities and higher education.

“I think part of it is unfortunately just to do with resources and funding.

“I think that the universities want the courses filled; they get the public subsidy from the loan. I think that’s why they are making these unconditional offers and why they’ve increased so greatly,” he added.

According to figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), in 2013, 2,985 unconditional offers were made to 18-year-old applicants in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

By 2017, that figure had risen to 51,615.

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Overseas students ‘add £20bn’ to economy

Critics say unconditional offers are bad for students because some neglect their revision, while some accept offers that are not really right for them and later drop out.

Nick Hillman, the director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said there was “a little bit of evidence that students who get unconditional offers are taking their foot off the pedal”.

Clare Marchant, the chief executive of UCAS, said: “It’s one to keep an eye on, because if it increases more, we need to think about what impact that has over a couple of years in terms of predicted A-level grades and actual A-level grades.”

Some universities offer students an unconditional place, but only if they chose that institution as their “firm” choice on their UCAS form.

BBC Radio 4′s You and Yours programme spoke to one sixth-form head who said: “This is a form of bribery. This is a university, for whatever reason, saying to a teenager, ‘Choose us as your first offer and we will accept you on to our course, including the £27,000 worth of tuition fees that your place brings with you, and you don’t necessarily need to sit the exams in the summer.’”

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SPL

The government said it was closely monitoring the number of unconditional offers made each year and what, if any, impact they might have on student outcomes.

The Education select committee is looking into unconditional offers of university places as part of a wider inquiry into whether taking a degree is good value for money.

In response, Universities UK, which represents the sector, said: “Unconditional offers account for a very small proportion of all offers made by universities.

“It is simply not in the interests of universities to take students without the potential to succeed at university,” it added.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-43069632

‘Guns and survivalists’

February 16, 2018 Posted by Josef Shomperlen

Tara Westover

Image caption

Tara Westover secretly bought the textbooks that she needed to pass tests for university

There can’t be many people with a doctorate from the University of Cambridge who never got a single school-age qualification.

But Tara Westover’s story is more like something from another era, than a tale of modern America.

Tara grew up in rural Idaho, in a family of survivalists who saw schools as part of a government brainwashing exercise to be avoided at all costs.

Her obsessively independent father stockpiled guns and supplies, ready for the end of civilisation and to guard against any attempt by the state to intervene in their lives.

Even when they were hurt in serious car accidents, the family avoided hospitals, seeing doctors as agents of a malign state.

This was also a deeply controlling way of life, with the family’s fundamentalist interpretation of Mormonism setting rules on what Tara could wear, her hobbies and her contacts with the outside world.

‘Thought they were brainwashed’

It was a tough, violent, self-reliant life, like a paranoid Little House on the Prairie.

Tara remembers her father, fearful of raids by federal agents, buying weapons powerful enough to bring down a helicopter.

It meant that she had a childhood of riding horses in the mountain and working in a scrapyard, but not any school. She says that claims for home schooling were really a cover for “no schooling”.

Image caption

Tara had no formal education in her childhood, but went on to get a PhD from Cambridge

At the time it didn’t seem strange that they didn’t go to school like other local children, she says.

“I thought they were wrong and we were right. I thought they were spiritually and morally inferior because they went, I really did,” Tara says, speaking in Cambridge where she now lives.

“I thought they were being brainwashed and I wasn’t.”

Tara, now aged 31, has written an account of her childhood, called Educated, which is being published this month.

Much of this was a self-education, because the first time she came into contact with formal lessons was when she started college at the age of 17.

She had been taught to read and write by her mother and brother, but had never learned anything about history, geography, literature or the outside world.

Teach yourself

Access to books was limited to a few titles that fitted with her family’s fundamentalist worldview, and she worked from an early age.

But she had been brought up with a ferocious belief in the capacity for anyone to learn anything if they put their mind to it.

Image caption

Tara’s success as a student brought her from rural Idaho to study in Cambridge

“My parents would say to me: ‘You can teach yourself anything better than someone else can teach it to you.’ That was the whole ethos of my family,” she says.

