ANOTHER HIGHER EDUCATION IS ALREADY HERE – BEYOND TUITION FEES #8

By Sarah Amsler

It is a time of extraordinary potential for change in UK Higher Education. Labour’s promise to end tuition fees has defied the critics and united many behind Corbyn’s political project. But what will the implications for universities be if this comes to pass? And what can we do to leverage this progress? In this series, the Norwich Radical and Bright Green are bringing together perspectives from across the sector to explore these questions.

‘The university’ is a fertile space within which to practice radical imagining and world-making today. I do not mean that actually-existing universities, in the UK or elsewhere, necessarily provide space for such work. On the contrary, there is ample evidence that the spaces for critique and creative thinking in higher education have shrunk as forces of commodity fetishism, privatisation, competition and authoritarian modes of control have permeated university governance. Continue Reading

EDUCATION AS EMANCIPATION – BEYOND TUITION FEES #7

By Michael Kyriacou

It is a time of extraordinary potential for change in UK Higher Education. Labour’s promise to end tuition fees has defied the critics and united many behind Corbyn’s political project. But what will the implications for universities be if this comes to pass? And what can we do to leverage this progress? In this series, the Norwich Radical and Bright Green are bringing together perspectives from across the sector to explore these questions.

The traditional arguments for ‘free education’ focus on reducing the upfront price of university courses to zero. Rather than HE being a commodity to be traded on the open market, it becomes a good paid for by the government. This kind of argument rests on a contradiction: we cannot solve the commodification of HE by continuing to assert the existence of HE as commodity, even a nationalised one. Abolishing tuition fees is undoubtedly a good thing, but to move beyond their legacy we must understand HE as devoid not only of its price but also its status as a commodity. We need to explore the potential for HE grounded not in classification or institution but in the fundamental equality of intelligences – HE without the degree.

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REFLECTIONS FROM THE PICKET LINE

By Alex Powell

During the UCU strike over the proposed cuts to the USS pension scheme, I was on the picket line almost every day, rising early to join colleagues all over the country in standing outside university buildings and telling those who tried to enter what we were fighting for. Often, the media attempts to portray strikers as lazy, suggesting that they simply cannot be bothered to do their jobs. Other times strikers are represented as greedy, suggesting that they are already doing far better than the rest of the country and now they want more. I want to offer another perspective – direct from the picket line – charting how being on strike has strengthened my relationships with colleagues, raised morale among staff and made me a better teacher.

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THE UCU STRIKE – A GUIDE FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS

By Ana Oppenheim, NUS International Students’ Campaign

What is happening?
Academic staff at over 60 universities will be going on strike for 14 working days, starting from Thursday February 22. This means many lectures will be cancelled – but even when they are not, we are encouraging students in universities that are on strike to not go to class and, if possible, not enter university buildings at all during strike days.
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WHY I AM STRIKING

by Alex Powell

As a Graduate Teaching Fellow, I hold a position that straddles the roles of student and staff, giving me a slightly unusual perspective on the UCU strike action that begins today. It is from this conflicted, complex and, at times like these, compromised position that I wish to lay out why I will be standing with colleagues from 61 other institutions around the country in joining the strike action.

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INTO THE TARDIS – CHAPEL BREAK SCHOOL’S PHILOSOPHICAL CREATIVE PROGRAMME

by Laura Potts

The TARDIS programme at Chapel Break Infant School is an exemplary example of creative education and an inspirational learning environment. For 10 years, the programme has transformed classrooms into imaginative environments for young minds to explore and develop in. TARDIS stands for ‘Thinking Arts Reflective Dialogue Imagination Studio’. The aim of its resourceful staff is to immerse the children in philosophical and creative enquiry:

‘The learning consists of the development of a range of skills, including speaking and listening, debate and discussion, a variety of thinking skills, social skills, independence of thought and action and persistence. It builds a knowledge and experience of the visual arts beyond those that can be offered within the usual classroom setting.’

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40%

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by Alex Powell

I’m sure you’ve all heard it at least once. ‘40% is all I need. It’s first year, it doesn’t really count for anything.’ It’s obvious, right? If the year doesn’t count towards your final degree classification, then you don’t really need to try. Right?

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THE FATAL FLAW IN ECONOMICS FUNDING

by REFunding Economics

As the old saying goes, ‘He who pays the piper calls the tune’. This week, a coalition of economics students, academics and campaigners gathered to get inside the piper-paying process – the funding of economics research – to create an economics fit for the real world.

