FINAL al Admiterii de toamna la Universitatea Alexandru Ioan Cuza din Iasi. RECORD absolut in ultimii 15 ani

Final al ADMITERII de toamna la Universitatea Alexandru Ioan Cuza (UAIC) din Iasi. De 15 ani nu s-au mai inregistrat asemenea cifre. „Total candidati admitere UAIC, cumulat sesiuni iulie – septembrie: 17. 277. Cumulat  cu 214 candidati la Doctorat , rezulta o cifra care nu a mai fost la Universitatea Cuza de 15 ani. De apreciat mobilizarea intregii comunitati academice de la Cuza, in special si ai colegilor de la master pe segment limbilor clasice. In data de 19 septembrie 2019 se va oficializa si forma finala a formatiilor de studii”, au transmis oficialii de la UAIC.

Publicație : Bună Ziua Iași


Productia BZI LIVE ce va fi urmarita de mii de studenti din oras si din tara. Personajul care se ocupa de administrarea Universitatii Alexandru Ioan Cuza din Iasi vine cu cele mai proaspete si importante detalii

Azi, 19 septembrie 2019, de la ora 15.00 in Studioul BZI LIVE va fi invitat la un dialog proaspat, incisiv, atractiv, pragmatic si consistent economistul Costel Palade – seful Directiei General Administrative (DGA) din cadrul celei mai vechi universitati moderne din tara – Alexandru Ioan Cuza (UAIC) din Iasi! Intreaga comunitate academica de la Cuza anume profesori, studenti sau personal administrativ vor urmari cu MAXIMUM interes productia BZI. Directorul va oferi detalii importante, anunturi ce tin de investitii, strategii pentru dezvoltarea institutionala si a infrastructurii celei mai vechi universitati moderne din tara. De asemenea, vor fiprezentate inclusiv date de ULTIMA ORA ce tin de etapele in care se afla planul ce tine de dezvoltarea, in anii urmatori ai Universitatii Cuza, intabulari in Gradina Botanica Anastasie Fatu, reabilitarea Casei Universitarilor, constructia unei noi biblioteci multi-functionale in Copou, refacerea si consolidarea Corpului A si B sau achizitia fostei cladiri Telekom din Fundatie. Pe de alta parte, despre pregatirile in campusuri si cantine legate de debutul Noului An Universitar 2019 – 2020, cazari, alte etape ce tin de realizarea, pe un teren de zece mii metri patrati al Universitatii Cuza din zona Sarariei a proiectului ce vizeaza construirea unei moderne baze sportive ce va cuprinde inclusiv un bazin olimpic de inot vor fi alte repere ale emisiunii. La toate acestea se vor adauga alte date ce tin de viata si administrarea UAIC.

Toti cei care au intrebari legate de aceasta tema le pot adresa la rubrica de comentarii, accesand sau in direct, pe

Publicație : Bună Ziua Iași


Man jailed for stealing 7,000 books from Scottish universities

 Darren Barr also faces assets seizure under legislation normally used for drug gangs

A prolific book thief has been jailed for 25 months after he stole more than 7,000 books from three universities in Edinburgh, before selling them online.

Darren Barr, 28, from Kinross in Perthshire, is believed to have made more than £30,000 by selling the textbooks through the online book markets WeBuyBooks, Ziffit and Zapper.

During an 11-month crime spree from October 2017, Barr is believed to have stolen thousands of textbooks from Napier University and hundreds more from Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt universities.

None were rare but Napier said they included sought-after texts on nursing, business studies, human resources, criminology and marketing.

Barr’s thefts came to light after a PhD student at Napier tried to borrow a textbook from the university library but found none were available. She bought that book and another on Amazon from WeBuyBooks and discovered both had originated from Napier’s library.

Although the books had a fake “withdrawn” red stamp on the inside covers, the university’s system showed they were both still recorded as in the library. Napier carried out a full audit and discovered that between 4,000 and 4,250 of its books were missing with a face value of £72,800.

WeBuyBooks checked its records and confirmed it had bought hundreds of books from the same individual with the same bank account. It emerged WeBuyBooks had paid Barr £10,612 for 1,995 books; Ziffit paid £18,600 for 4,488 books and Zapper £1,238 for 253 texts.

Barr pleaded guilty to four charges of theft earlier this year and now faces an assets seizure under proceeds of crime legislation normally used for drugs gangs and fraudsters.

Passing sentence on Wednesday at Edinburgh sheriff court, Sheriff Kenneth McGowan said: “What I have before me here is a course of conduct continuing over a lengthy period of 11 months during which a very substantial number of books were stolen from Napier University in particular. These were of a high value. There was clearly careful planning on your part.”