Wanting a way out of a narrow and emotionally claustrophobic family life, she found a university that would admit her if she passed an entrance test.

She secretly bought the textbooks she needed and methodically studied, night after night, until she got the grades she needed.

But when she arrived in her new class in 2003, aged 17, she says she was in a “state of perpetual fear”.

“I was like a woodland animal. I was just in a panic, terrified the whole time. I thought I was going to be asked to do something and I wouldn’t know what it was.

“Everything about the classroom was terrifying, because I’d never been in one before.”

‘Not a conveyor belt’

There were huge gaps in her knowledge. She was shocked to hear about the Holocaust for the first time in a history lesson.

Her only previous knowledge of slavery had been in a book, in which she says, it had been presented as a benevolent experience, which was harder for the slave owners.

After a disastrous start, she set her mind to her studies and proved a highly capable student.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Tara says she has a sense of loss for the rural Idaho she left behind

So much so that she got a chance to spend time at Harvard and then to get to study abroad at the University of Cambridge.

Here she became a Gates Scholar, with funding from the Gates Foundation, and studied for a PhD, becoming Dr Westover at the age of 27 in 2014, without ever having graduated from high school.

Her subject was utopian communities set up in the 19th Century.

Tara’s journey has given her an unorthodox insight into how education works.

She says her own upbringing was too much of an extreme alternative, but she has doubts about the mainstream experience.

“The biggest worry is that it sounds like such a passive, sterile process. A conveyor belt you stand on and you come out educated.

“I think a lot of people have grown up with the idea that they can’t learn things themselves. They think they need an institution to provide them with knowledge and teach them how to do things. I couldn’t disagree more,” she says.

Estranged

If she had children, she says she wouldn’t send them to school when they were five. “They might think education is sitting quietly.”

She is estranged from her parents and her religion – and says pulling down her old beliefs has been a traumatic experience.

But she is not an uncritical convert to her new life and her experience of university.

Image caption

Tara has written a memoir of her unusual childhood

Tara says there is less tolerance of different opinions within middle-class, liberal academic circles than there ever was among the strict fundamentalists of her childhood.

She says she might have rejected the extreme anti-government politics, but she says from the perspective of rural Idaho it made some sense.

For such isolated, rural communities, she says the federal government seemed like an alien and “wildly ineffective” force.

In her accounts of her upbringing, you can hear the strands of some of the ideas that fed into President Trump’s election campaign.

Image caption

A decade after Tara began her first classes, without any qualifications, she was awarded her doctorate

But Tara says her childhood memories, including her descriptions of her brother’s violence, do not have a “nice neat ending like in the movies”.

“You can miss someone every day and still be glad you don’t have to see them,” she says.

The most difficult things to write about were not about the fights with her family and the restrictions.

“It was hardest to write about the good things, the things I had lost. The sound of my mother’s laugh, how beautiful the mountain was.

“It’s like attending someone’s wedding when you’re still in love with them.”

Educated by Tara Westover will be published by Hutchinson on 22 February.


More from Global education

Ideas for the Global education series? Get in touch with sean.coughlan@bbc.co.uk


Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-43038598

Florida shooting: At least 17 dead in high school attack

February 16, 2018 Posted by Josef Shomperlen

Media caption“We knew it wasn’t a drill”: Students, police and politicians react in the aftermath of the shooting

At least 17 people are dead after a 19-year-old man opened fire at a high school campus in Parkland, Florida.

The suspect was Nikolas Cruz, a former student at the school who had been expelled. He escaped with fleeing students but is now in police custody.

As the attack unfolded students were forced to hide as police swooped in on the building.

It is the deadliest school shooting since 26 people were killed at Connecticut school Sandy Hook in 2012.

It is the sixth school shooting incident this year so far that has either wounded or killed students.

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told reporters Mr Cruz killed three people outside the school, before entering the building and killing another 12.

Two people later died after being taken to hospital.

“It’s catastrophic. There really are no words,” Sheriff Israel tweeted later.

