Monthly Archives: September 2018

The divide between academic and technical education

The economic arguments for widening access to higher education are widely accepted. The UK is moving towards a skills crisis that will be exacerbated by Brexit. We are facing some of the worst productivity levels in the OECD, and we have acute shortages in many sectors, with a record number of advertised vacancies. The UK’s engineering industry alone will need another 1.8 million trained individuals by 2025. But we will only be able to plug these gaps if we focus on all learners, and not just those on academic courses.

The Social Mobility Commission’s most recent report notes that the funding and expertise ploughed into widening participation have resulted in more working class young people at university than ever before. But that comes with the large caveat that both student retention rates and graduate outcomes for the same group have scarcely improved in the last two decades.

What is less recognised is that many widening participation strategies are inadequate because they put too much emphasis on academic pathways and thus ignore the majority of learners. This year around 43% of young people will enter higher education having studied A-Levels or BTECs. While access issues remain for many disadvantaged students, those on an academic route benefit from a clear, simple pathway to level 4 (equivalent to an HNC) on to level 6 (Bachelors’ degree) and above. The same cannot be said for the rest of the school population.

Universities’ widening participation strategies have rarely accounted for those in further and vocational study. Faced with a complicated and fragmented system, only 2.4% of these learners navigate through FE colleges to higher education study at Level 4 or above, and consequently face careers which often have little chance of meaningful progression. The social impact of this failure is feeding into an ever more divided society, as indicated by the fault lines shown up in the recent general election and last year’s Brexit referendum.

My institution, London South Bank University, was founded 125 years ago to “promote industrial skill, general knowledge, health and wellbeing to young men and women belonging to the poorer classes of south east London”. We are now pioneering a bold new solution to local educational provision which could help meet this challenge. Through a series of mergers, we are creating a family of educational providers: a group of like-minded specialist educational providers sharing a common approach to educational delivery and linked through a formal group structure. Currently in addition to the university, this includes a technical college and an engineering academy. A tie-up with Lambeth College is also under discussion.

The family of educational providers seeks to address this in two ways – firstly by providing access back into education both through adult education courses and through an Institute of Professional and Technical Education which helps employers to upskill their staff. Secondly, it puts aside arbitrary age-based barriers, allowing students to learn what they need when they need it.

For example, if a student was particularly gifted at subjects such as design and computer science but struggled at maths, they probably wouldn’t fulfil their potential because they would be unable to get into a FE college or sixth form if they failed their maths GCSE at 16. In a learning family with shared educational objectives this learner could start their A-Levels while continuing to study for their maths GCSE, allowing them to take the exam when they were ready. If they made good progress they could even move on to taking foundation degree modules at the university.

The family approach represents LSBU’s response to the needs of our corner of south-east London. It is not prescriptive and will not be suitable for every local area. However, I would encourage all educational providers to engage critically with the ideas in our new paper Families of Learning: Co-Creating Local Solutions to Education System Failings [pdf]. Together we can explore whether they present opportunities to meaningfully widen participation, tackle the skills shortages and boost genuine social mobility.

Based Education

State and federal policymakers are increasingly talking about “competency-based learning” as the way of the future. In a competency-based system, students advance upon mastery. This model marks a sharp departure from the school system’s traditional metric:  hours spent in the classroom studying a specific subject.

At the turn of the 20th century, in an effort to standardize high school curricula and college admissions, a committee at the National Education Association determined that a satisfactory year’s work in a given high-school subject would require no fewer than 120 one-hour instructional periods. In 1909, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching codified this standard as the Carnegie unit, or credit unit. Since then, the education system has measured student progress in terms of instructional hours, not student learning. So long as a student logs the necessary hours and receives a passing grade, he can move on to the next course, regardless of gaps in his understanding. And a passing grade may be based in part on non-academic factors like attendance, extra credit, and good behavior, rather than demonstration of mastery.

Today, the Carnegie unit is showing its age, as more educators recognize that the time-based measure leaves students susceptible to moving on to material before they are ready, or remaining mired in a subject that they have already mastered. In addition to introducing flexible pacing, competency-based education attempts to import newfound rigor to the concept of “mastery.” In this new system, “competencies” describe what students should know,as well as what they should be able to do. Competency-based assessments aim to test students’ ability to demonstrate what they can do in real-world applications and across a variety of contexts.

