Why the NSS is garbage – Lord Lipsey

The National Students Survey results matter. First, they are used by students to evaluate institutions by comparison with rival institutions. Secondly, they are one of the metrics to be used in the TEF, in awarding gold, silver or bronze markings to institutions which apply to take part. These ratings will decide if an institution can or cannot raise its fees beyond £9K.

The idea that student satisfaction should play a major role in the rating of universities is controversial. Research shows that there is no correlation between student satisfaction and student results in terms of degree grade. However the government has opted to increase the importance of student choice, competition and satisfaction in the higher education landscape; and this short note does not seek to address the rights and wrongs of that.

Rather it focusses on a narrow point: whether the National Student Survey (NSS), the chosen instrument to measure student satisfaction, is fit for purpose or not. Here the evidence is unequivocal: the NSS is statistical garbage. The reasons are widely understood by the statistical community and were set out inter alia by the Royal Statistical Society in its response to the government’s technical consultation about the TEF. Continue reading

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Alert: HE Bill back in Lords for voting on amendments – from 6 March

Dear colleagues

After weeks of detailed line-by-line debate at Committee Stage over two months, the Higher Education and Research Bill returns to the full House of Lords debate at the ‘Report Stage’ from Monday March 6th. The House will be voting on a set of amendments put forward to a full vote by the Committee.

It is fair to say that the Lords have subjected the Bill to a far greater level of critical scrutiny than the Commons, where Jo Johnson has so-far relied on an inbuilt Conservative majority voting with the party whip to see off any criticism.

Voting at Second and Third Readings on the unaltered Bill divided simply on party lines. The Conservative and DUP MPs voted for the Bill. Every other MP voted against the Bill.

There is now a real opportunity for those of us opposed to the Bill to influence events. 

Amendments passed by the Lords will be sent back to the Commons for the Final Reading. At that point, Conservative and DUP MPs will have to decide whether they should support the amendments.

  • All colleagues can use the UCU Lobby a Lord tool to raise concerns with Lords and ask them to vote in support of critical amendments.
  • Colleagues, especially those in Conservative and DUP constituencies, should restart the process of lobbying their MPs. There is a Lobby Your MP tool on the UCU website. Try to find out where your MP is having a constituency surgery and arrange to meet them in person.

As some 200 amendments are proposed, and some may be difficult to follow, Prof David Midgley for the CDBU has prepared the attached briefing on what the CDBU believe are the key amendments. UCU has also produced this briefing.

We will also provide up-dated information on the progress of amendments through the Lords on the Convention website.

Relevant documents

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Press release 9/1/2017

Students and staff speak out as the Lords prepare to challenge Jo Johnson over his Higher Education and Research Bill

Universities return to teaching this week, but lecturers, students and researchers face an uncertain future. The Government is pushing ahead with its Higher Education and Research Bill, currently in the House of Lords. A cross-bench alliance of Lords are organising a major revolt over the bill.

What is going on? Why does this matter?

Professor John Holmwood, a sociologist at the University of Nottingham who set up the Campaign for the Public University and is a founding member of the Convention for Higher Education, explained:

“The HE Bill is a deliberate attempt to remove all the checks and balances that protect university teaching standards – and thus the quality of student degrees – in the Higher Education sector.

“A student at a UK university knows that their degree programme is being carried out at a university that is strictly quality-controlled by subject experts among staff and by the Government, through their Quality Assurance Agency, the Higher Education Funding councils, and other bodies. When they graduate, their degree will be worth something.

“But if the Bill goes through unamended, this strict regulation will be scrapped, and we are likely to see quality of degrees in the UK go down. We know of the risks from the US and Australia, countries which have gone down this path before us. We don’t need a Trump University or a Corinthian Colleges [New Yorker report] scandal in the UK. With every such scandal, students suffer and proper universities are immensely damaged.”

In the autumn, across the UK, academics and students piled in to large meetings on university campuses, from Bristol to Liverpool and Oxford. Campaigners from the HE Convention and the University Colleges Union (UCU) and the National Union of Students (NUS) have organised meetings in Parliament as well as Stormont and the Scottish Parliament. Although this is an ‘English’ Bill, the joined-up nature of higher education in the UK means that it will inevitably affect the devolved nations.

Students and staff point out that the Bill has other negative consequences, many of which are also being challenged in the House of Lords. Continue reading

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Letter to Evening Standard

London’s Universities Under Threat

(submitted to Evening Standard – also see this article)

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London is a global education powerhouse. Unique in having four institutions in the top 40 rankings of the world’s best universities, together London’s higher education institutions account for nearly £6 billion annually in revenue, with £2.5 billion in export earnings. They attract nearly a quarter of a million students to the city – nearly half from abroad – and they support about 150,000 jobs directly and indirectly.

London’s universities are so successful because of their very high standards and hard-earned reputations for excellence. People want to study and teach here because of the great opportunities these institutions offer. It is therefore with dismay that we view the Government’s new Higher Education and Research Bill, currently making its way through the House of Lords. The bill risks undermining everything we have recently built up in London.