Media captionHow US mass shootings are getting worse

Three people remain in a critical condition and three others are in stable condition, health officials said.

The victims are still being identified. Sheriff Israel said a football coach was among the dead but no names have been released.

How the attack unfolded

The attack began at 14:30 local time (19:30 GMT) on Wednesday at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, about an hour north of Miami.

The local public school district tweeted that “students and staff heard what sounded like gunfire” just before the end of the day.

Witnesses said that the suspect set off a fire alarm before he began shooting.

  • Florida shooting: How the attack happened

Police and Swat team members swarmed the campus and began clearing students from the school, as parents and ambulances converged on the scene.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Video footage from the scene showed students being evacuated in small groups

Mr Cruz, who had been expelled for “disciplinary reasons”, was taken into custody without incident in the nearby town of Coral Springs about an hour after he left the high school, according to police.

Officials gave no details of the reasons for his expulsion but student Victoria Olvera, 17, told the Associated Press it was because of a fight with his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend.

She also said he had been abusive towards the ex-girlfriend.

Local media report that Mr Cruz bought his gun, an AR-15, legally and kept it locked away in the house of the family he was staying with, following his adoptive mother’s death in November.

Neighbours and friends said Mr Cruz was known to shoot at chickens, and talk about shooting lizards, squirrels and frogs.

“We have already begun to dissect his websites and things on social media that he was on and some of the things… are very, very disturbing,” Sheriff Israel said.

Image copyright
Broward’s Sheriff’s Office

Image caption

Police released a photo of Nikolas Cruz

‘Worst nightmare’

The school has nearly 3,000 students. Classes are cancelled for the rest of this week.

Many students said they thought it was a drill because a fire alarm practice had taken place shortly before the shooting.

Students told US media they hid under desks, in closets or barricaded doors as loud shots rang out.

One student, Bailey Vosberg, said: “I heard what sounded like fireworks and I looked at my friend and he asked me if I heard that.”

“Immediately, I knew. I didn’t say anything to him, I just hopped over the fence and I went straight to the road that our school is located on – and as I got there there was just Swat cars and police units, police vehicles just flying by, helicopters over the top of us.”

Image copyright
EPA

Image caption

Students were reunited with parents at a nearby “staging area” in Coral Springs

Caesar Figueroa, a parent, told CBS News his daughter was hiding in a closet when she called him.

He told the news outlet that he told her not to call him because he did not want the gunman to hear her voice.

“It’s the worst nightmare not hearing from my daughter for 20 minutes, it was the longest 20 minutes of my life,” Mr Figeuroa said.

A teacher told WSVN that she hid in a closet with 19 students for 40 minutes – and that the school underwent training for such a situation six weeks ago.

What’s the reaction been?

Florida Senator Marco Rubio tweeted that the shooting was “designed executed to maximize loss of life”.

Skip Twitter post by @marcorubio

End of Twitter post by @marcorubio

But he said that it was too soon to debate whether tighter gun laws could have stopped it.

“You should know the facts of that incident before you run out and prescribe some law that you claim could have prevented it,” he told Fox News.

Florida Governor Rick Scott said the shooting was “pure evil”, but also refused to be drawn into a discussion about gun control.

“There’s a time to continue to have these conversations about how through law enforcement… we make sure people are safe,” he said.

President Donald Trump tweeted his condolences.

Skip Twitter post by @realDonaldTrump

End of Twitter post by @realDonaldTrump

Congressman Ted Deutch, the district’s representative, tweeted: “I’m sick about this news from home. Just spoke with the sheriff. This is devastating.”

Media captionSandy Hook Senator: ‘This happens nowhere else’

How do previous school shootings compare?

Wednesday’s attack is at least the 18th shooting in the US this year on or around school premises, according to research by Everytown for Gun Safety.

Media captionA guide to the weapons available in the US and the rate at which they fire

Since 2013, there have been 291 reported school shootings in America, which averages out to about one per week.

This is the worst shooting since 2012, when gunman Adam Lanza attacked Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

He shot dead 20 young children and six adults before killing himself.