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POOR SOCIAL MOBILITY SHOULDN’T BE NORMAL FOR NORFOLK

by James Anthony 

Sadly, it may come as no surprise that earlier this week a government report revealed that Norfolk is one of the worst areas in the country for social mobility. Often stereotyped as a rural backwater and with a disappointingly spot on reputation for appalling educational standards and failing children’s services in recent years, it is awful that the government appear to be finding this acceptable and are not increasing funds for social mobility in our county.

While it is unfortunately not too surprising that rural Norfolk isn’t great for social mobility, the equally poor ranking for the city of Norwich will shock many. Our fine city is often hailed as some sort of utopia, full of educated professionals, left wing representation and a good jobs market, but the embarrassing fact is that Norwich isn’t always as perfect as we think. Outside of the affluent city centre and Golden Triangle, there are areas of real deprivation – and no serious attempt by our Tory government is being made to fix this.Continue Reading

ALTERNATIVE ARTS EDUCATION – A BRIEF HISTORY

by Laura Potts

Education is amazing. It encourages the growth of passion for any number of subjects, and opens doors for many to enter into the field that that passion leads them towards, where their research work is often vital to the discovery of all sorts of new and exciting things.

However, the modern system that has emerged as society has ‘advanced’ does not always prioritise the curiosity and growth that education cultivates over more material concerns such as financial gain. The increases in the various fees and costs associated with higher educational institutions and the shrinking of the creative curriculum at earlier levels often means that a passion for a subject is no longer enough. But as with any monolithic trend, alternatives have sprung up down the years.

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NO, YOU’RE NOT A FRAUD – IMPOSTER SYNDROME IN HE

by Alex Powell

Recently I’ve started teaching as part of my PhD, and through doing so I‘ve been learning a few things myself. The most striking thing I have noticed is how skewed and extreme expectations are for people in various academic roles. Why do we assume that a lecturer in any given subject should know everything there is to know about that subject off the top of their head?

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BLINDED BY IDEOLOGY – TWO YEAR DEGREES REVISITED

by Lewis Martin

Back in March, the MinoriTory government announced the idea of running fast track two year degree courses in the hope of saving students money. Last week the Times Higher Education supplement revealed that surveyed students from lower socio-economic backgrounds would be more likely to take this option up if it existed. Could the Tories’ apparently hare-brained scheme in fact be justified?

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SHAKING UP HIGHER ED – TEF’S SILVER LINING

By Alex Powell

Late last month, we saw the release of the first batch of Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) results. The TEF has been the subject of significant student opposition, with a Save the Student survey suggesting that as many as 76% of students oppose the implementation of the TEF. I was an opponent of it myself, particularly of links made between TEF scores and the ability of institutions to raise their tuition fees, though this plan has been postponed until 2020.

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REVIVING CAMPUS ACTIVISM – A ROADMAP

by Bradley Allsop

We live in turbulent times. The political establishment has been rocked again and again this last year. The government is embattled in a way it hasn’t been for 7 years and that rarest of things in British politics, change, is peeking its head above the parapet. What’s more, for the first time in my lifetime, it seems my generation is willing to be an active participant in all this. June’s election saw the highest rise in youth turnout in British political history – it reached its highest absolute level since 1992. It falls to those of us already engaged to fan this flame and help it spread beyond the ballot box, building the political courage and competencies of our fellows. Nowhere offers a better opportunity for us to do this than on university campuses.

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WHO DESERVES TEF GOLD? AND DOES IT MATTER?

by Laura Potts

Last week, the first set of Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) rankings were released for 2017. The TEF is fairly complicated and students are rarely informed of how it works, or the possible implications it holds for the future of education. In short, it is a framework of metrics or measures introduced by the Tory government, ostensibly to assess teaching in higher education institutions in England. These metrics categorise two areas: student satisfaction and graduate earnings / employability. A lot of the data comes from the National Student Survey that final year students are often pressured to take part in. This years’ rankings gave some unexpected results for some of the UK’s most prestigious institutes, with many not doing as well as expected – only 8 of the 21 elite Russell Group universities were awarded ‘Gold’. This suggests that we should be cautious about taking the TEF results as accurate representations of institutions.

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DEBT RISING – HOW TUITION FEES ARE KILLING UNIVERSITIES

by Lewis Martin

Last week it was announced that the total student debt in the UK has reached over £100 billion for the first time. Whilst this milestone was inevitable, it is nonetheless an indictment of the current government’s claim that it is easy and convenient for students to pay off their debt under the post-2010 system.

