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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

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    Sector, particularly research, would take decades to recover if UK crashes out, leaders say

    University leaders have said that a no-deal Brexit would constitute “one of the biggest threats” ever faced by the sector, as figures revealed a further decline in EU student enrolment, particularly in postgraduate research.

    Related: A no deal Brexit seriously threatens UK universities | Janet Beer

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    If the UK withdraws from the EU without a deal, the uncertainty will disrupt vital research projects

    As we speed towards the deadline for Brexit, the prospect of the UK leaving the EU without a deal is one of the biggest threats our universities have ever faced.

    Our 50,000 EU staff and 130,000 EU students, not to mention the 15,000 UK students studying in Europe, are starting the new year facing significant uncertainty about their futures.

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    Justine Greening, David Willetts and Jo Johnson warn against reducing top £9,250 course costs

    Theresa May is facing a growing clamour among senior Tories to resist cutting university tuition fees, with warnings that it would dent social mobility, benefit the wealthy and put some institutions out of business.

    Justine Greening, the former education secretary, and former university ministers Jo Johnson and David Willetts spoke out amid mounting expectations that a review of higher education could back a cut to the maximum fees of £9,250 a year for some courses. All warned against a headline cut in fees.

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    The proposed multi-tier system of tuition fees would result in poorer students being deterred from the sciences

    Four in five young people who go to university will end up repaying 9p of every pound they earn over £21,000 for 30 years. Little wonder that university funding has become such a charged political issue. A new review of university funding will be published in the coming weeks. Some of the proposals reportedly include the idea that universities will only be able to charge £6,500 a year for cheaper-to- provide courses, whereas for courses such as engineering and medicine, they may be allowed to charge over £13,000.

    If the main losers from the tripling of the tuition fee cap were students, the main beneficiaries were universities; after they defied ministerial expectations and charged the then-maximum of £9,000 for almost all courses, they saw their average funding per student instantly jump by a fifth; real resources per student have increased by almost 60% since 1997. The 2012 reforms also left a gaping anomaly: universities broadly receive the same funding for all courses, despite the fact some are much more expensive to provide than others, creating a financial incentive to run cheaper courses. The 2012 changes were poorly conceived but the purported options for reform do little to address the fundamental questions: is university funding from taxpayers and students at the right level or would some of it be better spent elsewhere in education, given that the 2012 jump in funding was not planned and given also the swingeing cuts in further and adult education? And why is the funding universities receive unrelated to the costs of running a particular course?

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    In the 1990s, Goldsmiths college in London spawned the YBAs. Now, it has incubated a very different group – whose work is as likely to turn up in an international court as in a gallery

    Up a narrow staircase at the labyrinthine Goldsmiths college in London is an airy room where researchers, film-makers, AI experts, investigative journalists and archaeologists pore over computer screens. This is the nerve centre of Forensic Architecture, the research agency that was a strong contender for the 2018 Turner prize (they lost out to Charlotte Prodger) and which has gained a name for its meticulous “counter-forensic” investigations into human rights abuses.

    In this post-truth era, verification is paramount, so myriad documentation sources have to be corroborated in minute detail. On a recent visit I paid them, researchers were synchronising police bodycam film and extended thermal footage with film shot by an activist. Someone else was scrutinising CCTV footage connected to the recent unsolved murder of an LGBTQ activist in Greece. The investigative film-maker Laura Poitras was visiting and journalists from the New York Times had been over to learn about setting up a visual investigations unit. A team is currently training Chicago activists to respond to police violence.

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    Following forest school, latest trend in getting children to learn outdoors is beach school

    On Bovisand beach near Plymouth, the school day begins with morning assembly and a briefing about sea safety. The timetable will vary, but there will probably be a session on marine pollution and what you can and cannot put down your toilet, followed by shelter building, sand art, and lunch (in your shelter), then rock pools, a beach clean, and finally stories and roasted marshmallows around a seaside camp fire.

    Welcome to beach school. After the success of the forest school movement, which has encouraged teachers to take tens of thousands of school children out of the confines of the classroom to learn outdoors in a natural environment, there is a new push to teach on the beach.