Police Scotland said they recovered 1,300 of the stolen books from around the UK, including 260 from Edinburgh university and Heriot-Watt.

DS Dougal Begg, from Corstorphine CID, said: “This is one of the most brazen and high-value thefts from our universities that I can ever recall. The amount of money Darren Barr was able to make by resetting stolen books is staggering.

“Had it not been for the staff at Napier University raising their concerns about missing stock, we may never have uncovered what Barr was up to and even larger quantities of books may have ended up being taken from the institutions.”

The court heard that CCTV footage from Napier showed Barr arriving at the library with a rucksack and holdall, before driving away. He had applied for an external reader’s ticket, and detectives then found he had used the same technique at Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt, acquiring visitor readers’ tickets at both. The 230 books stolen from Edinburgh were worth about £9,200.

Publicație : The Guardian

Will Macron’s move against grande école make HE system fairer?

France’s president responded to the gilets jaunes movement with a surprise plan to abolish his alma mater, ENA, reigniting debate about the country’s intensely hierarchical higher education system. John Morgan explores what lies behind the proposal and what it says about the role of exclusive institutions in a populist, anti-elitist age

The gilets jaunes movement is often seen as expressing the anger of low-paid workers who have suffered the effects of globalisation while the wealthy reaped the benefits; the anger of those in small-town and rural “peripheral France” who have been excluded from metropolitan economic success. That description is too simplistic for some. But what is clear is that the movement’s rampages down the Champs-Élysées may have achieved, rather by accident, a concrete impact on the highest echelons of French society: the abolition of the nation’s most famous higher education institution, the École Nationale d’Administration (ENA), known for its central role in forming France’s political and business elites.

Following the shock of the gilets jaunes protests, France’s president embarked on a two-month mass public consultation in an attempt to address the concerns underlying the unrest, announcing his response to this Grand Débat in an April press conference at the Élysée Palace. After lamenting that the highest levels of government in France did not reflect society and were “no longer meritocratic” places that allowed someone from a family of workers to reach the “elite of the republic”, Emmanuel Macron made clear that he wanted to supprimer (remove) “among others the ENA” to “build something which works better”.

The abolition of ENA – one of the grandes écoles that crown France’s intensely hierarchical higher education system – has been floated by politicians before. Nevertheless, the move was seen as a surprise coming from Macron, himself an “énarque” (the term combining ENA’s name with “monarque”, widely used as a sardonic comment on the prevalence of its graduates in positions of power).

His ENA plan has been described by The Economist as the most “controversial and spectacular” of all his announcements in response to the Grand Débat, as a surrender “to a populist demand”.

But how radical would the “abolition” of ENA, if it happens, really be? Would it do anything to make French society fairer? Would it open the door to a more sweeping reform of the grandes écoles and French higher education?

As to whether Macron’s plan to abolish ENA has wider relevance for the world of higher education, there is much about the move that does not translate from the French. But what is undoubtedly relevant beyond France is the political context that pressed him into action – intensifying inequality driven by globalisation, potentially impacting on public perceptions of the privileges afforded by elite education institutions.

An understanding of ENA explains much about the social hierarchy of the French higher education system. ENA – whose relocation from Paris to Strasbourg was completed in 2005 – is not a university but rather a civil service college. It was “set up as a school for recruiting an elite” to staff the highest levels of the country’s civil service, says Ezra Suleiman, IBM professor of international studies at Princeton University, a veteran scholar of French hierarchy whose books include Politics, Power, and Bureaucracy in France: The Administrative Elite.

ENA graduates are ranked at the end of their studies. The highest scoring enter the grands corps, the band of grandes écoles graduates who qualify for the most select jobs in the French government.

For members of the grands corps, the “advantages they have are unbelievable”, says Suleiman. He gives the example of Macron’s predecessor as president, François Hollande of the Socialist Party. The mother of Hollande’s children is Ségolène Royal, a former Socialist Party presidential candidate, with whom he attended ENA. Hollande’s first job after ENA was in the prestigious government Court of Auditors, followed by a position as adviser to the president at the time, François Mitterrand. “Imagine the self-image you get from that: you’re entitled to everything,” says Suleiman. “And then [Hollande] became president, which, had he been in a normal class at any [other] school would never have happened. You get rocketed to the top.”

The same applies in business. A 2010 study found that 46 per cent of executives in the 40 leading French companies were from one of the most prestigious grandes écoles: ENA, the École Polytechnique and HEC Paris.

France’s public higher education system is tripartite: vocational and technical education; universities (traditionally non-selective and open to any student who passes their high school baccalauréat general); and grandes écoles (where entry is highly selective, usually requiring a two-year classe préparatoire (known colloquially as “prépas”), themselves selective, followed by a concours entry exam). About 5 per cent of each age cohort graduates from a grand école, which receive about one and a half times the funding per student granted to universities.

