As a new CSJ report on apprenticeships shows, apprenticeships change lives. Combining a real job with training, apprentices earn while they learn.
They span a huge range of sectors – not just the important traditional heartlands of engineering and manufacturing, but finance, software design and the green economy, too.
The returns are extraordinary for all involved: apprentices go on to have excellent employment prospects, businesses benefit from new expertise, and every £1 invested in level three apprenticeships brings a £28 return to the economy. Apprenticeships are about as close to a win-win as it gets.
I was over the moon when the Prime Minister recently expressed his support for an apprenticeship guarantee – something I have been campaigning for over many years. An ambitious interpretation is now needed: we should work towards being able to guarantee that any young person who wants an apprenticeship, and who has the right skills and qualifications to do one, can make it happen.
Of course, this will not be possible from day one, but I’d like to highlight a number of areas that I think need the most attention.
First, small businesses must be supported to take on apprentices. The Chancellor took an historic and brave decision to protect businesses, particularly smaller ones, during lockdown. Now we can bring those businesses together with the extraordinary talent of our young people to develop new growth opportunities.
There really is potential here: tens of thousands of small businesses want to set up apprenticeships but cannot afford the training costs associated with this. We don’t need to stimulate demand here – it already exists. We just need to set it free, and the Government has the power to make this happen by supporting their training costs.
Second, ministers should use the levy as a strategic tool to close the skills deficit. This means refocusing the levy pot so that it primarily is used on apprenticeships for 16 to 24-year-olds and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Third, the public sector should set a stronger example. Apprentices in the NHS, and in other front-line services, did an incredible job during the pandemic. Building on this fine legacy starts with setting a much higher public sector apprenticeship target than the existing 2.3 percent. Public sector recruiters also have to be innovative in how they meet emerging needs by taking on apprentices, and we must hold them to account.
Moreover, public procurement contracts with big companies should be conditional on the number of apprentices they employ, particularly as we start to roll out the exciting flurry of new infrastructure projects that have been announced.
Fourth, we need more degree apprenticeships – my two favourite words in the English language. There are tough times ahead for universities, as there are for other businesses and education institutions. But there is also no better time to embrace a change that has been needed for some time. As practically-focused programmes (like the University of Essex’s collaboration with Edge Hotel School) show, the best graduates for industry are those who have fused theory with practice.
Over the next decade, universities should work towards a target of 50 percent of their students undertaking degree-level apprenticeships. A new round of the Degree Apprenticeship Development Fund would create more programmes like these.
But we must also make sure people know about apprenticeships and for this to happen, a more ambitious approach to careers advice is needed: proper enforcement of the Baker Clause, a UCAS-style system for Further Education, Skills and Apprenticeships, and more detailed destinations data.
Some will say that it won’t be possible to realise my ambition. It is, of course, easier to point out the obstacles that lie in our path than it is to remove them. But as Sir Nicholas Winton once said: “If it’s not impossible, there must be a way to do it.”
Ultimately, there is nothing inevitable about our current approach; we crafted it and, with the right will, ambition and imagination, we can easily choose to rebuild it. As the furlough scheme showed, we are perfectly capable of exercising all three. Apprenticeships should be placed where they belong – right at the core of our approach to learning and training. There are few better ways to climb the ladder of opportunity.
Moving from high school into the realm of higher education can be intimidating. There’s the lifestyle change away from parents and guardians, an increased workload from harder courses and lots of tough decisions to make at every turn. If your child is transitioning into higher education this year, here’s how to help them along the emotional journey—no matter what chapter they’re in—and take care of yourself in the process too.
Transition into the first year of college is easily the biggest adjustment a student can make. Aside from moving away from home (sometimes nearby or far, far away), meeting new friends and choosing an educational pathway, there are dozens of emotional scenarios that students should be aware of and learn to adapt to. Here are some of the primary emotions students can expect to feel, situations where they might encounter them and how they can react to feeling them in healthy ways.
Fear or Anxiety
It’s normal for young adults to feel a sense of fear or anxiety. These emotions can show up in physical, mental and behavioral ways. If your child is showing any symptoms of fear or anxiety, it’s best to talk to them about how to approach them. Their strategies could be as simple as calling home when they need to, or finding a few quiet moments to themselves. If anxiety persists over time, students should seek out additional help from mental health professionals on or off campus.
Sadness or Loneliness
When the initial excitement of welcoming activities wears off, students may still feel a sense of sadness when missing home or their life before college. Sadness should always be addressed and released. Loneliness, on the other hand, is also very common for first-year students. Students may feel as if they’re not making friends or socializing as much as they thought they would. One of the best ways to combat loneliness is to encourage your child to get involved in extracurricular activities.
Stress or a Sense of Being Overwhelmed
College-level courses are more difficult than those in high school, and one of the toughest parts of the university lifestyle is learning to balance it all. If your child is feeling overwhelmed or stressed out, it’s best to have them reach out for help, that way they can see if there are any parts of their schedule that should be adjusted, or any additional resources that would be helpful to them.
Remember, college is designed for students to have to approach emotional and educational situations that will be challenging time and time again. The staff and faculty members are there to help. Encourage your child to reach out to faculty members who they feel connected with in their classes, as well as on-campus mental health counselors, academic advisers and extracurricular leaders. They are not alone, and there is certainly someone who is willing to help them.
3 Nonessential Items Your College Student Needs
Whether they have a noisy roommate or the table next to them at the library doesn’t understand the no-talking rule, noise-canceling headphones are key to getting assignments done on time with no distractions.
Folding Drying Rack
On-campus washers and dryers tend to not be up to par to your at-home machines. With a folding drying rack, they’ll avoid the inevitable shrinking of their favorite shirt and keep everything organized in their own room too.
Come late-night trips to the library or evenings out, they’ll be thankful for a small, portable charger that gives their phone battery life once again.