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THE UK POSTGRADUATE STUDY CRISIS MUST END

by Bradley Allsop

Postgraduate study and research is a vital part of the higher education sector and yet in the UK it is in crisis, riddled with multiple, endemic problems.

Firstly, there are systemic problems with postgraduate study in terms of who even gets through the door. Research has shown that, graduates who are women, from certain ethnic minority groups or from lower socio-economic backgrounds are less likely to go on to study at postgraduate level. This is a social injustice in itself, and raises serious questions about the cultures and systems that exist within both academia and society more generally, but it is also to the detriment of academia: academia thrives on diversity.Continue Reading

RUNNING AWAY

by Alice Thomson

I moved to Norwich five years ago. Well, actually, I didn’t move to Norwich at all. When I relay the story of how I came to live in Norwich I always jokingly say I came to visit and never left. For me Norwich was great – love at first sight. The reason why I came to stay in Norwich was a lot less great and a lot more painful. I came down for a week to visit my mother and celebrate our birthdays (they’re six days apart). I was living in Aberdeen at the time, so at the end of the week my mum drove me up to the Scottish border as planned. She was going to see friends, and I was going to carry on my journey from there. But I didn’t. I couldn’t. The prospect of continuing my journey filled me with crippling fear. It became obvious to my mum that I couldn’t go home. And so we turned around, and came back to Norwich. I ran away.

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ENOUGH PESSIMISM ABOUT HE – A RESPONSE TO JIM DICKINSON

by Lewis Martin

In a recent article for the Guardian, UEA SU CEO Jim Dickinson wrote about universities’ failure to produce anything satisfactory for its students, as well as the lack of transparency around how tuition fees are spent. Helpful though it is to point out the issues faced by the student movement, Dickinson fails to offer any type of remedy for them at any point, suggesting that cynical resignation is the only possible response.

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OXFORD’S PUBLICITY STUNT WON’T CLOSE THE UNIVERSITY CLASS GAP

By Lewis Martin

This month Oxford University, in conjunction with the Sutton Trust, launched a summer school aimed at attracting more “white, working class boys” to the university. While this has received praise from some sectors of society, it does not address the real reasons why working class people (not just boys or men) are not attending universities like Oxford.

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THE GIFT: DYSLEXIA

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by Alice Thomson

Igminae a wlrod wree the wetrtin wrod is as hrad to raed as tihs. Imagine that written word is in your first language, not a second or third. Imagine the difficulty it presents every day, how others perceive you, how exhausting it is to read, and understand. Some of you reading this won’t have to imagine. This is the world of a dyslexic.

Often people think of dyslexia as word blindness, or even attribute it to a low intelligence score. When I was a Primary School teacher I often heard people referring to dyslexia as a “nice way of calling middle-class children slow”. This attitude horrified me. Many attitudes in school staff-rooms towards learning horrified me. As a child, I remember my mother would explain out to my teachers my dyslexia at every parents evening. The same teachers, every year,  and it was always a surprise to them. As an adult and an educator, I had hoped attitudes had changed, but in my experience this is not the case.Continue Reading

TREATED LIKE ROYALTY — WHY I TRULY APPRECIATE UEA

by James Anthony 

In response to Lewis Martin’s article ‘Don’t Be Fooled by the Royal Illusion – The Failings of UEA.’

The Queen’s recent visit to the University of East Anglia was, in my opinion, rightly celebrated as a momentous occasion in the university’s history. I might not be hugely pro-monarchy, but I am definitely pro-UEA, and I could appreciate the enthusiasm and atmosphere on campus on the day of Her Majesty’s arrival. I followed the event closely on social media and thought it brought a sense of enjoyment and happiness to a cold January day, with large a crowd turning out to celebrate not only the Queen, but the university as an institution too, which was great to see. However, I found it interesting that not everyone saw it that way.Continue Reading

THE FAILINGS OF MODERN SCHOOLS AND THE IMPORTANCE OF CREATIVE EDUCATION

by Laura Potts

Forget statistics, results and score tables – how much does the modern school system genuinely guide young minds toward a progressive and fulfilling future?

John Dewey, often called the father of modern western education, argued that raising children as obedient conformists, rather than individuals who think for themselves, is very dangerous for democratic society. In recent decades, generations of people have been brought up at a midpoint between these two extremes, raised to conform to individualism. This has provided support for dangerous social, environmental and political power structures which do not provide for the vital collectivist needs of our ever-more-globalised world.

