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Category: Unorthodox Education Updates Page 1 of 2

Universities Abroad Headhunting 95% Of UCL’s Top EU Researchers, Provost Says

UK universities have been warned that European universities are on a mission to recruit their top researchers, as concerns grow amongst European academics over their post-Brexit rights. Michael Arthur, the head of University College London, has stated that a startling 95% of UCL’s senior researchers from other EU countries have been targeted by continental institutions. At present, almost one-third of UCL’s teachers are citizens of other EU countries. Universities across the UK argue that the government has not done enough to reassure the 34,000 EU academics that their abilities to continue living and working in the UK will be protected.

Orsini expresses concern over the United Kingdom’s future after leaving the European Union. She worries that the country may erect further barriers to foreign students, and universities may lose their access to European research funds – crucial sources that have always provided more than what the country has given. Despite being married to a Briton for nearly two decades, Orsini never had the desire to possess a UK passport, content with her Italian one and the benefits of being an EU citizen. Only after seeing more clarity emerge will she consider applying for permanent residence, declining interest in becoming a British citizen under the current circumstances.

Several European lecturers and academics are apprehensive regarding their qualification for UK residency. For example, Johannes Angermuller, a professor of discourse at Warwick University originally from Germany, points out that a passport is the sole guarantee for permanent residency. However, the requirement to remain in the country for five years and no more than 450 days abroad creates issues when the job is international. Angermuller divides his time between France and Warwick for a project and travels frequently for conferences, making it impossible to stay within those limits. Although he does not anticipate a policy of deporting EU citizens, he worries about the degree of harshness in the rules and the resulting obstacles to their quality of life.

Angermuller’s research team consists of 15 people, most of whom are Europeans, that fear for their future in the UK. Even with the assurance of a visa, his Iranian researcher had to spend £10,000, and an administrative error two days before the deadline nearly deported him. Thus, Angermuller recognizes the importance of having guarantees, and worries that failure to obtain a passport will make it impossible for him to stay in the country. Moreover, he anticipates losing half of his research funding, and he cannot apply for global research projects that require him to lead them. As 95% of the people in his department are international students, he fears that downsizing may be necessary due to the declining overseas applications. Meanwhile, colleagues who voted for Brexit ended up drifting apart, creating a peculiar rift in personal relationships.

Angermuller concludes that the Brexit vote has altered feelings throughout the country with regard to trust in its institutions and people. He expresses grave concerns about potential positive changes that Brexit may bring, and finds it quite frightening.

Four Killed’ In Beirut University Clash

In Beirut today, violent clashes between opposing groups of protesters left four people dead and at least 25 injured. Reports state that two students were fatally shot at Beirut Arab University, although some sources put the death toll at four. Both Reuters and al-Jazeera have differing figures for the number of wounded, although it is accepted that some were shot. The fighting continued for three hours, but after this time, most of the rioters moved off. The military has now introduced a night curfew to try to quell further altercations. The student demonstrators started throwing missiles and furniture at each other during the day, as the ongoing power struggle in Lebanon became all the more violent. Lebanese troops tried to dispel the crowds by shooting into the air and evacuating students, however, this effort wasn’t successful. Opposition TV station al-Manar blamed pro-government gunmen for the students’ deaths, while Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the opposition Shia Hizbullah movement, urged his followers to leave the university area. Cars were burned in the street during the disturbances, and there are unconfirmed reports that students were fired upon by snipers. Civilians are now becoming increasingly concerned with the possible emergence of a civil war, particularly after the 170 people who were wounded during Tuesday’s general strike. Hizbullah has been holding demonstrations for two months, in an effort to force Prime Minister Fouad Siniora out of office. Mr Siniora has refused to allow opposition groups to have a veto-wielding share of the cabinet, exacerbating the situation further. The violence on the streets occurred whilst Mr Siniora was attending a conference in Paris where donors promised over $7bn to rebuild the country following last year’s 34-day war between Hizbullah and Israel.