The second year of college is unique in its own way and offers its own set of academic and emotional challenges for many students. Aside from the initial, and at times recurring, emotions of the first year, the second year comes with an increased responsibility in classes and extracurricular participation, as well as tough decisions on where or how to live (with or without roommates, locations on or off campus and so on), what major to choose, what internships to apply for and what the next three years will look like for a student’s academic journey.
To transition into the second year of college, students should address a few big questions.
Are they happy where they are and in what they’re studying?
If a student is feeling particularly out of sync with a college experience, there could be another school that would better suit their needs. Students should take time to recognize what they love and don’t love about their chosen school and explore other options if needed.
If the student is not happy with what they’re studying, try something else. Students are able to look into other programs at any time, but should be aware of the repercussions beforehand of adjusting their course of study, such as potentially having to take summer classes, additional semesters or prerequisite courses. The best courses of action include finding new programs and discussing with an adviser, or talking with students who are in the field of interest
Is the student ready for the responsibility of an internship or job?
Depending on the field of study, an internship may be a mandatory requirement for a student during a certain year of school. During sophomore year, students need to be looking into these opportunities, and making connections through clubs and professional organizations. To make the most of their research, they should also identify what professional settings they think would be best for them. Do they see themselves as a more independent, quiet worker or an energetic, motivated go-getter? There are many options to choose from, but addressing their own personality traits and experience will help students approach this journey with confidence.
Is the student learning how to cope with emotions through healthy behaviors?
Your student might be coping with new challenges with alcohol, drug usage or harmful emotional reactions toward themselves or others. All students will react differently to peer pressure, exposure to illegal substances and navigating emotional hardships. Be honest with your child if you’re concerned, and reach out for help from on- and off-campus professionals.
OK, so your child is halfway done with their college career. But what does that really mean? A student’s third year will most likely be the most academically challenging time in the student’s college career, which means this is the year to buckle down and focus, both on their academic course load and also on what their future career will look like.
Let’s Talk Academics
Come junior year, students tend to be done with their basic course requirements—think science, math, economics, etc.—meaning their schedules will primarily consist of major-requirement classes. This means your student is really diving deep into whatever they have found to be the most interesting, whether it’s English or computer science, and these classes are really going to push your student to go the extra mile, stand out and excel. It’s important for students to embrace those study habits and time management skills they learned and practiced in the first two years of school. Also, be sure to check in with your student and ensure they’ve met with their college counselor about credits, keeping them on track to graduate on time.
Consider the Importance of Internships
Junior year is also the time where most students consider landing an internship in the career field they are most interested in. The easiest place to start looking is the on-campus career services office, where there are dozens of professionals who can help students navigate the job market, as well as advise them on the likelihood of landing their chosen job. Plus, the career services office staff members are equipped to teach skills on how to properly write a resume and cover letter, and also lead lessons on how to succeed during an upcoming interview. Once a student has the basics down, it’s easy to turn to online resources like LinkedIn, Media Bistro, Glassdoor and more when job hunting.
Take on Leadership Roles
By the end of junior year, students may also be considering getting even more involved in the clubs, organizations and sports teams they are already a part of. Going for and landing a leadership role in these categories is definitely worth consideration, as leadership roles make every young adult stand out on resumes and cover letters, and also excel in the workforce in general.
Congratulations, your child has made it to the final year of their college career! This is a big deal. And, while come the end of the year it will be time to celebrate, the homestretch isn’t all fun and games, as this year is a period of high anxiety and stress for many scholars who fear the future. Until this final year, everything in your student’s life has followed a predetermined path and been a series of checking boxes, yet now it’s time for them to take the reins and figure out what comes next. Graduate school? A new job? A year off traveling the world? Here are some tips to make figuring it all out just a little bit easier.
Get Comfortable with the Idea of Change
Yes, change is scary. But as students enter the “real world,” it’s important to understand that the first thing they jump into, whether it’s a job or a track toward a graduate degree, will probably not be their last. In fact, according to 2017 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people hold an average of 11.7 jobs between the ages of 18 and 48, many of which vary in subject from the college degree they initially pursued. The transition out of college is just the first of many, and accepting that will be better for all young adults in the long run.
According to Purdue Global, 45% of college students say they experience “more-than-average stress” every year at university. And, with high levels of stress come some pretty dangerous effects, including upset stomach, exhaustion and even depression, causing many to turn to unhealthy outlets as cures, like alcohol, tobacco or drugs. A few key activities that ensure your kid will stay calm and happy are exercising, taking on a hobby to clear their head when it feels foggy and overwhelmed and also leaning on a support system. The latter is extremely important, as the people they surround themselves with can be there for them in even the toughest times.
Keep Mentorship in Mind
Upon graduation, networking is an essential part of everyday life. And, those networks start forming while on campus thanks to mentors—the adult teachers or professionals who have made a strong impact on your child during their college career. These are the people your student feels most comfortable turning to for advice. It’s important that this year, your student identifies who those people are and nurtures those connections, as they can lead to future opportunities in the job market, graduate school or even overseas opportunities.
Don’t Put Social Life on the Back Burner
As a senior, it’s essential to not forget to have fun and put yourself first! For many students, the last year of college is one of the final moments they’ll be in walking distance to some of their closest friends, so it’s important to savor that. Remind your child that while post-graduate life is important, it’s key to live in the present moment and soak it all in while it’s happening in front of them.
By the Numbers
3.7 million students graduated from high school in 2019, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
$11,260 – The average cost of a year of college tuition at an in-state public school, according to USA Today
$27,120 – The average cost of a year of college tuition at an out-of- state public school, according to USA Today
$41,426 – The average cost of a year of college tuition at a private school, according to USA Today
$18,470 – The average amount of federal student aid per full-time student, according to College Board
Over their lifetimes, college graduates are estimated to make more than $1 million more than their non-graduate or high school graduate peers, according to a study conducted by Georgetown University.
$17,500 – The median yearly income gap of college graduates and their high school graduate counterparts.
The Moray MP has been returned unopposed to succeed Jackson Carlaw, who stepped down last week. His is expected to seek a seat in the Scottish Parliament at next year’s devolved elections, until which time Ruth Davidson will deputise for him at First Minister’s Questions.
