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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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    Find a course at a UK university

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    Our expert judges ensure that the Guardian Awards go to the very best entries submitted by UK universities

    Judging the 2019 awards will be specialists from within the Guardian and across the higher education sector in the UK. Guardian journalists on the panel will include Rachel Hall, Richard Adams, Anna Fazackerley, Harriet Swain and Alfie Packham.

    Wendy Berliner
    Wendy is an award-winning journalist who has specialised in education for most of her career. She has been education correspondent for the Guardian, education features editor for the Independent and has also edited the Times Educational Supplement. Most recently she was joint chief executive officer of the Education Media Centre. Her bestselling book Great Minds and How to Grow Them – a collaboration with leading specialist in advanced cognition, Prof Deborah Eyre – came out last year.

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    There are 14 categories to choose from, which gives a chance for each university department to showcase its achievement

    Here are the 14 categories for the 2019 awards – there’s lots of choice for every university to find an area in which it excels. Universities may enter as many categories as they wish.

    Entries will be judged by a representative panel from across the UK higher education sector, and winners will be announced at a prestigious ceremony in London, April 2019. Shortlisted entries will be profiled across the Guardian.

    1. Advancing staff equality
    Awarded to an outstanding initiative that has a significant and measurable impact on improving staff equality and/or diversity. This could range from a high-level institutional strategy to specific campaigns, but must have a lasting benefit for the careers and working lives of staff.

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    Highlight your success story with a Guardian University Award

    We’re celebrating the seventh year of the Guardian University Awards in 2019. The team are looking forward to reading about all the inspirational, groundbreaking projects that UK universities have worked on this year. We’re excited to share the very best of these projects with the sector and prospective students at our awards ceremony next spring.

    Click here to enter now

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    Lowering the cost of degrees will devastate university budgets. The state will bail them out – in exchange for more control

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch – or in this case the campus – the mice are running riot. Ignored by Brexit, Britain’s universities are facing financial meltdown. I predict that within a decade they will become institutions wholly owned by the state, their academic autonomy unrecognisable.

    A few weeks ago, three universities were reported to be on the brink of bankruptcy. University debt has soared by £12bn in the past decade. Cardiff has borrowed £300m over 40 years, with experts suggesting it would take 2,000 years to repay if its current surplus does not improve. The backing for these loans is supposedly the ballooning scale of student fees, which David Cameron almost tripled to £9,000 in 2012 in England, and the removal of the cap on student numbers. Fees, rather than grants, now comprise the vast bulk of all university income for teaching undergraduates.

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    When I raised concerns that students were receiving good grades for low quality work, senior staff were hostile

    There’s a widespread view that the university system has become soft, and that the qualifications it offers have become easier to gain. Universities say that improved grades reflect an improvement in teaching quality, not falling standards. For those of us who work in universities, we know which interpretation is correct.

    I am an experienced lecturer and external examiner, but was forced to leave a teaching position for drawing attention to the low quality of student work and the high grades it received. My attempts to highlight grade inflation to my peers were met with indifference and exasperation, but, ultimately, an acceptance that standards had fallen. From senior colleagues, however, I met outright hostility, denial and dismissal. Talking to colleagues at other universities suggests I am far from alone, with stories of resignations under threat and no-fault dismissals with pay-outs not uncommon.

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    Many of those we trust to teach and nurture our young people live on poverty wages that put them on the brink of homelessness

    As a student, I didn’t think much about my professors, how much money they were making or what their lives were like. That was until the end of last semester.

    Last spring, I signed up for a course on gender roles. The class was so interesting, I’d often stay after to talk and I eventually became friends with my professor. During finals, I noticed that she seemed stressed out. I was shocked to learn why: my professor was about to lose her place and have to live in her car.

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    This isn’t a question of academic freedom. The law professor’s writings dehumanise many of his students

    This week, along with other students, we started a petition to stop Professor John Finnis teaching at Oxford University. As anticipated, the petition has been criticised on the grounds that its proposals would undermine academic and – though Finnis himself says his views are “strictly philosophical” – religious freedom. We were called “snowflake” students who were simply incapable of arguing against opposing views. We believe these criticisms miss the point.

    Here are some of the reasons for the petition: in a 1995 paper Finnis sets out that the judgment that homosexual conduct is “evil” can be defended. He draws an analogy between the “copulation of humans with animals” and homosexuality. In a 2011 article, he laments restrictions on the discussion of “the reversibility of sexual orientation or the relation if any between sexual orientation and child-abuse”.

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    While many agree that private education is at the root of inequality in Britain, open discussion about the issue remains puzzlingly absent. In their new book, historian David Kynaston and economist Francis Green set out the case for change

    • Read an interview with David Kynaston

    The existence in Britain of a flourishing private-school sector not only limits the life chances of those who attend state schools but also damages society at large, and it should be possible to have a sustained and fully inclusive national conversation about the subject. Whether one has been privately educated, or has sent or is sending one’s children to private schools, or even if one teaches at a private school, there should be no barriers to taking part in that conversation. Everyone has to live – and make their choices – in the world as it is, not as one might wish it to be. That seems an obvious enough proposition. Yet in a name-calling culture, ever ready with the charge of hypocrisy, this reality is all too often ignored.

