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In UK universities there is a daily erosion of integrity (theguardian.com)
168 points by YeGoblynQueenne 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 235 comments



As a university student in the UK I find myself reminded of these problems on a very frequent basis. The purpose of universities seems to have shifted from providing academic research and learning to simply being another stage of school, with the sole objective of handing out degrees. One of the metrics that I feel indicates this most strongly is the radical change in hiring at universities in recent years. It's shocking to know that many universities (mine included) now employ more full time non-academic staff than full time academics.


The purpose of universities seems to have shifted from providing academic research and learning to simply being another stage of school

There’s no “seems” about it, 50% of school leavers going to university was an explicit policy goal. There’s no way to reconcile an institution of higher learning with one that has to accept anyone that applies


That makes no sense. It seems to me it is an elitist view that when you provide a service to the unwashed masses, it must be of lower quality. I believe it is false. Curricula don't have to be easier if you have a large student body, and graduation requirements don't have to be lower. Taking in more students does not inhibit service quality, up to the capacity of the school, which can be easily scaled by hiring more teachers and more teaching space.

Anyhow, the volume of students as a change driver for university quality explanation does not fit with the observations that:

a) Universities employ disproportionately more non-teaching staff than they used to; and

b) Academic staff has a harder time reaching tenure.

The explanation lies elsewhere.


It seems to me it is an elitist view that when you provide a service to the unwashed masses, it must be of lower quality

But it must be. An institution with AAA A-level students can teach more advanced material at a faster pace than one that admits EEEs. This is surely obvious, no?

It doesn’t mean anyone is better or worse in a moral sense, it just means more or less academically able.


They don't have to admit the EEE-level students, they don't have to water down.

Yes, politically, it turns out, that universities were chopped up into research institutions (or research institutions were spun off from universities) and diploma mills, because even that shit level 2-3 years that people take to earn a Bachelor's degree means a lot on the job market.


But that's easily solved by having institutions for multiple A* students, and other institutions for EEE students. Which is the way it actually is.


Well yes, but it’s not a reasonable system if non-Russell degrees cost as much but are actually irrelevant. Shouldn’t those students be funnelled towards qualifications and vocations for which there is real demand?

There was nothing wrong with Polys when they were Polys.


They don't, in practice, because what you repay is linked to what you earn.


Not at all.

The ability to learn at university is not correlated with A-level results.

Mastery of the material can help give a good starting point, but I've worked with fantastic E/D/C students and terrible AAA students.


ability to learn at university is not correlated with A-level results

This is incorrect. They are obviously not 100% correlated (even re-sitting the same exam isn't!) but the correlation is extremely strong.


> I've worked with fantastic E/D/C students and terrible AAA students

The existence of outliers doesn't disprove a correlation.


> The ability to learn at university is not correlated with A-level results.

I’m very confident that this is false. Citation needed.


Just because they accept them doesn't mean they need to keep them. If the students can't keep up, that's on them.


It's pretty repugnant to accept students that have no capability to perform, take their money, and boot them when they fail out because they aren't prepared or equipped.


At the university I studied at it was well known that their policy was opening up campuses in Africa and China so to entice international students to the campus in England.

This was for the sole reason of increasing cash flow and I know several of the Chinese students that I did my Masters with were paying more than ten times what I was for the same course which both myself and our lecturers were ashamed of.

It may not be all Universities but even ten years ago it felt that they had become less about excellence in teaching and more about printing money.


This is rampant in the US as well. Many of the students cheated to get in, sometimes with the umiversity's knowledge, and weren't fluent enough in English to participate in class.

There are lots of companies writing essays and otherwise facilitating the admissions cheating, and several major universities were caught a few years ago (I believe Duke was one).


I've read many anecdotal stories like this of students complaining that the quality of their education is suffering due to a large portion of the class being utterly not qualified to be there, dragging everyone else down.

I think it also has interesting potential long term implications for relative national competitiveness if you think about it regardless of whether that is a goal or not.


> complaining that the quality of their education is suffering due to a large portion of the class being utterly not qualified to be there, dragging everyone else down

I'm not sure why those students are complaining...

The wealthy foreign students aren't participating in class much, which effectively makes the class size smaller. They're also subsidizing the degrees of all the Americans. And a lot of them end up going back home after graduating, so they're not even competing in the same labor pool.


The quality of instruction suffers when half the class can barely speak English, and don't contribute to group projects. Getting a degree for half the cost but with half the learning doesn't seem like a good deal to me.


> Curricula don't have to be easier if you have a large student body, and graduation requirements don't have to be lower.

Only if everyone became a lot more skilled than their grades imply.

Academic achievement is not be a perfect measure, but if you go from the top 3.4% of the population to the top 50%, the only possible situations are:

1) everyone is doing a lot better at school now

2) graduation rate goes down

3) standards go down

Or some combination of those.

That doesn’t mean there is no benefit in getting half the country to spend three more years in education, just that nobody should expect 18.7 times * as many of whatever made you want to get half the population into university in the first place.

* population growth too.


It is not even the “top” 50%, because what of those who are perfectly capable but just don’t want to go to university? It is just 50% of the general population.


If it’s not the top 50% academically, the problem just gets bigger.


That presumes

That the top 3.4% really were just the smartest - not the also the wealthiest and best connected. There is probably both some dilution of talent and also more competition from all levels of society.

And as to point 1. In the UK at least there is no doubt many many more are doing a lot better at school nowadays. Schools have evened up and pupils work far harder as most jobs require qualifications.


Those points are why I said academic grades aren’t a perfect measure, and also “Only if everyone became a lot more skilled than their grades imply.”


[flagged]


1. I don't mention nor advocate social justice. 2. I don't anywhere imply everyone should be average. 3. I don't say ability is random among the population but I don't actually understand what you are getting at here? 4. If we couldn't lift the ability of pupils or indeed people generally then we would still be living in caves. If we educate more people better then more people will be better educated no matter their innate starting ability. 5. Did the government make everyone smarter or lower standards you ask? I can walk and chew gum at the same time. I think that moving from 3.4% to 50% University population has possibly diluted the fraction of geniuses within academia but greatly increased the number of geniuses within academia and improved education and academia as a whole.


> 5. Did the government make everyone smarter or lower standards you ask? I can walk and chew gum at the same time. I think that moving from 3.4% to 50% University population has possibly diluted the fraction of geniuses within academia but greatly increased the number of geniuses within academia and improved education and academia as a whole.

(in all honesty, this is not about the UK)

No you can't. I mean how can you actually believe this ?

So why does 50% of the population now pass ? That's impossible if the standards were the same and therefore that cannot be what is happening ...

Anecdotally, there are also many articles and other sources of information that point out that lowering the bar is indeed what is happening.

As for my anecdote, being able to theoretically derive statistics from number theory was a required ability for any math degree, any CS degree, and even more than a few engineering degrees. Now you're lucky if a student mumbles out "just use anova" because that means they at least attended the work sessions. Knowing what the preconditions are is essentially unheard of, understanding why those are required preconditions (and therefore where & why you can "cheat") ... I have not seen a single student that was able to do that in a decade.

Now you can discuss whether this is required by the marketplace or not. But I was part of the decision to remove it and ... that was not the reason. "Everybody fails" (which meant slightly over 70%) was the reason. Needless to say, nothing was put in it's place, and no hard subject was ever introduced into the curriculum.

And that's not even the worst of it. Almost any degree now has an easier version associated with it. Frankly, that's how initially the university defended itself. Statistical calculator, roughly translated to English. But there's backlash. You see, employers realized that these people can't do statistics, they can only work SAS. Guess what the pressure is demanding ... Is this pressure that we now demand that these people now get a full math degree, and learn theoretical mathematics ?

Or is the pressure on for hiding the difference between people with the (very hard) theoretical understanding and the ones with just a few practical skills ?

What do you think ?

But I'm sure that you're right and in fact just a slight change in government policy was all that was required to make the entire population smarter, more precise and more able in theoretical maths. How lucky are we that we have a government that cares to make such a tiny change with such miraculous results !

Were you born in 1984 ?


If I understand you correctly. Nobody had run a 4 minute mile before Roger Bannister.

Now lots of people have so standards must have dropped.


How is that in any way equivalent to your claim, which just so we're clear, is that now 50% of the population (and implied even near 100%) now has the intellectual standards that only 3% of the population had a mere 20 years ago ?

One reason for ever improving records is that we just further explore the long tail of human performance. A decent number of factors that get this one event going would be coincidences, and because we keep and keep and keep trying people get ever closer to perfect.


Nope that's not my claim. Try reading what I wrote.


> Academic staff has a harder time reaching tenure.

Tenure in the US sense doesn't exist in the UK academic system. Lecturers/researchers with permanent contracts have the same employment rights as those in the private sector.


Yes, but, the whole of the UK permanent workforce gets tenure in the US sense after, I think, the first year of employment. As do most EU countries. Long may it remain so.

The Tories abolished tenure in the UK sense which roughly removed the right not to be made redundant but didn't affect the standard employment right not to be fired "just because".


In 2012, under George Osborne, it was changed so that it is permissible for an employee to be unfairly dismissed in your first two years of employment.


>It seems to me it is an elitist view that when you provide a service to the unwashed masses, it must be of lower quality.

That's exactly what happened, and it pre-dates the Labour government's goal of 50% participation.

The Further and Higher Education Act 1992 allowed polytechnics and colleges of further education to become universities. Many of these institutions had little or no research output and had previously been dedicated to vocational instruction.

There was an immediate and lasting change in how universities operated. Many of these post-1992 universities had extremely lax entrance criteria, in some cases tantamount to an open-door policy. There was a proliferation of degree courses that were obviously vocational and obviously far less demanding than a traditional degree - Sports Science, Hospitality Management, Fashion and Textiles etc.