He has already given an indication of his priorities, promising a ‘jobs plan’ within 30 days of taking up his new position. Ross has also pledged to “strip powers from Holyrood” and pass them to “regions, cities, and towns”, an interesting echo of the Welsh Conservatives’ changing rhetoric on devolution.
Meanwhile opponents are suggesting that he and Davidson ‘plotted’ to oust Carlaw, pointing to a ‘secret’ meeting between the two of them in his constituency days before the latter’s resignation. Davidson insists Ross only asked her to join his team after he had announced his decision to run.
The Scottish Government is facing a furious backlash over exam results, with opponents suggesting that John Swinney, the Education Secretary, should have his career on the line.
With Covid-19 rendering exams unsafe, teachers were instead asked to submit predicted grades for their pupils. But the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) believed a lot of the grades to be over-estimates, and ended up downgrading results in 124,000 cases.
Controversially, the SQA measured the predictions against the past performance of the area in question – meaning that bright pupils in poorly performing schools risked being effectively assessed on their postcode, and resulting in sharper reductions in disadvantaged areas.
For her part, Nicola Sturgeon has said that teachers’ assessments were “not credible” – and as Tom Harris has pointed out, she may have a point. But whilst statistical moderation may be fair in aggregate, it doesn’t feel like it when you’re on the receiving end.
A “deluge of appeals” is anticipated – and there are already warnings that even this stopgap might not be available if the same thing happens in England and Wales. The Scottish Government has also been accused of imposing a ‘whack-a-mole’ lockdown on Aberdeen in part to distract from the row.
The current and former leaders of the SNP are set for a furious clash which, Alex Massie argues, yet provide a get-out clause for the Union ahead of next year’s Holyrood elections.
Alex Salmond has reportedly compiled a cache of documents evidencing a ‘conspiracy’ against him by the current Nationalist leadership, according to the Times. This comes as Sturgeon, his successor and one-time close ally, prepares to testify under oath about her administration’s botched investigation into allegations against him.
Salmond’s supporters are already angry that the Scottish Government has missed a deadline for handing over its own documents to the inquiry, as we mentioned last week. And the Herald reports that it has also confirmed that Sturgeon had a meeting with Salmond which she had not previously declared to MSPs.
For their part the SNP changed the party’s rules to make it effectively impossible for her to contest Edinburgh Central at Holyrood next year, clearing the way for Sturgeon ally Angus Robertson – not the only controversy over Nationalist selections this week.
Op-eds and Reports:
Mystery and suspicion on one question: why did Arlene Foster do it? – Sam McBride, News Letter
Is the end for Arlene Foster? – Owen Polley, The Article
Hume’s legitimisation of Sinn Fein was an appalling misjudgement – Ruth Dudley Edwards, Website
Embracing the compromises of political giants – Tom McTague, The Atlantic
London must act to protect the Union, and fast – Ben Lowry, News Letter
The mirage of progressive Scotland – David Jamieson, Tribune
Presentation is key to beating the SNP – Adam Tomkins MSP, The Scotsman
Consensus might be in vanishingly short supply regarding the right response to the Coronavirus pandemic. But giving priority to getting the schools fully reopened next month does have general approval. Professor Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer, is a lockdown hawk – arguing we have “probably reached near the limit or the limits” of opening up society. But rather than suggesting that the schools should remain largely empty he suggests it is a matter of trade-offs. Professor Graham Medley, another Government advisor, is thinking along the same lines. Medley says:
“It might come down to a question of which do you trade-off against each other, and then that’s a matter of prioritising. Do we think pubs are more important than schools?”
Daniel Hannan feels “it is a question, not just of proportionality – children do not, in normal circumstances, experience or pass on Covid symptoms – but of equity.” He writes:
“Nothing has shocked me so much over the past four months as the gap between ambitious and unambitious schools. Good state schools, and most private schools, ran something close to a full timetable, with morning assemblies, online classes, music lessons, even sports days (mediated through apps that record speed and distance). Bad ones sent out desultory worksheets and, in some cases, wouldn’t mark them.
“A survey by the Children’s Commissioner found that half of teenagers, and nearly 60 per cent of under-12s, got no online teaching at all last term. The go-to excuse of failing schools – lack of resources – doesn’t work here. The playing fields of Eton may be expansive and expensive but, during the lockdown, they were used only by the children of key workers whom the school had taken in. Teaching online is cheap: it is a question of commitment, not money. Yes, a few kids might lack access to screens; but that is an argument for offering extra support, not for refusing online lessons to everyone else.”
The message from the Government on school reopenings has been robust. While other measures to restore normal life have been subject to caveats, the schools one has been unequivocal. The implication is that even if we have discouraging statistics – or predictions such as the Lancet study suggesting a “second wave” – then the response will be to look for alternatives to keeping the nation’s children stuck at home.
The hitch is that the teaching unions are just are emphatic about wanting schools to be closed. The National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers (the NASUWT) is anxious not to be regarded as any less militant that the National Education Union (the NEU). Like all militants, they are well versed in making impossible demands, whilst going through the pretence of following reasonable procedure. Thus, whatever precautions are put in place and however much the threat of Coronavirus recedes, they will come up with a declaration that returning to work would put the safety of their members at risk. The risk assessment will be challenged as deficient – regardless of how meticulous it might be. The timing of these objections will be as late as possible to make it harder for them to be resolved. In the awkward event that a demand they thought was impossible is met, they will quickly think of a new one.
One great prize for the unions would be to keep the schools closed for long enough to prevent SATS – the Statutory Assessment Tests – and the Progress 8 tests taking place. These are important accountability measures for primary and secondary schools – which show if the children are actually learning anything.