Under Macron, reforms have been introduced allowing universities, which teach the bulk of students in higher education, to rank their applicants on the basis of school grades, in an attempt to address startlingly high dropout rates. However, critics – among them high school student protesters – fear that making universities more selective will increase social segregation.

The grandes écoles are “a web”, with ENA simply the most visible and “gilded” part of that network, says Jean-Michel Eymeri-Douzans, a professor of political science at Sciences Po Toulouse and a former vice-rector, who wrote his PhD thesis on the “sociology of government énarques” and who has lectured at ENA. The system of grandes écoles builds on an “extremely selective” secondary school system, offering the final “barrier in a system of barriers” to those from poorer backgrounds, he argues.

Data on the social backgrounds of students reveal a clear class hierarchy between the different elements of the French higher education system. The proportion of students from “unskilled labour backgrounds” in prépas for grandes écoles stood at 6.4 per cent in 2015, compared with 49.5 per cent for those from professional backgrounds, according to Ministry of Education figures. The equivalent figures for universities were 10.8 per cent and 30 per cent; and for university institutes of technology 14.6 per cent and 28.8 per cent.

Although the grandes écoles have gradually become less socially exclusive over time, the richest graduates of these institutions reach higher social echelons than their poorer peers, found a 2018 study by University of Lausanne researchers, based on large-scale data on social background and social destination from the French Labour Forces survey. The study concludes: “Despite a clear equalization trend in access to the highest educational levels in France, educational merit remains better rewarded on the labour market among the better off.”

French higher education has long been underpinned by a deep faith in educational “merit”, a faith invoked by Macron in his speech. This vaunted exam-based, “meritocratic” system is seen in contrast to class-based systems of inherited privilege and is considered part of the egalitarian ideal of the republic.

This philosophy was evident in the foundation of ENA in 1945 under Charles de Gaulle, who was then president. Thierry Rogelet, director of learning at ENA, says the concept behind its creation “was to give access to the highest executive levels of government for everyone”, to end unsystematic variations in recruitment practices across different sections of government. Recruitment to ENA aimed to foster “diversity” by being “based on meritocracy” and exams rather than on personal connections, he adds.

ENA was created by an executive order of government – because de Gaulle realised that passing legislation to create an elite institution might be too controversial to get past the National Assembly, says Suleiman. The nature of ENA’s foundation explains why Macron has the authority to plan its abolition.

Macron has commissioned Frédéric Thiriez, a former lawyer in the government’s Council of State and former president of the French football league, to compile a report on the future of ENA, which is due to be delivered in November. Thiriez is himself – get ready for a shock – an ENA graduate.

Merging ENA with other institutions is said to be among the potential options under consideration.

ENA’s Rogelet says: “We still have students in the school. We will have examinations for the new ones…to come. We will continue all the teaching reforms that were planned [prior to the Macron announcement] until we know what Mr Thiriez’s audit will say.”

ENA’s director, Patrick Gérard, met Thiriez in June and “made some propositions” about the reforms, says Rogelet, who also points out that since changes devised in 2018, recruitment has been “based more on personal capacities than academic knowledge”.

Daniel Keller, president of the ENA alumni association, says the institution is wrongly being held “responsible for all the inequality that exists in the…education system in France”. Macron’s decision stems from a French desire “to abolish the Bastille every 50 years”, he argues. “It’s a very symbolic decision, but it’s not a decision based on very accurate and reasonable analysis.”

After graduating from ENA, Keller worked at the Ministry of the Economy and Finance, then at Renault. He is now director of transformation and operational performance at social insurance company Malakoff Médéric Humanis. “I think ENA is a good thing, like Eton or Oxford in England,” he says. The institution is “a very strong symbol” for France abroad and “a good image for the quality of civil servant education”, he adds.

So what political factors prompted Macron to target ENA?

The abolition of the institution was an idea raised, on a fairly limited scale, by members of the public during the Grand Débat. Eymeri-Douzans says that while those involved in Grand Débat events in the regions were not the same groups as those who joined the gilets jaunes protests, there were similarities – and he says he can see why they would resent ENA. “Their children or grandchildren have absolutely zero chance to enter the ENA, ever.”

The gilets jaunes movement, Eymeri-Douzans adds, is hostile to representative democracy “because their understanding is that representative democracy has generated a new aristocracy system”. That so many of the elected politicians in France’s representative democracy are ENA graduates appears to those in the gilets jaunes movement “a validation” of that theory, he explains.

