The History Woman's Blog

Keeping the customer satisfied

Posted in Academia, Comment, Education by thehistorywoman on February 18, 2014

UCU_posterStrike action might be entering the hot phase later this year as the Universities and Colleges Union (UCU) has approved ‘a marking boycott to be implemented from 28 April if university employers still refuse to thrash out a deal over pay’.

The Universities and Colleges Employers Association ‘have so far refused to engage in any meaningful talks over pay, despite six strikes since October 2013 and increasingly vociferous complaints from students about cancelled classes and missed seminars.’ So their employees are now going to strike where it hurts most, and it is the students who are going to suffer.

It is unfortunate that things had to come this far. Academic staff do not want to hurt their students. Lecturers are aware how important marks are to them, especially to final-year and postgraduate students who are going to apply for jobs and will be desperately waiting for their results. But nothing else will now make a difference.

As the UCU points out, in recent negotiations

This is untenable.

Academics are not greedy. Most of us are in the job we do because we love it. We are a bunch of geeks who enjoy research, writing and teaching. We want to share our knowledge with our students. Most of us could get much better paid work elsewhere. But we are still here because we care, and university bosses are taking advantage of that. They know we would not abandon our passion for research and teaching over a couple of quid a month. So they put the pressure on and see how far they can go. (more…)

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Fees, fees, fees

Posted in Education, News, Politics, Uncategorized by thehistorywoman on April 9, 2011

The government’s decision to allow universities to charge UG tuition fees of up to £9,000 per academic year clearly was an own goal. A BBC survey shows that about half of all higher education institutions in the UK are planning to charge the full fees, and even those who don’t on average demand more than the £7,500 the government had bargained for. In fact, the average fee is likely to be closer to £8,500, leaving the government to foot the bill until the new graduates are earning more than £21,000 per year. If the job market doesn’t pick up quickly, there won’t be many graduates to do so in the near future. (more…)

Time to think

Posted in Education by thehistorywoman on December 3, 2009

Higher education policy has become a hot topic in the European press with the ongoing financial crisis and the Bologna reforms putting pressure on university resources, academic staff and students. While the financial crisis means that more people are going into higher education because there are fewer jobs on the market (and some return to education because they have been sacked), universities struggle to meet the needs of an increasing student population. Most governments can’t afford to raise higher education spending. Some even have to cut down, like Italy early this year or the Latvian government, which saw students taking to the streets on Tuesday to protest against spending cuts in the education sector. And standards are dropping.

There’s not enough staff to teach the ever-increasing bulk of students, there are not enough rooms, computers and books in the library. There are funding applications to be written and sponsors to be found. But there’s not enough money to go round. And nobody ever seems to have time.

Time is an important factor in academia. Scholars need time for research, time for writing, time for attending conferences, time for networking, time for teaching and preparation, and time for their students.

Students need time to choose the subject they’re interested in. They might even want to try out different subjects to make sure they get it right. Students need time to find their feet at university, time to read, write essays, revise for exams, and time to see their tutors.

Yet, time is something students and academics have less and less of. Especially since they have been burdened with the EU reforms of the Bologna process. Don’t get me wrong. I love Europe, it’s a great idea, and higher education standards have to become more comparable and compatible if we want to make the project work. And introducing the three cycles of qualification – BA, MA and PhD – across the board is a good way to achieve this, as is the introduction of a European Credit Transfer System. They help students to move from one country to another during their degree and so encourage them to study foreign languages and broaden their minds. (more…)