‘Elitist Conservative’ Measures in English Universities

A new report published by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) has stated that many of England’s elite universities are reducing the number of part-time degree courses, with the hopes of attracting “high achieving full-time students.”

HEPI has stated that there is “prima facie evidence” that changes in student support and higher university tuition fees, introduced in 2012 by the coalition government, have led to a reduction in both the supply and demand for courses. This in turn has directly led to fewer part-time entrants to third level education.

The governmental White Paper (2012) claimed that up to around 175,000 part-time students could benefit from an entitlement to tuition fee loans. HEPI has argued that only a minority of part-time students were eligible for loans, and that for those who are eligible, the benefits of access to loans may be outweighed by the likely increase in fees.

The report warns of the danger that “universities will scale down what they treat as a peripheral business. That is mature, and particularly mature part-time recruitment, to focus on their core business of teaching young students on full-time courses,” which has been condemned as elitist and conservative.


Unrest in Nigeria as Universities remain closed

A strike by lecturers in Nigeria has paralysed public institutions for the past three months. As a result, many families who can afford to do so have enrolled their children in the private universities, which have remained open.

However, students studying medicine, dentistry and engineering have to wait for public universities to reopen because these applied science courses are not offered in private institutions. Most of the children of the Nigerian elite were in private universities.

A member of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), who asked not to be named due to his role in the current trade dispute said, “They don’t care if public universities are shut down. Private universities made up their mind not to allow academic staff to join unions.”

Adding to this problem is the fact that Nigeria has experienced great violence; preventing many more from attending even private university in northern Nigeria due to attacks by Boko Haram, the Islamic group fighting for the imposition of sharia law.

Agnes Okon, who has been admitted to read medicine at a public university, said that she “will wait until the strike is over. [The] government should make more concessions so that university teachers can go back to the campuses. I am tired of staying at home.”


New European Research Plans

The Vilnius Declaration, aimed at integrating social sciences and humanities into societal challenges has been submitted to Lithuania’s Minister of Education and Science, Dainius Pavalkis. This came at the conclusion of an international conference on “Horizons for Social Science and Humanities.”

The declaration will help with a pillar of the next European Union research programme, Horizon 2020. This will be the eighth major funding framework programme from the European Commission since 1984, and will channel €70 billion (US$95 billion) into research over the next seven years.

European Commissioner for Research and Innovation, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said, “At its heart is the idea that we cannot build long-term sustainable growth without improving our research and innovation performance in Europe.”