Samuel Hayat, a political researcher at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), author of When the Republic Was Revolutionary: Citizenship and Representation in 1848, has written about the gilets jaunes. He says the idea of abolishing ENA “was absent from the movement when it started”, but when Macron “presented it as a response to the gilets jaunes in April, the narrative was largely accepted by journalists”.

Abolishing ENA emerged as a “minor” topic in the gilets jaunes’ “real debate” (a rival to Macron’s) in early 2019, Hayat continues. But their debate contained “not a single proposal concerning the grandes écoles” beyond ENA, he says. Hayat suggests this is evidence that the gilets jaunes movement is “not an anti-elitist movement, in the sense that it does not question institutionalised or traditional social hierarchies”. The movement’s criticism of ENA “is not that it produces higher rank civil servants, but that these servants no longer serve the people”.

Macron’s speech hinted at other motivations for abolishing ENA beyond the gilets jaunes: he talked about wanting civil service training to be more open to the research world, and more international, as well as more integrated with universities. Even as a student at ENA, Macron signed a petition calling for reform of the institution, so he may see the gilets jaunes as offering a convenient pretext. Plus, the abolition of ENA allows him to say he has listened to the public in the Grand Débat and may perhaps slightly diminish his image as a typical énarque and as the “president of the rich”.

But while Macron’s move may be a political calculation and have a limited focus on a civil service training college, there are some who see it as a potential stimulus for more fundamental change.

Frédérique Vidal, France’s minister of higher education, research and innovation, tells Times Higher Education that, at a meeting held in June, she “asked the directors of the most prestigious schools in France to propose concrete solutions” to enhance social diversity. Macron, she says, “asked me to think about all the grandes écoles in France” – although she stresses that work to “democratise” higher education has been a priority throughout her two years in government.

Vidal set out three main guidelines for the directors: “to increase significantly the [proportion] of working-class pupils in their schools” without impacting on “excellence”; to “think about students’ lives” and how those from more deprived backgrounds can be helped with extra classes or housing; and “to look at equal access to jobs” for poorer of students after graduation. The directors have been asked to respond by the end of the year.

The key point is “to have young people coming from working-class [backgrounds] more confident in their ability to join grandes écoles”, says Vidal, former president of the University of Nice Sophia-Antipolis.

“Society has changed. In France we have been very proud of our meritocracy model and our concours model. But, nowadays, the problem is that this kind of meritocracy is more and more linked to the capacity to obtain the right information at the right time.” Too much hinges on parents being in the know about access to the most prestigious Paris prépas, Vidal argues.

The belief that it is both possible and just to have an educational “meritocracy” in which advancement is based on individual ability rather than social background is perhaps the greatest obstacle to major reform. That the term “meritocracy” was coined (by Michael Young in The Rise of the Meritocracy) as a satirical concept criticising the social segregation fostered by selective education appears insufficiently understood in France, as elsewhere.

There is “a strong belief” among the upper echelons of society that a grande école education “is about merit and…not about social position”, says Agnès van Zanten, a researcher at Sciences Po in Paris who has authored a significant body of work on the link between social class and education in France.

Gaining entry to these institutions requires a huge amount of work, especially during the prépa stage. So students who get into a grande école “really think they deserve their place”, says van Zanten.

This is echoed by Suleiman: “There is a strong belief among France’s elite that they deserve their position, that ‘we are the best – we passed the exam’.”

This belief was highlighted in a 2014 study, based on interviews with students at the University of Oxford and Sciences Po, traditionally a feeder institution for ENA. The researchers behind the study – from Cardiff University, Oxford and Sciences Po – wanted to see whether these students viewed themselves as more “talented” than students from “non-elite universities”. The researchers found: “The intense educational, cultural and social experiences that studying at elite institutions facilitated was not only used to explain why an Oxbridge or Sciences Po degree is distinctly better than those awarded at other universities, but also to explain why it was legitimate for leading employers to target them above other graduates.”

In June, shortly after Macron’s ENA announcement, there was a small but potentially significant shift on this ground. Sciences Po announced that, as of 2021, it would abolish the written element of the concours entrance exam, taken by slightly more than half of applicants, in an attempt to draw students from a wider range of social backgrounds. Instead, it will look at applicants’ baccalauréat results, examine their record at school and conduct an oral exam. Bruno Retailleau, president of the Senate group for the centre-right Republicans, called Sciences Po’s move a “blow against equal opportunities and meritocracy”.

Frédéric Mion, director of Sciences Po, says the written exams were “a deterrent for students from the lower middle classes” because they were “perceived as something you had to prepare for, and [this] meant, for most parents, paying for private preparation”.

