HE Green Paper and Student Mobility

Women%20listening%20to%20speakers%20-1000615As an FE lecturer I know that one of the unsung achievements of the FE sector is that many students start at FE college and then go on to read for a university degree. The majority of young people in FE who progress to university do so through the BTEC and Access pathways, whilst other FE students progress via A levels or studying ESOL or Adult Basic Education. It’s great when we meet a former student who is now a university graduate. We have helped them get started on a long educational journey.

The Green Paper talks about the importance of encouraging social mobility. Shame then that the Government has imposed so many cuts on the FE sector, when we have been supporting social mobility for decades.

Many of our students need to study locally. They cannot afford to live away from home. They need to keep working part-time while studying full-time. Not all students can be geographically mobile. Many young people benefit from going away from home to study at university, but not everyone can afford to do this, especially with no grants and high tuition fees.

Some students who go to university via the FE route are local mature students with families and part-time jobs. They need local educational provision and to study at their local college and local university.

One of the worrying features of the Green Paper on Higher Education is that it contemplates Higher Education Providers leaving the HE sector. What does it mean for students if their course or even their university closes? The Green Paper seems to assume they will just relocate and study in another city. Some students will have the financial means, social contacts and self-confidence to do this. What about those who cannot? Will their degree studies be ended halfway through their course?

Moreover the Green Paper contemplates a massive increase in the number of private for-profit-profit providers of Higher Education. Will these providers provide for the needs of working class students?

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Solidarity with the junior doctors -12.1.16

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Good luck to all the junior doctors on the BMA strike today.

Visited the St Thomas hospital picket line this morning to bring solidarity from Lambeth College. Showing solidarity to those standing up to attacks on their rights and working conditions is NOT illegal! Your fight is a fight for all of us. If the Tories destroy the NHS then nothing will be safe.

Kill the bill and victory to junior doctors!

 

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Visit to West Midlands On the VP Campaign Trail – 8th January 2016

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It was really good to be on the VP campaign trail in West Midlands yesterday with Rhiannon Lockley who is standing for Womens Rep. Huge thanks too to Dave Muritu for driving us around all day and thanks to Birmingham Met, Sandwell and Solihull Colleges for hosting us and inviting me to your meetings to meet members and discuss the issues that your branches are facing.

Good luck to Sandwell College with your ballot to boycott a new, unsupportive lesson observations policy.

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The Green Paper proposes a disastrous redesign of the landscape of UK Higher Education.

The Higher Education Green Paper is not principally about teaching excellence. It is about further privatisation of the Higher Education System. The system is already largely privatised with degrees being funded by student debt rather than by state payment of tuition fees and grants. Degrees are presented to prospective students and their parents as an investment in employability, with promises that degrees will lead to higher lifetime graduate earnings. The benefits to society of having an educated population do not feature in this framework. We are losing sight of any public interest in the provision of Higher Education.

In February 2015 the Public Accounts Committee, chaired by Margaret Hodge MP, exposed how little BIS scrutiny there was of student loan money going to fund degree courses at private providers of Higher Education. https://www.ucu.org.uk/article/7415/MPs-criticise-government-for-disregarding-UCUs-repeated-warnings-on-dangers-of-higher-education-privatisation

In the USA there have been scandals surrounding the private sector of Higher Education. Too often the experience of Higher Education is proving a route into debt not into the middle class. Working class students are enrolling for degrees with private for-profit providers, not getting enough tuition and then quitting, taking away with them not a qualification but just debt.

Despite the disasters of the private sector the Tory Government sees more marketization as the way forward. They want to use the Teaching Excellence Framework as a driver for more privatisation of the Higher Education Sector. Their argument is that TEF scores will empower students as consumers. The problem with this argument is that most students only choose a degree programme and a university once in their lifetime. This is not a basis for educated consumer choices. Moreover students are not buying a degree, they are buying access to learning opportunities. It’s a mistake to treat education like a commodity to be bought on the market.

The Green Paper proposes making it easier for private providers to achieve degree awarding powers and university status. This will include lifting requirements such as a minimum number of students and a minimum number of years of successful operation before becoming a university. This is a threat to academic standards and to the status of UK Higher Education. This could be a rip-off for students. For staff it could mean worse pay and conditions.

Private providers will be concerned with profit not with academic freedom, academic standards or student welfare. Will private providers want to take widening participation students? How will they cater for disabled students? The Green Paper proposes a disastrous redesign of the landscape of UK Higher Education.

Stop the Victimisation of Sandy Nicoll! – rally on 29th October 2015

IMG_6429Solidarity with activist and SOAS Unison branch secretary Sandy Nicoll, who has been suspended by SOAS University for alleged gross misconduct. The charge is false and absurd and is clearly connected to SOAS Unison Branch Executives position of supporting the right of SOAS students to peacefully protest (Occupation SOAS).