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PODCAST: Unconditionals, KEF, research culture, racism


it's the wonky show we talk. Unconditional offers research coaches KEF and more. It's coming up but I must say I found. I spent a long time as you know working in a a a an office of member parliament and he got a big post back is all members of parliament and it was a surprising amount of of sort of it casual. Racism sometimes expressed in people's frustrations in private post back and it made me a higher level of latent racism in our society that we like to welcome to the Wonky Cher direct way into this week's higher education use policy and analysis of your host mark each reporting from walk. HQ Cunanan and the following last week's Baltic special with Jim and one ks us. Check it out. If you haven't already hit help us to the warring twenties. We have two amazing guests in Brooklyn. I we have nick. HALLMAN director of the Higher Education Policy Institute. That's happy to nick the week. Well funny enough. My highlights of the week is me being for me personally being here in broken. Because I've been speaking to the governors of the University of Southampton which is a university. I'm ashamed to admit I've never visited before or done an eventful. So I've been hearing about their priorities and in store. We Have Jenny Shaw Director of student experience for United Students. Jenny your highlight of the week. Please oh my highlight of the week. It's kind of something that hasn't happened yet. But we've spent a lot of this week preparing to launch our research for insight report for this year so we're preparing for Focus Chris great sensitivities and just just really excited about what we're going to find out so we start the show returning to holy perennial uncondition. Office might ratcliffe friend of the show and register of course at Nottingham. Trent University had a piece on the site earlier this week. Setting out the impact of conditional unconditional offer making on student cohorts university and it was also written up in the Times which yeah I think it's fair to say has been fairly tough on the sector about this issue in the last few months. Nick can you talk us through this one. Yes it's a it's a fascinating thing. Uh Nottingham Trent done I mean they clearly on a on a journey because we had Edward Pack vice-chancellor as part of the ORG review within had their announcement a few weeks ago cracking down on the increase in first class degrees and Nottingham Trent and then now explaining why they offer so many unconditional offers And defending themselves against this sort of attack. A some of the media and the government particularly Damian Hinds when he was sexually of state education and have been making on unconditional office so Nottingham. Trent say they defending their use. And they're saying that there isn't clear evidence that people slip behind behind In that area levels in from work after being given one of these offers. And they don't believe that dropout rates are higher for people who get in at least at their university with with with the conditional unconditional offer. So it's quite a bold defense using data like to see see more granular information. I'd like to see the number of other universities too but it's important teaches hate unconditional offers And we do need better evidence based on discussing them. Do you think other universities should publish the data in the in the same way. Yes I do I think in our sector Acta we should never be scared if data even when it tells us things. We don't want to hear in that day to day jobs academics and researchers are always dealing with difficult tator and contextualising here and working hard to understand it and I think we should be joust is open to the use of data about our own sector and what we do. Do I great at the start of a trend and you know what even if it is in the start of a voluntary trend. I suspect the government will continue putting the thumbscrews. He's on universities and may end up. Make them doing this. If we don't voluntarily I wonder if if the ties as tied already turned against particularly conditional. Unconditional Oh that seems to me to be the thing that they're being highs particularly gets gets worked up about an has been pretty strong in its and its language. Do you think the political political tides turned against against the sexual on on this one is the is the defense too late almost yes it could be. I mean I have some sympathy actually for for what you're saying and what Damian hinds and others have set because my first job after leaving university was I was a secondary school teacher I taught at university calls and so I'm very aware of the fact of how. Oh young a lot of school leavers when they're applying to university. They're they're not legally adults they're seventeen very often and funnily enough. The work that we are happy have done with Jenny and her colleagues as a united students has has emphasized that we've done research with students looking at what applicants think. Higher Education is like and higher education's often some very different to what they think it's like so I do worry about putting a lot of pressure on seventeen year olds when they're filling in forms in the making decisions afterwards You know without caring attention so so so you know. We mustn't the. Nt You have done a good thing here but the conversation will continue. It doesn't end the debate. Yeah yeah there's there's an Angolan essentially which I've I've not seen spoken about or research in anyway. which is I absolutely accepting the points? You make nick about the pressure. It puts on young people but there is a resort here pressure on young people applying to university actually to to get the grades and to get into their first choice of university. And I I don't know about you but thirty years on I can still remember that and