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Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-43066226

Year-round meals plan to tackle ‘holiday hunger’ of school pupils

February 16, 2018 Posted by Josef Shomperlen

School canteenImage copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

North Lanarkshire will offer meals 365 days a year

A Scottish council is planning to provide school meals 365 days a year to children from low income families.

North Lanarkshire Council said its proposal would help tackle “holiday hunger”.

The “Food 365″ programme would cover the 175 days of the year when lunches are not served in school.

If approved, the council will run a pilot project in the spring break and could then extend the scheme over the summer holidays.

Frank McNally, convener of education, said: “These proposals to tackle weekend and holiday hunger are the most ambitious in the country.

‘Parents skip meals’

“Groups like the Trussell Trust are struggling to cope with demand from parents and research has suggested that pressure on food banks doubles during the holidays.

“North Lanarkshire has one of the highest concentrations of deprivation in the country and this is only going to be exacerbated by further welfare reforms.”

The council cited national research which suggests that almost a third of parents with incomes under £25,000 skip meals during the school holidays so that their children can eat, and nearly two thirds are not always able to afford food outside of term time.

This rises to half and three-quarters respectively for parents with incomes under £15,000.

Image caption

Teachers report that children sometimes return from holiday suffering from poor nutrition

In a survey carried out by the National Union of Teachers in England, 80% of teachers noted a rise in “holiday hunger” where children return from holidays suffering from poor nutrition.

Almost three-quarters of teachers said this was negatively affecting children’s education.

While some councils in the UK have committed to holiday programmes, these do not include weekends. North Lanarkshire Council said its scheme would be the most comprehensive in the country.

Mr McNally continued: “A good diet plays a key role in healthy growth and development, supporting learning and social skills and sets a positive habit to be continued later in life.

‘High levels of deprivation’

“Our plans will do much to promote healthy eating and address some of the symptoms of poverty for children who need it most.”

John Dickie of the Child Poverty Action Group warmly welcomed the proposal.

But he warned it was vital to provide the meals in such a way that there was no risk of children or their families feeling stigmatised.

He said: “I haven’t seen the detail of this proposal but in general terms we would welcome extension of free school meals but also stress that’s it’s really important that healthy free holiday lunches are offered as part of a wider package of holiday activities

“Every effort should be made to avoid the risk of stigmatising holiday provision, for example by making sure it is open to those who pay for school lunches too and isn’t promoted purely as a feeding programme.”

Breakfast clubs

The local SNP group welcomed the proposal but said the council should not axe school breakfast clubs.

SNP’s education spokesman Councillor Tom Johnston said: “I am delighted that this council has finally agreed with our position that children shouldn’t go hungry simply because the schools are closed for holidays.”

He said SNP proposals to introduce the policy in 2003 had been blocked by the Labour administration.

“The SNP will support this proposal but we will amend it to go further and reverse the Labour decision to cut breakfast clubs from this summer,” he added.

“Our proposal will commit this council not only to continuing breakfast clubs, but extending them from August to cover every primary school in North Lanarkshire.”

Community facilities

The Scottish government said tackling poverty and inequality was a “key priority”.

A spokesman added: “Our £1m a year Fair Food Fund supports projects which promote sustainable solutions to food poverty.

“In addition, local authorities also have the flexibility to provide meals to children outwith term time and some chose to use this flexibility during school holidays by providing holiday lunch clubs.”

Scottish Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith MSP said: “Delivering free school meals for low income families for every day of the year may be a noble objective but it is undoubtedly expensive if each child is to have a nutritious meal.

“Hopefully the council has carefully considered all its options and explained to parents how it will be paying for this service.”

North Lanarkshire is one of the nine “challenge authorities” in Scotland with the highest levels of deprivation. Nearly 21% of children live in low income households.

If the pilot is successful, the programme would be delivered in 23 “hubs” across the authority area, usually in community facilities.

Based on demand for other previous holiday initiatives, the cost is estimated to be £500,000.

