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Preview: Latest education news, including the university guide 2010, RAE results, higher and schools news, schools tables and further edu

Education | The Guardian

Latest education news, comment and analysis on schools, colleges, universities, further and higher education and teaching from the Guardian, the world's leading liberal voice

Published: Sat, 25 Feb 2017 18:17:03 GMT2017-02-25T18:17:03Z

Copyright: Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. 2017

I thought I'd never come out as gay – but university changed my mind

Sat, 25 Feb 2017 09:00:00 GMT2017-02-25T09:00:00Z

Even in this day and age, coming out is daunting. Fortunately for me, university proved more tolerant than the kids at my old school

It was in May last year when I went to my doctor’s surgery that I first came out. I decided to book an appointment to talk about depression and anxiety. But in a flood of tears I said the words: “I’m gay”.

Related: University LGBT initiatives: there's still room for improvement

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Secret Teacher: I thought supply would be hell, but it's a joy

Sat, 25 Feb 2017 07:00:05 GMT2017-02-25T07:00:05Z

I get to spend my days with the funniest, most creative, interesting people around – and also get to go home on time

When I first started supply teaching, after five years working abroad, the idea frightened me. After all, surely it would be unruly classes of untamed charges out for a day’s holiday in the classroom? Surely I wouldn’t cope? But I did. Last year, one of the most popular Secret Teacher blogs was about the hell of supply teaching – but for me it has been a godsend.

Although I have since taken on positions in schools, I have always gone back to supply. As the new academic year started up again last year, I didn’t return to the school where I’d been for the previous four years, due to restructuring. Instead, I’m signed on for supply again. I couldn’t be happier.

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Will business rates hike be final chapter for high street bookshops?

Sat, 25 Feb 2017 07:00:05 GMT2017-02-25T07:00:05Z

Booksellers group says rise will kill off independent stores and berates Treasury for cutting tax for sector’s biggest online rival Amazon

Bookshops could be wiped off the high street as a result of changes to the business rates system, the industry has warned the Treasury.

In a letter to David Gauke, chief secretary to the Treasury, the Booksellers Association said many bookshops will be crippled by rate increases and described the tax as “archaic”.

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Revealed: thousands of children at London schools breathe toxic air

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 15:01:35 GMT2017-02-24T15:01:35Z

Exclusive: 802 schools, nurseries and colleges are in areas where levels of nitrogen dioxide breach EU legal limits

Tens of thousands of children at more than 800 schools, nurseries and colleges in London are being exposed to illegal levels of air pollution that risk causing lifelong health problems, the Guardian can disclose.

A study identifies 802 educational institutions where pupils as young as three are being exposed to levels of nitrogen dioxide that breach EU legal limits and which the government accepts are harmful to health.

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Fast-track degrees may hit education standards, government warned

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 13:27:44 GMT2017-02-24T13:27:44Z

Plan to introduce two-year courses costing same as three-year course would lead to lifting of £9,000-a-year tuition fee cap

Plans for fast-track degrees with higher annual fees risk adversely affecting the quality of education received by university students, the government has been warned.

The two-year degrees proposed by the government will cost the same as a three-year course, meaning annual fees for them will be higher. Ministers are expected to table a bill to lift the current £9,000-a-year cap on tuition costs so universities can charge higher annual rates.

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What I learned as a student of colour

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 12:19:49 GMT2017-02-24T12:19:49Z

My advice to people of colour at university? Learn all about your cultural history, and link up with like-minded students

When I moved from Scotland to an English university in 2011, I expected to find myself immersed in a world of black womanhood that I had missed out on up north. I wanted to learn how to slick down my baby hairs, find some decent Caribbean takeaways, and pick up MLE slang – which might mean my friends would stop saying that they were “blacker” than me.

My conception of blackness soon turned out to be pretty naive. When I moved into halls in London, I was surrounded by white people. They were early starters, 17-year-olds like me, who had come from abroad or from the farthest corners of the UK.

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Education publisher Pearson reports biggest loss in its history

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 08:17:21 GMT2017-02-24T08:17:21Z

Pre-tax losses soar to £2.6bn as group – planning to sell its Penguin Random House stake – is hit by slump in US textbook sales

Pearson has reported a pre-tax loss of £2.6bn for 2016, the biggest in its history, after a slump at its US education operation.

The world’s largest education publisher, which in January saw almost £2bn wiped from its stock market value after issuing its fifth profit warning in two years, reported the record loss after taking a £2.55bn non-cash charge for “impairment of goodwill reflecting trading pressures” in its North American businesses.

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I’m a British academic, but no longer feel welcome in the UK

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 07:00:25 GMT2017-02-24T07:00:25Z

My partner and I have been separated for years by the government’s net migration policy – and Brexit is the last straw. I’m leaving for Europe

Much has been written about the possible brain drain among European nationals following the Brexit vote. A huge 76% of European academics are thinking about leaving the UK. But they aren’t the only ones who feel unwelcome here. I’m a British academic, and I’m leaving to take up a post in Europe.

Thanks to now-mainstream racist and anti-immigration discourses and policies, I no longer feel at home here. For me, Brexit is the last straw, building on foundations laid by the government’s net migration policy (upheld by the supreme court last week). Introduced in 2012 to reduce immigration to “sustainable levels” by limiting family reunification, it has directly undermined my right to family life.

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Family ties: how to get parents involved in children's learning

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 07:00:25 GMT2017-02-24T07:00:25Z

Use social media to share classroom projects, involve mums and dads in homework and try visiting them at home, say the experts

Teachers are always looking for ways to improve education for their pupils – and one of the fundamental ways of doing this is parental engagement. Learning shouldn’t finish when the child leaves school at the end of the day, and with parents on board it is much easier to help students reach their potential.

Of course, it won’t always be easy to engage parents: they may be very busy, or have a first language other than English. So what advice is out there for building better partnerships?

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Parents pushing for special needs diagnosis for children, survey says

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 00:01:17 GMT2017-02-24T00:01:17Z

YouGov poll finds some parents are pushing for SEN statements to help their children, while others slip through the net

Some parents are lobbying for a special needs diagnosis for their child while genuine sufferers are losing out, according to teachers polled by YouGov.

Educators are warning that middle-class parents who know how to work the system are getting diagnoses for their children, while other children are slipping through the net.

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Government spending billions on free schools while existing schools crumble

Wed, 22 Feb 2017 00:01:19 GMT2017-02-22T00:01:19Z

National Audit Office says £6.7bn is needed to bring current school buildings up to standard while ministers have pledged to build 500 free schools by 2020

Ministers are choosing to give billions of pounds to build new free schools while existing schools are crumbling into disrepair, Whitehall’s spending watchdog has found.