actually. Is there something positive for students. I don't know the answer to this but about having that certainty about about what is going to go and just removing that pressure so that presumably they can then go on and do their best in there where they're going. I mean it gives them a chance to to see themselves in that environment so to be clear about whether going to develop a sense of bonding with that university developer sense of belonging paps which we know is really important for a whole of things such as retention so I I would like to see a little bit of research into that angle. Because it's not something that's been explored. I think I accept that. Actually I I think for example. If you're a student with particular needs maybe a disability for example having a slow graduate in long conversation with your future university stay about your needs and getting everything in place beforehand can be a helpful thing to do and obviously if you've already accepted a place early that can be easier but on the other side of the coin when we have huge numbers of people calling for qualification. Applications he won the whole university application process to take place later in the process. So there are these sort of conflicting conflicting pressures. But I guess it reminds us that every individual applicant is a different sort of person with different requirements is also seems to be a symptom of of the market. I mean once she controls opened up university started trying all sorts of different things as as the competition heated up so on the one hand it's it looks like congressional response and I think there could be benefits. I think as a journey rightly points out. The problem for universities is is that it's never going to look altruistic Dick because ultimately fighting for student numbers but is the system that the government has handed to the sector so it seems like a catch twenty two it is the system that we live in and of course one of the points Mike Ratcliffe makes in his wonky. Article is there as Nottingham. Trent is a very popular universities. That doesn't they would Philip Laces whether they did this or not but not everywhere would and I think an interesting thing is when demographics change when the number eighteen year olds start increasing again as it does in a couple of vs time Whether they will. Unconditional unconditional office of every type will remain as common as they are now or whether they'll start disappearing again for you know partly because of the government pressure polly the numbers that the flow of people from school to university really increases and we could see things like number caps. Come back on another things in new landscape when there were far more eighteen year olds then. They're all university places. Essentially I think so. I think so in Australia. Removed a number cats before we did a now reimposing them and we could go through the same cycle right. Let's see who's been looking for us this week. Hi I'm Mike. Reckless cliffs on the academic registrar at Nothing University. And this week. We've about unconditional office and our findings from looking at data about calmest students. So we've been looking too key contentious areas we've been looking at whether or not they students do less well in grades before they come to they coast because of the types getting conditional offer and then do they do less well when they come to university because coasting they don't say well to pet I studies fort. We found tiny tiny little element which we gave to describe two different in terms of predicting great complex potentially one point three percent of the difference but we found no difference when it comes to students actually being an tasting progressing at university. We can important thing to look I in terms of office and the policy Situation Refund ourselves saying so. What are we GONNA do? How much should we analyze how to make sure that we understand what we're doing with a piece of practice? Some politicians positions fun uncomfortable. This week the Wellcome Trust released a report on research culture in the UK based on a survey of four thousand researchers around the country. They find that two-thirds respondents had witnessed it's bullying and harassment with only a third feeding able to report such instance Jenny. Can you need us through this research. Yes I can reports not an easy one to read actually because it paints this. This picture of researchers actually highly dedicated professionals who very passionate about what they do but working in a culture that many of them believe is becoming Ming. Unsustainable is certainly plenty of evidence that it's causing harm so many of them as well and and actually it's very culture that threatens the thing that they value the most which which is their own research so I think understandably. It's been that that human cost that has been reported on the most but there's plenty in there as well abouts. What's you know is is this the way to continue? Is this actually going to harm the the research culture of UK universities time. Because there's there's evidence there as swell poor research practices on ethical practice actually being driven by this culture and Jimmy and the kind of the pressure that comes on researchers leading to the leading to discuss these problems. Yes it's partly that so there's quite a lot as well Further down the reporter about Just the way in which the funding seems to set up power imbalances and this can be mitigated by by good management and leadership but but isn't always done so so you'll you get researchers who are good producers. They get published in high impact journals and and they get the ground so they can become untouchable And so there's this an idea that they can get away with poor practice. They can get away with even actual misconduct but but can't be challenged. There's a culture in which they can't be