Tag Archives: higher education

ICYMI: 2016 in brief

It’s been another busy year in education, before everybody switches off for the holiday season and starts thinking about 2017, I thought it was worth a quick recap of the key events that happened in education over the past year…

January

  1. Overall education spending drops as a proportion of GDP from 5.3% in 2011-12 to 4.4% in 2015-16
  2. Education Select Committee publishes report on Regional School Commissioners

February

  1. Select Committee launches an inquiry into apprenticeships
  2. £4.3m Troops to Teachers scheme delivers … 28 new teachers
  3. Prof. Becky Francis appointed as next Director of UCL Institute of Education (IoE), taking over from Professor Chris Husbands in July

March

  1. George Osborne and Nicky Morgan announce all schools would become academies, then quickly rowed back, with the final death knell for the plans coming in October
  2. Select Committee launches an inquiry into ‘Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs)

April

  1. DfE announces that the three remaining ‘approved’ baseline assessments will no longer be an accountability measure, due to lack of comparability
  2. KS1 SAT spelling and grammar test stopped at short notice

May

  1. Queen’s speech includes new statutory duty for schools to promote the National Citizen Service
  2. Eight new deputy directors appointed to lead RSC offices

June

  1. Despite poll predictions, 52% of the UK voted for #BrExit, it’s still not quite clear what this means
  2. Centre Forum is reincarnated as the Education Policy Institute (EPI) – with a deep war chest, a crack team and a sceptical take on Government policy
  3. Education charities Teaching Leaders and The Future Leaders Trust announce they will merge, becoming Ambition School Leadership in November

July

  1. After an aborted leadership election David Cameron steps down and Theresa May walks into Number 10, replacing Nicky Morgan with Justine Greening as SoS for education
  2. National Governors’ Association (NGA), The Future Leaders Trust (TFLT) and NFER publish research on Executive Headteachers
  3. Amanda Spielman the Chair of Ofqual is confirmed as the next Ofsted Chief Inspector, taking over from Sir Michael Wilshaw in January 2017
  4. Another critical Select Committee inquiry on careers, expect the much anticipated ‘careers strategy’ before summer 2017…

August

  1. Dame Alison Peacock of the Wroxham School announced as new CEO of the Chartered College of Teaching, starting in January 2017
  2. Early years foundation stage profile reinstated as statutory

September

  1. Theresa May’s joint Chief of Staff Nick Timothy credited with masterminding the rather controversial (grammar) Schools that work for everyone ‘consultation’
  2. NFER publish a follow-up report on teacher retention
  3. Select Committee launches an inquiry into ‘primary assessment’

October

  1. On Halloween the Select Committee launches an inquiry into selective education

November

  1. A familiar feeling as the nation wakes up to another unexpected result, Trump for President.
  2. £200m earmarked for grammar schools in the last ever Autumn Statement
  3. NFER published ‘a tale of eight regions’, a follow up report about RSCs
  4. Two ASCL leadership candidates are announced, Chris Kirk and Geoff Barton, with members ‘going to the polls’ in January, and results out 10 February 2017
  5. Social Mobility Commission (SMC) publishes annual State of the Nation report
  6. Select Committee launches an inquiry into ‘Children and young people’s mental health’
  7. Five Select Committees lobby the SoS for statutory PSHE education, some for a second time
  8. Select Committee writes to the DfE with concerns about the transparency and accountability of academy finances
  9. TIMSS and PISA report within a week of each other. NFER publish 20 years of TIMSS in England, TIMSS 2015 in Northern Ireland (full results and key insights), PISA 2015 in Scotland, PISA 2015 for all four UK nations

December

  1. NAO publish report showing a £3bn hole in school finances, with 8% real term cuts and 60.6% of secondary academies in the red
  2. ‘Schools national funding formula – stage 2’ consultation launches, deadline 22 March 2017
  3. NFER publish research on the maths performance of disadvantaged students in England
  4. Primary schools achieve strong KS2 SATs results, despite assessment changes
  5. The National Teaching Service is scrapped
  6. The higher education REF consultation opens

Download a two-page Word version (with clickable URLs) here

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Filed under British schools, HE in England, Uncategorized

Learning as we teach: e-books, an overview

(a version of this blog first appeared through my day-job in November 2013)

I recently had the pleasure of presenting at a Pearson conference on e-books about the opportunities and challenges this emergent technology represents.

