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Latest education news, comment and analysis on schools, colleges, universities, further and higher education and teaching from the Guardian, the world's leading liberal voice
Updated: 2 hours 47 min ago

University vice-chancellors' average pay now exceeds £275,000

4 hours 45 min ago

Union calls for scrutiny of ‘fat cat’ deals as rising tuition fees burden students with debt

University vice-chancellors received an average salary package of £277,834 in the last academic year – more than six times the average pay of their staff – according to a new survey by the universities union.

The report, released on Thursday by the University and College Union (UCU), revealed that 24 British universities had increased packages to their vice-chancellors by 10% or more in 2015-16. Fifty-five universities paid their heads more than £300,000, 11 vice-chancellors now have a package worth more than £400,000 a year, and one vice-chancellor saw her salary increase by 31% in a year.

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I'm tired of law, but is a career break right for me?

Wed, 22/02/2017 - 15:37

It is possible to take time out from a career in law without being written off, but it might be necessary to retrain

Are you the firm superstar, dutifully taking part at company events, mentoring the new intake and slogging away at your computer? Or are you the associate tired of late nights, Itsu lunches and Starbucks? While some lawyers don’t question their corporate career path, others have found that it is possible to leave, try something else and then get back in without being written off. Firms claim they are becoming more open-minded and leavers say the lure of the law can be strong. Could it be that a career break is a good thing?

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Now a degree is a commodity, no wonder more students are cheating | Poppy Noor

Wed, 22/02/2017 - 14:41
Of course plagiarism is wrong. But treating students as consumers sends them a very clear message: your money is just as important as your mind

It was reported this week that the Department for Education is considering new penalties for students who plagiarise essays. This comes after an investigation by the Times in 2016 found that 50,000 students had been caught cheating on their university degrees in the three years before.

Students were paying anywhere between £100 and £6,750 for an essay, and this widespread cheating has led to suggestions that criminal records could be dished out to offenders. But with a generation now forking out in excess of £50,000 for their degrees, is anybody surprised that a university education now feels like another asset that can simply be bought?

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A tale of four skulls: what human bones reveal about cities

Wed, 22/02/2017 - 07:00

Has the great urbanisation of our species over the last 5,000 years been good for humanity or bad? It’s a story that can be told by examining ancient skeletons – which reveal incredible dangers, but also point to a bright future

The UN human settlements programme predicts that homo sapiens will soon be a majority urban species: 60% of humans will live in cities by 2030. More than 10 millennia of adaptations have gone into changing our lives from free-range to metropolitan. Yet in evolutionary terms this is a blindingly swift change of habitat, and to understand what it means for our future we must turn to the long view of archaeology.

The accumulation of humans in dense habitations – cities – has had enormous and frequently fatal consequences. Problems of access to resources, disease transmission and pollution follow rapidly on the heels of our great urban experiment. And it is precisely these problems, originating many thousand of years ago, that we must come to terms with if we are going to survive as a species.

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Government spending billions on free schools while existing schools crumble

Wed, 22/02/2017 - 00:01

National Audit Office says £6.7bn is needed to bring current school buildings up to standard while ministers have pledged to build 500 free schools by 2020

Ministers are choosing to give billions of pounds to build new free schools while existing schools are crumbling into disrepair, Whitehall’s spending watchdog has found.

The National Audit Office has calculated that £6.7bn is needed to bring existing school buildings in England and Wales to a satisfactory standard.

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Four ways to help your students overcome impostor syndrome

Tue, 21/02/2017 - 15:32

Are your pupils prone to feeling like a fraud when they succeed? Try these ideas to help them realise their potential

Ever felt like a fraud at work? As if at any moment, everyone else is going to realise that you’ve bluffed your way to your current position? This phenomenon is known as the impostor syndrome, and even those who are at the top of their professional game feel it. Emma Watson recently admitted that she’s uncomfortable receiving praise because she feels like an impostor, and Rénee Zellweger and Kate Winslet have also acknowledged similar feelings.

Research into impostor syndrome shows that it is characterised by feelings of anxiety – thinking that you are not as talented as others believe, that your success is down to luck and that one day soon your lack of ability is going to be exposed in front of everyone.

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Local authorities have no control over government funding of schools | Letters

Tue, 21/02/2017 - 13:55

Sutton council made headlines in your paper (‘The future looks bleak,’ headteachers tell parents in letter, 10 February) after local schools wrote to me about reductions in their funding. Sutton council has the challenging task of working with schools to manage demands on funding from schools, nurseries and other early years provision, supporting young people with special educational needs, while per-pupil funding is at best steady in cash terms, implying a real-terms cut when rising costs and growth are taken into consideration.