The proposals will be discussed by councillors at a meeting of the education committee on 20 February.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-43078340

Lack of good religious education ‘leaves pupils at risk’

February 16, 2018 Posted by Josef Shomperlen

Lynsey WilkinsonImage copyright
ReC

Image caption

Lynsey Wilkinson says teaching RE is exhilarating

Do different religions have separate heavens? Where do morals come from? What is the difference between Jesus in the Bible and in other scriptures?

These are just some of the questions the Religious Education Council of England and Wales (REC) says that secondary school pupils grapple with on a regular basis.

But the REC is warning that a shortage of religious education teachers could contribute to religious stereotyping and discrimination, leaving pupils at risk of becoming ignorant, or bigoted.

It says high quality specialist teaching about all faiths, beliefs and world views is essential in a diverse society and is launching a campaign to try to attract more teachers into the profession.

Government data shows that in 2017-18, only 405 of initial teacher training places in England for RE were filled – well below the target of 643; figures for Wales have not yet been published.

The figures come against a backdrop of schools struggling to retain existing teachers – last month a report found the number of qualified teachers leaving the profession (for reasons other than retirement) had increased from 6% (25,260) of the qualified workforce in 2011 to 8% (34,910) in 2016.

‘The big mysteries of life’

For Lynsey Wilkinson, head of religious education at Redhill Academy in Arnold near Nottingham, RE is important, given the range of views and opinions to which pupils are exposed.

“We live in a dynamic ever-changing society full of different perspectives, beliefs and cultures,” says Miss Wilkinson.

“Learning about these things helps the pupils in my classroom see the world clearly and helps them develop a genuine understanding about the world and the people in it.

“And that understanding will help them to shape the society of the future – a better society.”

Image copyright
Getty Images

Miss Wilkinson says that while she does not have a religious faith herself, it’s exhilarating to debate big questions of life with pupils.

“I don’t consider myself religious, but there’s an academic side to RE that’s fascinating to me – the idea of approaching these huge concepts from an intellectual point of view is one I’ve developed a real passion for.

“I spend my day helping these tirelessly curious kids get to grips with the big mysteries of life, examining spiritual beliefs, walking them through abstract philosophical concepts and getting into spirited debates over morals and ethics.”

‘At risk of ignorance’

Rudolf Eliott Lockhart, chief executive of the REC, says specialist teachers are crucial for keeping young people properly informed.

“Without good quality religious education delivered by a qualified RE teacher, who provides accurate and balanced information about the array of different world views that make up modern Britain, young people are placed at risk.

“Not only are they at risk of ignorance that might lead to misunderstanding or even bigotry, but as they go through life, they risk basing their knowledge, understanding and opinions on sources that perpetuate inaccurate and misleading stereotypes. If and when those prejudices and falsehoods surface in the classroom, well trained teachers of RE are equipped to challenge and correct them.

“With information and opinion so freely available on social media and other online sources, pupils need to be taught to differentiate between sources that are reliable and reputable and those that are more likely to lead to religious discrimination and hatred.

“It is clear that in Britain today, we need to develop a better understanding of different faiths and beliefs so that we build more cohesive communities. In a world where religious literacy is now a vital skill in all walks of life, the shortage of qualified RE teachers is a deep concern and needs to be urgently addressed.”

What does the government say?

A Department for Education spokesman said: “Religious education remains compulsory at each key stage for all state-funded schools, including academies and free schools, and we expect all schools to fulfil their statutory duties.

“In addition, we have changed the law and the requirements in schools so that they have to actively promote mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.”

A spokesman for the Welsh government said: “We are currently reforming the way in which initial teacher education is delivered – putting in place new accreditation criteria and strengthening the ways in which schools and universities work together.

“An advisory board has also been established to consider issues of teacher recruitment and retention.

“We believe that this, together with a new curriculum, a new approach to our foundation phase and a commitment to professional learning will help us attract the very best teachers.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-43073161

Year-round school meals to tackle ‘holiday hunger’

February 16, 2018 Posted by Josef Shomperlen

School canteenImage copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

North Lanarkshire will offer meals 365 days a year

A Scottish council is planning to provide school meals 365 days a year to children from low income families.

