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Brexit and its Impact on U.K. Higher Education

July 1st, 2016

brexit

On Thursday, June 23rd, with a margin of 52 to 48 percent, British Citizens voted for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, spreading uncertainty and confusion among its universities and educators.

For a quick (and I mean quick) primer on the UK, watch this highly informative clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNu8XDBSn10&feature=youtu.be

Those in higher education opposed a British exit, or Brexit, from the EU. They view a severing of ties with the union as a detriment to collaborations in research, free movement of faculty, scholars and students. UK universities are concerned that the exit will have a severe impact on these international collaborations.  An exit from the union, also means that and end to E.U. funding which U.K. universities were receiving, an issue which they now have to ensure will be addressed by the government guaranteeing the continuation of funds and support.

As far as research collaborations are concerned, many opponents of Brexit argued that an exit from the union would prevent British academics from participating in E.U. research programs, such as the Horizon 2020, a program which is funded at nearly 80 billion pounds (approximately $88 billion) over a span of seven years.

Another issue which has U.K. universities concerned is about student mobility and whether it can still continue to participate in the union’s Eramus+student exchange programs? Will having to pay higher international study tuition fees deter students from the E.U. from attending U.K. universities?

According to a June 24, 2016 post on Inside HigherEducation: “Under the terms of the Lisbon Treaty, the U.K. has two years after it notifies the European Council of its intent to withdraw to negotiate a new agreement governing its future relations with the union. As the BBC reports, the referendum is not legally binding on Parliament, which must take action in order to initiate the U.K.’s separation from the E.U.”

For a positive spin on how Brexit may impact higher education, click here: http://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/eu-referendum-result-brexit-leave-remain-higher-education-sector-students-a7100106.html

One thing is certain, and that is we can’t assume with Brexit business will continue as usual. Change is coming, but what that change will be and how it will affect U.K. higher education is for us to wait and find out.

jasmin_2015
Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert is the President and CEO of the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI).

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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UNITED KINGDOM: 6 Facts about the New GCSE Grading System

April 10th, 2014

students

When I was a secondary student in the UK, we were preparing ourselves in Form V for the General Certificate of Education (GCE) Examinations at the Ordinary Level and the Certificate of Secondary Education (CSE) Examinations. Several years later, when I returned to the UK as a member of a U.S.-based research group, we gathered data and information on the sweeping changes that ended the GCE O’levels and CSEs and introduced the GCSEs and a new tier of exams known as Advanced Subsidiary that were introduced in concert with the General Certificate of Education Advanced Level examinations. Soon, the system will undergo another series of changes and this time it is a shake-up of the GCSE grade system as well as the content of the examinations. Starting in 2015, students in Form IV/year 10 will be subject to a new grading system. A key goal of the new grading system is to offer more differentiation, especially among the highest achievers and the large number of students who hover in the middle grades.

Under the new system, students will be graded on a numerical nine-point scale replacing the current seven-point A*-G grading system. In the new system, nine will be the top grade and one will be the lowest. The main goal of these reforms is according to a post in The Guardian “to bring England’s exam benchmark up to the level of students in the world’s leading economies such as China, as measured in the international Pisa education survey.”

Here are some key points, dry that may be, that are being considered for the new grading system:

1. The changes will be introduced starting in From IV or Year 10 in September 2015 and the first examinations under the new system will be held in summer 2017.

2. New GCSEs in England language, English literature and Mathematics will be the first set of subjects introduced and graded under the new system, with more new subjects to follow in September 2016.

3. The boundary for the new grade five will be set at about half to two thirds of a GCSE grade higher than the current requirement for a grade C.

4. The new grade four will correspond to the current grade C. Under the new system middle and top performing candidates will be better distinguished as they will be spread among six different grades (four up to nine), and not the present four (C up to A*).

5. Under consideration is equating the new grade seven boundary to the current Grade A baseline which provides three top grade bands instead of two and keeping Grade 9 as a supergrade for exceptional performance.

6. Students receiving a grade one in the new GCSEs will be at the same achievement level as those with a grade F or G in the current system.

For more information on the new GCSE grading system, please visit The Guardian’s post on this link: http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/teacher-blog/2014/apr/03/gcse-grading-system-shakeup-teachers.