The vagaries of school funding and the role that local authorities now have in education undermine confidence in the system and give rise to misunderstandings such as those expressed last week. Local authorities have no control over how much money is provided from central government to distribute to schools. This is a central decision of an ever more centralised system. We have no control over costs relating to pensions, national insurance, pay or the apprenticeship levy. Nor do we benefit from the savings sought.

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Princess Nokia in row over 'public display of sexism' at Cambridge University

Tue, 21/02/2017 - 12:46

Witnesses say rapper walked off stage and hit audience member after alleged verbal abuse during her performance at a university charity show

Princess Nokia was reportedly involved in a “public display of sexism and misogynoir” at Cambridge University last week.

The New York rapper and R&B artist performed at a charity fashion show at the institution on 15 February, but is said to have left the stage after three songs. A post, written by Richelle George and Jason Okundaye of Cambridge University’s network and forum for women and non-binary people of colour, Fly – or Freedom. Love. You, detailed an incident that the musician was allegedly “left shaken by” and that “will inevitably shape her perception of Cambridge”.

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Peter Smith obituary

Tue, 21/02/2017 - 12:31

My friend and former colleague Peter Smith, who has died aged 77, taught day-release classes to Yorkshire and Derbyshire coal miners, steelworkers, railway workers, engineers and local authority manual workers. The courses had been arranged by their respective trade unions in agreement with their employers.

The syllabuses were partly drawn up by the students themselves and the subject areas included economic and social history. Class members presented papers to each other and the topics ranged from collective bargaining to global politics.

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Cappuccino with extra Italian? Pop-up classes bring a buzz to adult learning

Tue, 21/02/2017 - 07:30
As further education colleges face funding cuts, could evening classes in coffee shops bring students and teachers together?

It’s a rainy February evening in a Costa coffee shop in East Putney, south-west London. The shop is closed to the public but a group of men and women are gathered there, drinking coffee and practising Italian phrases with teacher Alessandro Fantauzzo. Two are here for work reasons, others to build their language confidence for holidays.

In the past, they might have gone to a night class at a local adult education college. But over the past decade, funding for courses that don’t lead to a formal qualification has been slashed. Since 2010, the adult learning budget has been cut by about 40%, meaning the days when adults could learn flower arranging, languages or guitar at their local college in the evenings – for a subsidised fee or even free – are long gone.

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The US travel ban would be bad news for American universities | Mary O’Hara

Tue, 21/02/2017 - 07:15

No wonder leading US higher education institutions opposed the president’s executive order – the benefits offered by international students are clear

When Donald Trump issued his shambolic and destructive executive order shortly after his inauguration, attempting to suspend immigration to the US from seven Muslim-majority countries, the shockwaves were swift and far-reaching. Objections have come from campuses all over the country, and with good reason.

The ban clearly affects Muslims, including current and prospective students, but its reach (even after clarifications on green-card holders) is far wider. Alongside other visa changes being mooted and talk of “extreme vetting” it makes for a disturbing climate.

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Universities and Brexit: ‘We’ve 2,500 EU students – talent we don’t want to lose’

Tue, 21/02/2017 - 06:59
Glasgow University’s principal, Anton Muscatelli, says fears about the UK’s place in the research community post-Brexit are already affecting recruitment

Anton Muscatelli remembers his shock on the morning of the EU referendum result. He felt upset, shaken by its implications and by the forces that drove the vote to leave. It was “that feeling that something had changed, and that feeling of deep uncertainty. Not only the future of one’s own sector but the future of the country, the future of Europe.”

Muscatelli, the principal and vice-chancellor of Glasgow University, is perhaps the most prominent and politically active of Scotland’s university executives. As chair of Nicola Sturgeon’s European advisory council, he helped to shape the first minister’s stance on Europe. And he has helped to entrench devolution with the Calman commission. But now Muscatelli sees a future with conflicting, contradictory trends.

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We must ensure all Scottish public buildings are safe | Neil Baxter

Tue, 21/02/2017 - 06:29

The damning Cole report on standards at 17 PFI-built Edinburgh schools should not be shelved. All Scottish councils need to review their public buildings

The knee-jerk reaction to last week’s calls by the Scottish government and subsequently by the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) for urgent action over all Scottish public buildings created through private finance initiatives seems mainly to be a sad rush to find space on bookshelves for John Cole’s 272 pages of considered reporting.

That is a great pity. It seems, at best, ill-considered to dismiss the Cole inquiry’s relevance to buildings elsewhere built under similar regimes to the Edinburgh schools. Perhaps some see the pending local elections in May as an opportunity to pass on the whole issue.