Work on Sciences Po’s admissions reforms began two years ago, long before the Macron ENA plan. But Mion calls the ENA debate a “symbolic [means] to raise the wider issue of inequality: of inequality of access to leading positions in this country, to the elites. So it certainly raises the question of inequalities long before students are in a position to apply to ENA.”

Mion says the grandes écoles are “very much a product of what happens before them: in primary school, in secondary school”.

Could they follow Sciences Po’s lead on admissions reform? Mion points out that Sciences Po admits students directly after school, rather than via prépas. “As long as that system is in place, the grandes écoles have very little leeway in organising their admissions systems differently,” he says.

Overall, despite growing anxiety about the social and political fractures emerging in French society, there appears to be relatively little groundswell behind the idea of fundamental reform to the social hierarchy of higher education.

The left populist party France Unbowed, founded by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, has highlighted the gulf between public spending on grandes écoles and on universities, saying it would “integrate” the two sets of institutions to rectify this. That the party came fifth in this year’s European elections suggests that it is some distance from implementing such a plan.

Suleiman argues that French universities have “over the years got a raw deal, partly because of 1968” – when they were the source of student protests. The university system “has not gotten the right support because the elites are from the grandes écoles, so they look down on the universities”, he adds. “They want their children to go to a grande école, not to a university.”

Van Zanten is sceptical about whether Macron’s ENA plan offers any scope for wider change. The grandes écoles are “really very capable of developing a kind of symbolic discourse about equality”. But that equality is conceived not as “raising the level of everyone but [rather as merely] the possibility that there are no social and no financial barriers to going to the top”, she says. Within these institutions and within the government, the concours is still seen widely seen as “a legitimate mode of selection”, she adds.

The teaching unions and the left political parties, which might challenge for fundamental reform, are all “very weak”, van Zanten says.

Eymeri-Douzans says the broader social context makes wider reform urgent. France does not have a “representative [governing] bureaucracy at all” and indeed has never had a theory of one, he says of the failure of national and local government to include representation of those from North African and Caribbean backgrounds, along with those from the France beyond the big cities. He says of the country’s social divisions: “We are dancing on a volcano…But in politics, it’s difficult to address that directly.” For Macron, “using ENA…is way to try to handle this”, but it will not resolve the problem, he adds.

Given the free flow of ENA graduates between the government and corporate sectors, many think it likely that in his plans Macron aims for the private sector to have a greater role in the sort of training provided by the institution.

Jules Naudet, a researcher at the CNRS who has studied social mobility and elites in France, India and the US, says that abolishing ENA “is mainly symbolic and, thus, useless”. He adds: “By tackling the symptoms of structural inequalities rather than their roots, it will mainly enhance the two main [problems with] ENA: its role in reproducing social hierarchy and its role in allowing private [corporate] interests to permeate the top civil service.”

Despite the limited nature of Macron’s action against a civil service training college, the political context that pressed him into action is relevant beyond France. As globalisation, magnified by the legacy of the financial crisis, intensifies inequality, perhaps the ever-growing privileges afforded by elite institutions and socially stratified higher education systems will come under greater question. But so far, this age of populism and “anti-elitism” in the West seems to have prompted remarkably little scrutiny of socially exclusive higher education institutions, and their key role in the formation of political and business elites.

A true “anti-elitism” would involve a thoroughgoing examination of the way companies and public sector organisations recruit for their top jobs, of how they understand talent and of how elite higher education institutions shape this understanding with their selection processes.

Developments in France do not yet offer much of a guide on how to progress, but they do, at least, illustrate the scale of the challenge.

Publicație : The Times

It’s time to get serious about open educational resources

Using free online teaching materials instead of textbooks lessens student debt and sparks pedagogical innovation, says Steven Murphy

With autumn upon us, here’s a familiar scene on Canadian campuses. Eager young students queue in bricks-and-mortar bookshops to pay as much as C$600 (£350) for a single textbook. Yes, that’s correct. For a student with a full course load, dropping a couple thousand dollars on textbooks is the new norm.

In an era of mounting student debt in many countries, this is unsustainable. But what are we in higher education doing to change this reality?

Open educational resources (OER) is a term that was introduced in 2000 at a Unesco conference to refer to course materials that are hosted online and available to all. We have seen a range of actors, including the government of British Columbia, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and even Amazon make significant investments in this area.

For universities, the business case is compelling. Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey indicates that a $32,000 (£26,000) investment saved its students $1.6 million over two years. At Ontario Tech, we had a professor receive a standing ovation from his students when he announced that a certain expensive astronomy textbook was to be replaced by open educational resources.

At their best, OERs allow faculty and students to build course material in much the same way as developers build open code or open software. Everything is shared. Collective insights can be captured for future students in a virtuous cycle of learning and improvement.