There was another drop in standards with the introduction of tuition fees. Before 1998, university teaching was funded primarily through government grants, with students paying nothing. The Labour government introduced fees of £1,000 per year, which were increased to £3,000 in 2004 and to £9,000 by the Conservative government in 2010.

These higher fees were ostensibly a maximum, with the intention that universities could compete on price. The structure of the student loan system meant that there was little practical difference for students if they were paying lower fees, so all universities charged the £9,000 maximum. This fundamentally changed the character of British universities, shifting them away from the European social model and towards the American market model.

Less selective universities started to aggressively advertise to lower-performing school leavers, because there was no cap on student numbers and their income was directly tied to putting bums on seats. Universities had a strong incentive to promote humanities subjects over science subjects, because the former are much cheaper to teach. International students have become a hot commodity, because they pay higher fees than domestic students; many universities now offer fast-track schemes for international students, with lower entry requirements than for domestic students.

This move towards a market-led university system has driven a huge increase in pay for senior management and a huge increase in the use of casual and part-time lecturers. As in the US, we're now seeing managers earning salaries in the high six figures, while peripatetic lecturers are struggling to earn a living wage. There was a huge wave of strikes at the start of this year over cuts to university staff pensions, followed by collective legal action from students demanding compensation for missed lectures.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_universities_(United_Kingd...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_tuition_fees_in_th...

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2017/08/06/universitie...


Excellent comment, although some are older problems, see the novel series Wilt by Tom Sharpe https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilt_(novel)

Anyway, for me Bologna is on the par with the more recent so called adoption of Open Access in the form of "Gold OA", i.e. one more way to turn universities into cash cows, presented as a virtuous move. In the case of Bologna it was about the precarisation of researchers, in the case of "BOAI" Gold OA it was about reselling to researchers their minimal units of publication, paid by themselves, written by them under the pressure of obtainment, eventually, of a senior position.


Is it possible to just 'hire more teachers' though? The teachers that I had in university didn't seem to be the type of people you could just hire more of.


Yes, it is. The fight for jobs in the academic market is fierce; there are far more people looking for academic jobs than there are positions.


> which can be easily scaled by hiring more teachers and more teaching space

Neither of which scale easily.


Universities used to be elitist in that only the smartest got in.


I believe historically universities were elitist in that only the richest were meant to ever attend them, not the smartest...


Well, a bit of both. For centuries they've been some mixture of upper-class finishing school, and a place for the very brightest of the next generation to concentrated. Using the rich kids to fund the scholars (and using some of the scholar's prestige to attract the rich) was on average quite a productive symbiosis.


Quite probably, I am just thinking back to my lifetime.


It keeps a vast amount of young people off the unemployed figures. Has been a stated goal since the Blair years


> The purpose of universities seems to have shifted from providing academic research and learning to simply being another stage of school, with the sole objective of handing out degrees.

This isn't just true at university level either. Recently sixth form college level education basically became mandatory for everyone too, and I suspect the same thing that happened to universities happened on that level too.


I am a bit confused by the last statement. It can take a lot of man power to support the academics at any university. Now this is not to say that there isn't a lot of staff padding going on.

From supporting the physical site of the university which can be across multiple campuses to managing the life and well being of the students. Then top it off with administrative people and their support staffs the numbers can add up quickly.

I think a better metric is how many students, undergraduate and graduate/professional compared to academics and then separately non academics. If the the ratio of those who teach to those there to learn tips is outside of averages we have a real concern


Not parent but, your statement doesn't explain why the ratio of academics to administrators should have fallen, do academics now need more administrators than they did. Are the newly employed non-academics really serving the research aims, or are they meeting the schooling requirements?


Part of it is that, yes, the non-academic staff help with the mountain of non-academic work lecturers would otherwise have.

I used to work in a support role at a university, and although many of the roles will inevitably be automated away, you'd be amazed at how much administration a student on a course requires (from room bookings for lectures, enrolment information, pastoral support, cleaning, cooking, supporting with IT systems, reviewing coursework and exams, QA-ing courses, assisting with research proposals, lining up interviews for PhD candidates...).

It's not something that scales well, the more students you have, the more of these things you need to manage, and the less it makes sense for academic staff to do it (on top of their other publish or perish commitments).

When you have a building that can hold 250 students, and 5 courses with 75 students each, each needing a lecture booking at around about the same time, but not the same time as some will overlap modules, so they can do practicals in the afternoon, whilst potentially needing to book in placement meetings throughout the day with the placements officer, and having the part-time staff in the academic office available for coursework hand-ins... this is where it gets messy. This will all be solved by technology in the future, but the "industry" is growing faster than the infrastructure allows. When you need to solve the problem now, and you're not a digitally-minded organisation, you throw bodies at it.

That being said, I'm not in agreement that 50% of the school-leaving population should be forced into a traditional university setting just because we as a society only value that route as being rigorous enough.


> the non-academic staff help with the mountain of non-academic work lecturers would otherwise have

Sometimes the academics create lots of extra work for the non-academic staff with their sub-optimal decisions.

I used to work for a university in their IT services, and as a developer I was exposed to a lot of the business rules around enrolment, course prerequisites, degree/major requirements, which we recorded and enforced through a mix of custom software and customised off-the-shelf software. Those rules were written by committees of senior academics. And, rather than keeping them nice and simple, they seemed to like to make them as complex as possible, with the result that the computer systems couldn't cope with the complexity.

The student enrolment system could handle enforcing some simpler subject prerequisites, but for more complex ones the academics concocted – like "PQR101 or BCD142 plus 12 credit points at 200 level in ABC subjects (except for ABC219 and ABC220) plus at least two of DEF211 or DEF212 or GHI292 or JKL205" – we'd just display a warning message to the student "You can only enrol in this if XYZ. Click 'OK' to confirm you meet that prerequisite", followed up by custom reports which would be run to catch students who incorrectly clicked 'OK', who would then be manually forcibly unenrolled, and contacted by phone/post/email to be told to enrol in something else instead.

Added to that, the complexity of the rules would confuse the students, and make the process of planning what to enrol in quite daunting and stressful. Sometimes students would enrol in the wrong subjects, and nobody would stop them, and only later they'd be told that some subject they just spent a semester studying didn't count towards the degree they were enrolled in.

(Hopefully, ten plus years on, they've learnt their lesson and made the rules simpler now. Or maybe not. I wouldn't know.)


All of which complexity used to be handled by printing a course guide with a sentence about prerequisites. And perhaps the professor would remind you on day one. This seems like an example of IT not saving anyone time.


I would certainly hope they wouldn't dumb down their rules...for the sake of the computer system?


While the things you say certainly need doing, somehow they were all done in the past with vastly smaller non-academic staff. Say 50 years ago. What's changed?

Obviously IT is one thing, but this doesn't seem huge. Or maybe, it's not obvious why it need be a lot bigger than everyone having gmail.

"assisting with research proposals" is certainly new. But is it big?

How much falls under "pastoral support"?


> What's changed?

Student numbers. Massive, monumental growth in student numbers. And the red tape that comes with that kind of size (as ever).

Labour's push for 50% of school leavers to go to university, large swathes of new courses approved that would otherwise have been taught through vocational routes, increase in student applications vs places (in the UK you can apply [or at least could] for up to 6 places, one of the major shifts in the last few years people don't talk about is the push to use all of those slots, whereas you used to only apply to 1 or 2 - this has increased application review and support burden massively).

Also, with an insane growth in the use of Clearing/Adjustment to secure your final place, there's a lot of work put into situational modelling of expected numbers. The market has gone through a phase of only-slightly-organised chaos, and students are now calling the shots at most universities, and leaving things until the last possible moment. This has also meant unis have had to commit to staff numbers before knowing really what their cohorts will look like.

With GApps for Education, most people have Gmail - it doesn't solve anything really. Collaborative software only works if the people required have the time and technical ability (or desire) needed to collaborate. If they don't (like academics), then you get bodies to do it.

> "assisting with research proposals" is certainly new. But is it big?

Yep. University I worked at had a team in each faculty full time helping with this. The grants procedure, writing something actually comprehensible (something of a novelty with some academics, who don't appear to know what a requirement of "plain English description" is...), impact assessment and case study requirements, lining up interviews for candidates, fellows and assistants for the project team, setting up review panels etc... is a major administrative task now. Again, if there weren't support staff doing this, it'd add another bunch of hours onto each lecturer's 80 hour week.

> How much falls under "pastoral support"?

Most faculties will have several student support staff specifically to help with wellbeing during their time at uni. Having been a couple of doors down from someone who tried to commit suicide whilst in uni halls, remember rationalising away those support roles does have a human impact.


Thanks!

> Student numbers

I still don't quite see why overall growth must change the proportion so much.

Maybe the extra complication of everyone applying to 20 places is a factor which doesn't scale. I don't know exactly how you fix that. Perhaps you should cap the number of applications an individual can make?

Re complicated IT, again somehow needing to collaborate on departmental memos somehow wasn't an issue when we had typewriters. I suspect a lot is weird make-work.

> grants procedure

OK, good. I would not have refused such help, but have never had any!

This however does seem orthogonal to students. It's part of the massive stuff-up that is research funding, where we've allowed the question of allocating these funds to eat up not only a majority of the time of the scientists being supported... but also apparently a huge number of other people. All ultimately paid out of the pot we're trying to distribute. Can't we change the rules of the game so that more of the pot goes to things which aren't obviously zero-sum?

> support staff specifically to help with wellbeing

It's nice to do these things, certainly. But lavishing them on the best and brightest young adults while all the other ones with jobs fend for themselves doesn't seem so easy to defend. Why isn't this part of the NHS budget?