Apprenticeships Pay – But You’re Not Rich Yet

Apprenticeships present an enticing opportunity, providing a salary while pursuing education, and with the added benefit of the employer covering the cost of training. This alleviates the need to seek a large loan to pay for it, resulting in a debt of thousands of pounds.

However, it is crucial to note that, despite the financial benefits, the apprenticeship stipulates that you support yourself throughout the duration. This can range from 12 months up to five years, with payment being variable from one scheme to the next. From April, the national minimum wage for apprentices will be £3.70 an hour for those under the age of 19 or above 19 and in their first year of training. While this may be adequate for those living at home, it may not be sufficient to cover travel costs, which can erode earnings.

It is suggested that the individual checks their contract to see if they can receive help with financing travel expenditures and other relevant costs, including equipment and clothing. The contract may also clarify information on statutory holiday pay and sick leave or additional benefits offered by the employer, such as a pension plan, a car, or entertainment opportunities.

Statistics from a government investigation into apprenticeship pay revealed that in 2016, the national average hourly wage for a level 2 or 3 apprenticeship, equivalent to GCSEs and A-levels, was £7. Least paid apprenticeships were in hairdressing and childcare, while the highest earners were in management, customer service, health, social care, sport, and retail. However, some apprenticeships command considerably more income, such as Transport for London apprenticeships, which start at £17,802 per annum.

Even though apprentices do not qualify for student discounts, the National Union of Students offers an apprentice extra card, while reduced travel costs may be available. For those based in London, the Apprentice Oyster photocard offers 30% off particular journeys.

Degree-level apprenticeships can be financially rewarding, with some starting pay matching the average wage. On the other hand, without government loans, apprentices may be restricted to living at home, limiting the range of opportunities available to them.

Exeter University Offers Medical Students £10,000 To Defer

In response to a surge in applications to study medicine and uncertainty surrounding grade inflation, the University of Exeter, a Russell Group university, is offering medical students the opportunity to defer their studies for a year in exchange for incentives. With a cap on student numbers, the university has reached out to accepted medical candidates to delay their start date until 2022. Those who agree will be guaranteed a place if they achieve the required grades, as well as a cash bursary of £10,000 and free accommodation, which could be worth up to £7,600. According to Prof Mark Goodwin, the university’s deputy vice-chancellor, there has been a substantial increase in the number of students who have chosen Exeter as their first pick for medicine, which is why the university is offering various incentives to motivate them to defer their studies. He added that the government regulates all medicine student numbers to ensure that everyone receives quality education, and to provide students with safe and secure NHS placements. Amid a record number of university applications, up 10% among UK 18-year-olds, it is essential to regulate the number of places available to study medicine. However, due to the increase in applications this year, along with the closure of many exam centres and the use of teacher-assessed grades, it has become more of a challenge to determine the correct number of places to offer each applicant. Dr Katie Petty Saphon from the Medical Schools Council told the BBC that in the past, the most excellent candidates would receive up to four offers before deciding on a specific institution, freeing up places offered to them: however, this year, that hasn’t been happening.

David Potter Obituary

David Potter, a dear friend and former colleague, passed away at the age of 88. He was a member of the pioneering group of academics who came together to establish the Open University. In 1970, David joined the OU when it had just been set up and had not yet taken on any students. Founding the university from scratch was a tough and incredible challenge, which undoubtedly benefited a lot of students.

David worked with a group of brilliant colleagues, including the cultural theorist, Stuart Hall, during the 1980s. They created a social sciences foundation course at the OU that achieved near legendary status. Unfortunately, the course fell foul of the Thatcher administration, which made unfounded accusations of Marxist bias.

David was born in Berkeley, California, to George Potter, a professor of English literature, and Mabel (nee Harrington), a pianist. He completed his master’s degree in political science at the University of California, Berkeley, and his PhD at the London School of Economics, where he met Jennifer Field, whom he married in 1960.

