Monday, April 14, 2008

Universities - Education or training

Our beloved government wants to change the rules for universities again; see

There seem to me to be several problems with what they are proposing.

They have just got rid of funding for "equivalent or lower degrees" ie second degrees for people who already have a qualification - however out of date or irrelevant to their change of career their original degree was. So that excludes many of the older people who might want to go to university.

Then, even if there are six million people who have "A" levels who have not been to university, many of them will have no desire to - they will be working and not want to take time out to go to university. Even if they do want to go to university, if they have not done serious study for a number of years then they will need to go to some form of pre-university course to get back into the habit of studying - but there is no mention of that, who might provide it, or how it might be funded.

Even if we get over all of that, is there a queue of businesses wanting to fund these courses? There has been only limited take up by industry of foundation degrees, and they don't have to pay for these. It looks very like the city academy idea in schools, where to drum up support they have widened the definition of who can do it and waived the funding requirements with the result that there are some very dubious (ie religious fundamentalist) people running some of our state funded schools.

And finally, we come to the change in the academic year so that we have short intense courses running alongside the more relaxed (well long holidays at least) three year courses. He appears to forget that many of the people who would be doing these degrees actually use the long holidays to earn some money to carry them through the rest of the year. However, maybe there will be decent grants / loans. Though that seems unlikely.

When though will academics have a chance to have a decent go at their research - there are very few these days who take long holidays, most use the summer as a time when they can do some research with fewer admin and teaching interruptions.

This looks like an attempt to firstly divide universities between teaching and research universities - bringing back the binary divide by the back door perhaps? and secondly to move universities further away from education to training.

After all, what the government appears to want is a submissive productive (trained) workforce that doesn't think too much (educated).

Perhaps we need to campaign on this.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Flowers are loosing their smell so bees loose their way

Apparently pollution means that the scent of flowers doesn't travel as far as it used to - but surely there is less pollution than there used to be with the reduction of coal burning? or is it all from cars now?

Anyhow, apparently this is affecting bee numbers. See