> I still don't quite see why overall growth must change the proportion so much.

As a hypothetical, if you were a Dean and you had a £100k to have the greatest impact in the department: Do you employ 2 lecturers at £50k each to teach lectures, do admin and sort out research, or 1 lecturer at £55k, and take a bunch of their tasks away and give them to a research coordinator for £20k (who can support maybe 10 lecturers) and a research assistant for £25k (who can sit on panels, do research, and teach some classes, and support maybe 2 lecturers)?

Also, there are a finite number of world-class lecturers in any field - a lot of which would rather be researching than teaching, so making their time more efficient by basically taking away their "university" commitments to students (undergrads especially), give them more time to work on their projects, is almost the point.

> Maybe the extra complication of everyone applying to 20 places is a factor which doesn't scale. I don't know exactly how you fix that. Perhaps you should cap the number of applications an individual can make?

There is a cap (which I believe is 6). The issue is, that students never really used that many before. You'd have your preferred course, and then maybe a back up (or two tops) - now, students play the market. They used to accept their offers immediately too, now they wait until the day before the UCAS deadline to give themselves the most time (fair enough, but has an impact on universities across the board). This will bed in in the next few years, but you'd be amazed at how sharply this changed.

> Can't we change the rules of the game so that more of the pot goes to things which aren't obviously zero-sum?

One of the hidden effects of the university fees change was that a lot of the research funding was cut and expected to be derived from incoming students rather than distributed by government (hence why so much time now goes into external proposal writing and pandering to the last remaining government schemes with things like REF case studies). You now have to appeal to external funders more than internal ones, making the process more... processy. I've heard of some places not offering PhD places unless the subsidy was from an external source.

Also (and this is a damning indictment of universities tbh), universities have increased the overhead they charge to their staff from their research grants, to spend on capital projects, meaning they need to apply for more money, potentially making the process even harder.

> Why isn't this part of the NHS budget?

Is that a serious question? :) mental health provision in the NHS is notoriously woeful, and "best and brightest young adults" (not especially true when you consider the aim is for 50% to go there, that's not the best and brightest, that's half the bell curve. Also, quite a few mental health professionals really want the age of being an adult recognised as 25 as social dynamics have changed to make it closer to that than 18) put under artificial pressure with little money and no support network, having to identify mental health issues themselves, and then admit themselves to treatment units over... missed coursework deadlines?

True, having better mental health provision for students vs non-students is damning when you consider the social-economic issues behind university access, but as to my previous point about the Dean with cash to spend - at a university system level, the investment in students not killing themselves with dedicated support staff vs community or lecturer pastoral support is one they've balanced.

EDIT: It's also worth mentioning that some of the roles I've mentioned don't always eat up a full FTE over the course of a year. Lots of people work part-time, or roles that have peaks and troughs throughout a season, are supported by teams with different remits. Those wellbeing support staff will help with enrolment during September madness, research staff will help with internal comms, programme admins will help with market research, everyone helps plan open days and applicant visit days.


I'm a web developer leading a team of four working on a research project that has no full-time academics and 3/4 part time academics. They will have several projects such as this.

There are another 6 full time members of administrative staff running this project. So our ratio is close to 4:1 I suspect. Research can require a lot of manpower...

Our funding does not come from tuition, but research grants and similar.


This compounds some major long-term problems for education in the UK.

1. Their school systems are the most elitist/unequal in Europe [0] (from this TED talk [1]). There are many things I love about the UK but I can never go back as the school I send my child to now for free would cost £4000-6000 per year of post-tax income in the UK.

2. Because of underpaying teachers (In comparison to Belgium the mid-level art teacher I know gets paid €100/hr) and burying teachers in red-tape there is a significant shortage of teachers. This has led to the ridiculous lottery system they now have for picking schools.

3. The Brexit is going to hit the number of European students hard. Outside of Oxford and Cambridge, most of the top 10 UK Universities are all in London with a huge contingent of European students.

So Universities are going to lose their European influx and the incoming generation of students are going to be poorer.

[0]: https://imgur.com/a/qqKDgMd

[1]: https://www.ted.com/talks/andreas_schleicher_use_data_to_bui...


I always wondered if non-EU students are going to keep coming in the long term too. Only Chinese for example, there are 60k undergrads coming every year. That should be about $1.2B/yr for three years only in tuition fees.

It is not that much money at the end of the day but it has to be important because universities are building campus overseas to capture all those students.

And at some point Indian, Chinese, etc. universities will become more attractive and that money flow will stop too.


Honestly that's just kind of cute. Good private schools in the US regularly cost over $40,000 per year.


I'm talking about an average school for ages 4-11.

But this is not a competition about who has the most expensive schools.

I'd rather live in a country where education is free.


Indeed, I'm only pointing out the absurdity of the US system.


It's quite appalling how UK universities seem to have changed since tuition fees. Most saddening is the effective destruction of the Open University as they now charge the same fees as everyone else. Few can afford to take an OU course for interest, or mid life career change any more.

The youngest is looking very unlikely to attend university at all thanks to feedback from those already in the system. I rather get the impression that paying £9k per year has turned academic excellence into a simple commercial production line.


The OU was actually one of the great British success stories, a "MOOC" before the Internet. It's a tragedy if that's coming to an end.


It's not quite as bad as attending, but cost of a degree is about £18k or so - at £3k/year if you do the typical spread over 6 years. The cost has been going up markedly ever since £3k fees first came in.

They still offer bursaries and grants for those on low income, but seem to have been trimmed to be only partial help, with the rest on a student loan. I'm fairly sure you used to be able to apply for 100% help.

So it seems far less appealing for those on low or middle income, and all their traditional successes like those who never did a degree at 18 etc.


Omi, so the OU is no longer free? :o


There's also the issue of what has happened now that students have to pay through the nose for courses. They are now customers who expect high grades for their fees. This has certainly changed the dynamic with regard to rigorous marking in some areas


I can't help feeling we would be better off if responsibility for grading was taken away from universities as it is for A levels and GCSEs. There are some problems with that but I suspect they would be outweighed by the benefits.


I've anecdotes from two university lecturers on different courses. They both want some form of external moderation. its what happens for Postgraduate degrees after all.

What they report is horrifying:

* Essay writing skills are lacking, "its at GCSE level"

* Students contesting any form of criticism - they go via the official channels to argue why they should get a good grade. All schools are tied up in multiple tribunals with existing staff. Often its easier just to pass the student.

* In some cases, students are SUING the university for poor grades

* Plagiarism is commonplace. There is an automated plagiarism detection mechanism for electronic submissions - but they are turned off or ignored as it's so rampant. People literally copying from Wikipedia or copy and pasting from papers to make their own work. Wikipedia copying is especially used for definitions, e.g. "Hacker News is a social news website focusing on computer science and entrepreneurship...."

* Students don't see that their education is also their own responsibility, and see it as a purchase. Give me what I pay for.

* Students who don't turn up to classes and seminars demand the same grades as those who do.

* Hundreds of students email lecturers asking for help with their work (much more numbers and frequency than in the past).

They both despair as they see education standards falling, and theres not much they can do. They don't want to be sued by the students, nor do they want to spend all their time in tribunals, they are educators first. They see their own institution as being of very poor quality.

To me - I would look at a league table of education quality for UK universities. There isn't one, you cant compare. Previously a good chance of good education was the research output of a department, or the references of the teachers. But this, as my associates report don't mean anything anymore.


>People literally copying from Wikipedia or copy and pasting from papers to make their own work. //

My lad is just in UK high-school but I'm surprised at how homework is set with no provision of resources and no mention of plagiarism or need to cite sources. The kids are basically expected to find their own sources, which is ridiculous - making them trust whatever Google gives them.

Once they've been inculcated into the notion that education resides in googling and cutting and pasting, without even reading the content, then it's hard to establish a good research ethic.

On top of this the teachers aren't even teaching good use of online search, or providing access to primary source material that gets referenced.

It's really dire.

Textbooks have their problems but ...


In FE college, we had an occasional class (as part of something else, can't remember what) that explained how to use the Internet to research properly, determine trustworthiness, and cite sources, and also how to use the library at a basic level. I'd assume that sixth-form colleges in England and their equivalent elsewhere do the same - but perhaps it's too late by then?


I can reassure you that 'research methods' courses are mandatory for all students in the vocational only FE college that I do some teaching in. Taught by LRC staff.

The plagiarism checker is active as well.

Most of the level 3 award tutors set a small assignment within the first few weeks of the course to assess writing level and catch any issues like dyslexia &c.


Funnily enough, this kinda matches how most people do their jobs now. "Just google it" is the solution to many problems in business. It's probably not the best long term strategy, but then again, neither is the stock market...


I think you got that backwards. The stockmarket is a bad short term investment but a good long term investment.


2 of my friends work in HR. They tell me, that they see a university degree not as a valuable certification criterion on its own. I mean, the tech industry has always been a bit special in this regard. There are lots of excellent autodidact programmers, that never saw a university and there are a number of people that have specialized in getting good grades, but could not implement 10 lines on their own. Most recruiters are aware of that fact, thats why we have to do stupid whiteboard interviews for senior developer jobs. I suspect, that with the further erosion of principles and standards of universities, this mindset will creep into other domains as well.


If people are considering degree marks for a senior role, they have big things to worry about than if their candidate can whiteboard


> They both want some form of external moderation. its what happens for Postgraduate degrees after all.