The Government proposes an entirely new and untested process for measuring the quality of university teaching provision whereby a set number of universities would be awarded gold, silver or bronze status. If, in line with current predictions, some London universities fail to achieve gold, why would students seek to apply to them and why would employers value their degrees and their graduates? This policy is just one of a number of proposed measures which undermine and restrict the freedom of universities to control their own research and teaching strategies. For example, in creating a new Government body with the power to strip institutions of their royal charters, it puts the academic freedom upon which great universities are built in doubt.

As academics who work in universities in London, we are deeply concerned about the contents of this bill. We urge members of the House of Lords to work constructively towards fundamental amendments to this potentially disastrous hotch-potch of incoming legislation – and for people to make their concerns known to their MP.

Sean Wallis (University College London, UCU NEC member and HE Convention)
Tim Horder (University of Oxford, Council for the Defence of British Universities)
Lee Jones (Queen Mary, University of London, Campaign for the Public University)
Prof Des Freedman (Goldsmiths University of London, UCU Branch Secretary)
Rachel Cohen (City, University of London, UCU NEC member)
Sir Brian Vickers, FBA (School of Advanced Study, University of London)
Prof Nadje Al Ali (SOAS, University of London)
Laura Hammond (SOAS)
David Lunn (SOAS)
Prof Reinhard Bachmann (SOAS)
Eleanor Newbigin (SOAS)
Ian Pace (City)
Newton Armstrong (City)
Aaron Einbond (City)
Alexander Lingas (City)
Shay Loya (City)
Valerie Coultas (Kingston University)
Simon Choat (Kingston)
Nigel Ling (Kingston)
Alexander Perrin (Kingston)
Rosie McNiece (Kingston, UCU Rep)
David Rogers (Kingston)
Alexandra Stara (Kingston)
Saladin Meckled-Garcia (University College London, UCU Branch President)
Sherrill Stroschein (UCL)
Martin Fry (UCL)
Prof Susan Michie (UCL)
Prof Lucie Clapp (UCL)
Martin Rosendaal (UCL)
Prof Peter Scott (UCL Institute of Education)
Prof Ronald Barnett (UCL (retd.))
Prof John F. Allen (UCL (retd.))
Prof Anson Mackay (UCL)
Hugh Goodacre (UCL)
Peter Agocs (UCL)
Trevor Murrells (King’s College London)
Heidi Lempp (KCL)
Prof Satvinder S. Juss (KCL)
Prof David Papineau (KCL)
Prof Maria Rosa Antognazza (KCL)
Prof Michael Beaney (KCL)
Prof Catherine Boyle (KCL)
Prof Malcolm Fairbairn (KCL)
Prof Erica Carter (KCL)
Prof Ben Rampton (KCL)
Prof David Treece (KCL)
Prof Jill Maben (KCL)
Prof Sherrilyn Roush (KCL)
Prof David Owens (KCL)
Prof Pat Thane (KCL)
Prof Silvina Milstein (KCL)
Prof Kate Crosby (KCL)
Prof Richard Howells (KCL)
Prof Shanta Persaud (KCL)
Prof Elaine Player (KCL)
Joachim Aufderheide (KCL)
Bill Brewer (KCL)
John Callanan (KCL)
Andrea Sangiovanni (KCL)
Jurgis Karpus (KCL)
Maria Alvarez (KCL)
Nadine Elzein (KCL)
Daniel Matlin (KCL)
Ellen Fridland (KCL)
Siobhan McIlvanney (KCL)
Deborah Chinn (KCL)
Richard E Overill (KCL)
Prof Clare Pettitt (KCL)
Deborah Robson (KCL)
Anette Schroeder-Rossell (KCL)
Andy Grant (KCL)
Max Saunders (KCL)
Clare Birchall (KCL)
Tom Brown (KCL)
Garry Stillwell (KCL)
Max Edling (KCL)
Sebastian Matzner (KCL)
Steve Phelps (KCL)
Sarah Salih (KCL)
Emily Butterworth (KCL)
Gabrielle Lyons (KCL)
Emma Tebbs (KCL)
Jenny Harris (KCL)
Jo Armes (KCL)
Paul T Seed (KCL)
Siobhan McIlvanney (KCL)
Rob Keeley (KCL)
Daniel Orrells (KCL)
Prof Leila Simona Talani (KCL)
Katherine Schofield (KCL)
Thomas Hyde (KCL)
Bérénice Guyot-Réchard (KCL)
Stylianos Hatzipanagos (KCL)
Gay Sutherland (KCL)
Victor Fan (KCL)
Graeme Lockwood (KCL)
Juan Baeza (KCL)
Johanna Malt (KCL)
Elvia Jeannette Uribe (KCL)
Miranda Stanyon (KCL)
Prof Guy Cook (KCL (retd.))
Eleanor Janega (KCL and LSE)
Eliot Michaelson (KCL)
Humeira Iqtidar (KCL)
Jill Hohenstein (KCL)
David Garrard (KCL and Oxford Brookes)
Luiz da Motta-Teixeira (KCL)
Prof David Adger (Queen Mary University of London)
Prof Sheila Hillier (Queen Mary (retd.))
Prof Daniel Harbour (Queen Mary)
Simon Carr (Queen Mary)
Graham White (Queen Mary)
Luisa Marti (Queen Mary)
Fiona McEwen (Queen Mary)
Prof Finn Fordham (Royal Holloway, University of London)
Prof Michael Gold (Royal Holloway)
Prof Barry Langford (Royal Holloway)
Prof Anne Sheppard (Royal Holloway)
Prof Andrew Bowie (Royal Holloway)
Charalambos Dendrinos (Royal Holloway)
Maire Davies (Royal Holloway)
Hazel Pearson (Queen Mary)
Adrian Budd (London South Bank University)
Chris Magill (LSBU)
Prof E.A. Brett (London School of Economics and Political Science)
Prof John Sidel (LSE)
Prof David Lewis (LSE)
Prof Robert H. Wade (LSE)
Peter Wilson (LSE)
Mike Cushman (LSE, UCU fixed term and hourly paid officer)
Katerina Dalacoura (LSE)
Michael Mason (LSE)
Laura Mann (LSE)
Lloyd Gruber (LSE)
Prof Leslie Sklair (LSE (retd.))
Shirin Madon (LSE)
Prof Jean-Paul Faguet (LSE)
Kate Meagher (LSE)
Sarah Taylor (LSE)
Prof Michael Wayne (Brunel University London)
Prof Lucia Boldrini (Goldsmiths, University of London)
Prof Frank Krause (Goldsmiths)
Prof Blake Morrison (Goldsmiths)
Padraig Kirwan (Goldsmiths)
Jane Desmarais (Goldsmiths)
Charlotte Scott (Goldsmiths)
Deac Rossell (Goldsmiths)
Maura Dooley (Goldsmiths)
Ross Raisin (Goldsmiths)
Miranda El-Rayess (Goldsmiths)
Ros Barber (Goldsmiths)
Frances Wilson (Goldsmiths)
Jack Underwood (Goldsmiths)
Naomi Wood (Goldsmiths)
Tamar Steinitz (Goldsmiths)
Prof Maggie Humm (University of East London (retd.))
Martin Gray (St George’s University of London)
Matthew King (Guildhall School of Music & Drama)
Prof Brendan Delaney (Imperial College London)
Prof Warren Chernaik (University of London (retd.))
Richard Williams (Oxford, (KCL Alumnus))
Kathleen O’Donnell (Oxford Brookes)
Dr Jonathan Hale (Nottingham)
Prof Stephen Goss (Surrey)
Volker Wieland (ESCP Europe)
Dr Michael Pace-Sigge (University of Eastern Finland)
Sam Hayden (Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance)