He subsequently taught political science at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. However, his academic life took a turn for the worse when he got involved in supporting colleagues who had been sacked for their political views and ended up being dismissed himself.

David returned to Britain in 1970, and he based himself in Bedford. He secured a job as a senior lecturer in political science at the Open University, where he spent over 25 years. Rising to professor before retiring in 1997, he continued his academic research into Indian public administration, which he had started at Berkeley. This research led to the publication of his book, India’s Political Administrators, 1919-1983.

During his retirement, David enjoyed walking in the beautiful, rolling Bedfordshire countryside and the pleasures of good music, wine, and company. He also travelled with Jennifer, with whom he had embarked on his adventurous honeymoon driving overland to India.

David is survived by Jennifer, their children, Christopher, Jonathan, Alison, and Rachel, as well as nine grandchildren.

Dating In A Foreign Language – An Illustrated Guide

Are you currently engaged in a romantic relationship with someone who speaks a different language? While it can be a fantastic opportunity for cultural and linguistic exchange, it can also present challenges. Whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day, Saint Valentin or Den’ sviatogo Valentina, here are a few pointers on how to maintain your relationship without the aid of a shared mother tongue.

First Date: Don’t Shy Away from the Language Barrier

Gary Brooks, a writer who was a "full-grade ignoramus" in terms of the Russian language when he arrived in Siberia, met Masha in a café by chance. During a Russian lesson he was receiving, Masha overheard him and initiated conversation. "We did the whole ‘You are Britain?’ horror, with my teacher interpreting for me. Lord of the Rings had just been released, and after we established I had never seen the film we arranged to meet and watch it together (in Russian), and so a first date was born."

While a film might seem like a great idea for a date when you cannot communicate verbally, Gary highlights the importance of discussing the film afterwards. Instead, he advises that you utilize the language gap as a starting point for your date. "Meet up for a coffee date and give a mutual language lesson. Go for a romantic walk, pointing out trees, ducks and strange men in anoraks, and tell each other the names in your native languages. It’s relaxing and fun."

When Words Fail, Body Language and Charades Come to the Rescue

Will Henderson dated Marianne, from Montpellier, for three years. When he started his Erasmus year in France, he had only a GCSE in French and a few additional lessons. "My level of French was not great. I had some formulaic phrases, such as ‘My name is William’ and ‘Where is the cathedral?"

Will and Marianne met at a student bar. "It was a good way to get to know each other, because the music was too loud to hear each other speak anyway. We used other ways to flirt, like body language, buying her a drink, or making sure we went for a cigarette at the same time."

They were together for four months before Will had to resort to charades. All he wanted was to put up some shelves, but he did not know the French words for drill, tools, or hole. "I was completely without context. I was pointing at the wall, saying, ‘I need a… it’s the thing you use to make a… a bit of not-wall.’ She looked confused; I had resorted to charades for random nouns before, but this was an entire performance. I pointed my finger like a gun and made drill sounds, at which point she understood and taught me all the words I had not known."

Embrace the Inevitable Cultural Clashes

While Gary acknowledges that language barriers can be overcome using gestures, dictionaries, and phone calls to friends, he and Masha discovered more about one another and their respective backgrounds through frequently embarrassing and always illuminating cultural differences. "Our third date was at a restaurant, and I was perplexed by her insistence on eating every course with a spoon. Apparently, knives and forks were considered ‘fancy’ and unnecessary. That memory sticks with me, if only because eating game meat with just a spoon is very difficult."

Etiquette was even more perplexing in various situations. "Manners and interaction, both socially and especially in the bedroom, were – incredibly – determined by the content of classic Russian novels," says Gary. "If it wasn’t in Tolstoy or Dostoevsky, you simply didn’t do it. If it was impolite in Chekhov, it was impolite in life, and if Gogol said something was a good idea, you should do it."