The National Audit Office has calculated that £6.7bn is needed to bring existing school buildings in England and Wales to a satisfactory standard.

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Plan to crack down on websites selling essays to students announced

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 00:01:00 GMT2017-02-21T00:01:00Z

Universities minister Jo Johnson has asked institutions and students for guidance to combat plagiarism via so-called essay mills

Ministers concerned about the growing scale of cheating at university have announced a crackdown on so-called “essay mill” websites that provide written-to-order papers for students to submit as part of their degrees.

Jo Johnson, the universities minister, has asked student bodies and institutions for guidance to help combat “contract plagiarism”, where tens of thousands of students are believed to be buying essays for hundreds of pounds a time.

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Council investigates Oldham headteacher's claims of threats

Sun, 19 Feb 2017 21:17:01 GMT2017-02-19T21:17:01Z

Department for Education says inquiry has nothing to do with extremism and should not be referred to as a ‘Trojan horse’ case

An investigation has been launched after a headteacher claimed she had been forced to work from home and that her position at an Oldham school had been made untenable by alleged threats and verbal abuse.

The Department for Education is working with Oldham council to investigate allegations made by Trish O’Donnell, head of Clarksfield primary school, that she feared for her safety after a string of alleged incidents that she labelled a “Trojan horse” plot to make her quit.

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UK universities urged to tackle rising tide of antisemitism on campus

Sat, 18 Feb 2017 08:00:34 GMT2017-02-18T08:00:34Z

Academics and student representatives voice concern at widespread incidents that are fuelling anxiety among Jewish students

Universities are being urged to act swiftly to tackle antisemitism on campuses after a series of incidents in recent weeks – including Holocaust denial leaflets, fascist stickers and swastikas etched on and around campuses – which have fuelled anxiety among Jewish students.

Leading academics, student representatives and experts on antisemitism expressed concern at the widespread nature of the incidents, which have affected a number of higher education institutions across the country.

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Bristol university chemistry lab evacuated in explosive scare

Thu, 16 Feb 2017 13:28:33 GMT2017-02-16T13:28:33Z

Chemical TATP, which was used in Paris attacks, was unintentionally formed in routine procedure by a PhD student

A university building was evacuated after a student accidentally made the same explosive that was used in the Paris terror attacks.

The University of Bristol said triacetone triperoxide (TATP) was “unintentionally formed” in its chemistry laboratory on 3 February.

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Inadequate sex education creating 'health time bomb'

Wed, 15 Feb 2017 00:01:18 GMT2017-02-15T00:01:18Z

‘Shockingly high’ numbers of STI diagnoses prompt councils to call for compulsory sex education in UK secondary schools

Inadequate sex and relationships education (SRE) in schools is creating “a ticking sexual health time bomb”, councils are warning, amid concern over high numbers of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among young people.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, has joined the growing clamour urging the government to make sex education compulsory in all secondary schools. Currently it is mandatory in local authority-maintained schools, but not in academies and free schools which make up 65% of secondaries.

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Utah rejects sex education bill, so porn site redirects to instructional videos

Mon, 13 Feb 2017 20:40:32 GMT2017-02-13T20:40:32Z

Utah visitors to xHamster are being given the option to watch educational videos after legislators rejected classes in school, including consent and contraception

A porn site is redirecting web users browsing from Utah to a series of non-explicit sex education videos after legislators rejected a bill that would have allowed sex education classes in school.

The state’s House education committee voted last week to reject the HB215 bill, which would have allowed parents to opt in for their children to attend sex education classes that include lessons on consent and contraception.

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Swastika and 'Rights for Whites' sign found in Exeter halls of residence

Mon, 13 Feb 2017 19:14:26 GMT2017-02-13T19:14:26Z

University launches inquiry over incidents, which follow reports of students wearing T-shirts with antisemitic and racist slogans

A leading Russell Group university is conducting an investigation after a swastika and a “Rights for Whites” sign were found in halls of residence, raising concern about antisemitism and racism on campuses.

The incidents at the University of Exeter follow reports last term that students were pictured wearing T-shirts with handwritten antisemitic and racist slogans at a sports club social event. One T-shirt had the words “the Holocaust was a good time” scrawled across it, while another said: “Don’t talk to me if you’re not white.”

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False economies of curbing net migration | Letters

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 18:35:47 GMT2017-02-24T18:35:47Z

The supreme court has erred in backing the unfair government ruling on the £18,600 minimum annual income requirements for entry to the UK of non-EU spouses (Report, 22 February). This ruling has always been morally wrong and unjustified. Contrary to Home Office assertions, it has had negligible impact on the drive to reduce net migration and it has not worked in the national interest. Non-EU spouses have rarely been a burden to UK finances. The standing rule that they are not allowed recourse to public funds is sufficient to cover this.

I brought my Filipino wife here ahead of the ruling, when our income was below the existing threshold. She gained employment immediately, studied intensely, and built herself a good future, buying our house in her own name three years ago. We plan to start a family very soon. Under the current rules, this country would have lost a valuable long-term asset, as it is now doing by effectively barring thousands of willing and able workers and their offspring from the country. It is particularly unfair considering that EU migrants, with no ties or allegiances to the UK, have virtually unrestricted access.

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Students: what are your experiences of websites selling essays?

Thu, 23 Feb 2017 11:02:25 GMT2017-02-23T11:02:25Z

Ministers have called for a crackdown on ‘essay-mill’ websites selling custom-written essays for students. We want to hear how widespread their use it

Ministers have announced plans to crackdown on so-called “essay mill” websites that supply custom-written essays for students to submit as part of their degrees.

The universities minister Jo Johnson asked student bodies and institutions for guidance to help combat “contract plagiarism”.

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Student volunteers make a real difference - harness their enthusiasm

Thu, 23 Feb 2017 06:45:06 GMT2017-02-23T06:45:06Z

At De Montfort students’ union, we manage more than 1,650 student volunteers. It’s quite a challenge. Here’s how we inspire them

Last year, student volunteers at De Montfort University logged a total of 24,000 hours of volunteering in the last academic year - and it’s our job, in the De Montfort students’ union (DSU) to manage them.

We provide access to hundreds of unique and exciting volunteering opportunities. As well as giving students the chance to volunteer on campus through various student groups, we also have links with more than 300 local organisations – all seeking student volunteers. DSU is one of just six organisations in Leicestershire to be recognised with the prestigious Investing in Volunteers Quality Standard for good practice in volunteer management.

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I'm tired of law, but is a career break right for me?