North Lanarkshire Council said its proposal would help tackle “holiday hunger”.

The “Food 365″ programme would cover the 175 days of the year when lunches are not served in school.

The council will run a pilot project in the spring break and, if approved, extend the scheme over the summer holidays.

Frank McNally, convener of education, said: “These proposals to tackle weekend and holiday hunger are the most ambitious in the country.

‘Parents skip meals’

“Groups like the Trussell Trust are struggling to cope with demand from parents and research has suggested that pressure on food banks doubles during the holidays.

“North Lanarkshire has one of the highest concentrations of deprivation in the country and this is only going to be exacerbated by further welfare reforms.”

The council cited national research which suggests that almost a third of parents with incomes under £25,000 skip meals during the school holidays so that their children can eat, and nearly two thirds are not always able to afford food outside of term time.

This rises to half and three-quarters respectively for parents with incomes under £15,000.

Image caption

Teachers report that children sometimes return from holiday suffering from poor nutrition

In a survey carried out by the National Union of Teachers in England, 80% of teachers noted a rise in “holiday hunger” where children return from holidays suffering from poor nutrition.

Almost three-quarters of teachers said this was negatively affecting children’s education.

While some councils in the UK have committed to holiday programmes, these do not include weekends. North Lanarkshire Council said its scheme would be the most comprehensive in the country.

Mr McNally continued: “A good diet plays a key role in healthy growth and development, supporting learning and social skills and sets a positive habit to be continued later in life.

‘High levels of deprivation’

“Our plans will do much to promote healthy eating and address some of the symptoms of poverty for children who need it most.”

North Lanarkshire is one of the nine “challenge authorities” in Scotland with the highest levels of deprivation. Nearly 21% of children live in low income households.

If the pilot is successful, the programme would be delivered in 23 “hubs” across the authority area, usually in community facilities.

Based on demand for other previous holiday initiatives, the cost is estimated to be £500,000.

The proposals will be discussed by councillors at a meeting of the education committee on 20 February.

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-43078340

Lecturers want ‘radical’ tuition fee review

February 16, 2018 Posted by Josef Shomperlen

Graduates

University staff are calling for a “radical” overhaul of tuition fees and higher education funding in England in a review of student finance.

Sally Hunt, leader of the UCU lecturers’ union, says the review must be more than “tinkering at the edges”.

The review, expected to be formally announced in the near future, follows a promise by the prime minister to examine the cost of university.

Theresa May said the review would show “we have listened and we have learned”.

Ms Hunt, whose members are threatening strike action next week in a pensions dispute, says there needs to be a “fundamental look at university funding”.

‘Difficult trade-offs’

The system of student fees and loans should be based on an assumption that “higher education is a public good,” she said.

The fees review, expected to be announced by the prime minister and Education Secretary Damian Hinds, will consider cutting or freezing £9,250 fees and lowering interest rates of up to 6.1% for repayments.

Image copyright
Getty Images

The Labour Party has been calling for a complete scrapping of tuition fees.

But universities are concerned about a loss of funding – and Ms Hunt said that businesses should be asked to make a “fairer contribution” to the cost of higher education.

The Russell Group of leading universities has warned that any changes to fees and funding should not mean a limit on places.

“Finding the right balance is likely to involve making a series of difficult trade-offs,” said a spokesman for the university group.

The Russell Group said that the funding model that emerges from the review needs to give universities a “predictable and sustainable” income – as well as fees that reflect the benefits to students from having a degree.

Value for money

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said he was concerned the review would focus too much on tuition fees and not “spend enough time on things like part-time funding and students’ cost of living”.

The review will examine how the level of fees and student debt can be balanced with the benefits of having a degree.

Former education ministers Justine Greening, Lord Willetts and Charles Clarke have called for the restoration of maintenance grants for disadvantaged students and have raised concerns over the level of interest charges.