What will help the unions is that the practicality of having a school functioning is the necessity of having a large majority of teachers back at work. The classes need to be covered through the school day. If only half the teachers are prepared to turn up, then it probably won’t be viable for the school to open. The situation might be eased by some parents refusing to send their children back to school. But this could hardly be counted on. There is also the restriction on moving pupils from one “bubble” to another. In any case, if many parents are uneasy about schools functioning again, this can only be helpful to the unions and detrimental to the Government so far as winning over public opinion is concerned.
Suppose if the Government decided to take inspiration from how Ronald Reagan responded to a strike from air traffic controllers in 1981? He told the strikers that if they did not return to work within 48 hours, they would lose their jobs and might not be re-hired. There was some temporary disruption but the resulting control system emerged safer and more efficient.
In the context, a bold response would be justified. Other workers (including just about all others in the public sector) who are required by their employer to return to their workplace must do so – unless they can establish to the satisfaction of some official entity, such as the Health and Safety Executive, that entering such premises would be a genuine hazard. By not coming in to work, without a legally valid reason for remaining absent, they would have foreited their job.
For teachers, though, the idea of being sacked seems pretty farfetched. Furthermore, they are not directly employed by central Government – but by academy trusts or local authorities. However, it would be possible for the Government to say to the school authorities that they are being funded to provide education. If they are unwilling or unable to find enough teachers willing to carry this out, then their funding will cease. The problem with this nuclear option is that to carry out the threat could involve closing schools – with the disruption lasting much longer.
So one can see how the teaching unions might feel they are in a pretty strong position. But they do risk overplaying their hands. Most teachers did enter the profession with the motivation of teaching. They do actually develop a concern for their pupils to learn. It would be interesting to see some polling or focus groups from teachers but I suspect that if unions are too brazen in their intransigence they will alienate their members. Time will also increase the number of parents who wish schools to be up and running. Primary pupils in England in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 went back at the start of June – and each week the number of pupils being sent in rose significantly. Strike action would hardly be noticed if a school is empty anyway.
Even if the unions “win” – which I suppose would mean many schools staying closed for weeks with the teachers on full pay and facing no sanction but perhaps shuffling back into the classrooms at some stage in the New Year – that might be dangerous for them. What if some parents mount a strike of their own? They might withdraw their child from school completely and opt for home schooling through to A-Levels. This would cut the finance to schools – who are paid on a per pupil basis. Clusters of parents might hire private tutors to teach ten or 12 children at a time. What if such informal arrangements start next month, intending to be temporary, and then turn out to work rather better than regular schooling? The added attraction for those annoyed by schools pushing left-wing indoctrination would be obvious.
True, most parents would probably not resort to such drastic action. But they might still feel considerable dismay. A YouGov poll yesterday showed a big majority favouring full reopening after the summer holidays, “as things currently stand”. Imagine the exasperation if there is long delay with apparent justification? The Government would be likely to respond with legal changes that diminish the power of the teaching unions – with heads given greater authority to hire and fire and negotiate pay and conditions on an individual basis.
The teaching unions may win the battle this autumn. But then lose the war – once long overdue action is taken to break their stranglehold.
Eric Kaufmann is Senior Fellow, Policy Exchange and Professor of Politics, Birkbeck College, University of London.
Conservatives need to put as much emphasis on the drift of the culture as they traditionally have on questions of economics and foreign policy. If not, it is uncertain whether a culture of open debate, tolerant of conservative speech, can survive.
Universities are where many cultural trends begin. Our recent Policy Exchange report, Academic Freedom in the UK: Protecting Viewpoint Diversity, shows the scale of the challenge that those committed to free exchange face. This is not just about newsworthy events such as the no-platforming of Amber Rudd from Oxford or dismissal of Jordan Peterson from Cambridge. Beneath the surface lies a far more pervasive threat to academic freedom: political discrimination, leading to self-censorship.
Our report draws on the largest randomly-selected survey of British academics to date. It finds that just nine percent identify as right-wing, falling to seven percent among currently active scholars in the social sciences and humanities. This is largely caused by the relationship between advanced education and left-wing views, but hostility to conservatives may be a contributing factor.
Among right-wing scholars, one in three report that they have self-censored their views in research and teaching “for fear of consequences to [their] career”, three times the reported rate for centre-left academics. Two in three academics would be uncomfortable or uncertain about sitting next to a gender-critical scholar at lunch. And just three in 10 academics in the social sciences and humanities – of which 80 per cent are Remainers – say a Leaver would be comfortable expressing their Brexit view to a colleague.
These perceptions are grounded in an accurate appraisal of the costs of speaking freely: a third of academics would discriminate against a Leaver in a job application, and an even larger share would mark down a right-leaning grant proposal. Eight in 10 academics aren’t Leavers, Tory voters or gender-critical feminists, the main groups facing discrimination. This means that political discrimination, and the loss of freedom that goes with it, is invisible to most academics.
However, for the minority who are affected, these threats are all too real. The combination of political discrimination and the ripple effects of dismissal campaigns raise threat perceptions, creating a “chilling effect” that shuts down academic freedom.
Political discrimination and dismissal campaigns are unjust and illiberal, but they also strike at the heart of the academic enterprise: the quest for truth. Difficult questions aren’t asked, orthodoxies remain unchallenged, and key social divides – such as those between Leavers and Remainers – cannot be discussed to reach a higher understanding and accommodation.
There is also a mistaken view that threats to freedom stem from the state, and that Government intervention always reduces freedom. This may be true in Erdogan’s Turkey or Xi’s China, but as John Stuart Mill remarked, peer pressure can result in an equally crushing “despotism of custom”.
In such cases, especially where a prevailing orthodoxy is weaponised by radical pressure groups exerting power over university policy, Government has an important role in stepping in to protect individuals’ freedom. We have seen this before with the Government-ordered de-segregation of Southern American universities in the early 1960s and interventions into British schools where religious fundamentalism has taken root.
Threats also come from the right, whether from organisations that would report and shame leftist academics or from those who seek to chill controversial left-wing perspectives on Middle East politics.
We recommend that the Government table an Academic Freedom Bill, creating the new position of Director of Academic Freedom on the Office for Students, to proactively ensure that universities are respecting existing law. This will ensure due process for the accused and a route to appeal for those who believe their academic freedom has been infringed.