Wed, 22 Feb 2017 15:37:58 GMT2017-02-22T15:37:58Z

It is possible to take time out from a career in law without being written off, but it might be necessary to retrain

Are you the firm superstar, dutifully taking part at company events, mentoring the new intake and slogging away at your computer? Or are you the associate tired of late nights, Itsu lunches and Starbucks? While some lawyers don’t question their corporate career path, others have found that it is possible to leave, try something else and then get back in without being written off. Firms claim they are becoming more open-minded and leavers say the lure of the law can be strong. Could it be that a career break is a good thing?

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Princess Nokia in row over 'public display of sexism' at Cambridge University

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 12:46:23 GMT2017-02-21T12:46:23Z

Witnesses say rapper walked off stage and hit audience member after alleged verbal abuse during her performance at a university charity show

Princess Nokia was reportedly involved in a “public display of sexism and misogynoir” at Cambridge University last week.

The New York rapper and R&B artist performed at a charity fashion show at the institution on 15 February, but is said to have left the stage after three songs. A post, written by Richelle George and Jason Okundaye of Cambridge University’s network and forum for women and non-binary people of colour, Fly – or Freedom. Love. You, detailed an incident that the musician was allegedly “left shaken by” and that “will inevitably shape her perception of Cambridge”.

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Universities and Brexit: ‘We’ve 2,500 EU students – talent we don’t want to lose’

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 06:59:01 GMT2017-02-21T06:59:01Z

Glasgow University’s principal, Anton Muscatelli, says fears about the UK’s place in the research community post-Brexit are already affecting recruitment

Anton Muscatelli remembers his shock on the morning of the EU referendum result. He felt upset, shaken by its implications and by the forces that drove the vote to leave. It was “that feeling that something had changed, and that feeling of deep uncertainty. Not only the future of one’s own sector but the future of the country, the future of Europe.”

Muscatelli, the principal and vice-chancellor of Glasgow University, is perhaps the most prominent and politically active of Scotland’s university executives. As chair of Nicola Sturgeon’s European advisory council, he helped to shape the first minister’s stance on Europe. And he has helped to entrench devolution with the Calman commission. But now Muscatelli sees a future with conflicting, contradictory trends.

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PPE: the Oxford degree that runs Britain

Thu, 23 Feb 2017 06:00:06 GMT2017-02-23T06:00:06Z

Oxford University graduates in philosophy, politics and economics make up an astonishing proportion of Britain’s elite. But has it produced an out-of-touch ruling class?

Monday, 13 April 2015 was a typical day in modern British politics. An Oxford University graduate in philosophy, politics and economics (PPE), Ed Miliband, launched the Labour party’s general election manifesto. It was examined by the BBC’s political editor, Oxford PPE graduate Nick Robinson, by the BBC’s economics editor, Oxford PPE graduate Robert Peston, and by the director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Oxford PPE graduate Paul Johnson. It was criticised by the prime minister, Oxford PPE graduate David Cameron. It was defended by the Labour shadow chancellor, Oxford PPE graduate Ed Balls.

Elsewhere in the country, with the election three weeks away, the Liberal Democrat chief secretary to the Treasury, Oxford PPE graduate Danny Alexander, was preparing to visit Kingston and Surbiton, a vulnerable London seat held by a fellow Lib Dem minister, Oxford PPE graduate Ed Davey. In Kent, one of Ukip’s two MPs, Oxford PPE graduate Mark Reckless, was campaigning in his constituency, Rochester and Strood. Comments on the day’s developments were being posted online by Michael Crick, Oxford PPE graduate and political correspondent of Channel 4 News.

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Cappuccino with extra Italian? Pop-up classes bring a buzz to adult learning

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 07:30:02 GMT2017-02-21T07:30:02Z

As further education colleges face funding cuts, could evening classes in coffee shops bring students and teachers together?

It’s a rainy February evening in a Costa coffee shop in East Putney, south-west London. The shop is closed to the public but a group of men and women are gathered there, drinking coffee and practising Italian phrases with teacher Alessandro Fantauzzo. Two are here for work reasons, others to build their language confidence for holidays.

In the past, they might have gone to a night class at a local adult education college. But over the past decade, funding for courses that don’t lead to a formal qualification has been slashed. Since 2010, the adult learning budget has been cut by about 40%, meaning the days when adults could learn flower arranging, languages or guitar at their local college in the evenings – for a subsidised fee or even free – are long gone.

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Are Soas students right to ‘decolonise’ their minds from western philosophers?

Sun, 19 Feb 2017 09:00:04 GMT2017-02-19T09:00:04Z

Outraged headlines erupted when students launched a campaign to challenge the great western philosophers. We went to the source of dissent – London’s School of Oriental and African Studies – to investigate

“They Kant be serious!”, spluttered the Daily Mail headline in its most McEnroe-ish tone. “PC students demand white philosophers including Plato and Descartes be dropped from university syllabus”. “Great thinkers too male and pale, students declare”, trumpeted the Times. The Telegraph, too, was outraged: “They are said to be the founding fathers of western philosophy, whose ideas underpin civilised society. But students at a prestigious London university are demanding that figures such as Plato, Descartes and Immanuel Kant should be largely dropped from the curriculum because they are white.”

Whiteness is not a useful category when talking of philosophy. When people speak, they speak ideas, not identity.

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Should parents have to pay fees – for a state school education?

Tue, 14 Feb 2017 07:25:36 GMT2017-02-14T07:25:36Z

As more cash-strapped headteachers ask families to contribute money for essentials, some wonder why their taxes don’t cover it

Back in September, Nic Fearon-Low received a letter from the head of his daughter’s school, Coombe Hill juniors in Kingston upon Thames, south-west London, suggesting a voluntary parental contribution of £60 a year for school funds. He was, he says, “a bit put out”. Two months later another letter arrived, signed by a number of local heads, warning of a dire funding shortfall if the government’s plan for a new national funding formula, taking money from some areas and giving more to others, goes ahead in its current form.

At this point, Fearon-Low says, “I was incensed” – not at the headteachers, but at the crisis they face. “They have to come to us to meet core funding. That any government can put them in that position is awful.” He launched a petition asking the education secretary, Justine Greening, to address headteachers’ concerns.

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Sixty ‘orphan’ schools shunned by academy sponsors

Tue, 07 Feb 2017 07:15:08 GMT2017-02-07T07:15:08Z

Would-be sponsors are fighting shy of schools with a poor Ofsted rating or financial difficulties, tearing a hole in the government’s flagship academy policy

The past four months have been a worrying time for parents at Easingwold school. The 970-pupil comprehensive, in the picturesque market town of the same name north of York, failed an Ofsted inspection back in October – a traumatic event in any school. But Easingwold’s experience seems to encapsulate a wider problem for schools as England’s unpredictable new world of academy chains takes shape.