    For the sake of avoiding misunderstanding, we should state briefly our own backgrounds and choices. One of our fathers was a solicitor in Brighton, the other was an army officer rising to the rank of lieutenant-colonel; we were both privately educated; we both went to Oxford University; our children have all been educated at state grammar schools; in neither case did we move to the areas (Kent and south-west London) because of the existence of those schools; and in recent years we have become increasingly preoccupied with the private-school issue, partly as citizens concerned with Britain’s social and democratic wellbeing, partly as an aspect of our professional work (one as an economist, the other as a historian).

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    A great public service is being run down by a state that prefers cost-cutting to culture

    It is a further triumph for The Favourite, with 12 Bafta nominations, to have propelled Ophelia Field’s 2002 biography of Sarah Churchill, the favourite in question, to the heights of Amazon’s gay and lesbian biography list.

    Anne Somerset’s 2012 biography of Queen Anne is also likely to benefit, as people attempt to discover more about the extraordinary incidents depicted in Yorgos Lanthimos’s film. How did 18th-century politicians train their racing ducks? Did Queen Anne ever get treatment for her raging bulimia? What became of Anne’s 17 little rabbits? And did Sarah really dress up as a highwayman – because it’s certainly not in Wikipedia?

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    Authors argue move would end unconditional offers and aid disadvantaged students

    School leavers should apply to universities only after seeing their A-level results, a move that would end the controversial use of unconditional offers, in a major reform of the current system, according to a report backed by university staff.

    Changes to the timing of the academic year and greater support for school-leavers could also form part part of the reforms, according to the report.

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    Sometimes it takes a true believer to make clear the absurdities of a faith. An Oxford professor’s view on sexuality discredit his church’s doctrine

    Professor John Finnis is a devout and learned Catholic legal scholar, who is currently being attacked at Oxford University for his views on sexuality as expressed in a lecture to the Catholic University of Notre Dame, Indiana, in 1994 at the height of the culture wars. By reason of his religious commitments, his language, and indeed his beliefs, are profoundly homophobic. He believes himself to have a privileged access to reality which transcends the mere emotions of those who disagree with him. Homosexual acts, he writes, “cannot really actualize the mutual devotion which some homosexual persons hope to manifest and experience by [them]”. His only defence to the charge of homophobia is that he makes it clear that these strictures apply to everything but vanilla sex within the context of marriage. In this most charitable explanation, he is merely weird. He would not, for instance, ban contraception entirely: it would be allowed, but only for married couples, and it could not be advertised or advocated. That is the burden of the last footnote of his essay and what he argues the American constitution really teaches. Such reasoning is apparently the way to be known as a great legal scholar.

    These absurd views are put forward with admirable clarity and precision. He writes much better than the popes whose teaching he expounds. The question is whether these repugnant views should disqualify him from any role in the University of Oxford. That they are wrong goes without saying. They violate our moral sensibilities as deeply as his are violated by the modern world. But will they corrupt the young, to use his own yardstick? Will graduate students leave his occasional seminars convinced that he is right and that their own experience has deceived them?

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    Admitting students from across the city, University of Birmingham school is creating diverse place to learn

    It takes 14-year-old Cameron Matuvangua-Fernandez more than an hour to get to school. He gets up at 6.15am each morning and starts his day drinking hot chocolate out of a Winnie the Pooh mug when most children are still asleep.

    The city is enveloped in darkness when Cameron leaves the house at 7.15am to get his first bus. He meets his friends in the city centre, who tease and jostle each other, before they board their second bus of the morning. The school is based in a leafy suburb in south Birmingham, but Cameron lives in one of its three other catchment areas, which are located in far more deprived parts of the city.

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    A bereaved American mother is bringing her emotional learning programme, downloaded in 60 countries, to British schools

    On the morning of 14 December 2012, six-year-old Jesse Lewis stepped out of his house on his way to school, pausing to etch the words “I love you” in the frost on his mother’s car. He walked down the driveway to where his father was waiting, got in the car, drove off, and never returned.

    Jesse was one of 26 victims of the Sandy Hook elementary school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty of the dead were aged six and seven; their killer, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, was a former pupil at the school who turned the gun on himself after bringing horror and heartbreak to all those affected.

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    As a tropical field ecologist in Borneo, I learned why science must work with industry to protect the planet

    Lots of academics worry that focusing too much on the real-world impact of research threatens pure, curiosity-driven science. But really the two go hand in hand, especially when it comes to solving the complex question of how we achieve sustainability despite increasing human pressures on our planet.

    As a tropical field ecologist studying rainforest destruction in Borneo, I saw the impact of the expanding palm oil industry on tropical biodiversity first hand, and so it was always a high priority to ensure the research I was doing made a difference. I was driven by scientific curiosity about how nature responds to the most drastic human activity, but also by the motivation to find solutions.

