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Kirby, P. (2016) Degrees of Debt: Funding and finance for undergraduates in Anglophone countries London, UK: The Sutton Trust
The answer, in a comparison between the major anglophone nations of England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland (NI), USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (NZ) is clearly: England. Graduates from English universities will leave with twice the debt of even private universities in the USA (£44,500 compared with the equivalent of £29,000 for for-profit universities in the USA and around £20,000 for public and private non-profits). Scotland will have the lowest average student debt (around £10,000), followed by Canada.
A good degree of caution is needed in interpreting these results. Tuition fees can vary considerably, both within countries (e.g. Canada) and between different kinds of institution in the same country (e.g. the USA). Student debt is influenced not just by the level of tuition fees but also by the availability of grants to students, parental contributions, and the availability of part-time work while studying. There are always problems with converting from several different currencies into one standard currency (in this case the U.K £). Debt also is influenced by the economic benefits following from graduation; debt is much more serious if there are few well-paying jobs after graduation. Canadian students may not feel this way, but they are fortunate in that within the first 10 years of graduating their annual income will average twice their total student debt, making repayment more manageable than in all the other countries except Scotland.Main conclusions
Even allowing for understandable methodological difficulties, the differences are stark, and the consequences significant. These are best described by the report’s own main conclusions:
- the average English student faces the highest levels of graduate debt within the major anglophone countries;
- however, the vast majority of English students’ study-related debt is held by the state, which has relatively clear repayment conditions compared to other Anglophone countries;
- as a result [of the high tuition fees], the number of part-time and mature students enrolling at UK institutions across recent years has dropped precipitously
- while full-time undergraduate university enrolment [in England] has recovered since the imposition of £9,000 fees in 2012, university needs to remain a viable option for everyone, especially those from poorer backgrounds, who are disproportionately under-represented across the UK professional landscape.
I am coming to the end of ten days spent in England, talking to friends who include an experienced primary school headmistress, and family who include two professors at English universities, two grandsons about to go to university, and two nieces who have recently completed their university studies. This is not a representative sample, but all week I have been hearing a tale of woe about public education in England.
The current Conservative government seems to be ideologically driven towards the privatisation of public education in England. Government funding for universities has been replaced by tuition fees, and the government wants to introduce market competition between schools and also between universities in the belief that this will drive up ‘quality’. Nevertheless there is no empirical evidence in the UK that shows that students from academies (which are replacing local government-run schools) or institutional competition through tuition pricing in universities is leading to better learning outcomes.
The Conservatives seem to have a completely wrong concept of education, based on set curricula, repeated testing of content, highly selective ‘weeding out’ of students who do not fit this paradigm, and governance by unelected trusts or corporations, a model of education that is clearly influenced by the British public boarding school system from which most of the Conservative government ministers have graduated. The current English education system is in a time warp that seems to belong more to the 1920s than the 2020s.
The results of these government policies have been high levels of stress and anxiety for school children in particular, a fundamental weakening (as intended) of the concept of public education, accompanied by a stagnant economy which is barely above the level following the economic recession of 2008. Could it be that English productivity and innovation are suffering as a result of these misguided educational policies?
Codecademy, May 18, 2016
If you don't know how to do this, this will be a really useful skill to learn. "We'll teach you how to build a static site quickly, host it on GitHub, and put it on the Internet using your own custom domain name. After completing Deploy a Website, you'll be able to launch your own websites on the Internet." Codecademy is one of the best, and working with GitHub has additional bonuses that will become apparent later.[Link] [Comment]
I can identify with this. "Highly novel research proposals are being systematically turned down because they fall outside evaluators’ paradigms of understanding, a new study suggests." Novel proposals fared even worse if they were within the evaluator's domain of expertise. I think that ranking proposals for novelty is a good idea, but the algorithm suggested ("sing keywords in each proposal. If two keywords rarely appeared together in the existing literature, an idea was considered novel") is too easy to game, creating the illusion of novelty. Mitosis igneous. Here's the paper: 20 page PDF.[Link] [Comment]
Please please please read this. If you do any theorizing about learning at all, or want to explain why good pedagogy works, or anything like that, read this. "We don’ t store words or the rules that tell us how to manipulate them. We don’ t create representations of visual stimuli, store them in a short-term memory buffer, and then transfer the representation into a long-term memory device. We don’ t retrieve information or images or words from memory registers. Computers do all of these things, but organisms do not." If you're reading bout learning and pedagogy and the article contains these concepts, it's made up. Fiction. There's more, so much more. For example: "there is no reason to believe that any two of us are changed the same way by the same experience." And " the uniqueness of each brain, brought about in part because of the uniqueness of each person’ s life history."[Link] [Comment]
Gardner Campbell looms large in educational technology. People who have met him in person know what I mean. He is brilliant. Compassionate. Passionate. And a rare visionary. He gives more than he takes in interactions with people. And he is years ahead of where technology deployment current exists in classrooms and universities.