At Ontario Tech, we have already made a multi-year commitment to open educational resources and to doing things differently. But there are four primary challenges that need to be overcome before the movement can really take off.

The first is lack of awareness. Faculty may not know the range of open resources in their field because creators too rarely employ search engine optimisation when they create these tools. Indeed, making more OERs discoverable might be even more important than creating more of them.

But academics also need to be motivated and given the time to create and adopt OERs. Adoption can often mean more work in uploading information into the university’s learning management system, for instance. Moreover, as there is no publisher and the information is openly available, it is difficult to “count” such effort in traditional tenure and promotion considerations. That said, we have been espousing impact measures for years. If your OER is sweeping the globe, then it should count. We need to find ways to make sure that it does.

A third problem with open educational resources is a lack of quality control. The textbook companies have editors and copy-editors to pore over their texts, but in the OER world there may be errors that are simply not picked up. Personally, I view the discovery of such errors as teachable moments, allowing students and faculty to talk about what makes sense in their field of study from a new angle. But clearly, it would be better if such errors did not exist – not least because they could lead some faculty and students to distrust open resources. Perhaps there should be some kind of Wikipedia-like system whereby editing services can be crowdsourced, with contributors checking and correcting each other’s work.

The fourth problem with OERs is the frequent lack of associated additional materials. Often faculty are rightfully looking for instructor copies, slides (yes, those still exist!), quizzes and exams, but these rarely exist. Moreover, the reality is that even when OERs offer materials such as test banks and answers, they too are open to everyone, making cheating on the tests virtually effortless.

Yet surely this is an opportunity to think about testing and validating in new ways. In scientific and technical disciplines, artificial intelligence programs can cycle through virtually limitless variations on questioning, removing worries about cheating. In more social scientific realms, we might have to reconsider the value of a final exam.

In other words, let’s ask ourselves tough questions about what competencies and skills we really want to see our students demonstrate, and then get creative about how to facilitate that. There is at least one member of my social science faculty who hasn’t given a final exam in years. I assure you that her students are learning.

Change is certainly not something that the academy has embraced readily over the centuries. But academic publishing seems finally to be moving in earnest away from the subscription model and towards an open access alternative. The days of standing at a lectern and going over material found in an expensive textbook should also be over. That model is similarly unsustainable in a digital world with limitless options.

If we really want to produce the best and brightest graduates, we must seize the learning opportunities at ou

Publicație : The Times

Europe’s top universities mull unconscious bias training for staff

Failure to improve diversity risks ‘marginalising the impact and credibility of universities in an increasingly diverse world’, Leru warns

Universities should consider giving all staff involved in hiring and promotion decisions training about the impact of bias in research and publishing in a bid to stamp out inequality, a paper produced by some of Europe’s leading institutions says.

The recommendation will be considered by the 23 institutions that form the League of European Research Universities, which published the report, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at Universities: the Power of a Systemic Approach, on 19 September.

The report says that, “despite numerous efforts, many research-intensive universities have yet to develop fully inclusive processes and cultures that provide true equality of opportunity to staff and students from all backgrounds”.

Efforts to promote equality to date “have not been joined-up”, the report says, often failing to tackle “common barriers faced by all under-represented groups”, including women, ethnic minorities and disabled people. Frequently they have focused either on staff or student issues, not both; and they have rarely extended to building inclusivity into curricula or the design of research programmes.

“Not only do disjointed approaches tend to waste precious resources and goodwill, they risk marginalising the impact and credibility of universities in an increasingly diverse world,” the paper says.

Leru’s members – vice-chancellors and rectors – have signed up to implementing the report’s key recommendations, pledging to develop a formal strategy to create a more inclusive academic culture across their institutions, and to communicating the need for change “from the very top of the organisation”.

Some of the report’s most detailed recommendations are on the subject of assessment mechanisms, including the call for all staff involved in hiring and promotion decisions to receive training about bias in academic publishing – for example, women typically have lower acceptance rates, while men are more likely to cite themselves – and in grant awards, where ethnic minorities have been shown to face particular disadvantages. Training should also cover “the reduced capacity of those with caring responsibilities to forge high-value international collaborations”, the report says.

The report also urges conference organisers to be more proactive in identifying qualified speakers and panellists from under-represented groups, and to provide better childcare support, since responsibility for this still falls disproportionately on women.

And, in response to concerns that university rankings may “tempt university leaders to fall back on stereotypical markers of achievement which…stymie efforts to embrace the vigour of diversity”, the report suggests that vice-chancellors should “through a united front, seek to drive overdue reform of university performance measurement”.

Simone Buitendijk, vice-provost (education) at Imperial College London and lead author of the report, said that it aimed to ensure that Leru universities and academia more broadly could tackle diversity challenges “with more effect and more success”.