Undergraduate university examinations in the UK already have external examiners [1]. For the national guidance, see Chapter B7 of the QAA's Quality Code [2]. This states:

> External examiners are not normally responsible for, or involved in, the assessment of individual students to the extent that they do not carry out marking of assessed work. However, to fulfil their role external examiners view student work, which ranges from reading essays or examination scripts to viewing performances (live or recorded) or artefacts. The volume of assessment generally means that an external examiner is unlikely to be able to view all the assessed work unless the cohort is small. Samples are of sufficient size to enable him/her to form a view as to whether the internal marking has properly assessed student performance against the appropriate standards.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/External_examiner

[2]: http://www.qaa.ac.uk/assuring-standards-and-quality/the-qual...


That makes it sound like it's all the students fault.

I studied CS at a top tier UK university (not Oxbridge but a tier below). The course was a mess. The professors were useless, often didn't understand their own subjects, marking was random and arbitrary, most of them quite obviously saw teaching as a chore to be disposed of as quickly as possible and many failed hard at even basic principles of teaching, like "if you set coursework, students should all have the same amount of time to complete it in".

There was no effective way for students to complain or get anything fixed. The department ran a student/professor relationships council or something which was a joke, the students on it had volunteered mostly to suck up to the staff and didn't have any idea how bad the teaching was or how hard they were getting stiffed.

If universities were _actually_ real businesses I'd have been furious and demanded my money back, but they aren't so what can you do? I just tell people not to go to university at all these days.


> Plagiarism is commonplace. There is an automated plagiarism detection mechanism for electronic submissions - but they are turned off or ignored as it's so rampant. People literally copying from Wikipedia or copy and pasting from papers to make their own work.

this isn't new. People were copying from wikipedia 18+ years ago I can assure you ahem


"Students contesting any form of criticism ... In some cases, students are SUING the university for poor grades ... Plagiarism is commonplace"

Anecdotally I heard the same stories 25 years ago when I was at university.


The issue isn't and never was with grading. No one is giving higher grades than they should in those UK universities that I worked with - the issue is specifically with lecturers being instructed to write exams in such a way that most people pass, because doing otherwise is bad for the department and for publicity. Which results in exams which are stupidly easy for anything that doesn't have "engineering" in the name.


I envisaged creating exams would come under the remit of an examination board just as it does for A levels and GCSEs.


I just can't imagine how that would work? Maybe for some "core" modules - sure. But if you have a Russel group university with an industry leading ML course, where the professor behind the course is the leading researcher in the area - who is going to write the exam for it?

The "problem" here is standardization(or lack of it) - and it's actually very good that university courses are not standardized.


You just paper swap with another uni. Oxford can hand it's engineering paper to Cambridge and see if it's hard enough etc. Not hard to do, it's just peer review for exam papers


Exam difficulty can't be assessed solely on the paper, the difficulty is also a function of the curriculum - if they teach to the exam, covering only a few topics which are then examined, then the exam is easier than if it selects questions from a broader curriculum.


It's not just one board though, which shifts the problem, then the boards are motivated to make their exams easier because that wins them business from schools who are motivated to get higher grades regardless of the educational outcomes.


Tough to do this within the constraints of academic freedom; if an institution wants to offer a new course and they need to get certification by an authority and find externals to mark it... well could stall things by years?


You already see this with courses around nursing and healthcare which need to be QA'd by external bodies like the local commissioning authorities. It does delay it, but not by as much as some of the internal processes that need to happen.

There might be more enterprising universities that launch courses quickly (and would probably still reserve the right to do it with things like masters courses), but most undergrad courses take years to develop and deploy anyway, so an external body reviewing the content and assessment criteria wouldn't hold things up much in comparison.


For an entire degree program I agree, I've seen lots of agonising about these and many roadblocks. But for a module many universities are pretty agile right now - much to the student's benefit.


As I said there are downsides. I will say though that the courses on offer to my children when they went to university looked very similar. I'm not sure this would be a huge problem.


Offer a course without a certification. Then, those students who are only in uni for the grades will not take it, but students who actually value knowledge will opt in for the course.


Most people value both though; when I was in university I loved what I did and wanted to continue doing it somewhere excellent afterwards. For that I need to be armed both with the knowledge and the qualifications necessary.


Which then will be penalised by mainstream employers, because there's no certification - automated CV scanners will dump your application as it's "not a proper degree".


Which, in turn, will reward no mainstream employers. After 11 years of design/engineering career without a degree, I don't think it's such a big issue.


PhD selection committees don't give much weight to grades (did they ever?) and instead rely on letters of recommendation. The corporate world doesn't care what one has gained from their degree apart from the social skills which universities don't grade for anyway. So who needs the grades to be rigorous?


> The corporate world doesn't care what one has gained from their degree apart from the social skills

As someone who interviews people for jobs - nonsense.


As someone who has been interviewed numerous times - the only time they ever even checked my university CS degree was for my very first job, and they only wanted it after I had already been accepted, to file it with my papers. The rest of the times I simply had the degree listed in my résumé.

This is IT, where it may be (even?) more lax than in other fields.

However, from following similar discussions for years, for example on reddit and also here on HN, with lots of people commenting who do or have done hiring decisions, the majority opinion seems to be that once you have a work history the particulars ceases to matter. Looking at my own two decades of experience, incl. a small business (sold), now another startup (of 40+ age engineers and business people, software), I would not care either. I had to check young candidates, it never crossed my mind to look at their grades. Talking and then seeing them work was far more revealing.

Related (NY Times opinion piece "The Utter Uselessness of Job Interviews"): https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/08/opinion/sunday/the-utter-...


Another point is that immigration of qualified worker is the one that is not only accepted, but seen as desirable.

Universities are selling something for 45,000 GBP that is available for free or much cheaper in other countries and readily accessible to employers. At some point Universities need to give students their money worth in some form or another.


Ironically UK university education is something of an export industry: there are a lot of people from non-Western countries who come here and pay full fees for the degrees because of their prestige. The government's gradual tightening of immigration policy is making this less viable.


Ex-poly degree mills are rapidly devaluing this. It’s only a matter of time before British degrees become an anti-brand in China


Actually, the high paying customers won't be put off by whatever immigration policy the current government will put in place. It's mostly EU students who will look elsewhere.


It's not a question of being "put off" if you're denied entry or deported (wrongly or otherwise) by the Home Office.


It's also a bit of an open question how many universities were effectively selling visas. Clearly anyone with a place at Oxford could find another way to immigrate if they wished. But one wonders how many fee-paying applicants to bottom-tier places were really paying for their basket-weaving lectures.


It's the infestation of 'market' philosophy that is the grindstone on the academic values. Everything gets beaten into submission of an amoral self-referential quantitative utility framework. This has become so ingrained that many, if not most, don't even see it as a choice but simply accept it as some sort of universal law.


>amoral self-referential quantitative utility framework

My goodness, that's quite a phrase. What do you actually mean?


Which part is confusing you?


What makes a framework self-referential? What does submission of ... mean?

What is this framework? Or which one is this?


I have lost confidence in the western university system. Too much high exorbitant fees, with no future prospects but debt, so I have taken it myself to learn online via open courses.


Why? I live in the west (continental Europe) and you can attend a good university for free here. The state pays your tuition.


Not in the UK anymore unfortunately.


Apart from Scotland!


I know this is a trite comment, but no, you still pay through taxes. The state has no money. I too live in a country with tax-financed universities.


When someone says tuition is free or that healthcare is free what they mean is that using these services doesn’t cost out of pocket expenses and doesn’t lead to debt. In this sense those services are free.


Well, if we can redefine free to mean "I will let someone else pay for it" or "I will pay for it at some later date", then sure...


Also see what I wrote here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16889577

The vast majority of people who pay(ed) for actually pretty much everything are all dead. Because the reason for our exorbitant productivity in all sectors producing the essentials for live (compared with a base level thousands of years ago) is accumulated knowledge, culture and tools created by people long dead.

So relax, the expenses have long been paid. We are enjoying the inheritance mostly - and network effects of a huge human network in space and in time (that's the larger part). Let us use those network effects - they are not attributable to individuals. Nobody is taking anything away from you since you are not responsible in any way for those network effects. Nobody individually is, we are just darn lucky. People who sit in central network positions even more so, they can control and create A LOT of wealth - by controlling the human network. Which they did not create - just filling positions is not "creating the network". The idea and the culture where all developed by all of us (and the dead), and the state and the laws provide the structure that support it all.

Your productivity is the way it is because yo benefit from your location in this network! If you want to see what you alone can achieve go alone into the forest. Don't take any tools with you, even a hammer is high tech (steel!).

About "network effects": Compare what a million unconnected humans could achieve (a million mud huts? a million basic stone tools?) with the network output.


It’s not a redefining of terms. People abuse language and speak in ways that aren’t necessarily technically correct. For instance many times a person will say “fine” when asked how they are doing even if they really aren’t doing fine. Here fine is mostly used as an acknowledgement of the other person's greeting.

I gave an interpretation of what people really mean by “education is free”. If you wish to argue that people who say this phrase don’t mean what I say it means then do so. I might be wrong. But don’t get all pedantic on the dictionary definitions of words. We are talking about what people mean when they say something not what it logically ought to mean.

It appears surprising to you that not everyone is precise in what they say. Sometimes people say what they mean and sometimes they mean what they say. But lots of times they don’t. If this is a surprise to you then I implore you to reconsider your understanding of the nature of human communication.


> It appears surprising to you that not everyone is precise in what they say. Sometimes people say what they mean and sometimes they mean what they say. But lots of times they don’t. If this is a surprise to you then I implore you to reconsider your understanding of the nature of human communication.

I am aware what people mean when they call a public service free. I meant to remind people that the cost does not disappear, which is not obvious to everyone.


Why are you being facetious? You know very well what they mean and what is meant by "free education".