He is also a quiet innovator. Typically, his ideas are adopted by other brash, attention seeking, or self-serving individuals. Go behind the bravado and you’ll clearly see the Godfather: Gardner Campbell.
Gardner was an originator of what eventually became the DIY/edupunk movement. Unfortunately, his influence is rarely acknowledged.
He is also the vision behind personal domains for learners. I recall a presentation that Gardner did about 6 or 7 years ago where he talked about the idea of a cpanel for each student. Again, his vision has been appropriated by others with greater self-promotion instincts. Behind the scenes, however, you’ll see him as the intellectual originator.
Several years ago, when Gardner took on a new role at VCU, he was rightly applauded in a press release:
Gardner’s exceptional background in innovative teaching and learning strategies will ensure that the critical work of University College in preparing VCU students to succeed in their academic endeavors will continue and advance…Gardner has also been an acknowledged leader in the theory and practice of online teaching and education innovation in the digital age
And small wonder that VCU holds him in such high regard. Have a look at this talk:
Recently I heard some unsettling news about position changes at VCU relating to Gardner’s work. In true higher education fashion, very little information is forthcoming. If anyone has updates to share, anonymous comments are accepted on this post.
There are not many true innovators in our field. There are many who adopt ideas of others and popularize them. But there are only a few genuinely original people doing important and critically consequential work: Ben Werdmuller, Audrey Watters, Stephen Downes, and Mike Caulfield. Gardner is part of this small group of true innovators. It is upsetting that the people who do the most important work – rather than those with the loudest and greatest self-promotional voice – are often not acknowledged. Does a system like VCU lack awareness of the depth and scope of change in the higher education sector? Is their appetite for change and innovation mainly a surface level media narrative?
Leadership in universities has a responsibility to research and explore innovation. If we don’t do it, we lose the narrative to consulting and VC firms. If we don’t treat the university as an object of research, an increasingly unknown phenomena that requires structured exploration, we essentially give up our ability to contribute to and control our fate. Instead of the best and brightest shaping our identity, the best marketers and most colourful personalities will shape it. We need to ensure that the true originators are recognized and promoted so that when narrow and short-sighted leaders make decisions, we can at least point them to those who are capable of lighting a path.
Thanks for your work and for being who you are Gardner.
I found yesterdays protests about the BBC plans to archive their recipe site fascinating. After over 120000 people signed a petition protesting against the move and after the government culture minister (somewhat disingenuously) distanced himself from the plan, the BBC backed down and said they would move the recipes to their commercial web site. Now those into conspiracy theory might suggest this was what the BBC were after all the time and others point to huge protests from the middle class over the potential restriction on access to the Great British Bake off etc. whilst cutbacks to welfare quietly proceed. But I think this misses the point.
The major pressures for the BBC to restrict access to free recipes was that they are competing with private businesses including paid for newspapers, subscription websites, commercial publishers and so on. And that public funding should not be allowed to so this. People didn’t buy in to that argument, largely because of a conciousness that the BBC is a publicly owned organisation and that we have teh right to free content paid for by a license fee (ie taxes). I seem to remember the same argument coming from publishers in the early days – some ten or twelve years ago – against Open Educational Resources. Resources created by university staff, so they said, were paid for by public funding and that was unfair competition. Today despite the government’s same disdain for publicly funded education as for the BBC, Open Educational Resources have become seen as a Good Thing. And the debate over OERs has extended into a wider discussion on the meaning of open. In the same way the protests over the proposed archiving of a publicly owned archive of recipes could well extend into the meaning of open content in wider areas of the web and to an open digital infrastructure The battle for open goes on.