So much has already been tried but “not enough, compared to the effort, effect has been shown”, Professor Buitendijk said. However, she continued, work like this from a “powerful group of universities can be a wheel of change” across the sector and Leru will develop an action plan that includes collaboration with other networks, governments and funders, she said.

Leru member institutions in the UK include Imperial, UCL, and the universities of Cambridge, Edinburgh and Oxford. Its members on the Continent include the universities of Amsterdam, Freiburg and Heidelberg, Leiden and Sorbonne universities, and KU Leuven.

The report says that improving awareness within the academic community will be a key factor. Lack of insight into the existence of bias and of empathy towards groups affected by it “may be the single most important obstacle in the way of sustainable change”, it says, since this can lead to a sense of shortcoming among victims and, eventually, underperformance.

“For the first time we’re looking at what’s stopping universities from being truly inclusive places for staff and students. It’s not just culture, but also what goes on in research,” Professor Buitendijk said.

“We have to show that if you make things better for the less privileged it actually makes it better for everyone.”

Kalwant Bhopal, professor of education and social justice in the University of Birmingham‘s School of Education, said: “This report is welcomed; the recommendation that staff are trained to recognise and address bias is crucial. However, such training must not be a ‘tick box’ exercise or indeed a one-off; it must be based on coherent ongoing conversations that lead to cultural change in universities.”

Publicație : The Times

UK may face ‘major delays’ in EU funding even if Brexit deal struck

Academic also claims European Commission officials told him UK coordinators would be kicked out in event of no-deal Brexit

UK academics are likely to encounter major delays in receiving Horizon 2020 funding even if a Brexit deal is struck, while UK coordinators of such projects may be required to step down immediately in the event of a no-deal scenario, claims a scholar who has spoken with officials at the European Commission.

Peter Coveney, chair in physical chemistry at UCL, told Times Higher Education that he had a phone conversation with two officers at the European Commission on 10 September to discuss the UK’s participation in Horizon 2020, the bloc’s current research programme.

He said he was told that if a Brexit deal was struck ahead of the deadline of 31 October there would probably be “major delays and disruption” in terms of the UK receiving continuing funding for existing projects because “the terms [of an agreement] would take time to be put in place”.

Meanwhile, in the event of no deal, “as of 1 November, the European Union will cease to provide any money to UK partners” and “UK coordinators of Horizon 2020 projects will be required to step down”, he said.

“This is the first time I have heard that statement made by the Commission, and it is categorical. The aforementioned actions will be triggered immediately in the event of no deal,” Professor Coveney said, adding that the officials made it clear that “they had consulted with senior officials and the Commission’s legal team and were advising me on that basis”.

Professor Coveney, who coordinates two Horizon 2020 projects with a combined value of €12 million (£10.6 million), said that he has “found it necessary to regularly seek professional legal advice to handle issues that I once assumed would be competently handled by the universities in which I have worked”.

“No evidence has been available to justify the assumption rife in UK universities that there is little to worry about,” he added.

Guidance published by the UK government on 9 August states that the UK has “committed to guarantee funding for all successful competitive UK bids to Horizon 2020 that are submitted before we leave the EU, if there’s a no-deal Brexit”.

But Professor Coveney said that the guarantee “only extends to funding for participation by the UK institution, not the funding for any non-UK partners, and potentially not the funding for any coordination undertaken by the UK institution”.

Kurt Deketelaere, secretary general of the League of European Research Universities, agreed that in the case of no deal, UK academics would not be able to coordinate Horizon 2020 projects because the UK would become a “third country”.

However, he said he was confident that if there is a deal there would be “a maximum amount of flexibility on the side of the EU to have a business-as-usual scenario”.

“The only situation we really have to worry about is no deal,” he added.

Thomas Jørgensen, senior policy coordinator at the European University Association, said that if a Brexit deal is struck then there will be a transition period and the UK will continue to receive Horizon 2020 funding as usual.

Meanwhile, the UK will also be eligible for funding in the case of no deal if it continues to pay into the Horizon 2020 budget, he said.

The European Commission did not respond to questions on the position of UK coordinators of Horizon 2020 projects in the case of a no deal, or on potential delays to funding if there is a deal.

Publicație : The Times

IFS: tighter rein in Augar and Labour plans could be ‘right direction’

English universities may have shifted towards low-cost subjects under £9K fee regime, ‘exacerbating’ inefficiency in the system, say economists

English universities have been accepting a greater share of applicants to cheaper-to-provide courses than their Scottish counterparts since tuition fees tripled to £9,000 in England, according to an analysis.

Such a move would be “consistent” with institutions wanting to take advantage of the extra income available from classroom-based courses that are cheaper to teach, says an annual report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies on education spending in England.