For Easingwold faces an uncertain future. Last November an academy trust started taking over, but confirmation of the takeover has now been put back until late March at the earliest, leaving parents worried.

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What would happen if a UK university went bust?

Tue, 07 Feb 2017 07:00:07 GMT2017-02-07T07:00:07Z

Data from Ucas has revealed alarming falls in the number of students accepting places at some universities in the past four years

The government may soon have to decide whether it is prepared to let a university, or more than one, go to the wall, academics are warning. New data from the university admissions service, Ucas, has revealed that some are facing serious difficulties, as they lose students in the aggressive new higher education market.

Highly sensitive institutional data released by Ucas at the end of January shows that universities including Sunderland, Southampton Solent, London Metropolitan, Cumbria and Wolverhampton have suffered from a serious decline in acceptances from 18-year-old UK students in the past four years.

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Let’s have a Blair-Cameron College at Cambridge | Nick Hillman

Tue, 07 Feb 2017 06:45:07 GMT2017-02-07T06:45:07Z

New colleges or more places would be the best ways to widen access at Oxbridge

There is welcome evidence of a new emphasis on broadening access at the University of Oxford. Lady Margaret Hall and Wadham College both recently held sparky events on the topic. At one, David Lammy MP questioned Oxford’s commitment to rooting out unconscious bias. At the other, Oxford’s vice-chancellor, Louise Richardson, picked a fight with the universities minister, Jo Johnson, over his higher education and research bill.

It is often forgotten that fair access is different from widening participation. Fair access is about who enters selective institutions, which by definition have more applicants than places, making them “selective”. Widening participation is about the number of places in the higher education system. The fair access debate is about pushing a chosen few through a hole in a very tight funnel. The widening participation debate is about making the hole as big as possible.

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Too few 18-year-olds? That's no reason to start shutting universities

Mon, 20 Feb 2017 11:10:39 GMT2017-02-20T11:10:39Z

Yes, there has been a fall in applications from school-leavers at several UK universities. But they aren’t the only people we cater for

An article published in the Guardian last week asked what would happen if a university went bust. Wolverhampton was one of the examples of a university that has seen “a serious decline” in acceptances from 18-year-old UK students in the past four years, and therefore could be at risk.

As the article says: “If you are losing students every year you just can’t go on doing that – something has to happen.” This may be true, but focusing solely on the lower numbers of 18-year-olds enrolling paints a too simplistic picture.

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I want to make a difference in academia – but I'm drowning

Fri, 17 Feb 2017 07:00:03 GMT2017-02-17T07:00:03Z

As the end of my probation period looms, the weight of expectations from my university leaves no space for meaningful research

To the outside world, my career progression from PhD to lectureship read like a stellar rise. Having made it through a couple of precarious years on temporary and part-time contracts, I arrived at an office with my name on the door and a lectureship at a Russell Group university. I’m now nearly three years into the role, with six months still to go on my probation period.

Related: Tef: dump the pointless metrics and take a hard look at casualisation

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Who's afraid of private universities?

Wed, 15 Feb 2017 10:32:39 GMT2017-02-15T10:32:39Z

Traditional universities and the House of Lords are, for a start. Do they have a point, or are they simply clinging to an outdated system that desperately needs reform?

The government’s determination to turn higher education into a marketplace and allow private universities to proliferate has come up against furious opposition in recent weeks. Traditional universities are concerned about how the newcomers will be regulated, and the House of Lords is doing its best to scupper the government’s plans.

Fiery language has been used on both sides. The universities minister, Jo Johnson, has accused the traditional university sector of stifling competition. He says his reforms, contained in the Higher Education and Research Bill currently making its way through parliament, would stop universities “acting like bouncers deciding who should and should not be let into the club”.

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I lost my job in academia after having a baby – now I'm stuck

Fri, 10 Feb 2017 07:00:45 GMT2017-02-10T07:00:45Z

I was made redundant following childbirth. I feel discriminated against and worry I won’t find another job

Shortly after the birth of my first child I was made redundant from my job at one of the UK’s top-ranked universities. For the previous two years I’d worked successfully in this role as a publicly funded contract research fellow.

Related: Rise in women facing discrimination on taking maternity leave

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Student choice: the new proposals are all froth and no coffee

Wed, 08 Feb 2017 12:19:49 GMT2017-02-08T12:19:49Z

The government claims it will offer students a wide-ranging menu of university options. But diversity won’t just happen by itself – it needs planning

This government says it is a great champion of student choice. Yet it is on the brink of legal reforms that risk restricting the options to the kind of choice car-maker Henry Ford famously offered customers in the 1920s: “a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it’s black”.

The diversity of UK higher education is one of its outstanding strengths. Large multi-faculty universities in big cities, smaller specialist universities for subjects like agriculture, performing arts and creative art and design; musical conservatoires; institutions founded by the churches; higher education in FE colleges; new providers opening up new areas of specialism, such as modern music. Students aren’t homogenous; institutions should not be either.

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Unethical behaviour among academics – your responses

Mon, 06 Feb 2017 16:14:05 GMT2017-02-06T16:14:05Z

Don’t generalise from a few bad cases, say our readers. Academics can do without unattributed attacks from within

Last week’s Academics Anonymous, in which a senior academic aired their concerns about unethical behaviour they had witnessed on the part of academics, provoked strong responses from the Higher Education Network community.

Several comments under the article and on Twitter took exception to what was seen as an unsubstantiated attack on members of the academic community at a time when the sector is already under strain.

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Unethical academics are making a mockery of our education system

Fri, 03 Feb 2017 07:00:08 GMT2017-02-03T07:00:08Z

A culture of immoral behaviour is thriving at our universities. But these are publicly funded institutions – and must be held to account

On the face of it, ethics in academia have transformed over the past few decades – most, if not all, universities now have ethics committees to oversee the quality of research. Yet experience has shown me that, in reality, many academics pay little heed to ethics.

What qualifies as research is open to question, and increasingly academics working in non-traditional areas are not even engaging with the ethics committee at their own universities. Worse, educators are behaving unethically with respect to the university more widely, their professions and the UK taxpayer.

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Why schizophrenia need not rob us of a life in academia

Wed, 01 Feb 2017 15:52:54 GMT2017-02-01T15:52:54Z

After opening up about my mental health problems, I received the help I needed to do my lecturing job well, writes Erica Crompton

On an autumn afternoon in 2009, I was fired from my job as a university lecturer. I hadn’t declared my schizophrenia on an application form and this was treated as gross misconduct. Many years later, I returned to the lecture theatre – but this time I was open about my condition, to a much more positive response. I learned an important lesson: that if I’m open about living with a mental illness, I can receive the support and help that I need.