We also call upon the Government to provide guidance on the precise threshold at which free speech and academic freedom may be superseded by harm claims. Finally, we recommend that university administrators should have a duty to remain politically-neutral in their official communications to staff.
This is not just a tempest in the academic teapot. Nearly all graduate-dominated professions and organisations lean left and Remain, and where people’s views are manifest in work and conversation, this may produce a much wider problem of political discrimination and self-censorship. The recent letter in Harper’s magazine signed by 150 leading writers, including figures such as JK Rowling and Noam Chomsky, shows that the problem is not confined to universities.
The report highlights problems, but also has some bright spots. Just 10-20 per cent of academics support campaigns to have controversial scholars fired. Using a concealed method, we found that two-thirds of academics, including six in 10 leftists, wouldn’t discriminate against a Leaver. There is a silent majority of decent academics who support academic freedom.
Even so, while few professors and lecturers wish to cancel dissenters, few would actively oppose such campaigns, permitting an illiberal minority to exercise influence far beyond their numbers. Government action helps to signal that this will not be tolerated, strengthening the hand of university administrators in resisting pressure from radical staff, students and outside activists.
The growing challenge from a “woke” ideology that values emotional safety over academic freedom is gaining institutional traction in academia and beyond. Thus far, resistance has largely taken place among liberals and conservatives in the media and online.
In order to turn the tide, however, Government, backed by the courts, needs to step in to ensure that universities and other institutions are upholding the law in their daily operations. As Cass Sunstein, a legal scholar, notes, Government action can change social norms by signalling what the democratic majority of citizens approve of.
Smoking bans and seatbelt restrictions started with law, but led to norm change. Likewise, putting an end to mob-driven dismissal and political discrimination can help establish new norms in institutions like universities which obviate the need for close enforcement.
Alexander Woolf is a PhD researcher in political economy and a former parliamentary assistant.
During my years as an undergraduate politics student, I gradually learnt how writing assignments from a free market perspective was like asking to be failed. By my final year, I acquiesced to writing through a socialist lens and I received high Firsts every time.
The fact that I had to pretend to be somebody else in order to succeed frustrated me and violated every belief I had about individuality and meritocracy. At that moment, I decided that my career goal would be to enter academia and teach political science objectively, helping students to understand not just the few flaws of capitalism but also the many benefits. Like today’s political philosophers and political economists, I would continue to teach Marx, but I would also teach Hayek, Mises, Smith and Rothbard. After all, what is education when it is only half-taught?
After finishing my degree and my Masters, and gaining a few years’ experience of working in Parliament, I was accepted on to a PhD course, the final step towards entering the academic world. Finding a British university as a Conservative, libertarian, or classical liberal is no easy feat. I was told by every like-minded scholar I encountered to apply for King’s College in London or cross the Atlantic to attend George Mason University in Virginia. Anywhere else was a waste of my time.
This seemed strange to me. My views about the economy are mainstream among economists and businesses, who champion a system of limited government involvement. My views about wider issues are also shared by the majority of British voters, who have elected Conservative governments for the last decade – and even delivered an unexpected Brexit result. However, I was told that people like me are unwelcome in the vast majority of political science departments in this country.
Despite being driven for so many years to help correct the ideological bias in our universities, I still hadn’t fully grasped the gravity of this problem. As soon as I started my PhD, I grabbed the first opportunity to teach by becoming a seminar tutor. I was given classes in a module called “The Politics of Global Capitalism”. Despite the objective title of this class, however, I soon learnt that the lecturer in charge of the module is a proud Marxist. In our introductory meeting, the lecturer joked how he hoped the students would “throw their iPhones out the window and raise the red flag” by the end of the semester.
In hindsight, I should have recognised the red flag that was raised by his ideological comments and dropped the class, but this just made me more determined. And since Tory students are highly unlikely to secure funding from the ESRC funding council, I frankly needed the money.
I was pleasantly surprised during my months of teaching subjects how mature, rational and open-minded the students can be. However, my Marxist class had two self-confessed communist students who were problematic, to say the least. Other students would confide in me that they felt uncomfortable getting involved in discussions because these students would shout people down, scoff and laugh at them, or call them stupid.
During one particular rant about how “we” should raid businesses and seize their profits, before kicking Jeff Bezos out of the country (for what reason, I’m still unsure), I decided to probe with some intellectual questions. What signals would it send to other businesses? What would happen to our economy when we’re seen as a volatile place to invest? I received no response.
Within one week, I was informed that two students had complained about me for being biased, and since the lecturer had let me teach on the assumption that I was also a socialist, I was advised to drop the class. As with the 2011 riots and the militant tactics of Momentum, the theme is clear: when socialists inevitably lose an intellectual or political debate, they turn nasty.
However, two 18-year olds aren’t the problem here; the responsibility lays with our educational institutions. Students learn what they are taught, and if they are only taught by socialists, then we can’t be surprised when they refuse to tolerate a conservative teacher.
Universities were founded as institutions for creating new ideas and spreading knowledge, but our social science faculties peddle propaganda and incite young people with their own prejudices. My university department, for example, has a research centre dedicated to furthering “public understanding of politics”, an important and admirable task. The fact that this centre is named after a socialist, however, raises serious questions about whose understanding is being publicised.
Approaching the final year of my PhD, my desire to teach has evaporated and I have turned down offers to tutor again. I came to realise that the lack of “people like me” in academia stems from the fact those people don’t want to work in the modern-day university; ones that pride themselves as being “safe spaces”, but safe spaces for whom, when evil, climate-destroying Tories are not welcome? Why would anybody subject themselves to this kind of work environment?
There is cause for conservatives to be concerned about the future of voting in this country. Yes, it’s a blessing that a centre-left Keir Starmer is Britain’s current worst-case scenario, considering his predecessor. However, we cannot forget the perplexing irony that tech-savvy millennials were captured so easily by Corbyn’s 1970s solutions to modern world problems.