Policies that allow institutions to measure student progress in terms of mastery rather than credit hours are beginning to take hold in K–12 and higher education. The U.S. Department of Education recently committed a wave of Experimental Sites Initiative funding to supporting competency-based approaches in postsecondary education, and more than 300 institutions are lining up to be among the approved experimenters. In K–12 education, states are following suit: 42 states have granted schools the flexibility to incorporate competency approaches in some form or fashion. Among states promoting K–12 efforts, New Hampshire has been a trailblazer.

In 2005, New Hampshire began to build a competency-based education policy and has eliminated the Carnegie unit in its high schools. As the first effort of its kind, New Hampshire’s example demonstrates both the power and limitations of statewide competency-based education policy.

The state’s move has enabled many innovative schools to transform the schooling experience for students. But spreading competency-based practice has also proven challenging in a state with a strong tradition of local control. One superintendent captured the wider sentiment when he said in an interview last year, “Frankly, a lot of superintendents don’t like the state telling them what to do in their districts.”

The state has struggled to balance a culture of autonomy with furnishing school districts with supports and guidance to move away from time-based practices. “The state is supportive in theory,” a New Hampshire school leader said. “They like the idea of competencies. I don’t think they’ve really thought through what has to happen for those things to be viable.” The challenge of providing meaningful supports is made more acute by the fact that the field at large is still attempting to research and understand exactly what is required—logistically, pedagogically, and culturally—to transition to a fully competency-based system. As a result, the state has found itself tasked not only with providing what districts say they need, but also with identifying still-emerging best practices in how to transition from time- to competency-based systems and structures.

Today, some New Hampshire school systems have embraced the flexibility that the state policy offers, whereas others remain tied to time-based practices. To support those early adopters and move those that are further behind, the state continues to develop and hone the guidance and infrastructure that can ease the transition. New Hampshire’s experience offers valuable lessons in what policies and practices stand to loosen the stronghold of the Carnegie unit on the nation’s approach to education.

 

Campus Rape Policies

WASHINGTON — The letters have come in to her office by the hundreds, heartfelt missives from college students, mostly men, who had been accused of rape or sexual assault. Some had lost scholarships. Some had been expelled. A mother stumbled upon her son trying to take his own life, recalled Candice E. Jackson, the top civil rights official at the Department of Education.

“Listening to her talk about walking in and finding him in the middle of trying to kill himself because his life and his future were gone, and he was forever branded a rapist — that’s haunting,” said Ms. Jackson, describing a meeting with the mother of a young man who had been accused of sexual assault three months after his first sexual encounter.

The young man, who maintained he was innocent, had hoped to become a doctor.

In recent years, on campus after campus, from the University of Virginia to Columbia University, from Duke to Stanford, higher education has been roiled by high-profile cases of sexual assault accusations. Now Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is stepping into that maelstrom. On Thursday, she will meet in private with women who say they were assaulted, accused students and their families, advocates for both sides and higher education officials, the first step in a contentious effort to re-examine policies of President Barack Obama, who made expansive use of his powers to investigate the way universities and colleges handle sexual violence.

How university and college administrations have dealt with campus sexual misconduct charges has become one of the most volatile issues in higher education, with many women saying higher education leaders have not taken their trauma seriously. But the Obama administration’s response sparked a backlash, not just from the accused and their families but from well-regarded law school professors who say new rules went too far.

In an interview previewing her plans, Ms. Jackson, who heads the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights and organized Thursday’s sessions, made clear that she believes investigations under the 1972 law known as Title IX have gone deeply awry. A sexual assault survivor herself, she said she sees “a red flag that something’s not quite right” — and that the rights of accused students have too often been ignored

Hundreds of cases are still pending, some for years, she said, because investigators were “specifically told to keep looking until you find the violation” on college campuses even after they found none — a charge her critics strongly deny.

As of Monday, the office had 496 open sexual assault cases, and the average length of a case is 703 days, according to the department. The longest pending higher education cases, against the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Arizona State University, have been open for more than five years. The office is required to complete 80 percent of its investigations within 180 days.