If someone says to you "I am giving this to you for free" do you then then argue "it is not free, someone had to pay for it" :-\


Because when someone writes "the state pays your tuition", it hides the fact that people pay your tuition. Or, depending on your view, you yourself will pay for your tuition through taxes. A lot of people forget, when making a statement like that, what is called free is not in fact free.

And when you give something away, we presume that it is not something you have stolen. But the money spent at the point of consumption (i.e., when studying) is forcibly taken from people. <Insert standard libertarian arguments here>


It's a cost on society, not on the individual pupil, just like how the education is a gain to the society at large, while the individual effort of the individual may seem negligble.

So of course it's free. You are not paying. And you don't pay it over taxes, society does. Think of it this way: If you didn't go to university, and just learned on your own, then you still pay the same taxes if you reach the same income level. So taking a university does not increase your taxes. Ergo free.


> It's a cost on society, not on the individual pupil, just like how the education is a gain to the society at large, while the individual effort of the individual may seem negligble.

What is society in this sense but a collection of many individuals that pay, through taxes, to a common pool? Perhaps society gains, perhaps it does not. We can never know. The services are still paid for.

> So of course it's free. You are not paying. And you don't pay it over taxes, society does. Think of it this way: If you didn't go to university, and just learned on your own, then you still pay the same taxes if you reach the same income level. So taking a university does not increase your taxes. Ergo free.

If I learned on my own, I would just receive less public services for the amount of money I pay in taxes. It doesn't make it more free that my taxes do not increase. It would just make the amount of services that I do receive more expensive.


You must be American. People have laid out how this "free" services, like education or healthcare, can lead to a more productive, fairer society (e.g. less people off work sick, because they go and get treatment sooner, and recover sooner). Or why do you think tech companies offer good health care? Out of the kindness of their heart? No, because having people worry about basic needs and not get medical treatment when they need it is counter-productive.

But it seems like all you care about is how many taxes you pay, and how much you get back for it. Fair enough, if you're selfish and have no compassion for your fellow countrymen and the next generation that much, we won't be able to sway you.


> You must be American.

I'm Danish :-)

> People have laid out how this "free" services, like education or healthcare, can lead to a more productive, fairer society (e.g. less people off work sick, because they go and get treatment sooner, and recover sooner).

I can point you to countless articles, anecdotes and videos showing the exact opposite.

> Or why do you think tech companies offer good health care? Out of the kindness of their heart? No, because having people worry about basic needs and not get medical treatment when they need it is counter-productive.

I don't disagree on your statement about basic needs, and as your own example illustrates, these can be served by the private sector. But the reason most companies in the US offer healthcare to their employees goes back to the time of FDR, when it was illegal for a while to compete on wages but not on benefits (if I remember correctly).

> But it seems like all you care about is how many taxes you pay, and how much you get back for it. Fair enough, if you're selfish and have no compassion for your fellow countrymen and the next generation that much, we won't be able to sway you.

I care about the taxes everyone pays. It seems paradoxical to me to claim, for example, to care about the poor and at the same time make everything expensive through taxation.


> I can point you to countless articles, anecdotes and videos showing the exact opposite.

And yet...

> I care about the taxes everyone pays. It seems paradoxical to me to claim, for example, to care about the poor and at the same time make everything expensive through taxation.

Yes, because everybody pays the same absolute amount of income tax, and there's no provision for how much somebody earns, how well off they are, deductions for kids. Oh no, wait...

> these can be served by the private sector.

If you're dependent on your employer for health care, that's kind of servitude. Generally, that's frowned upon if you value human rights. Sure, you can always switch companies (until you get older, and then maybe you can't). And see how long your coverage lasts once you get ill. Not to mention all the co-pays.

> But the reason most companies in the US offer healthcare to their employees goes back to the time of FDR, when it was illegal for a while to compete on wages but not on benefits (if I remember correctly).

So then that's not true any more, see the "gig economy".

If you really want to save money, you could just move to the US and take the same gamble as 12% of Americans (used to be ~18% before "Obamacare"), and hope that you, your partner, and your children don't get seriously ill.

It's easy to talk shit and reason about these things if you're well off, and have never experienced these things yourself - being Danish and all.


There is quite a big difference between students alone paying 100 % (or more like 500 % in the US) and every citizen in a country sharing the price between them. Not only is it cheaper overall per capita but you also get much better tuition when schools don't go where they make the most money but concentrate on teaching and research. Look at how research in the US is today. Research what might make big money and when you get the chance run with it and start a company. That is a surefire way of running the school into the ground - or at least the quality of it.


Of course there is a difference. You let others pay for your choices (studying). But it doesn't make it free.


Things like state funded healthcare are free at the point of care and education is free at the point of consumption.

This doesn't mean they don't have costs associated with them as a whole but that for those actually using them they appear to have no personal cost.


Yes, and that is the great deceit of taxation and political resource allocation. Somebody still has to earn the money and bring about the resources and services used through the public sector. It seems to me a lot of people forget that, when they hail state funded services.


free doesn't imply that the service/product has no costs, only that your transaction has no costs. Google is also free but it has costs (mostly paid by ads which are then included in products costs).


If the state has no money, then what do you consider the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund?

Because that looks like an awful lot of money to me.


You and others may thing you are being pedantic, but you are not. You are simply wrong.

If I get a Rolex watch as a gift, and a friend asks how much I paid for it, I would not be wrong to say "I got it for free." The fact that someone else paid for it doesn't change the fact that it was free for me.

The fact that someone paid for it is not contradictory to it being free.

In a later comment you say "Well, if we can redefine free to mean "I will let someone else pay for it" or "I will pay for it at some later date", then sure..."

"I will let someone else pay for it" is true, and it is not redefining free. It is free and someone else paid for it. Don't construct a world view where they are opposing each other.

And no, you will not pay for it at some later date. That's a loan, and is what we in the US often do for school. You may pay the tuition for other students who come after you, but there are usually ways to opt out of that with no penalty. And even if you do end up paying for others, it is not a reciprocal transaction. You are not paying for others' education because you received a free one. You would still pay for it even if you opted out of university.

Yes, the education is free.

Why am I taking the time to write this out? For two reasons:

1. Often (but not always) people like to make this point because they want to have a discussion of the wider economic system, and often about the pros and cons of that system. Yet you have not really made an effort to have that discussion so it may not have been your motivation.

2. If we go with your notion of what "free" means, then we should be consistent and realize pretty much nothing is for free. A plank fell off my fence. I could have paid someone to fix it, but instead I took a hammer and nails and got the work done for free. "Oh no!" says the listener. "Don't think you got it for free. You paid for it in labor, and in buying the hammer and nails." You respond with "Well no, I found the nails and hammer in the trash - someone was moving out". "Yes, but he paid for it, so still the work you did was not free."

These conversations never happen in real life. No one disputes that I did it for free.[1] So why do we allow ourselved to get sidetracked with the issue of whether health care or education is free - especially when it is not the purpose of the conversation at hand?

Well, OK - some people will question whether my time was worth it vs just paying someone, but that's the extent. And the analogue to "free" education would be "No it wasn't free. You spent 4 years of your life there - you need to consider the opportunity cost"


> If I get a Rolex watch as a gift, and a friend asks how much I paid for it, I would not be wrong to say "I got it for free." The fact that someone else paid for it doesn't change the fact that it was free for me.

The difference is that you don't end up paying for your Rolex. But you do pay taxes during your life time and in return you get services provided by the public sector. So how is it free? At the point of consumption someone else will be paying for you, but in the future you can be said to be paying back what you owe. If you never paid any taxes, then yes, you could consider your education free.


>But you do pay taxes during your life time and in return you get services provided by the public sector.

And my education is not one of them. I pay for other people's education, and not for mine. I benefit from their education, which is why I pay for it. To me, it is a big distinction from your perspective. And as I alluded to, there are usually ways not to pay those taxes (legally). So my education really was free for me.

Yes, it is a service I get from the public sector. But I do not pay for the service I receive.

>but in the future you can be said to be paying back what you owe.

That's not the reality - it's just a convenient way some people look at it. The reality is I'm paying for others. One key difference which I pointed out is the scenario where I didn't go to university. I would still pay the same amount for others (taxes) if my income is the same. That alone kills the notion that I'm paying what I owe. If I cannot get out of that payment scheme because I opted out of university, it is very clear that I am not paying for my education.

Social Security is the same. People think they pay SS so that they can get benefits when they're old. While there is some grain of truth to it, the reality is that mostly you are paying SS to cover the currently elderly folks' welfare. SS is not a pension plan. And due to the declining population growth, when I get old I likely will have far reduced benefits than the people I am paying for now. It is critical for me to know what I am paying for - SS payments are not for me - I am paying for others.

Frankly you are ignoring the most important part of my comment - the very reason I decided to post the comment.


Not all of West has it this way. US and UK yes, but rest of EU mostly has free college in same or higher quality.


With risk of being deemed survivorship bias, I went to a community college for the first 2 years in the US at a whopping $698 a semester, got my associates in science which transferred to a prominent a state college and counted for my Gen Ed requirements in my Computer Science degree so I was able to jump straight into CS courses. With tuition assistance (everyone qualifies at a certain level, unless you are uber rich), I ended up with around 10k in debt (mostly because I took some out to live a little more comfortably in school). That was about 5 years ago and that debt is essentially paid off.

My wife did almost the exact same thing. She has a small amount of debt, (15k) but that's mostly because she has 3 degrees, including a masters.

We've both been happily employed since.

Long story short: I think the "American University Debt Crisis" is largely overstated. I relate it to the housing crisis in 2008. Yes it was shitty for mortgage lenders to be giving out those loans to those people, but at the same time, you as an individual have to stop and think at some point and say "OK, I am a strawberry farmer that makes 30k a year, what business do I have buying a 500k house?"