The next generation of voters won’t know how socialism worked out in Russia, China, North Korea, Venezuela, or Cuba. They won’t understand that government bureaucrats can’t design a smartphone to rival the iPhone. They won’t realise that arbitrarily punishing businesses might mean an end to the next-day deliveries of their favourite products, forty-minute deliveries of their favourite restaurant food, or instant streaming of their favourite TV shows.
Economic knowledge is important in an advanced economy, and this knowledge needs to be based on facts rather than myths or ideological hyperbole. If we want to ensure that the next Jeremy Corbyn suffers the same fate as the last, it is vital that we ask questions of our schools, colleges, and universities about the accuracy and objectivity of their lessons and lectures on issues of citizenship. Opponents will say that this threatens independent science, but what I have seen both as a politics student and teacher is far from science.
Linden Kemkaran is a writer, broadcaster and was the Conservative candidate for Bradford East in 2019.
In just three short weeks, a group of parents and teachers from Kent has achieved what most schools struggled to do in four months of lockdown: create from scratch, a free, daily, online, live, fully interactive tuition service for children aged six to 16, accessible via laptop, phone or tablet.
It’s not designed to get children ahead, its purpose is simply to plug the gaps in the core subjects and go over work that our children would have been doing, had they been at school.
Our aim is to use the next five weeks to get them ready and confident for September. It’s called the pop-up Invicta Summer Academy and we’ve tried our darndest to reach those children who need it the most. On our first day, Monday of this week, we educated 1199 children and on day two, 1250 joined our live lessons.
We did it without any help from government, local or national, and we built everything from scratch including our website and social media presence.
During the 21-day planning phase we’ve been meeting regularly via WhatsApp and Zoom while simultaneously working our day jobs either full or part-time, and juggling childcare; some of the team have used up precious annual leave. The level of hard graft and commitment from the founders and team members has been nothing short of extraordinary.
We raised funds, recruited a team of volunteers that included Zoom and tech experts, project managers, barristers, teachers, journalists and community champions, and set about organising timetables, and writing press releases.
We began with a simple idea and now, at the start of the first week of live lessons, we are totally over-subscribed – our scheduled 20,000 spaces went within days of our booking page going live – and are turning away desperate parents on a daily, sometimes hourly basis.
Wanting to educate hearts as well as minds, we are also running a weekly Wednesday “aim high” live showcase session featuring stars such as Lizzy Yarnold, the double Olympic champion, and, Mark Sargeant, the Michelin-starred chef, to encourage kids to ask questions and never give up on their dreams.
Even after extending our lesson capacity to 25,000, 600 parents are currently on our Zoom waiting list. The fact that a very ordinary, if hardworking, bunch of local people has pulled this off from a standing start, begs the question, why wasn’t this level of interactivity and learning happening anyway?
It all started in mid-June with a simple conversation over a socially-distanced cuppa in my friend Anna Firth’s garden. She told me how every weekday morning during lockdown, her privately-educated son had been up, dressed and at his desk at 8.20am for registration, followed by Zoom assembly, and a stringent timetable of live, interactive lessons in all his key subjects.
My jaw dropped as she described how his PE teachers even held competitive sports sessions against other schools using Zoom. Anna had naturally assumed, until she observed my gaping mouth, that all other children had been doing much the same.
I then saw on Facebook an end-of-term post from a teacher friend of mine, about how her fee-paying school had successfully completed its final Zoom lesson of a full timetable including end of term exams, and a parents’ evening, and how teachers and students alike were now anticipating a well-earned rest over the holidays.
All this was worlds apart from the lockdown experience of my grammar school daughter, and many of her state-educated peers, almost all of whom had been without a rigorous daily school structure and had had little or no live interaction with teaching staff.
I realised that since schools shut in March, I had been watching my daughter slowly lose all motivation and it was clear that she was finding it harder and harder to just get up every morning due to the complete lack of interactivity with her school and such low expectations that had been set.
A Year nine student, she would typically receive an email on a Monday morning, containing a list of tasks to be done, some with no deadlines, and others to be emailed back but which were frustratingly, hardly ever marked.
For the first two-and-a-half-months of lockdown there were no live lessons at all and when some were introduced, it was a one-way street in terms of visual interaction due to a bizarre “safeguarding” policy that I still fail to understand; on screen the child may see the teacher, but the teacher is not permitted to see the child, and the children can’t see each other.
I know that child safeguarding is really, really important and to that end we have put in place strict guidelines in our pop-up academy to pre-empt any issues. However, I still cannot get my head around the fact that from the age of four, my daughter has been physically present at a school, five days a week, 40 weeks a year, in the sole care of teachers.
These teachers, of which there have been many over the years, have been competently and cheerfully in loco parentis while I have sometimes been geographically miles, if not continents away from my daughter due to work commitments.
I simply don’t get how it is suddenly a safeguarding issue for the same trusted teachers to interact with her via a webcam for the duration of a virtual school lesson – with her parents physically in the next door room.
I poured all my frustration out to Anna Firth who shared it via a Zoom chat, with a formidable primary school teacher called Stephen James. Between the two of them they said, “we can do something about this”, and so they did and our little team was duly formed.
Our pop-up summer academy is now being rolled out in four other locations: Oxford, London, Lancashire and Surrey and I’ve just taken a call from a friend in Hampshire who wants to set up there.
The feedback so far from re-engaged pupils has been that “the lessons are fun” and parents are genuinely scratching their heads and asking why on earth their own schools, with a team of paid teachers and a ready-made register of pupils, haven’t been doing this all along.
I personally suspect that politics has played a much bigger part in this sorry episode than it should have done and there have been a number of powerful hands working the levers of the various teaching unions, attempting to disrupt Downing Street’s plans as much as possible. If state-schooled children lost out during the process, it doesn’t seem to have bothered them in the slightest.