Candice Jackson, center, the top civil rights official at the Department of Education, in October 2016. Ms. Jackson believes that the rights of students accused of sexual assault have too often been ignored. Credit Evan Vucci/Associated Press

In an interview with The New York Times, Ms. Jackson said that “90 percent” of sexual assault accusations on campus “fall into the category of ‘we were both drunk,’ ‘we broke up, and six months later I found myself under a Title IX investigation because she just decided that our last sleeping together was not quite right.’”

Ms. Jackson later apologized, called her remarks “flippant” and said they were based on feedback from accused students. That did not mollify victims of sexual assault and their supporters, who staged a protest outside the Education Department headquarters Thursday morning.

Candice Jackson, who leads the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, last year. She recently apologized for comments about the origin of sexual assault at college campuses. Credit Evan Vucci/Associated Press

“Unfortunately those remarks are now out there, and at the highest levels they need to undo that damage by countering those myths about rape,” said Fatima Goss Graves, president of the National Women’s Law Center, which helped organize the demonstration.

Referring to Ms. DeVos, she said: “She has to reject the idea that rape is just regretted sex. She has to reject the idea that most women lie, and she has to say it and say it and say it again.”

One major issue before Ms. DeVos is whether to rescind a letter issued in 2011 by the Obama administration that urged colleges and universities to take a tough stance on rape on campus or risk losing federal funding. Another question is whether her department will instruct schools to change the standard of evidence used to determine whether students are responsible for sexual assault. The Obama administration asked colleges to adopt a “preponderance of evidence” standard, a lower bar than the “clear and convincing evidence” threshold that many schools had been using. Some accused students have protested that the lower standard turned nebulous cases into grounds for discipline or suspension

The University of Law

The University of Law (ULaw) has been awarded a gold ranking in the government-led teaching excellence framework (Tef) – a new scheme managed by the Higher Education Funding Council for England which aims to recognise and reward excellent learning and teaching in addition to existing national quality requirements. Here’s a quick explainer on what Tef is all about. The Tef panel judged that ULaw “delivers consistently outstanding teaching, learning and outcomes for its students. It is of the highest quality found in the UK”.

The Tef panel found (pdf) that ULaw has consistently strong and established links to employers and the legal profession; course design and assessment practices that ensure that all students are challenged to achieve their full potential; the provision of many personalised development opportunities for students; and a culture of professional practice and teaching excellence, which is embedded with academic staff continuing involvement in professional practice.

The awards are decided by an independent Tef panel of experts, including academics, students, and employer representatives. The provider’s undergraduate teaching is assessed against 10 criteria which cover teaching quality, learning environment, and student outcomes.

Professor Andrea Nollent, vice-chancellor and chief executive at The University of Law, said:

“Our students are smart and ambitious and rightly demand the highest standard of teaching, so we are delighted to receive the Tef gold standard. The award is testament to our tutors, all of whom are qualified solicitors or barristers, together with our teaching approach, which focuses on equipping our graduates with the skills they need and employers want. This award builds on our success of last year, when we were voted joint-first for student satisfaction, teaching, academic support and learning resources in the National Student Survey 2016.”

ULaw’s courses include a fully-integrated employability service to maximise students’ employment prospects.

Established in 1912, the College of Law at the University of Saskatchewan is the oldest law school in Western Canada, exemplifying a tradition of excellence in teaching, research and innovation.

With a strong history in Indigenous legal education, developing strength in dispute resolution and access to justice, and leading and emerging scholars in the fields of constitutional law, health law, criminal law and commercial law, the college also offers a highly-regarded mooting program, joint degree programs and global exchange opportunities.

*Intellectual Property and Information Law

They frame ways for attorneys to protect client interests in areas as varied as law enforcement, print journalism, pharmaceuticals, fashion design, video syndication, and the arts.

The Concentration offers you a solid substantive grounding in both IP and information law and provides flexibility for you to develop a set of courses that is tailored to your specific interests and career objectives.

*Courses and Faculty

Foundational, core specialty, and elective specialty courses compose the intellectual property and information law Concentration. You are also encouraged to take an experiential course.

For full requirements, current students can log into Lawnet.

For further information please contact the Office of the Registrar or Professor Olivier Sylvain.