You as an individual need to use some critical thinking and say, "OK my family / I make only X amount a year, what businesses do I have racking up 40-50k in student debt every year? Are there alternatives?"

The answer to the question "are there quality alternatives to simply racking up debt I will never be able to pay back and still be able to get an education?" is yes.

I should edit this to say: the debt crisis is real now because a large majority of these students did in fact take the loans and now have the debt. What I mean, however, is this "fact" that you must go into lifelong crippling debt to get a quality education is overstated.


This is clearly the way to go, even private universities let you transfer some credits from community college and everyone with any care for their money should do this. The problem is that it is a bit hidden and young people get guided to do it the expensive way.

It also makes almost zero difference at the end, no one will care if your electives comes from a community college if they care about your degree at all.


And honestly, my courses at the community college were much tougher but also much more rewarding than at university. It was almost as if the community college professors had a chip on their shoulder and had to prove they were "real" professors, while your university professors just cared about getting back to their research and were barely invested (most, not all). Just my observation.

In a country-side suburb here in my state, we have one of the (to my surprise) largest clusters of aerospace engineering companies (I believe over 20+) -- they receive over 80% of their candidates from the regional community college nearby. If you think about it it makes sense for the employer: they get to work with the college to basically create a curriculum that will ensure their future prospects have the highest chance of being the best workers for them.


No matter how cheap you got your degree (which doens't seem to include any university?), who do you think gets the most knowledge out of it:

A: that works 25 hours+ while studying at a school chosen because of its price or B: that study at a school that fits what is best for B and gets money from the school?

Now you might believe the system A uses is fine, but which country do you think will be ahead in 10 or even 50 years?


There are so many variables here I couldn't even begin to answer but I will take a stab and say A because that student is most likely fiscally responsible and proven they can juggle multiple responsibilities and still make progress towards a goal. These typically tend to be very productive members of society. In B's case, this also may be true, but I am less prone to have the same expectations since your university schooling offers you entirely what you decide to get out of it: meaning you can slack off and only study for the test, and forget it as soon as you step outside in the real world, or you can remember it all and excel. Now I am not saying with A you can't also slack off in school and not get anything, but on average I would say a working student values their education more than a non-working student since they have a larger motivator and a early reality check of what life is really like.


In Germany quality of education is going downhill fast - that is not only my personal impression but also what friends in other Unis tell me.

The universities grow huge marketing and managing administrations while teaching is lacking even often money to pay some student to check the sheets and research is solely dependend on 3rd party funding.

Even if you have access and funding for equipment there are no funds to pay someone for maintenance or making good use of the equipment.

Some PhD that were not quick enough to deny any involvement are doing the job or clueless student assistants that are left alone.

Plagiarism is also rampant and most students avoid any extra work/activities at all costs. Suing for better grades is also not uncommon.

Research often turns into pushing out publications and papers at all costs and is more like an art to defend your own existence than acknowledging or understanding the problem domain.

Luckily not everywhere but I've heard that more than once and confirm it for my uni.


Scotland is nowhere near as bad as the rest of the UK although you have to have put up with their dreary weather for three years before attending.


EU residents can also study in Scotland for free. It is only England, Wales and NI who have to pay the full fees.


No, it is only the English that have to pay the full fees, students from Wales and NI pay a lower rate.


Unless you live in the EU - it's free then (after 2020... well...). For UK students you need to be domiciled in Scotland to qualify, which is lucky, as providing free university to a country with a population of 60 million from the Scottish (population 5 million) budget would be unsustainable.


Nitpick: Scots undergraduate degrees are typically 4 years rather than 3 as in the rest of the UK.


If you have good A-levels then it certainly used to be the case that you can skip first year.


Possibly, doesn't apply to anyone coming from Scotland as we tend to not do A-levels (some of the more expensive private schools do then rather than Scottish Highers and Advanced Highers).


US, UK, Australia, not sure about south africa. I will be eyeing on EU.


> I have lost confidence in the western university system. Too much high exorbitant fees, with no future prospects but debt

That's not the west, that's America. Europe is mostly safe, beside the UK, where they decided to go the American way...

I always got money by going at the university, never the contrary.


Exorbitant fees are more typical of british and american universities, but not of the whole western university system.


I presume that the "open courses" that you are consuming online are produced by the western university system?


I meant to imply most american and British based universities and colleges, not EU.


It would be nice to see some STEM-affirmative universities without any x-studies leaching. Professional complainer is a viable career path these days and it starts at uni.


Huh? I might have misinterpreted your point, but you might have it backward. Most STEM courses are subsidised by "studies" and humanities. It can cost multiples more to teach a biology student than an English one, and that cost is offset by it being less than fees to teach the latter and more than fees to teach the former.

A university would have a hard time having a competitive science department without leaching cash from the business studies faculty.


Listening to Jonathan Haidt its pretty scary stuff.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4IBegL_V6AA


> Listening to Jonathan Haidt its pretty scary stuff.

Because that's what a fear monger does.


Listening to Jonathan Haidt its pretty scary stuff.

Don't listen to it then.

By the way the, UK isn't the same as the US, our problems aren't necessarily the same as yours.


Ignorance is bliss.


Don't listen to the media and you are uninformed, listen to the media and you are misinformed. I know which I prefer.


Probably the media you listen to with an opinion like that.


Didn't you just post a video to some crackpot on YouTube?


[flagged]


But I thought we were talking about Jonathan Haidt?


I have no idea what you two are talking about. Could you enlighten those of us that don't know?


Haidt is a psychologist whose research and advocacy has in recent years moved towards political bias in universities, in particular he talks a lot about student and faculty driven morality-based censorship.

He started the "Heterodox Academy" which argues for and promotes ideological diversity (i.e. both left and right) in universities.


Some guy derailed the conversation for no reason. Jonathan Haidt is far from right wing propaganda (though he is heavily focused on morality and religion like many D's).

Below is a quick dirty quote from Wikipedia.

In chapter 8 of The Righteous Mind, Haidt describes how he began to study political psychology in order to help the Democratic Party win more elections. But in chapter 12 of The Righteous Mind Haidt argues that each of the major political groups – conservatives, progressives, and libertarians—have valuable insights and that truth and good policy emerge from the contest of ideas. Since 2012 Haidt has referred to himself as a political centrist


Ignoring fake news from ̶r̶i̶g̶h̶t̶w̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶i̶d̶e̶a̶l̶o̶g̶u̶e̶s̶ left wing loons is even more bliss.

FTFY


Ugh, that's dystopian. There's bullshit on both sides of the university (stem and humanities). They're symbiotic and they need each other and the world desperately needs more people skilled in both.

Stephen Hawking doesn't become Stephen Hawking without an awareness and understanding of the humanities.


You are generalizing the criticism of "x-studies" to a criticism of the humanities as a whole, which I do not think is what was meant at all.


Not to mention people like Frege, Russel, Gödel, Wittgenstein, Chomsky, and so on and the impact they had on the foundation of mathematics, theory of language and theoretical CS.


This should probably be seen in the context of the ongoing industrial action in response to a sneaky attempt to convert pensions from defined-benefit to defined-contribution, thereby halving their value. This was based on an extremely questionable financial scenario ("what if all UK universities went bankrupt?")


Er is it a questionable scenario? UK universities all have very similar businesses, customer bases, staff unionisation levels and risk profiles. It's quite imaginable that if there was a sudden drop in the number of students attending university they might all get in dire straits simultaneously.


They have very different financial reserves, especially the Russell Group ones, and this also presumes that the government would let its entire tertiary education system collapse without intervening.


Well, the intervention is to change the pensions, surely. And the goal is to intervene before a collapse occurs rather than afterwards.

If the argument is "we don't need to change the university pension scheme because when they go bankrupt the government will bail them out", I suppose that should be made directly.


Universities in the UK have turned into administrator-heavy (as in the US) property development companies made to enrich the administrators and top brass, it seems. Here's a story that hints at the issues (UCL and others have been doing this a lot) https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/25/studen...

While looking for this, I also found this, (slightly off-topic, but somewhat salient) which makes for sobering reading. https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/bnk3vm/vices-most-evil-un...


Despite being a British citizen, I don't understand the university model all that well, but one argument I see being banded about over the creeping levels of control over UK universities is why the more elite-level universities haven't opted to go private.

Sure, there was a legitimate argument a while ago with no/low tuition fees. The government was footing the bill. Now that tuition fees have risen, and seem to want to continue to rise, what benefit is there for the likes of Oxford, Cambridge, UCL, and co to remain public?

Someone I used to work with attended the University of Buckingham, one of the few universities in the UK that is private, and he said that while it was no Oxbridge, the flexibility of graduating in two years made it completely worth it. Ironically, a lot of pressure is put on the ex-polytechnics and middling universities in the UK to justify their high costs, low quality of content, and average employment figures, with the government often pointing towards the need for flexibility (i.e. two year degrees to save money).

If the government want to get their claws in, I'm surprised that those with the freedom to go private haven't decided to, or at least as a way to one-up their competitors.


Here in Brazil, in a public university, I saw a policeman (among others) cheating on exams and professors knowingly ignoring it. Just one case, there were many others.

Beware of Brazilians. The de facto rule here is "fuck everybody not in my circle".


I finished an undergraduate degree in 1980, when there were around 25000 undergraduates [1] p13/14. Now there are at least 10 times that many. Inevitably, the system has had to change to reflect that increase in volume within the span of a single career - quite a lot of change.

Not sure where the answer lies, but an increasingly large proportion of my teenager students are opting not to go to university directly at 18, so there could be a 'correction' on the way over the next generation or so.

[1] http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/SN042...