This shift could be “exacerbating” inefficiencies in the student loan system, the IFS adds, with such courses often being in subjects that need a bigger loan subsidy owing to lower graduate earnings.

The IFS goes on to suggest that one positive aspect of the reforms put forward by the Augar review of post-18 education in England – as well as Labour’s 2017 election pledge to scrap tuition fees – would be that such subject-related incentives could be reduced.

An IFS report published earlier this year showed that estimated differences in the rates of loan repayment by graduates mean that the government now spends about 30 per cent more on a creative arts degree than it does on a degree in engineering.

In its latest review of education spending, the IFS says one “concern in terms of the design of the system” was that it had the potential to “generate incentives for universities to expand” areas that were cheaper to teach, “further exacerbating” inefficiency.

It points to data from Ucas that show that the share of applications receiving offers on the cheapest-to-provide “band C” and “band D” courses are now much higher in England than in Scotland, which has no fees for domestic students.

“Acceptance rates have gone from being nearly identical in the two countries to being around 20-30 per cent higher in England,” the report says.

“This is consistent with English universities responding to new incentives by doing more to keep Band C and D courses full, although on their own these data cannot prove that this is what is happening.”

The IFS report goes on to say that the Augar proposals, which if implemented could see some subjects receiving more direct funding than others, would, “it is hoped, reduce incentives for universities to expand in ways that the government might not see as desirable”.

Labour’s policy to reintroduce a system funded through direct public spending would potentially allow even more control on where money is directed, although with a risk that caps on undergraduate numbers would need to be reimposed, the report says, and at a higher cost to the Treasury of at least £6 billion a year.

Re-establishing such quotas would mean a return to a system that was “heavily criticised” in the 2010 Browne review of university funding. “However, few would argue the ‘2012 system’ has been an unmitigated success,” the IFS report adds.

“While Browne hoped that we would see competition on both price and teaching quality, the higher-than-expected fees, rapid recent growth in the number of good degrees (firsts and 2:1s) being awarded by English universities, and the large increase in unconditional offers all appear to be evidence of universities competing in ways that were not intended and are not desirable,” the report says.

“Both the Augar and the Labour proposals would represent moves towards a more closely regulated market, which is probably a move in the right direction,” although the “degree of movement is very much a judgement call” that “deserves careful consideration”, the IFS says.

Publicație : The Times

Cambridge neuroscientist claims world’s richest award for education research

Usha Goswami’s work has allowed educators ‘to arm themselves with scientific understanding’

Cambridge University cognitive developmental neuroscientist Usha Goswami has been named winner of this year’s Yidan Prize for Education Research, considered an educational equivalent of the Nobel prizes.

Professor Goswami has claimed the HK$30 million (£3.1 million) award for her research into the neurology of language acquisition.

Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development education expert Andreas Schleicher, who headed the judging panel for the award, said Professor Goswami had “made great strides” in understanding brain function and development. Her discoveries have “far-reaching implications for people’s wellbeing in later life and their participation in society”, he said.

“Thanks to her work, educators can now understand how children’s phonological awareness underpins reading development and dyslexia across languages,” Mr Schleicher said.

“It has allowed educators to arm themselves with scientific understanding of how different children learn, so that teachers can embrace that diversity with differentiated pedagogical practice and make educational success predictable, scalable and sustainable.”

Professor Goswami is founding director of Cambridge’s Centre for Neuroscience in Education, the first facility of its kind in the UK when it was established in 2005. She researches the neural bases of speech and language impairments, including dyslexia, and of rhythmic motor behaviour.

The companion award, the Yidan Prize for Education Development, goes to Bangladeshi social worker Fazle Hasan Abed. The Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee (BRAC), which Sir Fazle founded in 1972, is considered the largest development organisation in the world.

BRAC helps an estimated 110 million Bangladeshis through its work in education – including its own private university, established in 2001 – as well as healthcare, agricultural support, legal services, microfinance and enterprise development.

Now in their third year, the Yidan Prizes have been cultivated to encourage educational innovation by boosting its profile. They are the brainchild of Charles Chen Yidan, co-founder of Shenzhen-based internet services giant Tencent, who has injected copious funding into his awards to help compensate for the Nobel prizes’ 120-year head start.

Considered the richest education prizes in the world, Dr Chen has committed to bankrolling them for 50 years. “Knowledge attainment is an area that transcends racial, religious, economic and national boundaries,” he said.

“Education will continue to evolve alongside technological breakthrough and social change. Every country and region can benefit from the best research and education development work.”

This year’s prizes are scheduled to be presented at a ceremony in Hong Kong on 1 December.

Publicație : The Times