My friend Cate Huston has written a post about tech conferences, and the thorny question of who pays for speakers to attend. You can find it here: Uncomfortable Conversations About Money. I was going to write a comment on it, but then realised I had a bit more to say, so here’s a post instead. I’ve only spoken at a couple of “mainstream” tech conferences, and they’ve either been local (so travel wasn’t an issue) or they’ve paid my travel. Which is nice. It is also a very unusual experience for me — very very rarely do academic computing conferences pay your travel, fee, orRead More →

One of the great things about the REF is the way every one’s a winner. Well, not everyone. But there are three different categories of stuff being measured, and two obvious choices of modifier. The things being “measured” are: Outputs: these are the actual papers Impact: this is a measure of how an institution’s research has impacted outside the academy Environment: this is a nebulous bucket containing completed PhD students, grants won, and softness of toilet paper. Or something And the obvious modifiers are number of people submitted (this gives us “power”, and is used as a multiplier) and proportion of “world class” (4*) research.Read More →

The Research “Excellence” “Framework” is how university departments are judged on their research. It’s more than that though. It determines our funding, and it is effectively the only way that an institution can influence how much money it gets from the central funding agencies. This is in part due to the fact that under the new 9k fees regime, student-related funding pretty much all comes from students. If we get better at teaching, we might be able to get more money as that might reflect itself in better student satisfaction scores which might lead to higher recruitment, which might lead to more money… but theRead More →

Inspired by an infographic showing that all of the current education ministers went to private schools, I have just spent 10 mins on Wikipedia investigating the Higher Education experiences of the current department for education: Nicky Morgan is 41, so didn’t pay uni fees for her Jurisprudence degree from Oxford. Nick Boles is 48, so didn’t pay uni fees for his PPE degree from Oxford. Nick Gibb is 53, so didn’t pay uni fees for his Law degree from Durham. Lord Nash is 65, so didn’t pay uni fees for his Law degree from Oxford. David Laws is 48, so didn’t pay uni fees forRead More →

One sure-fire way to get up an academic’s nose is to suggest that we have massive long summer holidays. There’s this misconception that we just sit around relaxing when the students aren’t here – without the normal day to day of teaching and admin, we’re just sat in the coffee room drinking pimms or something. So I thought I’d let you know what a day in the life of a junior academic looks like, during the summer “holidays”. Today I have done the following… Discussed the organisation of one of our first year modules for next year. Should we have randomly allocated tutorials? How shouldRead More →

“The whole question of what Britain is best at, in global terms, is an interesting one. There are four sectors in which Britain is world-class: finance, arms manufacturing, the creative arts, and higher education. Of these, the first receives strong government support, the second lavish investment and strong support, the third is largely left to mind its own business and the fourth has been gradually run down, with three decades of consistent discouragement and underfunding. What would Britain look like today if instead of the arms industry or the City it had been our Russell Group universities which had been the subject of attempts toRead More →

Earlier this month Gillian Arnold (BCSWomen chair) and I went to the EU Gender Summit in Brussels. This was the first ever gender summit, concentrating on gender issues in Science, Engineering and Technology, and it was absolutely fascinating. The real take home message to me was the power of diverse teams. I’ve heard this before in a business context, but the message coming loud and clear from the Gender Summit was that monocultures are simply not as efficient as mixed groups in any sphere. So your all-male science teams and your all-female nursing teams? Huge mistake, in the same way that all-male boards are inRead More →

The Higher education policy institute (an independent think tank) have recently published an analysis of the Browne review and the governments subsequent proposals on student funding, and it makes for interesting reading. You can read the details on the HEPI site here; the “executive summary” is fairly short and readable. The department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) have published the simulated dataset used in the construction of policy on HE funding and HEPI have re-run this evaluting some of the assumptions made; notably projected graduate earnings, and the “break even” figure in terms of return against borrowing (RAB). HEPI claim their figures show thatRead More →