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI
www.acei1.com

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10 Newsworthy Items on Education in the United Kingdom

July 11, 2013

Oxford University

Back when I was in school in England, the benchmark of completing secondary education was taking the external examinations known as the General Certificate of Education, Ordinary Level (GCE O’level) and /or the Certificate of Secondary Education. (CSE). By the time I was in Form V (11th year of secondary school), my classmates and I were deep in preparation for the GCE O’levels and CSE examinations. Our boarding school, Charters Towers School (CTS), in the sleepy beach town of Bexhill-on-Sea, Sussex, followed the University of Cambridge GCE O’level curriculum, implying that we were preparing for tougher exams. All I remember is being sick with a serious case of laryngitis and having to suppress excruciatingly painful coughs induced by the illness so as to not disturb the other girls furtively scribbling their answers on the exam papers. The fact that I managed to score well on the exams given my poor state of health is a wonder I can’t explain to this day. I left CTS and the UK after finishing the first term of Form VI after being accepted to university in the U.S. Much has changed in the UK education system since then, especially with the GCEs and CSEs which were combined into the GCSEs. And there’s still talk about revamping the secondary and Form VI curriculum and even extending school leaving age to 18.

Thanks to The Guardian newspaper, below are highlights of 10 newsworthy developments in education in the UK:

1. Raising school leaving age from 16 to 18

To combat the rising unemployment numbers, the government is considering to raise the school leaving age from 16 to 18 and offer apprenticeship and training programs. “Latest figures show that of the 137,000 rise in unemployment in the three months of October, 55,000, or 40%, were in the 18-24 age bracket. While the country’s overall jobless rate is currently 6%, among 18-24-year-olds it is 14% and among 16-17-year-olds it is 26%. Unemployment in Britain stood at 1.86 million at the end of October, and many experts predict it will rise to around 3 million over the next 12-18 months.”

(Source: “School-leaving age may rise to 18 in effort to tackle unemployment”)

2. GCSE overhaul, again

Harking back to the days when the GCE O’levels and CSE’s were scrapped and replaced by the GCSEs (taken by students in England), now there’s talk of revising the GCSEs to make them, in the words of Michael Groves, Secretary of Education: “more demanding and rigorous.” The new exam, tentatively known as “GCSE (England)” recommends a new grading system of 1-8, with 8 as the highest grade and 1 as the lowest, replacing the A* to G grade scale of the current model. The new GCSE curriculum for English literature requires the study of at least one Shakespeare play (which I believe existed in the former GCE O’level course), selection of Romantic poetry, a 19th century novel (I still remember slogging through DH Lawrence’s “Sons and Lovers”), a selection of poetry since 1850, and British fiction and drama written since the first world war.” GCSE history will also experience a makeover and include a minimum 40% British history (covering medieval, early modern or modern periods) and a minimum 25% content on world history. (I remember on days we had history classes, how we all dashed to the school library to pour over newspapers gleaning news of current world events in preparation for the inevitable pop quizzes our history teacher was prone to give.)

(Source: “GCSEs to become more demanding and rigorous, says Michael Gove”)

3. Counting the 1st year toward the Bachelor’s degree

Unlike the United States, where every course taken with credit and final grade earned counts toward ones overall grade point average qualifying for the award of the Bachelor’s degree, students at UK universities did not face the same assessment methodology, at least until now. Debate is currently underway in the UK as to whether the 1st year of university studies should be counted toward the degree and in so doing to adopt a grading system similar to the grade point system of the U.S. This would mean doing away with the traditional degree classification model (First Class, Second Class, Third Class, Pass, etc.).

(Source: “Should first year count towards your degree?”)

4. Revamping A’levels with help from the Universities

It’s not just the GCSEs that are about to get a makeover, the GCE Advanced Level examinations have also been under scrutiny. The Department of Education has accepted to allow the universities to have more of a say in the redesigning of the A’level curriculum, though some feel this involvement will make the A’levels look nothing but a university entrance examination. (Currently, the A’level examination content is developed by the examination boards and the Department of Education.) As a result, the A-level Content Advisory Body (Alcab) has been formed to co-ordinate input and advice from specialists and university experts. Alcab’s role is ensure the A’levels in mathematics, advanced mathematics, English literature, physics, biology, chemistry, geography, history and modern and classical languages offer students “adequate preparation” for higher education admission. Universities don’t feel the students entering their institutions with current A’level examinations have sufficient preparation to tackle undergraduate coursework, especially in writing and research skills.

(Source: “Top universities strike deal with DfE to have say in redeveloping A-levels”)

5. A Green Competition

Universities in the UK are competing for #1 ranking in sustainability. Manchester Metropolitan University grabbed this year’s “People and Planet Green Leagu” #1 spot followed by Plymouth University in 2nd place and Greenwich (last year’s #1) in 3rd. Both Cambridge and Oxford ranked abysmally this year, even worse than last year. Cambridge dropped 17 places and is now ranked at 113 out of 143. Oxford didn’t fare well either. Institutions are judged on their strong sustainability programs, from food to design, carbon-reduction efforts, ethical investments, staff resources, and environmental management, to name a few.