This presentation covers seven key areas.
1. A little context
2. Caution – emergent technology
3. What are e-books anyway?
4. pro’s & con’s (according to the evidence)
5. e-book features
6. Teaching and learning (new pedagogies)
7. What can you do?
8. What does the future hold for e-books?

Please share your views using the comments function or by getting in touch.

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Filed under Future HE trends, Global HE, HE in England

Fair access to higher education

(a version of this blog first appeared through my day-job in Oct 2013)

I just had the opportunity of presenting at the inaugural ‘World Congress on Access to Post-Secondary Education’ in Montreal. It was my first attempt at a synthesis of four projects that the Pearson Think Tank is involved in; on rising tuition fees, school-based careers guidance, university admissions and open education data. In different ways all of these projects explore the ‘wicked problem’ (complex, evolving and interdependent) of fair access to higher education.

The work highlights three of the common barriers that restrict fair access to higher education;
1) Information asymmetry
2) Unequal distribution of resources
3) Variable and sometimes unequal access

As well as three potential solutions that have been developed over the course of the projects:
1) Deliver truly personalised information and support
2) Develop sustainable local learning ecosystems
3) Make appropriate use of open data

This is an emerging strand of thinking so please do share your feedback.

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Filed under Future HE trends, HE in England

Presenting some ideas about employability

(a version of this blog first appeared through my day-job in March 2013)

I recently had the pleasure of presenting at a conference about employability in higher education. I was the first speaker of the day, setting the scene and highlighting issues for consideration.

Below is the presentation I delivered, with some info about the context we’re in, different approaches to employability, related approaches and key questions to consider. Employability is a common theme for Blue Skies authors and is increasingly featured in institutional responses to recent developments. But is the sector being specific enough about how employability can support different missions?

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Filed under Future HE trends, HE in England

Higher education in Asia-Pacific

(a version of this blog first appeared through my day-job in April 2013)

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Its common knowledge that overall this region is seeing high economic growth, driven by large populations of young people and rapidly developing economies. But it is not always clear what’s happening ‘under the bonnet’ when it come to higher education. In this final post based on reflections from visiting the region for the Asia-Pacific edition of Blue Skies, I want to draw out a few themes that I spotted.

Economic growth is driving demand from employers in the region for higher-level skills and although provision is rapidly increasing, there is still more to do with both capacity and quality. The latter is seen as critical to ensuring that these rising nations are both efficient and competitive. Higher education investment is seen as one key strategy for fuelling economic development and growth. However, relative to primary and secondary education it is accepted that learners increasingly have both the means and motivation to contribute to their costs, with a rise in cost-sharing and partnerships for long-term financial sustainability. There has also been particular growth of private sector provision across the region, often filling gaps and responding to new areas of demand. The HE sector is also beginning to diversify and specialise although this process has a long way to go in most cases. In addition to economic objectives higher education is also seen as crucial to achieving social development, with the rising middle class demanding inclusive and equitable access to higher education opportunities.

One major trend across these countries that has implications for HE is the rise in regional integration. Organisations such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB) are driving closer cooperation, cross-border collaboration and partnerships in the HE sector. For example they are working to harmonise qualifications and support the mobility of both students and workers. The European Union is a good example of what can be achieved with such supra-national groupings. This also aligns with the global rise in internationalisation and mobility of students, academics and university brands. Together these trends will intensify competition, create opportunities for deeper global partnerships, and open access to both student and academic talent. More and more students will be studying at rapidly improving institutions within the region, rather than relatively expensive developed-world institutions. Another organisation driving this agenda in the region is made up of the ten countries now within the geo-political and economic alliance of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). First founded in 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand, membership has subsequently expanded to include Brunei, Myanmar (formerly Burma), Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. Within this grouping 26 member institutions make up the ASEAN University Network (AUN), pro-actively focusing on exchanges, sharing expertise, and increasing mobility.