Cultural clashes can be awkward and even embarrassing, but they should be cherished. They’re not only beneficial for getting to know each other, but with each faux pas, you gain a greater understanding of your partner’s culture.

Arguments: Prepare Yourself for an Uneven Playing Field

It may take a long time to overcome misunderstandings when communicating in a second language. "Marianne and I would have huge arguments before realizing I had misheard or misunderstood something," says Will. Words and phrases that appear to have a clear, direct translation can alter their meanings in ways that dictionaries do not account for. As a result, you cannot be overly defensive about your perspective because communication breakdowns are commonplace.

Embrace moments of embarrassment because they have a positive impact on your vocabulary. Gary’s experience of slipping on ice and Norman-Wisdom style falling over made Masha laugh, but it also taught him a valuable lesson in language learning. Her breathless exclamations of "It’s slippy, it’s slippy!" cemented the word "skol’zko" in his memory. Even though he’s worked in different areas since then, his Russian vocabulary may have declined, but he has never forgotten that word.

Kate McDermott, who once dated a Frenchman, advises anyone learning a language to prepare for regular moments of embarrassment. While language learners are bound to stumble over words and sometimes struggle to communicate, they’re at their most vulnerable in the presence of someone they like. Kate’s solution is to let go of your self-consciousness and press on, regardless. As someone who almost mistook "back of the neck" for "arsehole" during a moment of intimacy, she knows how daunting it can be to speak a foreign language.

Elizabeth Varughese Obituary

Elizabeth Varughese, my mother, passed away at the age of 73, and was a well-respected English and fine art teacher. People fondly called her ‘Prema,’ a name which translates to ‘love and affection,’ as her love permeated through everything she did.

Prema was born in Kerala, India, as the youngest daughter to Curumthodathil Perumarathinkal Philipose and Mary (nee Kurian). Her mother was a homemaker who later went on to teach at a women’s college while Prema and her siblings, Molly and Mon, attended All Saints girls’ boarding school in Nainital situated in the Himalayas foothills, where she was taught by missionaries.

In 1956, when her father became the eastern African regional manager for the Cotton Textiles Export Promotion Council, the family moved to Mombasa, Kenya. Later, when they relocated to the capital city of Nairobi, Prema attended Kenya high school for girls and obtained a degree in Fine Arts from University College, Nairobi.

In 1966, her father met with a fatal car accident while the whole family was present. This traumatic incident had a lasting impact on Prema and instilled a deep-seated anxiety in her about the safety of those she loved. Nevertheless, with my father’s support, she didn’t let this incident hinder her children’s growth and development. While we were growing up, she encouraged us to embrace and assimilate to British culture while still being connected to our roots.

In the 70s, Prema worked as an English and Fine arts teacher to boys in Nairobi, many of whom had to travel long distances to reach school. In later years, while watching the Olympics, she would comment that she had taught grammar to some of the Kenyan athletes.

Prema met Thomas Varughese in Nairobi in 1972, and they tied the knot later that year. In 1979, when Mohini, my elder sister, was five and I was three, we moved to the south of London. Wearing a sari and a thin cardigan, Prema bravely stepped off the airplane into a cold, rainy April day.

From 1980 to 1987, Prema worked at a heraldry company, creating and illustrating family coats of arms. Art was a passion that pervaded every aspect of her life, and she excelled at still life, botanical painting, and landscapes inspired by her travels abroad.

Family was everything to my mother. She treated my sister’s husband, Jason, and my husband, Justin, like her own sons. Her culinary skills were a highlight of every family gathering and reflected her love for her family. On her last birthday, my children secretly collected and illustrated all of her signature recipes in a book titled ‘Ammi’s Yummy Recipes, Made With Love.’ Her artistic flair was also evident in the beauty of her garden, where she spent hours tending to the plants’ color palette and textures.