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Plan to crack down on websites selling essays to students announced

Tue, 21/02/2017 - 00:01

Universities minister Jo Johnson has asked institutions and students for guidance to combat plagiarism via so-called essay mills

Ministers concerned about the growing scale of cheating at university have announced a crackdown on so-called “essay mill” websites that provide written-to-order papers for students to submit as part of their degrees.

Jo Johnson, the universities minister, has asked student bodies and institutions for guidance to help combat “contract plagiarism”, where tens of thousands of students are believed to be buying essays for hundreds of pounds a time.

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The neglectful bias against vocational training | Letters

Mon, 20/02/2017 - 18:39

It is sadly no surprise to hear yet another lament about the state of the UK’s technical education system following the closure of a seventh university technical college (Editorial, 20 February). Successive governments have failed to really get to grips with vocational education because the people who make the decisions have little direct experience of it, and this has led to a devastating lack of investment in the sector.

In England, students aged 16-19 on technical courses attract less than half the funding of their peers in higher education – and those aged 19 and over on technical courses get even less. Following a series of budget cuts to colleges since 2009, well over a million adult learners have been lost as courses have been forced to close. If the government really wants to improve the standing of good-quality technical education, it must ensure that the sector as a whole is well supported. That means building capacity; UCU is calling for 15,000 more further education teachers which would support over 250,000 more learners. Without proper investment, this perennial conversation about the problems facing technical education is doomed to repeat itself
Sally Hunt
General secretary, University and College Union

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From Putin to Trump: being a Russian student in New York

Mon, 20/02/2017 - 15:28

It’s a month on from President Trump’s inauguration, and I can’t help seeing similarities between America and my homeland of Russia

To young Russians like me, supporting or criticising Vladimir Putin is a moral choice. To support him is to oppose western democracy and free speech; to oppose him is to fight against corruption and needless wars. I belong in the latter camp – I wanted to be a journalist so I could expose the truth. But my parents advised against it: writing about politics was too dangerous. So when I turned 18, I left Moscow for a fresh start in New York.

Try as you might, when you emigrate you can’t leave all your baggage behind; it’s impossible to disconnect entirely from your old world. Five years later, I’m beginning to see similarities between the country I abandoned and the country I now call home.

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London’s pollution is so bad that it forced me to give up my dream PhD | Vicky Ware

Mon, 20/02/2017 - 13:10
Arriving to study, I had my first asthma attack in 10 years. The capital’s shocking air quality is a health emergency – and it’s already costing lives

While the mayor of London Sadiq Khan is acting on the fact that London breached its annual air pollution limit within just five days this year by advising Londoners to remain indoors, limit heavy breathing, and eat vegetables – seemingly everything other than not driving – millions of people are suffering serious health effects from exposure to particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and myriad other pollutants in the air.

Khan said: “Everyone – from the most vulnerable to the physically fit – may need to take precautions to protect themselves from the filthy air.”

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Too few 18-year-olds? That's no reason to start shutting universities

Mon, 20/02/2017 - 11:10

Yes, there has been a fall in applications from school-leavers at several UK universities. But they aren’t the only people we cater for

An article published in the Guardian last week asked what would happen if a university went bust. Wolverhampton was one of the examples of a university that has seen “a serious decline” in acceptances from 18-year-old UK students in the past four years, and therefore could be at risk.

As the article says: “If you are losing students every year you just can’t go on doing that – something has to happen.” This may be true, but focusing solely on the lower numbers of 18-year-olds enrolling paints a too simplistic picture.

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My Year 12 Life: teens document their final school year in insightful new series

Mon, 20/02/2017 - 01:27

The ABC is pushing the innovation of handing cameras to teens in year 12 but the series’ real strength is the talent itself

“Vlogumentary” (vlog + documentary) is a peculiarly repellant neologism for video blog, but don’t let the ABC’s descriptor put you off its new series. My Year 12 Life, which premieres on Monday night, is a candid, even touching insight into the secret, stressful lives of teenagers.

At the start of last year, filmmaker Laura Waters gave cameras to a group of 18-year-olds to document their final year of high school – a time when, they’re all at pains to stress, shit gets real.

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Council investigates Oldham headteacher's claims of threats

Sun, 19/02/2017 - 21:17

Department for Education says inquiry has nothing to do with extremism and should not be referred to as a ‘Trojan horse’ case

An investigation has been launched after a headteacher claimed she had been forced to work from home and that her position at an Oldham school had been made untenable by alleged threats and verbal abuse.

The Department for Education is working with Oldham council to investigate allegations made by Trish O’Donnell, head of Clarksfield primary school, that she feared for her safety after a string of alleged incidents that she labelled a “Trojan horse” plot to make her quit.

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