The Guardian,
Theresa May’s hard line on international students will rob us of income and talent

Vincenzo Raimo writing in The Guardian:

“If we’re not careful, the UK, its universities and the economy will miss out on the financial benefits international students bring and, just as important, the benefits of having the best students in the world study in Britain. But we also risk losing the longer-term benefits gained through the relationships established by international students with their UK counterparts, their lecturers and British society more widely.”

However examined, the Home Secretary’s policies and the knock-on reputational affects on student visas look unnecessarily damaging to UK higher education. 

Read the full article on The Guardian website.

The Conversation,
Business schools are not the enemy of the liberal arts

The growth of business schools is not unnoted in discussions about UK higher education. Less noted is that many business schools are far from uncritical training centres for the next generation of corporate automaton. Rather, they are, Mark Gatenby notes, sites of the critical observation of the role of business in society:

Accusations of vocationalism are misinformed: business schools are actually often more about ideas than training practical or technical skills. The ideas discussed in business schools are often not only critical of management practices but in direct opposition to them.

Because business and the logics of markets and capital so dominate contemporary society, it is quite right that business schools’ research and teaching seeks to question the status quo rather than simply describe how it works. In doing so, business school scholars draw on theory and methods developed in other disciplines, and their analysis has much to offer in return. The university mission would be well served by embracing the critical work in business schools, as Dr Gatenby argues:

Business schools are now a major part of the higher education landscape and this is something the traditionalists need to accept. Instead of holding onto a myth of intellectual purity, or fighting over cultural supremacy, they should help to make business schools an integral part of the academic community.

Read the full article on The Conversation website.

The Guardian,
Campus cranes and vanity projects with an American flavour

Professor Peter Scott:

“You don’t need to be a killjoy to wonder whether we are rushing too fast down the American road. There, colleges (with the exception of some elite universities) have responded to criticisms about out-of-control fees by investing heavily in student pleasure and leisure, often at the expense of teaching and learning – especially lecturers in secure jobs.”

Indeed, as students become consumers, the learning becomes secondary.

Read the full article on The Guardian website.

The Telegraph,
£1,700 for a dissertation, but what’s the real cost of plagiarism?

Turnitin was initially used to detect plagiarism.

More recently, the firm appears to have successfully persuaded many universities to give students access to the tool before formal submission. Simple copy-paste plagiarism may therefore have been replaced by more effective paraphrasing and growing numbers of essay-for-hire services.

If this is true, the costs of cheating have raised for both cheats and institutions.

The costs to cheats include the financial cost of the essay and the opportunity cost of the learning forgone. The costs to institutions include higher enforcement costs and the reputation effects when graduates with good degrees are unable to perform in further studies or in the job market at the level expected.

In purely short-run financial terms, cheating looks cheap in three ways.

  • If the fees reported in The Telegraph are correct, £1700 for a dissertation is relatively cheap. Over the 12 weeks of a masters dissertation, a student would only have to work 22 hours per week to gross the cost of buying the dissertation (at the statutory minimum wage).

  • In business and management, for example, a masters degree can be upward of £15000 (and often more than £25000) and the dissertation worth one-third of the degree. Buying a dissertation therefore might add less than 10% to the cost of the degree (assuming accommodation costs need paying whether studying or working).

  • Because dissertations require significant amounts of learning but very little assessment, essay mill writers can create dissertations for much less effort than students (using templates of common topics, probably in less than a week).

The question then becomes how to change the relative costs of using an essay mill service.

Making more assessment examination based is one alternative, but then takes out of the equation the learning that happens during longer form research and writing.

Creating more unusual questions, that require essay mill writers more effort to address ought to increase the financial costs of buying an essay. However, the demand for essay mill output might be price inelastic for students that can afford high fees.

Closer supervision and smaller tutor groups will increase students’ learning and confidence and make commissioned essays more obvious (but no easier to prove to academic offences committees).

Making students aware of the long-run costs of not learning might help. This requires educators to spend more time making the relevance of the tasks they set more obvious.

However the relative cost issue is addressed, the distinction between an education (and its value) and the certificate of completion (and its long-term irrelevance) ought to be much stronger.

Perhaps we could all start by not talking about getting a ‘good degree’ and instead talk about getting a good education, being able to understand and solve complex problems, etc.

Read the full article on The Telegraph website.