Here is an interesting read

http://www.culturewars.com/2002/potter.html


What does a 2002 article on faxes and children's books have to do with the present-day UK education sector?


If you read it, you'll know.


Yeah, I tried, it started with gushing over James Dobson - the man who believes that beating children is a good thing (this is personal; my parents used his books for parenting advice) - and C.S. Lewis.

Eg, it complains about Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone as being a "deeply incoherent work", and praises Lewis. But the Narnia series is also a deeply incoherent work.

It describes the book as a narcissistic fantasy, which is a literary description and an opinion. It then spends paragraphs describing the psychiatric condition known as narcissism. But the connection is still an opinion.

The author then gives this horrid homophobic nugget:

> One of the most blatant forms of magic through ingestion is, of course, homosexuality, and through its connection with narcissism we can get some inkling of the purpose behind the major cultural offensive in favor of homosexuality. The homosexual is the consumer culture’s version of the ideal citizen because he takes all of the strains of narcissism to their logical antiessentialist conclusion.

Yeah, I stopped there.


You're not going to make it.


I'm not going to make what? Make it through a homophobic essay with poorly constructed arguments? You're right.


Excellent, really excellent read, thanks for the pointer.


Ugh, boo hoo. "Autonomous" Universities have become political and a source of left propaganda. Only time they complain about it is when the politics are on the "wrong" side.


Some significant issues in western democracy can be traced back to the 1980's and before the fall of communism. Untill then it was important at least for appearances to show western capitalism and democracy as the best and fairest political systems for all round prosperity.

Reaganism, Thatcherism and neoliberlism of the Friedman kind unleashed a toxic ideology that legitimizes and surrenders all decision making and thinking to markets. It's like a religion and magical thinking. This disproportionately benefits those with economic power as it is intended to, but under the Orwellian use of words like 'freedom' and 'efficiency'.

This concentrated economic power is then used to co-opt dissent by economic means or disarm it to make it meaningless.

Academics along with a free press were a bulwark against unchecked power and provided dissent. Now they are too tied up with administration and securing grants to perform that role, and this is not an accident. The free press similarly have become too intertwined with entrenched interests and government and have been reduced to a mouth piece for propaganda and special interests.


You argument is not in favor of the poor. Given the way taxation works, free healthcare and education provide opportunities for lower incomes that aren't available for private services. When education is free (popular phrasing for government paid), a poor person with no income can get a free education and usually financial support and actually get a degree. If healthcare is free, the burden of the individual is carried by the society. As for 'standard libertarian arguments', you might as well say 'myopic perspective'.


[flagged]


While I agree that some disciplines trying to looks like science got too much funding and that these funds are used for propagating ideology instead of doing proper research[1], saying that administration is run by activists is a pure conspiracy theory. Moreover, freedom of speech became an issue in most universities because of the more global politically correct context, so it is not something the can be addressed only at the academic level.

[1] I'm reading an interesting book written by two French sociologists which advocate for a clean-up of their field precisely because this issue is costing them of a lot of the credibility. "Le danger sociologique" (2017), Bronner G., Géhin É. Presse Universitaire de France.


> the massive administrations that are run by radical left-leaning activists essentially

Name one of these people and provide an example [2 marks]


Account created 7 months ago.... Sigh.


https://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2017/03/02/eight-ten-b...

Yes I know it's just the story not the report. A quick search shows plenty of examples. I'll have a link in a minute.


That's a reprinted press release from the Adam Smith institute. I'm still looking for the name of a specific person who can be deemed to (a) run a university administration (b) be a "radical left-winger", with an example of their behaviour or published works which qualifies them as such.



My thoughts exactly.


I agree with the article but I can only note, once more, that it is from The Guardian, who did run multiple articles in support of no-platforming in universities.

But look who comes crying about freedom of inquiry now, once said "erosion of integrity" is done by right-wing bureaucrats. But the no-platforming happens mostly in the US, while government interferences is happening in the UK, so they will probably get away with their double standard one more time.


Whenever the theme turns a little bit orange on the Guardian, you're reading an opinion, there are lots of opinion columnists at the Guardian and many of them have differing views. If you want a more consistent view from the Guardian, then stay in the news sections (the theme is red for that), this case, the opinion is by a professor at the University of Cambridge, it's not an unbiased report from a journalist.


Guardian have run lots of articles saying that no-platforming is bad, but also telling people that no-platforming isn't really that common.

Many of the so-called no-platforming events either didn't happen, or didn't happen in the way they were reported.


And is the UK government behind the erosion of free speech identified at a large number of institutions who have banned and actively censored ideas on campus? Shall we assume they are helpless in the face of demands from Whitehall?

http://www.spiked-online.com/free-speech-university-rankings


I have a few issues with that link.

Namely that a traffic light system is a huge, huge, HUGE oversimplification of complex issues. While the analysis seems fairly transparent, I don't think many people will actually look into it past the traffic light.

I checked out the uni I went to: apparently the students union got an amber light because of "no tolerance to sexual harassment". How exactly does that violate free speech? The right to free speech unequivocally does not give you the right to harass people in any way. Similarly "Rules and Regulations for the Use of Information and Communications Technology" is an amber for institutions: does that mean all AUPs are in violation of freedom of speech? Most of them come down to "please don't hack our infrastructure or download anything that will make the police come round".

Also when things like "bans on specific ideologies" are very likely to get misconstrued. Banning groups which verbally harass others is likely going to be seen as a ban on free speech, despite the fact that such bans may be warranted.

The whole analysis and ranking system seems biased, and completely garbage to me.

Edit: since I'm an idiot and didn't realise that you could expand the amber/red points on the site, my uni SU's "no tolerance to sexual harassment" was due to them adopting the NUS (National Union of Students) guideline that sexual harassment is defined as ‘any unwanted comments which makes someone uncomfortable’, and the ICT rule was ‘Users must ensure that the content and tone of their email messages cannot be considered offensive.’

Both of these appear reasonable to me. There's some genuine debate to be had over the issue of no-platforming but all this site is doing is furthering their own agenda, which seems to be that they should have the right to insult and harass people however they want. As always, this is relevant here: https://xkcd.com/1357/


>cannot be considered offensive >Both of these appear reasonable to me.

That is the issue. Just because someone considers something offensive does not make it so. With a tiny bit of effort, so many things can be "considered offensive". A generous interpretation would be that a governing body must consider it offensive, but more likely this means the recipient of a message can take offense where none is given.

But far more importantly, students should not be given protection from being offended. Harassment, sure, but offense? That's part of growing up.


>That is the issue. Just because someone considers something offensive does not make it so. With a tiny bit of effort, so many things can be "considered offensive". A generous interpretation would be that a governing body must consider it offensive, but more likely this means the recipient of a message can take offense where none is given.

I agree with the principle in theory. Of course outright banning anything "offensive" without clearly defining what is and is not offensive is very open to interpretation and can be abused. But when it comes to writing rules regarding offensive communication and harassment I think it's better to be over-zealous and treat all incidents on a case by case basis, especially in organisations where they're more concerned with incidents being made public and the organisation getting bad PR.

Also an important point is the "cannot be considered offensive" rule is an IT policy, not a general university one. Every employer I've had has made me sign an acceptable use policy from IT that says (among other things) "don't send offensive emails". It's not that much different. As I said in the original comment, the site is an oversimplification of a complex problem, and generic IT policies shouldn't really be considered anti freedom of speech for various reasons.


> ‘Users must ensure that the content and tone of their email messages cannot be considered offensive.’

This doesn't seem reasonable at all. "Considered offensive" - those are just weasel words. How can I be expected to have a perfect model of other people's minds and the things they would be upset by?


Just replied with a longer argument here

>https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16911880

tldr is that it's an IT policy not a university one, and every single employer whose email server you ever used has exactly the same policy in place. I actually looked up a few more universities and all the times the "no offensive speech" policy was cited it was an IT policy.


> guideline that sexual harassment is defined as ‘any unwanted comments which makes someone uncomfortable’

> Both of these appear reasonable to me.

How is that reasonable?

Essentially it makes sexual harassment entirely subjective.

That is ridiculously open to abuse.


I think you're in agreement. I believe your parent post intended "reasonable" to mean in the sense of "reasonable to be considered an impediment to free speech".


Apparently my old university gets an amber light too because " Sexual Harassment is Never OK".


That particular xkcd gets linked a lot in this debate. I really wonder what happened between when the author drew that comic and when he drew this one: https://www.xkcd.com/137/


I don't see any incompatibility there?

Seems like in 137 he's saying that he doesn't want to sacrifice individuality and creativity for the sake of maintaining a banal existence that doesn't deviate from the norm out of fear. He's accepting the risks that come with making his opinions public, and challenging assumptions that he should just shut up, in part because he has confidence in the validity of his beliefs and a willingness to defend them.

The more recent one is about people who publicize poorly constructed opinions with no consideration to the potential consequences it will create for their interpersonal and community relationships. Those folks are welcome to say "fuck that shit" like the character in 137 and go build their own forums or whatever to spread and defend those ideas. But most of these types would prefer to whine and call themselves victims.


> he doesn't want to sacrifice individuality and creativity for the sake of maintaining a banal existence that doesn't deviate from the norm out of fear

Exactly. Just apply that to the fear of running afoul of draconian speech codes designed to reduce the amount of "offence" people experience.


"Don't be a jerk" doesn't seem draconian to me. The people I see whining about their speech having consequences (ie, Milo) are usually aiming to offend. They aren't running into obscure codes, they're being jerks for fun and profit.


> "Don't be a jerk" doesn't seem draconian to me.

And who gets to decide what is acceptable?

My college had an atheist club that hung up a banner saying "Religion is for the feeble minded" - that's offensive to billions of people.