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    In 1919 local councils were given the task of educating the public. Now a centenary commission is looking to salvage what is left

    The face of a man I met just once, 15 years ago, still haunts me. He was around 40, pale and thin, with no distinguishing features beyond obvious exhaustion. I was working in the enrolment office at a further education college when he slumped into a chair opposite my desk.

    “I want to retrain,” he told me. “As what?” I asked. “As anything,” he said. Good at school, he had dropped out early to become a builder and earn his family some cash. Now a foreman, he wanted more from life: to be a teacher, or an accountant, or anything that didn’t involve heaving pallets from place to place.

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    New figures show up to 36% of freshers have fewer than three Ds at A-level – and would be barred under leaked proposals

    Some modern universities could lose about a third of their students and face a struggle to survive if plans go ahead to stop young people with lower grades qualifying for loans, data obtained by Education Guardian suggests.

    The prime minister’s review of post-18 education, due to report next month, is expected to recommend a cut to tuition fees. But another idea that has been leaked is to limit numbers by stopping young students qualifying for a loan if they get fewer than three Ds at A-level.

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    Richest undergraduates escape hefty fees by paying for university in one go, study reveals

    About 10% of students in English universities avoid having to rack up large debts and pay “sky-high” interest rates because they are rich enough to pay their fees upfront, researchers have said.

    Approximately 110,000 undergraduates are “escaping” the student fee system by paying for university in one go thanks to a “get-out-of-jail-free card” from their wealthy families, according to a think-tank.

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    If universities based offers on actual – not predicted – grades, disadvantaged students would get the break they deserve

    The decision regarding which university to go to and which course to choose is the biggest that most young people will have faced in their lives, and it’s made even more significant for those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland by the eye-watering debt most will accumulate. They need the support to help choose the course that is best for them, and avoid dropping out, which would leave them with the cost of higher education without the benefit. Unfortunately, the majority are not getting this support, as students in these nations remain tied to an archaic process based around predicted grades governing university entry.

    The present process, whereby the majority of students receive the offer of a university place based primarily on their expected grades rather than actual ones, is a product of a process designed for a time when less than 5% of the population went to university. Unfortunately, it has become seen by too many inside the higher-education sector as the only way to admit students in an era when nearly 50% of young people, rather than 5%, are going. The consequence is that students are making decisions earlier than they need to, and those whose grades don’t match the offer, are forced into the peculiarly homegrown phenomenon of clearing, where a decision that will shape your future career (and, given what we know about marriage patterns, your personal life as well), is made in a frenzied search at the end of August.

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    UK researchers study 40,000 households to explore biggest risk factors for mental health

    Barely a day goes by without concerns being raised about the effect of social media on children’s mental health. Now a study aims to delve behind the headlines to ascertain whether it has been unfairly vilified.

    By analysing data from a longitudinal survey of 40,000 households, researchers from Portsmouth and Sheffield universities hope to identify the biggest risk factors for children’s mental health. This could help determine whether social media are negative or positive for children’s wellbeing and in what circumstances.

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    Many of the successful applicants at Brampton Manor academy are from minority ethnic backgrounds

    A state school in east London is celebrating after 41 of its students – almost all of them from minority ethnic backgrounds – secured offers to study at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge later this year.

    Brampton Manor academy in Newham opened its sixth form in September 2012 with the objective of increasing progression rates to Oxbridge and other elite Russell Group universities among students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

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    California youths traded racist and violent messages in county called ‘hotbed for white supremacists’

    A group of California junior high students were caught forming a swastika with their bodies on school grounds and exchanging racist and violent messages on a group chat, administrators said.

    The scandal at Matilija junior high school, which culminated in an emotional meeting with parents and school officials Monday night, has sparked intense debate in a region that has experienced a sharp increase in reported antisemitic incidents.

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    New guidelines will shift focus towards quality of education rather than ‘outcomes’

    The way nurseries, schools and colleges in England are inspected is to undergo its biggest overhaul in a decade, with proposals by Ofsted aiming to address concerns that education has been too narrowly focused on exam results.

    The new guidelines will be launched by Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of schools in England, in a speech on Wednesday, with a consultation on revised inspection frameworks for state and independent schools as well as early years settings and further education colleges.

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    Ombudsman has upheld 11 complaints against county council in two years

    The local government ombudsman has reprimanded a local authority over its provision for children with special educational needs after upholding 11 complaints against the council over the last two years.

    The ombudsman’s office said the number of complaints upheld against Norfolk county council was one of the highest in England, particularly given the relatively small population.

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    Video games improve communication, adaptibility and critical thinking – just the attributes that employers are looking for

    In recent years, Boris Johnson has excelled at making ignorant pronouncements and illiterate blunders. From offensive remarks on burqas to reciting Kipling in Myanmar and his ludicrous statements on Brexit, Johnson has perfected the art of getting it wrong. It feels like he’s managed to offend just about everyone. For video game educators like myself, that moment arrived way back in 2006, when Johnson attacked video games as a learning tool.

    “They [young people] become like blinking lizards, motionless, absorbed, only the twitching of their hands showing they are still conscious,” he wrote. “These machines teach them nothing. They stimulate no ratiocination, discovery or feat of memory – though some of them may cunningly pretend to be educational.”

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