I’ve since continued to work and have found it good for developing my sense of self-worth. I’m not alone in experiencing this. Elyn Saks, who also happens to have schizophrenia, is a remarkably high achiever. She first fell ill in 1977 and joined the USC faculty in 1989. She is now a tenured professor of law, psychology and psychiatry and behavioural sciences at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law; adjunct professor of psychiatry at the UCSD School of Medicine; and on the faculty at the New Centre for Psychoanalysis.

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Should academics boycott Donald Trump's America?

Mon, 30 Jan 2017 16:47:04 GMT2017-01-30T16:47:04Z

We face a difficult choice: stay away in solidarity with Muslim colleagues banned from the US or be there to lend support to critical voices

The inauguration of President Trump poses a challenge to liberals inside the US and beyond; a truth brought home only too vividly by the introduction of an executive order barring entry to all refugees and any citizens from a list of Muslim-majority countries. There are many ways that the academic community can resist – and is resisting – the illiberal, populist regime represented by Trump’s White House.

But for non-US academics who travel regularly to the US to participate in scholarly meetings, this latest measure presents a dilemma of a very particular kind: should we continue to participate in conferences held in the US which many of our colleagues, including British academics with dual citizenship, may be prevented from attending?

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Four ways to help your students overcome impostor syndrome

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 15:32:27 GMT2017-02-21T15:32:27Z

Are your pupils prone to feeling like a fraud when they succeed? Try these ideas to help them realise their potential

Ever felt like a fraud at work? As if at any moment, everyone else is going to realise that you’ve bluffed your way to your current position? This phenomenon is known as the impostor syndrome, and even those who are at the top of their professional game feel it. Emma Watson recently admitted that she’s uncomfortable receiving praise because she feels like an impostor, and Rénee Zellweger and Kate Winslet have also acknowledged similar feelings.

Research into impostor syndrome shows that it is characterised by feelings of anxiety – thinking that you are not as talented as others believe, that your success is down to luck and that one day soon your lack of ability is going to be exposed in front of everyone.

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Secret Teacher: our 'perfect' school is just keeping up appearances

Sat, 18 Feb 2017 07:00:33 GMT2017-02-18T07:00:33Z

Visitors are impressed by our high standards. But they don’t know what goes on behind the scenes

Staff collectively roll their eyes as a member of the senior leadership team says: “Diaries open, we are expecting a lot of visitors next week.” More visitors.

As teachers who often play host to training days for external schools, we’re no strangers to strangers being in our classrooms. However, the anticipation of visitors and the pressure to prepare has altered the atmosphere of the school, affecting teachers and students alike.

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Six tactics to help your students deal with stress

Thu, 16 Feb 2017 07:00:34 GMT2017-02-16T07:00:34Z

Schools are reporting an increase in stressed-out pupils. But teachers can give young people the tools to cope

Educators like me will not be surprised at the results of a survey conducted by the Association of School and College Leaders, in which 55% of schools reported an increase in stress and anxiety among their pupils.

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Want your class to go green? These apps will get them hooked

Tue, 14 Feb 2017 07:00:36 GMT2017-02-14T07:00:36Z

Technology can help turn your classroom into a dripping rainforest, a smoggy city or an underwater shipwreck

With 2016 reported to be the hottest year since records began, the environment continues to make headlines across the globe. Climate change remains high on the agenda, renewable energy discussions roll on, and sustainability is becoming more involved in conversations about food.

It’s never been more important to talk about green issues in the classroom – and technology can help. From cutting-edge hardware to the latest smartphone apps, there are valuable tools for creating immersive lessons, and to bring the issues surrounding the environment to life.

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Secret Teacher: giving students wifi has made lessons chaotic

Sat, 11 Feb 2017 07:00:09 GMT2017-02-11T07:00:09Z

Technology is useful for learners, but the school leadership team shouldn’t have introduced wifi without asking teachers

Our school recently started providing in-school wifi access to pupils. Teaching staff were not privy to the logic – but when the leadership team announced the news in assembly, they were cheered to the rafters by grateful children. The schools grounds have poor phone signal, so logging on through 4G had not been an option, and the internet had only been available through school computers until this point.

Related: Secret Teacher: My school is teaching students to plagiarise

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Stepping into history: how I moved my class to a museum for a term

Fri, 10 Feb 2017 12:32:44 GMT2017-02-10T12:32:44Z

Decamping to a Victorian classroom in a local historical site was not without its challenges – but my students learned so much from the experience

Like most teachers, Stephanie Christie is used to teaching in a modern classroom, filled with all the latest technology. But last year, she collaborated with museum staff at a nearby historic site, Arbeia Fort, moving her pupils into an old Victorian classroom. She spoke to us about the experience.

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Homework: is it worth the hassle?

Tue, 07 Feb 2017 17:08:34 GMT2017-02-07T17:08:34Z

Parents and educators question the value of setting assignments for students. But what does the neuroscience say?

Like all teachers, I’ve spent many hours correcting homework. Yet there’s a debate over whether we should be setting it at all.

I teach both primary and secondary, and regularly find myself drawn into the argument on the reasoning behind it – parents, and sometimes colleagues, question its validity. Parent-teacher interviews can become consumed by how much trouble students have completing assignments. All of which has led me to question the neuroscience behind setting homework. Is it worth it?

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Secret Teacher: My outstanding school felt like a results factory

Sat, 04 Feb 2017 07:00:22 GMT2017-02-04T07:00:22Z

Moving from a school that Ofsted consistently rated highly to one judged as requiring improvement raised eyebrows, but I would never go back

Why would anyone want to leave an outstanding school? This is a question I heard time and again after I decided to move to one rated requires improvement after three years of teaching in a top-level institution.

The running commentary from colleagues following my resignation was “You’ll finally have some time to get things done”. There seemed to be a belief that the number of hours worked or the level of pressure felt would diminish in line with the Ofsted grading. I’ve discovered that couldn’t be further from the truth and yet, after just one term at my new school, my sanity and passion for my job are slowly being restored.

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Devastating impact of meth in the womb exposed in South African schools

Thu, 02 Feb 2017 09:46:18 GMT2017-02-02T09:46:18Z

Extent of crisis becomes clear as children of women caught up in tik epidemic struggle with hyperactivity and aggression

Justin Summers has a mop of curly brown hair and enjoys playing marbles. Aged seven, he is on the cusp of starting his 12-year journey through South Africa’s education system.

But before he’s even started, the outlook for his education is dire. His ability to learn has been severely compromised because his mother, Agnes, used methamphetamine while pregnant with him. She is now expecting her fifth child, and is still using the narcotic.