challenged because they're the stars and then of course those researchers he will not being published or or getting the grants as much then become kind of lower status within within the institutions. So as quite a lot there about how this creates a toxic culture if not well managed seems to be choosing choosing academic research career. It's a tremendously hard path. I mean there's there's junior rung and can a weapon away up is so difficult so precarious and then you look at this this report and it basically says that the culture is completely broken on this on human level as well wonder why on earth anyone we'll get into in the first place it's true and at the very least it's just poor talent management so if you've got a workforce where I'm trying to find the statistics here at the very very few at the junior level and even the the mid career level feel that it's a long term viable profession to be in those this high levels and security tapie say you put that together with the level of stress. I think it was seventy percent feel stressed by work on a daily basis. It's just pulled talent management. It's hard to see how that could be sustainable. Long one I agree. I think it's a really important report this has been such. A spotlight shone on the very important issue. Things like undergraduate mental health which is another very important issue but the mental health research is equally important. And we haven't talked about it very much and I think we're so lucky to have the wellcome trust because they have two things they have good sense on this issue and a lot of money. They are themselves of funder so they come in themselves as they say in the report actually we lead from the front and encourage a change a change of behavior which I think is is fantastic and as I read the report I just kept on thinking. We like to think in higher education that our values is an art practices better than in other sectors but sometimes you know microcosm of wider society have exactly the same challenges and problems. But what I like most about the report was a has a really constructive set of proposals at the end. The things to do better. I mean there's lots of them but yeah. I think like more diversity on funding panels giving advice to the leaders of teams on how to manage diverse team having anonymous appraisals allowing allowing that to be impartial spaces where people can raise concerns. And that's the sort of practical suggestions that we need to hear and implement. I completely agree with that. I thought the recommendations were great and it was. It was very clear reading the report. How a lot of this stuff stems from Either stems from or can be influenced by management practice in an although so researchers seem to be quite positive about their immediate management. You drill into the data a little bit more and it's clear that those manages aren't doing just the basic things that make for good leaders says I mean good. Leadership is not being charismatic as A. It's being diligent about doing the right things. Having performance conversations giving feedback asking for feedback and and actually that seems to be something that can be that can be fixed whereas some of these wider issues about the way in which research is funded. I think an actually says in a report can lead to a sense of hopelessness. Ns about well this. This problem can't be fixed because it's just beyond me and it's beyond everyone so I thought they ended on a very positive note. Certainly it is always great when the police report has some tangible tangible and and kind of meaty recommendations that are also quite achievable. And I think it's totally right that you know. Just the kind of quality of of of work from welcome is is really outstanding and also welcome to make a more general points on that. which is you won't face the same challenge we do? I'm sometimes ask that why we are happy. Publish more papers. Written by Academics Higher Education Body were involved in the higher education policy debate and one of the frustrations I have in my role is is we sometimes some fantastic whiting from academics. Which are a brilliant ripping Paul to all of a problem but you know as a policy we need to know a positive alternative solution and sometimes in our own sector that is lacking and as you say the Wellcome Trust? I clearly very conscious of because I have a very effective list recommendations that back. I think we should always when we criticized government policy or criticize things going on in the sector. ACTA have a better alternative in our back pocket to the when someone else someone says what would you do instead. We can say this is what we would do instead now monkeys at. It's a ovarian ovarian. Debbie mcvitie. Exactly is a new shadow universities in science minister. We heard last week that Emma Hardy. MP Kingston upon Hull West and Hessel has been appointed as Labour's shadow minister for further and higher education. Replacing Gordon Marston. MP who lost his black pills plus seat in the one thousand nine hundred general election. We don't know whether hardy will retain the rule for more than a few months. You'd expect a new liberal leader to appoint a new shadow team but even before the new Labour leader is a nonstop April. Were expecting a few big policy. The events in higher education the response of the government to the HR see report on racial harassment. The Independent Review of the teaching excellence framework are not least the budget which were expecting acting at least some progress on the government's response to last year's order review potentially some new money for research as well and of course there's brexit there's always brexit. The party has a degree in politics from the University of repeal and a PG see from the University of Leeds before entering parliament in two thousand seventeen she worked as a primary school teacher undesired organizer