Prema is survived by Thomas, my sister Mohini and me, along with our children, Sachin, Ashwin, Anjali, and Mani.

Joint Honours Degrees – Twice As Nice Or A Timetabling Nightmare?

As a highly indecisive person, selecting a university course was a difficult decision, especially when faced with choosing between two subjects I loved. Fortunately, joint honours degrees provide the opportunity to study two subjects simultaneously.

The popularity of joint honours courses has increased over the years. According to a Ucas spokesperson, 58, 255 students applied for joint honours degrees in 2013. Ian Eastwood, programme leader for combined honours courses at Manchester Metropolitan University’s (MMU) Cheshire campus revealed having over 600 students across three years. At the University of Derby, 15% of degree students are enrolled in joint honours programmes.

Despite having various benefits, such courses require a lot of hard work. Balancing the deadlines, reading lists, and lecturers’ expectations across the different subjects can be overwhelming, especially for first-year students. Due to the intensity of the courses, it is important to prioritize which assignments come first and divide your time equally.

The reading requirements for a joint honors degree are tailored towards single honours students, hence a change in the usual academic strategy is essential. For instance, faculty may prioritize their own subject when setting deadlines resulting in conflicting demands on one’s time. However, there is a positive side to joint honours courses, where students experience a two-fold degree of enrichment that can make them valuable in an increasingly flexible employment market.

Joint honours students need to be very passionate about each of the two subjects in order to complete the course successfully and should work on their time-management skills. Despite the hard work and time involved in undertaking such a degree, it can be doubly rewarding for those who are committed to the programme.

The Student Experience — Then And Now

Those nostalgic for their university days may recall the simplicity of shared showers, rundown rentals, and parties that always ran out of booze before midnight. Back then, being a student was a privilege, with local authorities and the government footing the bill and the prospect of a job at the end of it all but guaranteed. However, times have changed. In the early 1960s, only 4% of school leavers went to university, but by the end of the 1970s, that number had risen to approximately 14%. Nowadays, more than 40% of young people start undergraduate degrees, but this privilege comes with an increasing cost. Today’s students leave university with debts upwards of £40,000 to repay over the course of their careers.

Parents who look back on their university experiences are shocked by the luxuries that their children benefit from, such as ensuite bathrooms, flatscreen TVs, and leather sofas. While student accommodation has improved, rents have skyrocketed,claiming a larger portion of the living cost loans, meaning that many of today’s undergraduates are little better off than their parents were.

Parents also report that their children work harder and more consistently than they ever did. A significant contributor is the shift away from "big bang" finals to continuous assessment, as well as pressure to achieve a 2:1 or above degree classification, the standard now expected by most graduate employers. In 1970, only a third of students achieved the academic standard required for a first or 2:1, whilst today, that number is well over two-thirds at 70%. Today’s students are under more pressure to take on career-enhancing extracurricular activities, internships, and work experience in a bid to gain an edge in the graduate jobs market.

Despite the changes, today’s students still have an opportunity to discover lifelong interests, forge lasting friendships, and experience newfound independence. However, some believe that student life is no longer the rite of passage it once was. Gill Grinyer, a solicitor who studied history from 1973-76, notes that when she was a student, life was less stressful and competitive. She doesn’t recall worrying about what she would do when she graduated. Meanwhile, parents like Carol Fletcher, a senior financial planner based in Surrey, emphasize the importance of extracurricular activities when choosing a university.

The experience of being a student in the past may differ significantly from the experience today. Still, the fundamental value of higher education remains the same – to learn, create, and grow. Today’s students face new opportunities and obstacles but should take comfort in knowing that they are continuing to follow in the footsteps of generations of students who came before them.

