The rain in Spain
Our Head of Diversity, Mr Andrew Capp, has warned all members of teaching staff about the dangers of “speech discrimination”.
Mr Capp explained that his move had been prompted by Katerina Loukopoulou of Middlesex University who had recently highlighted the manner in which students with regional or foreign accents were liable to encounter bias in seminars.
In his email, Mr Capp reminds tutors of his previous warnings about seminar discrimination based on gender, age, ethnic origin, religion or physical appearance. “However,” he adds, “it is now equally important to attend to speech patterns. Might you secretly entertain a bias against those upper-class students who tell you that ‘My hice is jolly near the bah-se stop’ (“My house is close to the bus stop”), or against those regional students who declare ‘Howay man, marra let’s gan doon the pub for some beltus scran’ (‘My postilion has been struck my lightning’)?”
Although Mr Capp insisted that most of the feedback prompted by his communication had been “constructive”, he described the response from Ted Odgers of the Department of Media and Cultural Studies, which had cautioned tutors about the dangers of assuming that people with big pointy heads were of above-average intelligence, as “unhelpful”.
Sheffield shows its steel
“A courageous decision.”
That was the response of our vice-chancellor to the news that Lord Kerslake, the chairman of Sheffield Hallam University’s board of governors, has withdrawn the university’s offer of an honorary degree to Lord Adonis, the former Labour education minister, on the grounds that Adonis’ campaign against the salaries enjoyed by vice-chancellors has made the award “inappropriate”.
Our vice-chancellor said that Kerslake’s bold intervention had created an important free speech precedent. “From now on, all universities can feel emboldened to follow his brave lead and ensure that they dispense honorary degrees only to those who are fully and unreservedly in favour of grossly inflated fat cat emoluments.”
Measure for measure for measure
Concerns about the usefulness of the teaching excellence framework as a measure of teaching quality have mounted as a result of a recent analysis by two respected researchers at Cranfield University.
According to the analysis, there is no link whatsoever between the proportion of staff who hold a teaching qualification accredited by the Higher Education Academy and how an institution fared in the TEF assessment. Neither did the intrepid researchers find any correlation whatsoever between the TEF awards and staff-to-student ratios, even though the government now plans to use contact hours and class sizes in the forthcoming subject-level TEF.
According to our Head of Statistics, Professor J. W. Oswald, this analysis, when taken together with the news from Universities UK that only 2 per cent of institutions considered that the TEF accurately assesses teaching and learning excellence, means that we may be on the verge of a breakthrough.
“In the past,” he explained, “we have had measures like the research excellence framework that lack reliability and validity and are subject to gaming, but Mr Johnson’s TEF now provides us with something wholly original, a metric that appears to measure nothing whatsoever. However one looks at it, that can only be described as a statistical first.”