for the National Union teachers since her election. Harvey's been a member of the House of Commons education committee where she's campaigned on. Special Education needs and disabilities. She's also a parliamentary. Private Secretary. To Labour leader countered at cure starmer Champion of gender equality. Her website promises that she'll use the rule to campaign in for increased funding for further and higher education with a special focus on the provision of high quality education training and apprenticeship. She said recently in a twitter video that world class education it does not come cheap and it does not come from treating the staff who work in education. Badly party voted for an opposition amendment. Twenty Seventeen Queen's speech that proposed the scrapping of Jewish Shen fees and the reinstatement of the maintenance grant nursing bursaries in line with Labour's policy in the national education service she'll sit subsequently stated her support for Free University tuition and and for qualification and Mrs Mission System and she said she doesn't agree with the free market in higher education so this morning research England published the details of the I version of a knowledge exchange framework the new metric base framework will allow us to compare universities across seven dollars exchange perspectives and support universities to further develop their knowledge exchange strategies ashtrays. Nick How's it looking so far. Well the cavs have very interesting policy lever as you said. It's designed to raise efficiency effectiveness of public on knowledge for Public Funding Knowledge Exchange. Which I'm not sure means anything to your regular person on the street but in practical terms that means is is universities will be measured on things like their research partnerships? How much they work with business? How they work with the third sector? What their community engagement is like? And and the idea dates back to Theresa. May's premiership but I think it could be a really powerful intervention because it could be one of the things switch reconnect universities in deep away to wider society. Today we're recording this on on Thursday. That's been this a new report from research England which explains exactly what metrics are going to be used exactly what the time line for. The calf is exactly how the results will be produced in spider diagrams. But I think it's interesting sort of high level. I mean one of the people. He's has done work on the calf in the last few months is Richard Jones. Sheffield who is Dominic Cummings is favourite academic seemingly and Richard Jones. Agnes's very interested in things like He thinks are research basis to small even though tie quality things. It's too small. He thinks we're like many people do translational. Research compared with other countries fund enough industrial our day to geographically concentrated in etiquette in the southeast. So so if the calf does policymakers want it will lead to much more sophisticated invitations about all those things. I've got to say it's very metric heavy and I'm thinking of the welcome report we but just talking about this says a lot of pressure. Researchers fail is because that judged on metrics but there was a narrative element to it as well so universities will okay able to to write narratives has actually three narrative elements to say what their institutional context is what the public and community engagement is like what they're what D- For local growth and regeneration I think the calf will drive really significant change if and when money is attached to it and in the first iteration of the calf in the first year. That won't actually be any money attached to it but we of course have the higher education innovation -ation funding stream of money which most people think could very easily be applied to the caffeine researching quite keen for that to happen in future and also who knows when we leave the European Union. You know who knows if we'll continue to be an old as European research funding streams and if win naught and the UK government chooses to replace as it said it would. Would you lost money. Maybe some of that money would be linked to the cafes well so You know the cavs arriving at a moment when there's a huge interest in regional policy and regeneration so it is a really important document today from research he's such England but it's still a moving picture and I think the cavs GonNa go on becoming more important. I completely agree I was reading this. I'm thinking actually it hasn't been huge. He's young people's right over the last couple of years and I wonder if this government strangely Dominic Cummings and that regional agenda has given. Its is going to give its moment. It's is going to have arrived as a as a policy that actually makes sense for this and for the current policy climate. which as we know is is driving very heavily at in these regional questions and fascinating as you point out to grow? There's links between people working on this Richard Jones. Donate coming out. I don't believe you've Richard. Jones sees himself as kind of dominic. Cummings is kind of a kind of close confidante or anything like that. But it's clear that a lot of his his thinking has been very very influential and I. It seems very prescient that the is is emerging this year next year attached to funding funding because the government's going to need kind of oven ready solutions for rebalancing the economy post brexit. And I can just I imagine how how something like this will play a more important political world and I think probably imagined by. Its its original architects next year. And the NEAT thing about I think is There's sometimes seen as being attention between distributing resources according to excellence criteria on the one hand and distributing resources on regional criteria on the other hand and one of the neat things about the test