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    Move follows concerns about ‘hidden health disaster’ of sleeplessness among young

    Schoolchildren across Britain may be offered sleep lessons to help tackle the problem of insomnia among young people.

    The lessons became available to teachers at the end of last year and were devised by the PSHE Association and the department for sleep medicine at Evelina London children’s hospital.

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    National Education Union claims 4,819 schools received nothing or had budgets cut

    England’s biggest teaching union has accused the government of breaking its promise to provide a modest cash boost to every school in England, claiming figures reveal that nearly 5,000 schools have received no extra funds or have even had their funding cut.

    In the wake of mounting concern among teachers and parents about a school budget crisis, the education secretary, Damian Hinds, told MPs last year that a new national funding formula would guarantee each school “at least a small cash increase”, a pledge repeated by the prime minister in the Commons last May.

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    The government wants teachers to express their political views ‘appropriately’. Surely that means telling pupils the truth

    “Miss, are you going to vote Ukip?” I was standing in front of my teenage maths students in the run up to the last general election. The school was in a Conservative safe seat. In our mock election the Tories had come first, with Ukip second. I knew the student well and I knew the question was asked out of curiosity rather than as an attempt to derail my lesson.

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    Proposals to bar students without three Ds at A-level would hit courses such as nursing and ‘strike at heart of social mobility’

    The heads of UK universities have reacted angrily to leaked proposals they say would bar thousands of disadvantaged young people from going to university by preventing them from getting student loans.

    They also say that if the government goes ahead with rumoured plans to cut tuition fees, undergraduates would experience a poorer quality of education, less mental health support and a smaller choice of degree subjects.

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    Lessons from those who have overcome trauma are helping pupils confront their own personal challenges

    When the IRA bomb exploded, Darren Swift, an army dog handler in Belfast, had several split-second decisions to make. One of his legs had been blown off; the other, along with two fingers, was hanging by a thread.

    His first instinct was to shoot himself, he now readily admits, but unusually, as he was feeding his dog at the time, he was without a weapon. The second was to rip off his remaining leg to enable him to drag his body more quickly to safety.

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    Scotland has pledged free menstrual products in schools, why not England? Our campaign aims to force the government’s hand
    • Amika George is the founder of #FreePeriods

    Just over a year ago, more than 2,000 people braved the December chill and stood together outside Downing Street to collectively shout for an end to period poverty in the UK. We dressed in red and waved huge banners with period slogans, calling time on the government’s reluctance to act.

    A few months later, an announcement came from Westminster that £1.5m of the tampon tax fund would be given to charities to address period poverty. We celebrated a small victory – evidence that activism can yield tangible results. But a year on from the protest, we are yet to see any meaningful policy change.

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    We’ve known for years about the gap between how well black and white students do, so let’s do something different about it

    There is stark evidence that there is a gap between how well black and minority ethnic students do at university and the performance of their white peers. The most up to date stats show a gap of 28 percentage points between black and white students in terms of receiving firsts or 2:1s at university. Yet despite the fact that this evidence has been around for a while, the gap doesn’t seem to be closing.

    Universities and politicians agree that this is a sticky issue, and there have been calls for concrete and sustainable solutions to address the gap. This has been a long time coming because some issues relating to student performance are deeply embedded in the fabric of our society, and play out as conscious and unconscious biases in our institutions.

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    Through cooking I have learned a lot about science, despite being a chemistry brain-dud. Maybe it can work the other way around

    Imperial College London is including cookery lessons in its chemistry degree courses, starting this September. The Introduction to Culinary Practice module, created in collaboration with the chef Jozef Youssef from the Basque Culinary Centre, will allow students to “experience the ambiguities and challenges of translating written instructions into action” (AKA “following a recipe”). There are several reasons why I think this is a great idea, only some of which hold academic weight.