Lord Adonis, another former education minister, has called for fees to be scrapped entirely.

A study from the Institute for Fiscal Studies has shown that the increase in fees to £9,250 and interest rates of up to 6.1% has pushed average student debt on graduation to more than £50,000.

Next week a number of university leaders and representatives will face a select committee inquiry into whether higher education is delivering “value for money”.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “We will be conducting a major review of funding across tertiary education to ensure a joined-up system that works for everyone. Further details will be set out shortly.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-43075768

Brexit student exchange needs rethink says top uni head

February 15, 2018 Posted by Josef Shomperlen

Media captionWe should look to the whole world, not just the EU, says Prof Colin Riordan

The UK should “consider seriously” its own international student exchange programmes to replace the EU’s scheme after Brexit, the head of one of the UK’s leading universities has argued.

The vice-chancellor of Cardiff University said he was “absolutely in favour” of students studying abroad.

Prof Colin Riordan said the Erasmus+ programme was “relatively inflexible”.

The UK government said access to future EU programmes was a matter for negotiations.

The head of Cardiff University, which is part of the Russell Group of elite British universities, does not believe the UK should definitely leave Erasmus+ but said it would be “worthwhile” looking at other options.

It was announced in December by the prime minister that the UK would continue to take part in the current scheme until it ends in 2020.

The Welsh Government believes Wales should continue to be a part of the programme, as set out in its Brexit white paper.

Erasmus+ sees students study in another European country for between three and 12 months as part of their degree.

Since 2014, Wales has received almost €30m (£26m) from the programme, which has supported 187 projects, while 7,595 people have participated.

With the UK set to leave the EU in March 2019, Professor Riordan said the country would “need to be open to the world” post-Brexit.

He said: “we need to think of it in terms of not just the EU but the whole world.

“So, there’s China, there’s India, there’s Australia, there’s Canada, New Zealand – there’s countries all over the world that we might want to send our students to as well as the European Union states.

“So, I think we do need to at least consider the possibilities for taking a different approach to this and having our own outward mobility agency that is funded by the British government to do just that.”

Professor Riordan raised concerns “we will have really relatively little say over what that programme looks like” after the UK has left the EU and also criticised the requirement that students go abroad for a minimum of three months.

“Many students can’t really do that, either they can’t fit that into their studies,” he said.

Studying abroad ‘opens your eyes’

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Ieuan Bancroft said the student exchange experience helped him develop as a person

Freshly back from his five-month stint at university in the French city of Nantes, Ieuan Bancroft, from Cardiff, said the experience “opens your eyes up”.

The 21-year-old Cardiff University student said his “French has improved massively” and that studying abroad “gives you so much more”.

“I’ve definitely developed as a person, rather than just my language,” he said.

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Dr Hywel Ceri Jones, a founding father of the initial Erasmus programme and former director general for employment, social policy and industrial relations for the European Commission, has previously said Wales faces a “mountain to climb” if it does not secure access to the scheme.

A member of the Welsh Government’s European Advisory Group alongside Professor Riordan, he criticised the Cardiff University boss’ suggestion to create a replacement.

Dr Jones said: “It may be run by the European Union but it’s entirely dependent on decisions made by the individual universities.”

He added: “What I’m more concerned about is the notion that all that matters is sending students out of the United Kingdom.

“I think it’s equally important, maybe even more important, to have students and staff coming in to our universities, creating an international, European atmosphere on the campuses so that all students can have this international dimension to their studies.”

Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-43063093

Scottish spending watchdog concerned about nursery funding

February 15, 2018 Posted by Josef Shomperlen

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The target is for children to have about 30 hours per week in paid-for nursery provision

The public spending watchdog has questioned plans to fund increased nursery provision in Scotland.

Audit Scotland said in a report there was a “significant risk” councils would not be able to resource a planned expansion.

The Scottish government has promised to almost double the annual hours in paid-for nursery places to 1,140.

In response to the report, the government repeated its pledge to fully fund the policy.

Ministers plan to meet the new target for nursery provision by August 2020.