Add your name to this letter

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Lobby a Lord today!

5034760960_6254b4cd1b_bThe Second Reading of the Higher Education and Research Bill in the House of Lords will take place on 6 December.

Members of the House of Lords rely on information from the public.

Please help them stand up for Higher Education.

Send a letter to a Lord today explaining why you believe the HE Bill will be so damaging to HE.

What you can do

See also

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Casualisation is a symptom of a sector-wide crisis

(submitted to Guardian 17 November)

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The disgrace of casualisation, whilst Vice Chancellors and Principals award themselves salaries multiple times that of the Prime Minster, was graphically and accurately portrayed (University Staff Contracts ‘like Sports Direct’, Guardian 17th November).

Moral outrage will be insufficient, however, to challenge this common, sector-wide approach to abusive contracts in higher and further education. We are not dealing with a rogue employer such as Mike Ashley at Sports Direct, or Sir Philip Green at BHS. We are dealing with employers across both the higher and further education sectors, who are driven by the goals of rising turnover and continued expansion, all to be paid for by rising tuition fees and continued reductions in staffing costs.

It is not an irony lost on the hundreds of thousands of staff in our universities and colleges that, while they are required to be flexible, not a single Vice Chancellor or Principal in the country is on a casualised contract themselves! Continue reading

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Third Reading of HE Bill – Monday 21 November

The Third Reading of the HE Bill in the House of Commons will be this Monday 21 November.

Lobby of Parliament

Monday 21 November
Assemble: Parliament Square, 1pm

parlt-lobbyCalled by the Convention for Higher Education and London Region UCU. Supported by the UCU, CDBU and CPU (more tba).

After the Third Reading, the Bill will go to the House of Lords, which may propose amendments, and then return to the House of Commons for the Final Reading.

The debate is scheduled between 14:30 and 16:30.

WATCH THIS SPACE >> More information will appear on our website http://heconvention.wordpress.com as we have it.

Facebook event A6 leaflet x 4 (PDF)

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