    I met Youssef several years ago, and he is one of the most absurdly good-looking men I have ever set eyes upon. He looks like a young Antonio Banderas had sex with a Magimix in Zorro’s kitchen. His science-theory-inflected food is extraordinary, too. At the tasting menu I attended, we ate origami pasta, oyster ice-cream and fossilised squash. One course was based on a Mexican folk tale and there was a mushroom dish based around the scent of petrichor. I was like a kid in a candy store. Not a real candy store, obviously, a virtual one, with piped custard aromas and implanted happy memories. Molecular gastronomy gets a bad rap from traditional food critics, seen as “all fur coat, no knickers”, but it’s right up my street. Spherification, emulsions, foams, there’s a Roald Dahl-esque theatre to this type of food that I love.

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    With a clean sovereign Brexit, British universities get the best of both worlds, write 15 academics

    In their political intervention, the Russell Group and other university organisations are confusing the constitutionally damaging withdrawal agreement, which must be voted down, with the future partnership, which is yet to be agreed (Universities sector fears ‘biggest threat’ of no-deal exit, 4 January).

    British universities are the strongest and most attractive in Europe. With a clean sovereign Brexit, British universities get the best of both worlds. They escape the European commission’s shackles imposed through the withdrawal agreement and, like other successful third-party countries (Israel, Norway and Switzerland, for example), can participate in EU programmes like Horizon 2020 at will.

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    Distinguished mathematician acknowledged as an expert on number theory who served on the University Grants Committee

    Peter Swinnerton-Dyer, who has died aged 91, is famous among mathematicians as one author of the Birch and Swinnerton-Dyer conjecture in number theory. Published in 1965, this was immediately influential, becoming even more prominent in 1999 as one of the Clay Mathematics Institute’s seven million dollar Millennium Prize Problems, alongside the Riemann hypothesis.

    Swinnerton-Dyer’s first published paper appeared in 1943, when he was 16 and still at school. His most recent publications, which are substantial, date from 2012-16, and he was pursuing major new research directions well into his final year. In between he served as master of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, and vice-chancellor of Cambridge University, before moving to the civil service as chair of the University Grants Committee (UGC).

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    Richard Davies claims he is victim of ‘negligently flawed investigation’ by university

    The vice-chancellor of Swansea University, who was suspended in November pending an internal investigation, has launched a formal complaint that he was the victim of a “negligently flawed investigation”.

    Prof Richard Davies, in a 10-page grievance letter, said he “profoundly” denied the allegations against him and intended to fight to clear his name. He also described the devastating impact his suspension and the way it was conducted had on his mental health and wellbeing, and that of his family.

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    Arts education is in crisis but theatre company Slung Low has set up a pay-what-you-can community college, offering lessons in art activism, wood-whittling and much more

    On board a double-decker in Holbeck, a small revolution in cultural education is brewing. In this corner of Leeds, locals are learning for the love of it on a bus that has been converted into classrooms. Inspired by the education programmes that used to be run by the Women’s Institute and working men’s clubs, the Cultural Community College offers classes free at the point of use, without any obvious instrumental purpose – a gesture that is, in the current climate, quietly radical.

    The college is the brainchild of theatre company Slung Low and was born out of the company’s own experience of learning new skills while making Flood, a large-scale series of works for Hull city of culture 2017. “What we found is that when we learned stuff - no matter what it was - we were generally more confident about everything,” says artistic director Alan Lane. And so the company wondered if they could pass that confidence on to others.

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    It’s high time for drastic action by the universities to set aside places for pupils from under-represented schools

    The worst mistakes come from perpetuating failure, hoping it will be different next time while doing nothing different. So it is with the imperative to broaden social access to Oxford and Cambridge universities.

    What’s needed now is a revolutionary but achievable policy, and here it is. Oxford and Cambridge should establish new colleges focusing exclusively on “access with excellence”, in the tradition of Oxbridge colleges set up for women and recently persecuted religious minorities in the 19th century.

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    Hundreds of students sign petition to remove emeritus professor John Finnis from teaching

    Students at Oxford University are demanding that a Catholic law professor be sacked for alleged homophobia.

    More than 400 people have signed a petition calling for John Finnis to be removed from teaching, citing “a long record of extremely discriminatory views against many groups of disadvantaged people” including the LGBT+ community.

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