Education is the surest way to lift children out of poverty and it seems grossly unfair that those who need the most help, have received the least during the Covid crisis. Our attempt in Kent to put this right is a start, and we hope that others will follow our lead and try to close the gap where they live too.
Shockingly, the Department of Education warns that the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their better-off peers could widen by as much as 75 per cent due to the pandemic and a poll by YouGov found that 51 per cent of teachers had pupils who had “dropped out of education altogether” during lockdown.
What’s the betting that these are the kids for whom a decent education is their one shot at a chance of a better life?
Cllr Gary Powell is a councillor in Buckinghamshire
Local authorities have a legal and moral safeguarding duty in relation to how their services impact on children and also people with protected characteristics defined by the Equality Act 2010. There are nine protected characteristics, including sexual orientation, sex, disability and gender reassignment. With the onward march of extreme gender ideology, we are seeing an alarming number of false positives among children identified – or “self-identifying” – as transgender. Most at risk of being catapulted along a false transing pathway are children who are actually gay, lesbian, on the autistic spectrum, or gender-non-conforming.
Councils need to take reasonable and appropriate steps to prevent the services that they provide or support causing harm to children because of reckless political virtue-signalling, (which includes allowing boys to use girls’ toilets in schools). If they do not, then those local authorities will be in serious breach of their child safeguarding duties and their duties to avoid causing indirect discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 with regard to sexual orientation, disability (autism) and sex. Betraying vulnerable children will rightly expose councils to legal action in due course by the victims of that betrayal.
The main purveyor in the UK of what I would term extreme gender ideology is the LGBT+ lobbying group, Stonewall: an multi-million-pound turnover outfit that receives over £600,000 from local and national government, and that I wrote about previously in Conservative Home. It has enormous influence on Relationship and Sex Education in schools via its LGBT+ education programmes. As a gay rights activist for forty years, I regard Stonewall as having become a highly pernicious influence in modern British society.
The LGBT+ movement, as distinct from the lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) movement, is particularly effective at throwing mud at good people who oppose extreme gender ideology, including attempts to get gender heretics sacked merely for daring to say that biological sex is real. However, when a BBC Newsnight report highlighted the probability that gay and lesbian children are wrongly self-identifying as trans and being referred to gender clinics, the LGBT+ movement responded with silence.
The allegations in a recent report on BBC Newsnight into events at the Tavistock Centre, England’s only NHS children’s gender clinic, highlight how out-of-control the western leftist obsession with gender ideology has become. BBC Newsnight had read a “sizeable portion” of staff interview transcripts resulting from a review into the Tavistock Centre GIDS (Gender Identity Development Service): a review triggered by “serious concerns about children’s welfare raised by staff in an internal report”. Newsnight reported that, in all the interview transcripts they saw, there was mention of homophobia in the families of the children attending the clinic. Transcripts contained reports of young people struggling with their sexual orientation, and some parents appearing to prefer their children to be transgender (and therefore heterosexual), rather than gay or lesbian.
How do children land up in these GIDS clinics? The Tavistock declares:
“We accept self-referrals as well as referrals from GPs and other professionals such as social workers, psychiatrists and teachers.”
Social workers, teachers … we are squarely in local authority child safeguarding and Equality Act territory.
How many local authorities are responsible for creating a culture that responds to the vulnerabilities of gay and lesbian children by giving so much prominence to transgender issues that children grasp at an escape route out of their stigmatised homosexuality? A lesbian girl who is attracted to females now self-identifies as a heterosexual boy in a female body. Not only that, but with staggering implausibility, children are treated by the medical and political establishment as capable of giving informed consent to receive hormones that will block their puberty – and after only three counselling sessions at a GIDS clinic. The physically damaging process of puberty blockers almost always leads to cross-sex hormones at a later date, followed by breast or genital amputations. This is surely a shocking and abject failure in child safeguarding.
Stonewall is strikingly quiet about the transing of gay and lesbian children. It campaigns for people to be recognised as trans without any diagnosis of gender dysphoria, and for people to be able to enjoy all the rights associated with being trans simply by self-identifying as trans. 80 per cent of transwomen retain their male genitalia. Predatory men with male genitalia pretending to be transwomen so they can access girls’ and women’s changing rooms? This is a child safeguarding nightmare.
Stonewall reveal on their website (page last updated in 2015) that 56 local authorities have signed up to their Diversity Champions programme (annual subscription £2,500). Of these, 10 are Conservative-run councils.
Not only are gay and lesbian children in danger of being wrongly transed with the tacit or active consent of their local authority: in equal danger are the many boys and girls who simply do not confirm to 1950s gender stereotypes, and who may become persuaded they are transgender. Children on the autistic spectrum constitute another high-risk group. The Tavistock Centre’s internal review revealed that 35 per cent of the children referred to them had autistic traits, compared to a normal community prevalence of three per cent.
A disproportionate number of children with autism are ending up in GIDS clinics: something about which a leading Asperger syndrome specialist, Prof. Tony Attwood, has expressed concern. Many such children can come to mistakenly view gender transition as a potential cure for their autism-related struggles and difficulties.
Local authorities have an important duty to support those children with genuine gender dysphoria, which is a complex and potentially very distressing pathology. However, this duty is matched by an equal duty not to cause harm to other groups of children, and to provide clear guidance to their own departments, schools, and partner agencies, in order to ensure that trans issues are taught about and dealt with in a sensible and sensitive manner. This is potentially a child safeguarding timebomb waiting to explode. Not for the first time, the suffering of child victims is being tolerated and ignored in the service of political or social expediency.
The data—showing that JMU has the highest post-graduation job levels of all Virginia colleges—is based on statistics from the U.S. Department of Education, compiled by online recruiting company, Zippia. The public university, which is located just about two hours from the heart of Northern Virginia, has received several accolades over the years for its innovative programming, including recognition from U.S. News and World Report as the No. 1 most innovative university in the South.
To determine the data, Zippia sorted every college in the country from the highest employment levels to the lowest, opting to focus on the best colleges to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. From there, the data was split by state.