During my time at Cambridge, I pursued engineering while also dedicating a significant portion of my schedule to rowing. The academic terms were brief, spanning only eight weeks each, and while I did attend the mandatory laboratory sessions, my primary objective was to contribute to the university’s rowing team. This was feasible in the late 1970s primarily because of the lack of continuous evaluation. Today, my eldest child has graduated with a degree in engineering from Birmingham, and my youngest is set to commence his studies in engineering at Durham, while my daughter is pursuing science at the University of Edinburgh. Nevertheless, they face stricter academic procedures than I did, with regular assessments that contribute significantly to their final grades. Besides the financial burden they bear – graduating with more significant loan debts than I did, the university experience for them is very much akin to what I had. They are forging lifelong friendships and meeting new people constantly.

As for me, I pursued social sciences at Lanchester Polytechnic, after which I obtained a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Brunel University in 1985. Presently, my two sons are studying chemistry – one at Sheffield, and the other one at Liverpool. While they benefit from 20-25 hours of classroom instruction each week, I only got half of that during my time. Nevertheless, the university experience remains quite similar in essence- an opportunity for students to learn how to live independently away from home in a relatively safe environment. Their university experience differs mainly in finance since I benefited from a full grant and considered myself rich during my university years. In contrast, my sons are more financially aware, with one of them creating an expenditure tracker as early as his first term.

Reading University In Crisis Amid Questions Over £121m Land Sales

The University of Reading is currently facing a financial and governance crisis as it reported itself to regulators over a loan of £121m. The university is conducting an internal investigation to determine whether it unfairly benefited from the sale of land belonging to the National Institute for Research in Dairying trust. The £121m from the land sale was spent by the university, which then replaced it with IOUs in the trust’s accounts. Robert Van de Noort, the university’s acting vice-chancellor, stated that they did not meet the governance standards expected as the sole trustee of the charity. Reading achieved university status in 1926, which now consists of 15,000 students and 4,000 staff, with an annual spending of almost £350m. The university’s recent financial struggles include large losses from a foreign venture, falling undergraduate student numbers, and operating deficits totalling over £40m in the past two years.

The financial constraints facing the education sector in England are predicted to worsen. Due to Brexit, the UK may face difficulty in attracting students, staff, and research funding from the EU. Last year, funding ordered by Theresa May could reduce undergraduate tuition fees to less than £7,000 from the current £9,250 a year. Reading has informed the Charity Commission and the Office for Students (OfS) of its latest development. Two teams have been established to investigate complex issues of the university’s potential conflict of interest as a borrower and trustee.

The OfS is the principal regulator of English higher education charities to ensure compliance with charity law. The trust funds the National Institute for Research in Dairying, established in 1912, which aims to promote and develop high-quality agriculture and food research at the University of Reading. The trust comprises the University of Reading as a sole trustee and beneficiary. According to Reading’s accounts, the trust’s remit goes beyond offering a loan on undisclosed terms to its sole trustee. The land sales and loans were completed under the previous vice-chancellor’s leadership, Sir David Bell, one of the country’s most prominent educationalists. Reading was already struggling financially before the discovery and is now left with operating deficits of £22m and £19m for two years, with £121m owed to the trust and £180m to external creditors.

The university has faced significant difficulties in achieving its recruitment targets for undergraduate students, with last year’s intake down by 650 students. In an attempt to expand into the lucrative overseas market, the university formed a campus partnership in Malaysia. However, this venture has resulted in losses amounting to £27.6m, which the university had to write off in its latest accounts.

To manage costs and address the challenges, the university announced a voluntary redundancy scheme in January, where staff could choose to opt-in. Angela Rayner, the shadow education secretary, expressed concerns that the university could become a victim of the free-market model in higher education. She stressed that a major university going bankrupt and closing its doors would significantly hurt not only the education sector but also local economies and communities. Therefore, the government must take corrective measures to avert such situations from happening.

Despite Reading’s financial issues, it is not alone, as several universities also faced similar financial distress. Last year, a few of them had to secure bridging funding, and one had to obtain a short-term loan from the regulator to address cashflow problems.

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