is it's sort of joins up those two things to a measuring measuring what's really going on and with thinking of it regionally as well so so is could be as you say it could be in a way. Thank God it exists because imagine we were having the same debate about regional policy without the sort of metrics that are in the CAF. We would be trying to find our way in the dark and the captured. Hopefully a lighter path to more evidence based policy in this whole space. Maybe that's an eve but it's certainly better than it exists. It doesn't Exist I think even though and Jenny have us on this I still have this slight concern at the back of my mind having just what the red. They're welcome report saying how much pressure researchers feel Colombo by the constant measuring of everything they do. Yeah I I have probably a bit of a historic perspective on this section because this area of work where I started my career in universities in the nineties Sintus so it's maybe less of a new activity than we think but certainly at that time it was a very marginal activity it was. It didn't have a name eventually. Acquired the name I think it was higher education. Reach out in business in the community. And then it's it's evolved over the last few years now it's the calf. I was very involved with it. Obviously that time then have had no involvement whatsoever and until now so quite interesting to come and revisit it I think on the one hand and it's it's great. Actually that this area work is being recognized to the degree is now because it tended to be Something that academics would do knocking stuff as well on top of their research and teaching load always to Sir not quite a hobby but something that was not rewarded and valued and in a recognized and I certainly in the institution I was in at the time we had quite a long conversation about. How can we at least internally recognized this valley dare of work So perhaps in that perspective it giving that recognition and potentially in the future giving that funding to it can can actually help in terms of workloads one of my biggest reflections. Actually on on looking at the metrics was well. It's it's very much based on what universities universities get from the process and not what they gave an D K Mehta related point in his blog. which is you know? This is about volumes. It's not about excellence or honor society quality and I think that there can be some interesting angles to this in terms of that the regional regional aspect. So as as you mentioned nick so When I was doing this We had loads in light of European funding we at the European Social Fund the Regional Development Fund say. Actually if you lifted an in every weather businesses were really struggling and that the local people were really struggling. You could get the funding in to do the things he wanted to do. And that the local community needed you you to do. I'm not sure that that's quite the same now. And I don't know how the funding will be dispersed in a way that will maybe help fill some of those gaps or or whether it's going to to being very kind of inward-looking funding stream based on what universities are doing at the moment and that blog Jenny mentioned by associated David Kernahan where where he attempts to run KEF years zero based on the available metrics for the whole bs. I think but also for the professional services. I think some interesting was that look out on the site. It's morning and in the show notes now it's time for yes but how does extrapolate. Yes you heard that right this is indeed a a new segment from the people. Decay you yes. But does it correlate it celebrates the slow news day at the time of Christmas. Where decision was matrix trap? Late the rise in first toss degrees through a massive four data points to come up with an exciting headline. And oh how. We laughed in this game. You're going to get the headline based on a probably but not entirely highly defensible but always more than four data points trend from HP data. So I'm looking for the year when the trend across the state to threshold and this week yes how does extrapolate looks entrance based on an extrapolation from Davis. It's two thousand six. In what year will the hate the entry rate for English domiciled eighteen year olds pass one hundred percent. I would I would say the good half a century I I would say. Make for somewhere between probably more than I probably seventy five years. We'll have to wait until twenty sixty universal cheaper English eighteen year olds. Tony Blair is fifty percent target. Wins by in twenty seventy three on the other TAB of office location. We'd have to wait until twenty ninety two the application rate for irritating roles to reach one hundred percent. So there's clearly more unconditional office says. This week's data is based on caste and psycho super bowl on where the data does exist I've extrapolated now the University of Sheffield has announced will crew students to actors race equality champions they will be to lead transactions on campus and university accommodation to help other students recognize in combat. Racist attitudes sounds like a great scheme but it was classic Culture Wars. Ah for the right wing. Press this week to dust down at scare quotes and wind up at dinner. Party set of talk who've microaggressions and bans on Sombreros Jenny. What's your take on my take on? This is fairly straightforward to me. The headline here is university tackles. Ignorance improves critical thinking of makes students. More employable label. which seemed like I think when you go beyond the headlines? Look into what they're actually doing. Hill seems quite reasonable. I mean first of all it response response to a specific issue so there was a report last year for the equality and Human Rights Commission about racism on campus which found that racial harassment was a common experience for students agents. So there's something