Overall, the top three best colleges for getting a job include Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, Augustana University in South Dakota and Ohio Northern University in Ohio.
For more updates on the state’s collegiate institutions, subscribe to our Education newsletter.
Sir Julian Brazier is a former Defence Minister, and was MP for Canterbury from 1987-2017.
The public debate about the future of universities has moved a long way in the last year or two. Michelle Donovan’s excellent recent speech was an important step: the first time a spokesman for any British government has acknowledged that university is poorly serving a substantial proportion of students.
It has since been underlined by a strong statement from Gavin Williamson. The concerns expressed by think tanks, individual writers and the House of Commons Education Committee, which concluded that only half of recent graduates were in graduate level jobs, have been brushed aside unanswered by the university lobby.
Instead, apologists for the universities repeatedly cite statistics about the value of degrees, based on averages which mix the highest performers with those struggling at the margin. Worse, they focus on high participation rates around the world, simply ignoring the two major ways in which the UK is out of line. First, in almost every other country, most students study from home, roughly halving the cost of a campus-based course, and, second, and more importantly, most students in those countries with high HE rates study vocational subjects.
These two factors make comparison with HE participation rates abroad misleading. It is interesting, however, to look at Switzerland and Germany because both are, in one important respect, like us and unlike the majority; they deliver the bulk of their vocational education outside universities, making their statistics more comparable to ours than say France, Italy, Spain or indeed America. Germany and Switzerland have much lower HE participation rates than the UK and both have low unemployment – and exceptionally high productivity.
The Government understands this. As it moves towards reform, a model is emerging based on a shift towards vocational courses at universities, combined with more FE and apprenticeships. More vocational courses are being floated by government as the gateway (along with cuts in vice chancellors’ salaries where appropriate) to assistance from a new bailout fund.
But that limited lever can only apply for the duration of the Covid crisis and only to those institutions seeking financial help. Yet, the crisis is driving record numbers of school leavers into applying for HE this year, despite the Government’s laudable efforts to sustain the sagging jobs market and build up positive alternatives like apprenticeships.
The tanker is drifting further off course. So, the urgent question is, how can the Government enforce its laudable aims without fatally compromising the independence of universities?
My suggestion is that they formally split courses into three categories: two academic, STEM and Arts/other, together with a third, vocational category. Then a set of minimum admission standards should be applied within each of the three categories for eligibility for student loans and other government support. This would leave universities free to control their admissions, but effectively block them offering places to those below the relevant national standard. There could be a limited system of exemptions based on foundation courses for mature students.
The setting of standards would be controversial, but the following broad approach would be a significant improvement on the existing “money for old rope” approach. STEM courses should require a good A level grade in mathematics – it is unrealistic to expect anyone to benefit from a degree in engineering or computer science without a sound mathematical base. In a few cases, like the biological sciences, a minimum overall A level combination might substitute for a maths result.
At a time when the economy desperately needs more STEM graduates, it is in nobody’s interests to allow youngsters to study subjects which they lack the mental capacity to master. We need better maths and science teaching in schools – and more more pupils, including more girls, studying STEM subjects – not to offer false hopes afterwards, as many universities are doing. Too many good universities are already spending the first year of physics and engineering degrees on remedial maths.
The hardest to set nationally would be the arts sector. The Government might wish to avoid the temptation of comparing classics with PPE or geography, to choose three subjects entirely at random, and just set a minimum standard across the board, say three Cs at A Level.
Finally, standards for vocational courses could be set in consultation with industry. Such consultation might suggest that FE or apprenticeships are more appropriate, except for those with the strongest academic base. Certainly, most students should study in their local city or town (other than those living in the most remote areas), to keep costs and debt down.
In her speech, Michelle raised concerns about universities recruiting school leavers for courses that do nothing to improve their life chances. These split into two categories – those on the wrong course and those who should not be at university. Introducing national standards would rescue the most vulnerable group, the latter category, and, incidentally, make permanent the laudable recent ban on unconditional offers. It would have a second important effect too – many of the non-vocational courses would wither because of the paucity of applicants likely to achieve the new standard.
None of this would interfere with universities’ independence, but the package would stop a minority of universities cynically exploiting those most unable to benefit, by shackling them with a lifetime of debt and lost aspirations. It would also save the taxpayer a great deal of money as most student loans are unlikely to ever be fully repaid.
The standards could also be applied to overseas students, so that our doors remain wide open to the brightest and the best – but not to low achievers who currently automatically qualify for a two-year additional stay.
The Government also has an opportunity to drive good leadership by vice chancellors in a quite different way. The honours system sends powerful messages, and two filters could be applied to applications for senior university staff, apart from the obvious main category of awards for academic and research achievement.
First there is an opportunity to highlight those VCs like Karen Cox at the University of Kent, who have acted unilaterally before the government guidelines were published. She announced a large personal pay cut – and imposed the same on her senior colleagues – while protecting low-paid staff. That is real leadership.
The second filter is highlighted by the contrast between Oxford University, on the one hand, where Louise Richardson has consistently resisted Chinese investment with compromising strings. She has also defended dons like Nigel Biggar against woke lynch mobs.
At Cambridge, on the other hand, Stephen Toope, the Vice Chancellor, has presided over the creeping takeover of critical parts of his empire by cheque-waving Chinese organisations and turned a blind eye to the impact on academic independence.
At the same time, he has taken a strong stand in favour of a BAME academic who published profoundly racist material, citing the importance of free speech, and yet allowed a don to be ejected for disagreeing with the woke mob and Jordan Peterson to be denied a visiting professorship, because he was once photographed with a student who was wearing an offensive tee-shirt.
Making Louise Richardson a Dame – and blocking any efforts by the HE Blob to get an honour for her Cambridge counterpart – would send a clear message that Conservatives believe in academic freedom.
We have a great deal to be proud of in our university sector, with the highest-ranking institutions in the world, alongside America, but – in the interests of the rising generation – elements of the system badly need reform. At last, we have a government willing to take action. Here are some ideas for a plan.