(Source: “The firsts and the ‘fails’ in the 2013 Green League of universities”)

6. University of Sussex dips low in the charts

The Guardian pushes the “university league table” that charts the rankings of universities in the U.K. and earlier this month, the institution that suffered the most with the poorest ranking was the University of Sussex. According to the table, Sussex dropped from 27th place to 50th, “its lowest ever position since the table’s establishment.” Some of the reasons attributed to the University’s dip in the rankings are: poor employment rates (perhaps caused by conflict between students and management over plans to outsource campus services) and students concerns over assessment and feedback. Sussex pro-vice chancellor Clare Mackie explains the drop a mere “blip” in the data, when graduate unemployment rates reached double figures for the first time and that students have now been addressed.

(Source: “Sussex University’s league table tumble: blip or catastrophe?”)

7. Oxford University Sued over Selection based on Wealth

After his application for admission was denied for not having access to £21,000 for tuition fees and living costs, Damien Shannon, a 26-year old student, sued St. Hugh’s College, Oxford for “selecting by wealth.” In his suit, Shannon claimed that since its founding in 1886, the college was discriminating against the poor by asking “students to prove that they had liquid assets sufficient to cover £12,900 a year in living costs, in addition to potentially tens of thousands of pounds in tuition fees. Under the university-wide policy the college refused to take into account projected earnings from students who planned to do paid work during their course.” Shannon has met the University’s academic requirements for admission but not its financial criteria. St Hugh’s has filed a defense and refutes the claim arguing “that the test of a student’s financial health is to ensure that they will be able to complete their courses without suffering financial difficulty and anxiety, according to its lawyers’ defense papers.” Friends of Shannaon and even a cabinet member of parliament Hazel Blears (a former Labour cabinet minister who is now chairwoman of the all-party parliamentary group on social mobility), see Oxford University’s criteria for a guarantee on living expenses by students who have met the academic requirements, as deeply unfair. According to Blears: “It is ludicrous that a student deemed to be of sufficient academic merit is deemed incapable of budgeting to ensure they have enough money to live on. Even in an expensive city like Oxford, a student can live on far less than £13,000 a year with careful budgeting. In any case, living costs should be a student’s personal responsibility and many get part-time jobs to help make ends meet.

(Source: “Oxford University settles ‘selection by wealth’ case”)

8. Immigration crackdown leads to a loss of international students

International students, as it is for the U.S., are one of the UK’s most successful revenue-
generating economic resource contributing an estimated £8bn to the UK economy every year by paying high fees to universities and colleges and making a valuable contribution to local economies.
As universities faced drastic funding cuts, they were relying on growth in the international student market as a financial reprise, but the decline in the number of students looking at the UK to further their education has hurt universities financially. The immigration crackdown and focus on students has much to do on abuse of the visa system, “bogus-colleges,” and students arriving in the UK with no intention of studying. However, the crackdown also means that those students who genuinely are intent on getting an education are being barred from entering or choose not to apply to universities in the UK and instead turn their attention to Australia, Canada and the U.S.

(Source: “The UK’s immigration crackdown will lead to a loss of international talent”)

9. International education agents: separating the good from the bad

Across the pond, concern over international education agents and their commission-based recruiting of students is a subject of discussion as it is here in the U.S. More and more UK institutions are relying on international education agents to recruit students from them by paying the agents commissions. The University of Nottingham paid £1m in commission to education agents for successfully recruiting international students in 2012. In fact, nearly 58% of international students in the UK and Australia were recruited through agents. There is little transparency over whether agents are used in the first place and how much commission universities pay agents for each recruited student. Transparency, ethical and best practices, and a voluntary quality control program abided by international education agents are steps discussed by educators in the UK to protect the international students, their families and the institutions against fraud and misrepresentation in the marketplace.

(Source: “International agents: how can students and universities tell good from bad?”)

10. Poor students getting the shift in higher education

According to official data reported by Les Ebdon, the access ombudsman for higher education in England, universities and colleges must do what they can to attract students from disadvantaged backgrounds as affluent applicants outnumber those from deprived areas by three to one. (See item #7, which gives Damien Shannon’s suit against Oxford University a heads up.

(Source: “Universities and colleges told to do more for disadvantaged students”)

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI
www.acei1.com

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