there about going in there. They're looking at the kind of culture that creates this and they're trying to tackle source. I I know I do I do well. I I got quite excited about this as well from an employer perspective because you know I went for Footsie to fifty the company I hire people I would really want to be hiring people who first of all know how to behave around people who are different from them but secondly have actually engaged in critical thinking about their deeply held beliefs and and have learned and grown as a result. Because they're the people I will enjoy team so actually from an employer perspective I I would which welcome this kind of thing which is something that that seems to have been maced in Weizman reported as well I I was think I need to be careful talking on these issues. Being sort of white middle aged man who who who therefore hasn't been on the receiving end of of the sorts of behaviors. That that that this is trying trying to stop but I must say I found. I spent a long time as you know working a an office of a member of parliament and he got a big postbag as all members of parliament and there was a surprising amount of of sort of Casual racism sometimes expressed in people's frustrations in master of private post back and it made me. I've always I sometimes think about it. I think there is a higher level of sort of latent racism in society than we like to think inquiries so I think this is an interesting initiative. We published report last year on the attainment gap which had some really interesting chapters in including one run by some speed. You London southbank which talked about the change. In language everybody needs to think about on campus it to make everybody feel truly welcome and include it and Cohen Lambert of course vice-chancellor Sheffield is led from the front on. This issue is a vice chancellor who seems to be really does care about the students and you look for example. He did on mental health when he was at York. But we shouldn't all agree on everything so I would just say one thing. I hope this is a trial and not a fully-fledged everybody convinced it's going to have a massive impact from day one because it is a bit of a hostage to Fortune in media turns. You suggested mark in spikes headline was turning students into awoke starchy. We can live with headlines like that. If we can prove that the initiatives we're doing in the sector are having a real impact on the ground but but so if a year or two this this project has has proven success and quite how you measure it has proven success then then we can go out there and be on the front foot and say this is what every university should be doing. The The may be other. Universities will be different. Initiatives will be even more effective so so so I wouldn't criticize it but I hope it's a learning process in a trial rather than and something that everybody's got to immediately fall in line with because there may be better ways to solve the very real problem I think that's right and I would also hope that universities who are trying things aren't put off by the negative reaction that's never going to follow from the press. The right wing press because those stories are going to be ridden anyway whether or not a university announces anything you These these asteroids that get rehash over again on the on the thinnest of hooks pretty much on a daily basis. So you know I think. Soft Sheffield Forum. I'm putting his head above the parapet on this issue. I think back to your point. Nick that universities needs to be doing a range of things. I think that they are on the great report that you published last year with the different chapters on on tackling racism and race issues in higher education. An started to bring some of these two four. But I'm pretty sure that every university is doing something it's just maybe that they don't all a church the same kind of headlines and it is about route learning and is about finding out what works because you know we we are living in a society. That's become quite divided on these issues or not. That's the the underlying worrying thing is is actually really how initiatives like they saw or received and how it's used to create this idea of a hugely divided society and and you know some of the rhetoric is is actually quite frightening And that starts the context in which this is happening. And that's developing actually year on. Yes I am. I think one good thing that has happened And will really help. Universities recognize the problem and want to make progress is. There's a lot of guidance out there. Now that can really help you know. There's the worker I'm GonNa Tito coup from the US and Baroness Amos as did for universities UK. There's there's academic books like white privilege by Calvin by policy chapter of a collection of essays. We did last year. There's a race. Equality Shaw Shaw. Mark protests that institutions can go through a little bit like what they've done with Fini Swan So part of the reason I welcome come Sheffield intervening in this. Space is the we're having helped much healthier conversations about now now than we did a few years ago. It's easier to know what to do than it was a few years ago. Even though we're still on a journey and hopefully it will make a really big impact on the ground Things like the Black Guy are very real problems. So that's about it for this week. Remember to delve deeper into anything. We've discussed today. You'll find links and the show notes difficult you can subscribe to the podcast. Let's just search for the Wolke Cher by your favorite Android podcast directory or find the feed. You need while he'd dot com the forecast and if you appearing guests on the show drop us an email on team of Dot Com and we'll be in touch so has the Nick Jenny decay and everyone at Tiki Keke happen until next week say wonky.

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