The internationalisation agenda is also playing into this environment, with more and more universities beginning to teach and publish research in English, competing on the world stage. The exception to this trend is Japan which is still experiencing economic challenges and an often insular culture.

In some cases booming economies can offer relatively high salaries without the need for a degree, as is the case for mining in some parts of Australia and call centre work in the Philippines (now with a bigger Business Processing Outsourcing [BPO] industry than India). It remains to be seen if such trends can be sustained with most jobs requiring ever-higher levels of skill and fuelling the growing demand for higher education in this region. It is clear that South East Asian higher education has come a long way but still had plenty of scope to grow and improve further.

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Higher education in the Kingdom of Thailand

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(a version of this blog first appeared through my day-job in Feb 2013)

This next blog in the Blue Skies SEAsia series looks at Thailand. Ruled since 1946 by King Rama IX, the world’s longest-serving head of state, it has been a constitutional monarchy since 1932. It is the only South East Asian nation never to be colonised by the West although it did lose some territories to the French and the British. During the Second World War Thailand signed an armistice with the Japanese and declared war on the Allies, but there was a strong resistance movement throughout and the nation emerged as a key ally to the USA during the Cold War. Today it has a population of about 67m people, most of whom are practicing Buddhists. As one of the ‘newly industrialising countries’ (NICs – beloved of my A-Level Geography teachers) Thailand experienced rapid economic growth during the late eighties and early nineties, including the world’s highest growth rate of 12.4% p.a. 1985-1996. However it was also at the heart of the Asian financial crisis, experiencing a sudden 10.8% contraction of GPD in 1998 and a long, slow recovery. It remains an export-led economy, a popular tourism destination and the world’s biggest producer of rice.

Today Thailand is a relatively prosperous and developed middle-income nation compared to its neighbours, for example the capital Bangkok feels about 20 years ahead of Jakarta in Indonesia. It has high literacy levels and a well-established education system, featuring a significant private sector. Thais are also relatively computer-literate, with a recent election pledge to implement an ambitious $96m USD one (Android) tablet per child policy. Education is compulsory up to 14 years and publically funded up to 17 years. However at all levels teaching is rarely learner-centric and education, especially the curriculum, seems subject to constant government-led change and short-termism.

The Thai higher education system is a mix of public and private institutions, the former including about 92 universities, colleges and institutes, including the oldest in Thailand, Chulalongkorn University, established in 1917. Although recent reforms have made public providers more independent of government (some were formerly called government universities) and their staff to no longer count as civil servants, they are still primarily government funded. Admission to the bigger and more prestigious public institutions is by a yearly country-wide competition, with some direct application too. There are also about 72 private higher education institutions which tend to compete through specialisation and innovation, in the face of more-established public providers getting the first pick of applicants. For example one private university provides compulsory 4 month semester-long internships which are flexibly designed to suit employers. Given an intake of 6 thousand students a year that requires a lot of outreach to build relationships with potential hosts but the benefits to both parties are clear. Some of the senior private university staff we met in Bangkok often felt stifled by restrictive government regulations that stifled such experimentation.

One major issue for Thai higher education is relatively poor levels of English, with the nation ranked 54th out of 56 South East Asian nations and 116th out of 163 countries worldwide. There is currently a debate about whether English or Mandarin should be taught in schools, with the former the current lingua franca for higher education.

Lastly, some of the university staff we met felt there was a general sense of complacency in the country, also reflected in the HE sector, that includes learners, lecturers and institutions. Rapidly developing neighbours such as Vietnam and Indonesia seem to be out-competing Thai universities, appearing “hungrier” for success and more attuned to the “twin poles of power, China and the USA”. So far there has been virtually no impact from international league tables, though this was raised as one possible stimulus for action. The other big issue on the horizon is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), but more of that in the next post…

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