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Zhou Youguang obituary

Wed, 01 Feb 2017 13:31:21 GMT2017-02-01T13:31:21Z

Chinese scholar whose western alphabet system advanced literacy and comprehension between speakers of different languages

A fortune teller once warned Zhou Youguang he would not live past 35. The prediction was plausible, as Zhou himself later noted. Average life expectancy in China was then around 30. He had experienced tuberculosis and depression and within a few years would narrowly escape death in a Japanese bombing raid that killed the man beside him. Yet his eventual death came the day after his 111th birthday.

By then he had fewer than 50 peers worldwide. The rest are known primarily for their survival, and Zhou had a variety of explanations for his own longevity: modern medicine, eating when hungry and sleeping when tired, and simply the fact that “God has forgotten me”, a remark reflecting both his humility and his humour. But he had staked his claim to a place in the history books more than half a century before, as “the father of pinyin”, having established what became the international standard for romanisation of Chinese.

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Theresa May knows her Machiavelli | Letters

Thu, 26 Jan 2017 18:11:52 GMT2017-01-26T18:11:52Z

Thank you for Tom McCarthy’s superb piece (Does Theresa May really know what citizenship means?, Review, 21 January). I do hope it has been read by the prime minister and fellow politicians of all parties.

Since Mrs May attended a grammar school, as I did in Scotland (where they are called academies), around the same time, she surely had opportunities for some classical education. I was lucky to be taught Latin, French and German at school and could have requested Greek as well as Russian. This while specialising in music, which I continued to study at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow and later in Florence.

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Chinese school allows students to borrow marks from 'grade bank' to pass tests

Fri, 13 Jan 2017 05:15:39 GMT2017-01-13T05:15:39Z

Students must repay their borrowed marks with even higher scores on a future exams or earn credits with extra work

Many of us have been there: hopelessly unprepared for an exam, wishing we had studied more and certain of a failing mark. Now for students at one school in China, success is guaranteed, but it comes at a price.

A high school in eastern China has set up a “grade bank”, where students who would normally fail a test can borrow points to push them over the line into a passing mark.

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Jagdish Gundara obituary

Fri, 16 Dec 2016 18:25:56 GMT2016-12-16T18:25:56Z

My friend Jagdish Gundara, who has died aged 78, was a shrewd and nuanced commentator on the theory and practice of education for diversity. He was Unesco professor of intercultural studies and teacher education, and emeritus professor of the Institute of Education, University College London. He was, from its inception in 1979, director of the centre for intercultural education at the Institute of Education.

Jagdish shared his ideas about interculturalism at conferences throughout the world, and was founder and president of the International Association of Intercultural Education. Convivial and mischievous, he was never happier than when fulminating against reactionary idiocy with friends over lunch in Bloomsbury.

Continue reading...Jagdish Gundara was an authority on education for diversity.Jagdish Gundara was an authority on education for diversity.

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Jews are world's best-educated religious group, study reveals

Tue, 13 Dec 2016 15:00:02 GMT2016-12-13T15:00:02Z

Pew report on schooling of different faiths finds disparity between religions in some areas of world such as sub-Saharan Africa

Jews are better educated than any other major religious group in the world, with an average of 13.4 years of schooling and a majority going on to higher education, a study has found.

At the other end of the educational scale, Hindus and Muslims have the fewest years of formal schooling, with an average of 5.6 years.

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Compulsory sex education is backed by eight out of 10 Britons | Letters

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 19:49:40 GMT2016-11-30T19:49:40Z

The government has decided it will not implement compulsory sex and relationships education despite recommendations from the women and equalities select committee (Report, 29 November). Yet, according to a poll we recently commissioned, compulsory sex and relationships education is favoured by eight out of 10 Britons.

Our 2016 report on girls’ rights concluded that the UK is failing girls. Schools should be safe environments free from violence, abuse and discrimination. However, in reality they can be part of the problem. Girls in particular report that they don’t feel safe at school due to unwanted sexual contact such as groping. Earlier this year, we revealed that one in five schoolgirls have experienced this, in or around school. If anything the picture is potentially getting worse, with reports of sexual offences in and around school more than doubling in the past four years.

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Chinese authorities make perilous cliff-face school run safer

Mon, 21 Nov 2016 17:02:06 GMT2016-11-21T17:02:06Z

New metal ladder installed on side of mountain has cut journey time by an hour for schoolchildren in Atuler, Sichuan

Authorities in south-west China have come to the aid of schoolchildren who had to climb an 800m cliff to get to and from school – by installing a thin steel ladder at the site.

Atuler, a mountainside hamlet nicknamed “cliff village”, is located on a plateau in the Chinese province of Sichuan and is home to the Yi people, a minority ethnic group also found in Vietnam and Thailand.

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Harvard ends men's soccer team season over lewd rankings of female players

Fri, 04 Nov 2016 15:10:31 GMT2016-11-04T15:10:31Z

University says ‘extremely offensive report’ on female soccer players was produced over several years by male players, who had been leading Ivy League

Harvard University has suspended its men’s soccer team for the remainder of the season because of sexual comments made about members of the women’s soccer team.

University president Drew Faust said in a statement on Thursday night that an investigation into the 2012 team found their “appalling” actions were not isolated to one year or the actions of a few, but appeared to be more widespread across the team and continued through the current season.

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Asia-Pacific students have test results cancelled in latest cheating episode

Fri, 04 Nov 2016 01:42:09 GMT2016-11-04T01:42:09Z

The ACT, used by American colleges to choose students, had been ‘compromised’, test provider tells examinees in several countries

Students in Asian countries have been notified that their scores on the writing section of last month’s ACT college entrance exam are being cancelled, in the latest example of how standardised test makers are struggling to contain an international epidemic of cheating.

The incident comes a few months after ACT Inc, the Iowa-based nonprofit that operates the test, was forced to cancel its exam for all takers in South Korea and Hong Kong. That incident, in June, marked the first time the high-stakes exam was cancelled for an entire country.

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There’s plenty of hope for Neets. I should know – I was one | Helena Kiely

Thu, 23 Feb 2017 16:21:15 GMT2017-02-23T16:21:15Z

As an Irish Traveller I left school at 11, but now, after a university degree, I help disengaged young people. The services and support on offer need an overhaul

Official figures released today show that more than one in 10 young people in the UK are not in education, employment or training (Neet). There are 407,000 young women who are Neet, and for a while I was one of them. Now I’m using my experience to help others like me find work.

I left school at 11 with no qualifications. Brought up in a family of Irish Travellers in London, this is what most people my age did. The schools I attended did not understand or appreciate my ethnicity. I was stereotyped. Their view that all Irish Travellers were bare-knuckle boxers or antisocial meant me and my siblings were made to sit in the dinner hall during playtime because we were “too streetwise” in case we played too hard with the other children.