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‘UNREASONABLE AND ILLOGICAL’ – THE CONSEQUENCES OF CASUAL TEACHING CONTRACTS

by Rowan Gavin

One of the biggest and most poorly kept secrets in higher education – that many teaching staff are employed under terms more often associated with a Sports Direct factory – has been breaking into mainstream media attention lately. To get an inside perspective on this casualisation of teaching work, and an idea of the scale and nature of the problem both locally and nationally, I spoke to three members of teaching staff who have worked on casual contracts in English universities in recent years. Two were employed at UEA, and one at Warwick University, where they are a part of the campaign group Warwick Anti-Casualisation (WAC).

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MATHS VERSUS MONET – ART HISTORY ON THE A LEVEL CURRICULUM

by Jess Howard

Last week it was announced that AQA, the last exam board to offer art history as an A level subject, has removed the course from its curriculum. The decision to remove the subject from A Level course choices means future students will no longer be able to study the subject at this level. A spokesman from the board said that the decision to remove the subject had “nothing to do with the importance of history of art”, but I find this hard to believe.Continue Reading

MOVING OUTSIDE THE BUBBLE – AN INTERVIEW WITH ANDY DAVIES OF REVENGE OF THE PSYCHOTRONIC MAN

by Chris Jarvis

Manchester hardcore punks Revenge of the Psychotronic Man are no stranger to politics. Their music is released through TNSrecords, home of the likes of Faintest Idea, Autonomads, and Rising Strike, all known for their uncompromising and explicitly political works. Revenge of the Psychotronic Man bassist and vocalist Andy Davies helps to co-run the label, and he took the time to talk to The Norwich Radical about how he sees his politics, its relationship to the music he produces and the relationship between this and the wider world, as part of our series Music That Matters.Continue Reading

EXPOSURE DOESN’T PAY RENT, BUT NEITHER DOES SNOBBERY

 By Robyn Banks

“Exposure doesn’t pay rent”- it’s something we’ve likely all heard before, whether you’re a business looking to save money on photography, asking a friend for a favour or simply scrolling through Tumblr. The line “We can’t pay you, but it will be great exposure!” has become the bane of every artist’s life, and it’s understandable why. There has never been a sector of the workforce who have been asked so frequently to work for free as the creative sector. However, I don’t believe there has ever been such an individually vocal sector of the UKs exploited workforce, either.

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LEADERS

by Jake Reynolds

My teacher covers peanut brittle with a tea-towel
then takes a hammer and smashes it into pieces.
Like a magic trick, she whips the towel off and tells us
to each grab a shard. It is a lesson about fairness.Continue Reading

TO MY CHILD-TEACHERS

by Alex Valente

Original Italian by Chandra Livia Candiani (1952 -), ‘Ai miei maestri-bambini’

I keep your walking
glue each step to the ground
I stay
for you I wake up
draw my face
beneath fingers and water
I keep your words
like bread dunked
in the milk of memoryContinue Reading

BUILDING CITIZENS

Disclaimer: One of the reasons I most enjoy writing for the Norwich Radical is the freedom I get to make sweeping generalisations and the ability to dress up my ‘reckons’ as hardened, well researched fact. With this in mind I invite you to continue reading and take a tour of my most recent ponders and speculations.

Universities are the place where the leaders of tomorrow are squashed into being. The people that pass through university doors go on to be the business owners, the entrepreneurs, and the politicians. They go on to be the citizens who, on average at least, are more likely to be those people who shape the lives of many others. So what do these people look like? Well, even I’m not brave enough to try and generalise all students into a homogeneous group but there’s certainly some conversations to be had about the changing ‘average student’.

The way we view ourselves as a part of (or not a part of) the society around us really shapes the way we act. The way we view ourselves alters the view of our neighbours, near or far. So, how do we create ‘good’ citizens? (If I can fall upon a perfect enough definition we might come back to what a good citizen looks like…) Let’s take a whistle-stop tour of life before uni.

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WHY I TEACH (THE HUMANITIES)

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by Alex Valente

This is not another defence of the Humanities as a subject worthy of study, funding, support.
This is not a defence of creative writing as a subject worthy of teaching, practising, support.
This is not a way to convince myself that teaching English Literature at a higher education institution in the UK is a career worth pursuing. Though maybe it is, maybe it is all of those.
This is not, in any way, a researched piece. The editors have allowed me to voice my thoughts on the matter because I wanted to say something about it.

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