A funny thing happened recently. Sam Gyimah, the UK Universities minister tweeted a picture of himself on the train “adding the finishing touches” to a speech he was giving to university leaders later that day. A Twitter user joked that he might want help: “Can I pay someone to write my essay for me?” Mr Gyimah’s timeline was immediately flooded with responses – mostly from Twitter bots – offering to help with his assignment in return for a fee, guaranteeing a top grade and that the ‘essay’ would be free from plagiarism.   The original tweet was a witty reference to research published earlier in theRead More →

BBC Radio 4 reported this morning a leak from the current Augar Review of Post-18 Education Funding. They claimed that a ‘source’ had supported a report in The Times last week that the review would propose that tuition fees should be capped at £6,500 and the “shortfall would be made up by capping student numbers”.  For starters, the way this is worded makes no sense as capping numbers would only make funding shortfall worse, not better because of loss of economies of scale. I put this down to the BBC’s over-simplified description. More worryingly, this would be a disaster for any course costing more to run.Read More →

Over the past couple of years, I been doing some consultancy work for IP Inclusive, an initiative to support diversity in the intellectual property (IP) profession. I’ve been impressed by what lovely and dedicated people they are. I’ve also been delighted to be working in collaboration with the knowledgeable and utterly driven Duncan Grant and highly recommended web development team Visix.  The original job was to create some materials to promote IP careers in schools. I argued that IP Inclusive was a poor brand for this campaign: it looks at the issue from the employers’ perspective, not the students’. I came up with the name ‘CareersRead More →

I lead a busy life and, having not updated my website for far too long, I discovered that the platform on which I had built it was not longer supported. The result is that my website has now been rebuilt. Hopefully it will be easy to use, will tell you what you want to know about me and will intrigue you in provocative ways.  Most of the old completely redundant content has been removed, but I’ve left a few old blogs if only for historical value. Apologies if not everything is in place yet. Do feel free to point out mistakes and malfunctions or contact meRead More →

If you want to cut fees to win back the youth vote, you start with the courses that give the lowest financial returns, right? At first glance, this looks like a good idea to a new Secretary of State. So we can forgive Damian Hinds for flying the policy kite of differential fees for STEM and arts degrees amid the announcement of the HE and Post-18 Review. However, after even a moment’s thought, the idea collapses. It is a policy that is misisng a clearly defined intended consequence and yet would undam a flood of unintended ones.  The problem is that all too often kite-flyingRead More →

How solving a small problem like clearing could help solve a big one like youth unemployment: This is an article I wrote some time ago for a publication which never used it because, while it was waiting to be published, UCAS announced the results of its consultation on its proposals for a post-qualification application process. That consultation – quite rightly – dismissed those proposals as effectively not removing the clearing process, but putting everyone into it. PQA was off the table and my modest proposal below never saw the light of day. Outside of old people’s homes and Daily Mail editorial meetings, it’s not that fashionableRead More →

Widening participation: Who gains? This is the text of a presentation I gave recently at a roundtable outlining the case for employers to get involved in the promotion of wider access to higher education. Why should employers care about widening participation in higher education? The answer depends on how we see the role of HE in society. Among other things, it is a training ground for the workforce, many of whom work within the private sector. Even if they don’t end up as private sector employees, having a larger supply of graduates is a cultural and economic resource that drives regional, national and global prosperityRead More →

Over several months in 2012, I was fortunate enough to be invited to participate in The 1994 Group’s annual Policy Forum discussing some of the most pressing issues in higher education. At the end, they invited me to write a blog outlining the conclusions I had reached from the discussions. This was orginally published on the 1994 Group website. The right tools for the job Last year, Stefan Collini, the great Cambridge academic, published a much-publicised book titled What are universities for? On the first page – the first paragraph even – he abdicated from answering the question. Without setting out to do so, the 1994Read More →

I have been appointed to the Board of Directors of the Higher Education Academy. The HEA helps build on the excellence of the UK’s higher education sector. In particular the Academy supports evidence-based better practice in teaching and activities which promote the student learning experience. This involves commissioning research, disseminating it and providing events, training and resources.     In other words, the HEA is there to make sure students can learn effectively because they’re well taught in a suitable environment.Read More →