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The US travel ban would be bad news for American universities | Mary O’Hara

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 07:15:02 GMT2017-02-21T07:15:02Z

No wonder leading US higher education institutions opposed the president’s executive order – the benefits offered by international students are clear

When Donald Trump issued his shambolic and destructive executive order shortly after his inauguration, attempting to suspend immigration to the US from seven Muslim-majority countries, the shockwaves were swift and far-reaching. Objections have come from campuses all over the country, and with good reason.

The ban clearly affects Muslims, including current and prospective students, but its reach (even after clarifications on green-card holders) is far wider. Alongside other visa changes being mooted and talk of “extreme vetting” it makes for a disturbing climate.

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We must ensure all Scottish public buildings are safe | Neil Baxter

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 06:29:12 GMT2017-02-21T06:29:12Z

The damning Cole report on standards at 17 PFI-built Edinburgh schools should not be shelved. All Scottish councils need to review their public buildings

The knee-jerk reaction to last week’s calls by the Scottish government and subsequently by the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) for urgent action over all Scottish public buildings created through private finance initiatives seems mainly to be a sad rush to find space on bookshelves for John Cole’s 272 pages of considered reporting.

That is a great pity. It seems, at best, ill-considered to dismiss the Cole inquiry’s relevance to buildings elsewhere built under similar regimes to the Edinburgh schools. Perhaps some see the pending local elections in May as an opportunity to pass on the whole issue.

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London’s pollution is so bad that it forced me to give up my dream PhD | Vicky Ware

Mon, 20 Feb 2017 13:10:37 GMT2017-02-20T13:10:37Z

Arriving to study, I had my first asthma attack in 10 years. The capital’s shocking air quality is a health emergency – and it’s already costing lives

While the mayor of London Sadiq Khan is acting on the fact that London breached its annual air pollution limit within just five days this year by advising Londoners to remain indoors, limit heavy breathing, and eat vegetables – seemingly everything other than not driving – millions of people are suffering serious health effects from exposure to particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and myriad other pollutants in the air.

Khan said: “Everyone – from the most vulnerable to the physically fit – may need to take precautions to protect themselves from the filthy air.”

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The Guardian view on vocational education: choice at 14 is not working | Editorial

Sun, 19 Feb 2017 18:33:55 GMT2017-02-19T18:33:55Z

Few dispute the importance of better vocational education pathways. But the current system is failing and should be revisited

England’s beleaguered vocational education system has been subjected to wave after wave of reform. Yet improving the quality of technical education has eluded governments of all colours. University technical colleges (UTCs) are only the latest example of a shiny innovation that ran on to the rocks. Seven UTCs have now announced they are closing their doors, and Michael Gove, the former education secretary who introduced them, says the idea has “all gone a bit Pete Tong”.

UTCs were intended to provide quality vocational education, combining technical and academic learning, for young people from the age of 14. Despite the millions the government has invested in them, they have on the whole been plagued by poor GCSE results and an inability to attract sufficient numbers of young people.

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A moment that changed me: my psychiatrist told me I could be one too | Linda Gask

Fri, 17 Feb 2017 08:00:04 GMT2017-02-17T08:00:04Z

While studying medicine, I suffered from mental health problems that required treatment. My doctor told me they needn’t stop me pursuing my dream

During my years of medical training I was tense and wound up almost all of the time. Then, just before my finals, things got very much worse. I began to draw up a complex revision timetable, which I obsessed over. I was as fearful of failing as I had been with my A-levels, but there was also a terrible sense of unease about what was happening to me, to which I couldn’t put a name.

I convinced myself that the best way to stay in control of my world was to design a kind of map for my mind and contain everything within it by the time the exams arrived. I ruled out lines on sheets of paper to create a chart to govern every waking hour for the next few months. I did not want to acknowledge the obvious parallels with my brother, whose strange behaviour would later be diagnosed as obsessive compulsive disorder.

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Draconian secrecy measures are being quietly ushered in. We must fight them | Joanna Cherry

Thu, 16 Feb 2017 15:00:06 GMT2017-02-16T15:00:06Z

Under new proposals, journalists and whistleblowers could face 14 years in jail for handling government data. It’s part of a trend towards the silencing of dissent

Last year, suspicionless surveillance of the lawful activities of ordinary citizens was authorised on a scale unprecedented in any other western democracy. Those of us who warned that the Investigatory Powers Act’s provisions in respect of the indiscriminate collection and retention of electronic communications were of dubious legality have already been vindicated by the court of justice of the European Union. The precise impact of the decision will now be confirmed by the court of appeal, which referred the matter to the court of justice.

Related: No 10: Official Secrets Act proposals 'project of previous prime minister'

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The résumé is dead: your next click might determine your next job

Thu, 16 Feb 2017 00:24:36 GMT2017-02-16T00:24:36Z

The argument about whether robots will take our jobs is irrelevant: workforce science and data aggregation have already changed how we find work

The rise of ever more intelligent machines is prompting much speculation about the future of work and a clear separation of views is becoming apparent. Some claim that automation is likely to lead to job losses and that we should prepare for that. Others argue that the new technologies will create as many jobs as they destroy: after all, that is what has happened in the past.

Those – like Donald Trump – who argue they can “bring back the jobs” presume a return, or reinvention, of an almost mythical past where manufacturing dominated the economy and the big firms were also big employers who benefited from a large, full-time workforce.

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Michael Palin: geography students hold the key to the world's problems

Thu, 18 Aug 2011 16:42:47 GMT2011-08-18T16:42:47Z

Geography may have slipped out of the top 10 A-level subjects, but that doesn't change the fact that work done by geographers has global importance, says Michael Palin

John Hall, my geography teacher at school inspired me to a lifelong interest ingeography and a curiosity about our world which has stayed with me through my life, and through seven television series. Geography is a living, breathing subject, constantly adapting itself to change. It is dynamic and relevant. For me geography is a great adventure with a purpose.

So many of the world's current issues – at a global scale and locally - boil down to geography, and need the geographers of the future to help us understand them. Global warming as it affects countries and regions, food and energy security, the degradation of land and soils from over-use and misuse, the spread of disease, the causes and consequences of migration, and the impacts of economic change on places and communities. These are just some of the challenges facing the next generation, which geographers must help solve.

Continue reading...Michael Palin stepped in to defend the subject of geography after it was announced that it had fallen out of the top 10 most popular A-level subjects.Michael Palin stepped in to defend the subject of geography after it was announced that it had fallen out of the top 10 most popular A-level subjects.