Can we shut them down and boot them off campus?

My college also had communist clubs with communist slogans - many of my extended family were killed by communists so that's obviously offensive.

Can we shut them down and boot them off campus?

> The people I see whining about their speech having consequences (ie, Milo) are usually aiming to offend.

By the time people like Milo come along hundreds of legitimate speakers have already been silenced - that's how people like Milo realize it's an easy and lucrative market to take advantage of.


That's a bad comparison. Clubs like those, especially at a public college actually ARE protected by the 1st amendment. You can choose not to join, but cannot prevent them from meeting. The only thing the school can do is limit the non-student guests a club brings, and even that power is typically limited to in cases of security concerns, which can often be remedied if the club helps foot the costs for increased security (see: UW Milo visit where counter protestor was shot)

Twitter and Reddit and the like are public platforms that belong to a private entity. So it's private property and the people who own it can curate or be selective if they choose.

All that said, I'm no fan of "no-platforming", but it's not as prominent as you might think, at least on the public college level. I went to a college where random fire and brimstone preachers would stand in front of the library, bang on buckets and call women "whores" as they passed by. Nobody invited them, they just wanted an audience. And though I hated those guys, I understand their right to do that (with a permit) and to say whatever. Likewise, it was my right to laugh in his face, call him an asshole. Because he was being a jerk.


> Clubs like those, especially at a public college actually ARE protected by the 1st amendment.

In UK universities they have no such protection, and similar clubs have been shut down.

My alma mater, University College London, banned the Nietzsche Society: https://thetab.com/2014/06/03/thus-spake-the-su-14611


> That's a bad comparison. Clubs like those, especially at a public college actually

I feel like we have our wires crossed - the parent was talking about university/college policy and not social media.

I'm saying if universities/colleges want to police speech for any offensive content then they need to apply the policy uniformly and ban the atheist and communist clubs.

> but it's not as prominent as you might think, at least on the public college level.

I think the crazy preachers are a bad example - a normal person who just wants to give an interesting talk does not want to put up with screaming protestors. They don't want the stress. They don't have a security detail. Etc.

The people who don't mind are the crazy preachers and the people who get paid for controversy like Milo.

The moderates have already been de-platformed.


Maybe he realised that speech has consequences beyond an employer not hiring him, and decided to take responsibility for those consequences?

And that rather than "watering down" ones thoughts, understanding the implications of language and avoiding unintended ones actually expresses your ideas better?

Or, in short, he grew up.


Define "sexual", define "harassment".


I'm not going to because that's a really fucking stupid argument.


I don't think it is.

I have seen it said before that if you ask a girl out once its fine. If she says no and you continue to do it then its harassment. Except that how a lot of relationships begin. Pretty sure that the story of how Barack Obama got Michelle.

At one end of the spectrum its obvious. At the other end it's not.


Just because some people ended up in a relationship this way doesn't mean the behaviour should be encouraged.

Sure, some people won't mind being asked out repeatedly, or maybe even find it flattering, but some people will find it very uncomfortable, and forcing those people to deal with that just so some people get to enjoy a silly courtship ritual is not really fair.


> but some people will find it very uncomfortable

And are they being reasonable or not?

I know people who find it very uncomfortable to leave their house.

I know people who find it very uncomfortable to talk to someone they don't know.

I personally find any kind of sales and advertising incredibly uncomfortable.

Almost everyone finds it very uncomfortable when they have their views challenged.

Just because something makes some people uncomfortable doesn't make it bad.


What exactly do you think it mean for someone's experience of discomfort to be "unreasonable"? And why do you think that justifies taking actions that we know are likely to cause someone else discomfort?

I can't say I find your examples particularly justifying. I think we should leave agoraphobic introverts alone if that's what they want. I think sales and advertising are obnoxious and society would be better without them. And I think people should be free to explore different views at their own pace, as long as they're not hurting anyone. Or if they are hurting someone, then that discomfort caused by challenging their views is justified, but it's still a bad thing in itself.


> What exactly do you think it mean for someone's experience of discomfort to be "unreasonable"?

Way outside of the norm. I'm not quite sure what you are getting at?

> And why do you think that justifies taking actions that we know are likely to cause someone else discomfort?

1. Is causing discomfort immoral? Sometimes but it can also be a good thing.

2. What makes you think it's likely to cause discomfort? It's a tiny minority who are truly bothered.

The reason guys will ask multiple times is because it works - Millions of happy relationships have started after an initial rejection.

3. Why do you only consider one persons discomfort?

Not being able to find a life partner is incredibly discomforting.

What about the discomfort faced by the many many women who like being chased?


>Way outside of the norm.

>It's a tiny minority who are truly bothered.

I don't think women feeling harassed by men's advances is remotely "outside the norm", or a "tiny minority". It's very common, which is exactly the problem.

>What about the discomfort faced by the many many women who like being chased?

If people like this kind of courtship, they should be willing to communicate that, rather than making it impossible for anyone to say "no" just so they can get their kicks. If there's no safeword for this "chasing" it shouldn't be considered consensual.


> I don't think women feeling harassed by men's advances is remotely "outside the norm", or a "tiny minority". It's very common, which is exactly the problem.

By college students on campus?

That's not at all the impression I get from my daughter or her friends who finished college recently.

Her opinion is the men are way too timid.

> If people like this kind of courtship, they should be willing to communicate that

Why? Why isn't it up to the minority of people who have a problem to communicate clearly?

> impossible for anyone to say "no" just so they can get their kicks.

It doesn't make it impossible to say no. What are you talking about?

What it means is a women might have to say no a couple of times over time or make it clear they have no interest at all.

I've asked a friend to meet up for coffee 3x this fortnight and he has said no each time. Should I never ask him again to get coffee?

If I keep asking him does that mean he can't say no?


> I'm not going to because that's a really fucking stupid argument.

Your comment honestly does make me feel uncomfortable.

Why is it ok on hn to make unwelcome and uncomfortable comments but not in a university setting?

Can we label you a harasser?


Your tone feels threatening. I hope you don't bring that attitude to the campus...


If you've got an actual argument to make then please make it, I really don't have the time or patience for no-effort bait comments like

>Define "sexual", define "harassment".


My argument is the same as what's described in this comment: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16912248


Yes, the UK government is behind the erosion of free speech on campus.

The Counter Terrorism and Security Act of 2015 imposes a statutory duty on universities to have a "due regard to the need to prevent individuals from being drawn into terrorism". This means that institutions now have a statutory duty to participate in the government's Prevent strategy. This means UK universities have a legal obligation to narc on students who are too Muslim.

As a whole, universities have tried to finesse this attack on free expression this by defining violent radicalism as a signal of mental illness and telling us lecturers that we should feel obliged to refer struggling students to mental health services. Ultimately, though, when the intent and design of the rules is fundamentally bigoted, there is only so far that technical compliance can mitigate that.


what is a preferable way to handle what you call "violent radicalism"? If the rule is only targeted at those who are drawn into beliefs that would see those individuals commit violent acts, what makes reporting them bigoted compared to reporting other violent groups?


> drawn into beliefs that would see those individuals commit violent acts

That potentially covers any and all of homophobia, sexism, support for Rangers FC, signing up for the Army, animal rights, etc.

The actual guidance says

> vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs

and calls out Islamic fundamentalism and white supremacism. That raises the question, should the BBC's recent broadcast of the "Rivers of Blood" speech have been referred to Prevent for white supremacism?

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/...


> That potentially covers any and all of homophobia, sexism, support for Rangers FC, signing up for the Army, animal rights, etc.

individuals wanting to commit violent acts can arguably belong to any set of beliefs, it's the extent of their beliefs and the specific belief that violence is needed to implement their vision that is the problem being discussed (imo).

I think Islamic fundamentalism and white supremacism are specifically called out because they are the most visible current threats. In case you were being serious, the BBC broadcast clearly falls under journalistic protection. An individual recreating the speech would likely be tried for hate speech.


Page 15: animal rights extremism is covered.

That feels reasonable so long as it's focussed on extremists: we had a spate of "fire bombing" incendiary attacks on department stores in the 1980s; and one group dug up a human corpse.


Here's some information about CHANNEL / PREVENT: http://www.teescpp.org.uk/prevent-channel-referral-process

People who are referred are assessed, and most appropriate help should be provided. For some people this will be mental health services. For others it might be befriending services, or access to non-radicalising social groups.

People have mentioned external speakers. Here's the guidance for Higher Education in England and Wales.

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/...

---begin 6. We would expect RHEBs to be delivering in the following areas.

External Speakers and Events

7. In order to comply with the duty all RHEBs should have policies and procedures in place for the management of events on campus and use of all RHEB premises. The policies should apply to all staff, students and visitors and clearly set out what is required for any event to proceed.

8. The RHEB clearly needs to balance its legal duties in terms of both ensuring freedom of speech and academic freedom, and also protecting student and staff welfare. Although it predates this legislation, Universities UK produced guidance in 2013 to support institutions to make decisions about hosting events and have the proper safeguards in place: http://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/highereducation/Pages/Extern...

---end

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/...


> who are too Muslim.

Do you realise that you're saying devout Muslims are terrorists? That may not be what you intended. Obviously prevent is not about people who are "too muslim", but about people who are drawn to violence for political or religious means.

This includes islamic extremists, but also includes some animal rights activists or far right extremists.


Could you please explain your Whitehall (prsumably Civil Service) rhetorical question? I don't follow, and I suspect it's a little brief for others also.


You mean the ranking that ignores all religious and private institutions with much higher restrictions?


Spiked online is not a reputable news source, it's a professional troll organisation. They're currently libertarian but are the successor paper to "Living Marxism".




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