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No grammar schools, lots of play: the secrets of Europe’s top education system

Tue, 20 Sep 2016 06:30:53 GMT2016-09-20T06:30:53Z

In Finland children don’t start school until they are seven, but what happens before that is even more important

It’s a warm September afternoon in the Kallio district of Helsinki. Out in the Franzenia daycare centre playground, groups of four- and five-year-olds roam contentedly. “Would you like an ice-cream?” asks one, having set up her elaborate “stall” on the edge of the sandpit. Kindergarten staff move among the children, chatting, observing and making written notes.

There is nothing outwardly distinctive about the centre, though with 200 children, it is the city’s largest. It is a tall, somewhat dour former university building, built in the 1930s and converted to its present role last year. Yet it is in places such as this oddly homespun centre with its strange echoes of bureaucracy, walls plastered with children’s art and piles of play paraphernalia, that the Finnish education “miracle” starts to take shape.

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Now a degree is a commodity, no wonder more students are cheating | Poppy Noor

Wed, 22 Feb 2017 14:41:30 GMT2017-02-22T14:41:30Z

Of course plagiarism is wrong. But treating students as consumers sends them a very clear message: your money is just as important as your mind

It was reported this week that the Department for Education is considering new penalties for students who plagiarise essays. This comes after an investigation by the Times in 2016 found that 50,000 students had been caught cheating on their university degrees in the three years before.

Students were paying anywhere between £100 and £6,750 for an essay, and this widespread cheating has led to suggestions that criminal records could be dished out to offenders. But with a generation now forking out in excess of £50,000 for their degrees, is anybody surprised that a university education now feels like another asset that can simply be bought?

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University guide 2017: league table for law

Mon, 23 May 2016 10:00:10 GMT2016-05-23T10:00:10Z

The study of criminal legal systems – includes criminology and jurisprudence

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Human rights teaching reduces bullying, study finds

Tue, 02 Nov 2010 06:00:08 GMT2010-11-02T06:00:08Z

Unicef project in hundreds of UK schools helps to foster calmer classrooms and a reduction in bullying and truancy

Teaching children about their human rights can reduce bullying and exclusions, improve relations with teachers and create a calmer atmosphere for learning, according to an academic study published today.

A Unicef UK project running in more than 1,000 schools across Britain teaches pupils about their rights and responsibilities, and encourages them to draw up charters for classroom behaviour.

Continue reading...Unicef's school-based human rights project has been hailed as a success by university researchers. Photograph: Matt Cardy/GettyUnicef's school-based human rights project has been hailed as a success by university researchers. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty

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Guardian University Guide 2017: the subject tables

Mon, 23 May 2016 10:00:11 GMT2016-05-23T10:00:11Z

League tables of all 54 subject areas taught at UK universities, with listings of the courses available in each of those subjects

Accounting and finance

Agriculture, forestry and food

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University vice-chancellors' average pay now exceeds £275,000

Thu, 23 Feb 2017 00:01:47 GMT2017-02-23T00:01:47Z

Union calls for scrutiny of ‘fat cat’ deals as rising tuition fees burden students with debt

University vice-chancellors received an average salary package of £277,834 in the last academic year – more than six times the average pay of their staff – according to a new survey by the universities union.

The report, released on Thursday by the University and College Union (UCU), revealed that 23 British universities had increased packages to their vice-chancellors by 10% or more in 2015-16. Fifty-five universities paid their heads more than £300,000, 11 vice-chancellors now have a package worth more than £400,000 a year.

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Words you can write on a calculator

Fri, 10 Jan 2014 11:48:15 GMT2014-01-10T11:48:15Z

If you were ever bored enough in a maths class to turn a number on your calculator into a word you may have only been scraping the surface. There is much more to this art than meets the eye

I own a Casio fx-85gt plus. It can perform 260 functions in less than a second, it can tell me when I've got a recurring decimal and it has a slide-on protective cover so that the buttons don't get pressed when it's in my bag. And even if the buttons do get pressed, I've got two-way power – solar and battery – so I'm sorted.

But as soon as I bought it I was disappointed. If I happened to be bored in a maths class, typed out 0.1134, turned my calculator upside down and slid it across to a friend I wouldn't get so much as a smile. The numbers look too much like normal typeface. 

Continue reading...Did you know that there's so much more to 0.1134 than first meets the eye?Did you know that there's so much more to 0.1134 than first meets the eye?

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A language family tree - in pictures

Fri, 23 Jan 2015 11:17:01 GMT2015-01-23T11:17:01Z

Minna Sundberg’s illustration maps the relationships between Indo-European and Uralic languages. The creator of the webcomic Stand Still. Stay Silent, put the illustration together to show why some of the characters in her comic were able to understand each other despite speaking different languages. She wanted to show how closely related Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic were to each other, and how Finnish came from distinct linguistic roots

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Top 10 podcasts to help you learn a language

Mon, 09 Feb 2015 12:45:01 GMT2015-02-09T12:45:01Z

From videos in Japanese to news in German, language blogger Lindsay Dow recommends her favourite podcasts to keep you motivated and inspired while improving your skills

I became a language addict way back in the early noughties thanks to Shakira. Since then I’ve gone on to pursue a degree in French and Spanish with the Open University, and I’ve also studied Mandarin, Italian, German and various other languages along the way. With formal studying never quite being enough, I’m always looking for other methods to engage my language learning brain, podcasts being one of them. Here’s a few of my favourites:

Continue reading..."I’m always looking for other methods to engage my language learning brain," says Lindsay Dow. Photograph: Katherine Anne Rose"I’m always looking for other methods to engage my language learning brain," says Lindsay Dow. Photograph: Katherine Anne Rose

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London buses and great expectorations | Brief letters

Thu, 23 Feb 2017 19:06:16 GMT2017-02-23T19:06:16Z

Spitting on buses | Acid for sale | Betting industry | ‘sad cakes’

The concept of poor behaviour as perpetrated by those perceived as “other” is not just a contemporary problem (Suzanne Moore, G2, 23 February). As a student at a northern university in the 70s, I can remember cosmopolitan friends being appalled that we northerners had to have signs telling us not to spit on buses. Such crass behaviour was so unthinkable in the civilised south that no such instructions were necessary. Until I pointed out that London buses displayed notices informing passengers that expectoration was prohibited. An example of a superior class of poor behaviour in the polysyllabic south?
Austen Lynch
Garstang, Lancashire

• When I was a schoolboy, not only did the chemistry sets on sale in toy shops contain bottles of acids but they could be refilled at the chemist’s without question (Acid is all too readily available in the UK, Letters, 17 February). Moreover, our radio used an accumulator containing sulphuric acid, and one of my chores was to take it to the village shop to be charged. Many a pair of trousers had holes burned in the leg by the time I got home.
Jim Grindle
Formby, Merseyside

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