All Posts Tagged With: "United Kingdom"
‘Islam or Atheism?’ debate in London ends in uproar
At a University College London debate called “Islam or Atheism: What Makes More Sense?,” the events’ hosts segregated women, men and couples this weekend to please conservative Muslims, reports The Guardian. After three people were told to vacate their seats for not following the gendered seating plan, professor Lawrence Krauss, one of two men debating, threatened to leave. Organizers from the Islamic Education and Research Academy relented, but an uproar ensued after the world’s most famous atheist, Richard Dawkins, asked on Twitter, “who the hell do these Muslims think they are?” Dawkins was called racist. UCL says it will investigate. Here are Dawkins’ Tweets.
— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) March 10, 2013
Who the hell do these Muslims think they are? At UCL of all places, tried to segregate the sexes in debate between @lkrauss1 and a Muslim
— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) March 10, 2013
Decent, nice, liberal people must stop being so terrified of being thought “Islamophobic” and stand up for decent, nice, liberal values. — Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) March 10, 2013
I don’t think Muslims should segregate sexes at University College London events. Oh NO, how very ISLAMOPHOBIC of me. How RACIST of me. — Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) March 10, 2013
Jewish student objected
Students at the famous London School of Economics are facing discipline after a Jewish student objected to a Nazi-themed drinking game during a school ski trip and received a broken nose.
A video of the drinking game, which took place in early December in France, was uploaded to YouTube, shared of Facebook and then removed, according to The Beaver student newspaper.
The game, called “Nazi Ring of Fire,” involved arranging cards on a table in the shape of a Swastika. The game compelled players to commit antisemitic acts including “saluting the Fuhrer.”
More than 70 universities are charging new maximum
Only 29 per cent of British adults believe that a university education is worth £9,000 ( $14,431) a year, while 56 per cent believe that it isn’t worth that much and fifteen per cent are unsure, according to a new poll by YouGov that was reported on by Times Higher Education.
The news comes as British students enter a school year in which more than 70 universities are charging the new maximum tuition rate of £9,000 ($14,431) a year. When the cap was raised from £3,350 ($5,376) earlier this year, Britain’s Business Secratary had predicted that schools would only choose to charge that amount “in exceptional circumstances.” That proved to be untrue.
Brits are also divided when asked how graduates will fare in the long term, with 42 per cent agreeing that they “will end up worse off in the long term, as their increased earnings will be outweighed by the cost of going to university.” Forty per cent disagree and 18 per cent are unsure.
Fewer jobs. Lower pay. Higher taxes. Now the Screwed Generation is starting to push back.
This January, the first baby boomers turn 65. The huge post-Second World War generation—which numbers 76 million in the United States, makes up almost a third of Canada’s population, and according to one estimate, controls 80 per cent of Britain’s wealth—will continue to enter their dotage at the rate of tens of thousands per day for the next 20 years. By 2050, there will be 30 million Americans aged 75 to 85, three in 10 Europeans will be 65-plus, and more than 40 per cent of Japan’s population will be elderly. In Canada, the ratio of workers to retirees—currently five to one—will have been halved by 2036. And despite the odd dissenter, the generation that still oddly finds Paul McCartney relevant has made clear its intention to take everything it feels it has coming. It will be up to all who trail in their wake to pay for their privilege.
Common sense, not to mention decency, wouldn’t call that just. But an outsized, over-entitled, and self-obsessed demographic is awfully hard for politicians to ignore. Take Britain’s example. In last spring’s general election, the most effective ad run by David Cameron’s Conservatives was also one of the simplest: a close-up of a newborn baby, wriggling in a bassinet as a music box tinkled in the background. “Born four weeks ago, eight pounds, three ounces. With his dad’s nose, mum’s eyes, and Gordon Brown’s debt,” intoned a female voice. “Thanks to Labour’s debt crisis, every child in Britain is born owing £17,000. They deserve better.” The point was impossible to miss: the time had come to stop mortgaging the country’s future.
As his first act, the new prime minister, a 44-year-old Gen Xer, cut his and his ministers’ pay by five per cent, and froze all their salaries for five years. Tackling the U.K.’s $177.5-billion budget deﬁcit and $1.6-trillion-plus national debt—annual interest payments alone stand at $70 billion—would require everyone to sacrifice, he told Britons. But there were also expectations that the burden wouldn’t be equally shared. After all, one of Cameron’s leading wonks, David “Two Brains” Willetts, now the minister for universities and science, had published a rather pointed manifesto, The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers Took Their Children’s Future—and How They Can Give It Back, just before the election. After their victory, Thomas Friedman, the New York Times columnist, applauded the coming reckoning for a generation—his own—that had “eaten through all that abundance like hungry locusts.” And even as the new government’s chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne, stood before Parliament in mid-October to announce $131 billion in spending cuts over the next four years—and the elimination of as many as 500,000 public sector jobs—the protect-the-youth rhetoric continued. “Today’s the day when Britain steps back from the brink,” he said, ensuring “that we do not saddle our children with the interest on the interest on the interest of the debts we were not ourselves prepared to pay.”
The reality, however, proved to be somewhat different. The age when U.K. citizens can start drawing old-age pension would gradually increase from 65 to 66, but other entitlements like free eye tests and prescriptions for the elderly would remain untouched, as well as winter fuel allowances, and free local transit for anyone over 60. Among the biggest budget losers was the department for education, facing an overall reduction of 10.8 per cent, which according to one economic think tank will translate to funding cuts for 60 per cent of primary schools, and 87 per cent of secondary schools. And the legacy of “Two Brains” for Britain’s shafted youth? A 40 per cent cut to post-secondary teaching grants, and a doubling—or in some cases, tripling—of tuition, to as much as $14,500 a year.
On Nov. 10, more than 50,000 angry students gathered in London to rally against the cuts. A video of Nick Clegg, the Liberal-Democrat leader and deputy prime minister, promising to do away with university fees during the election campaign, was greeted with choruses of “wanker, wanker.” “They’re proposing barbaric cuts that would brutalize our colleges and universities,” said Aaron Porter, the president of the National Union of Students. “We’re in the fight of our lives. We face an unprecedented attack on our future before it has even begun.” Later on, a crowd of several thousand descended on the Conservative Party headquarters, trading punches with police, smashing windows, lighting fires, and for a time, occupying the building.
“The situation for young people is not terribly good,” Ed Howker, a 29-year-old London journalist and author, says in a classic bit of British understatement. “And there’s no sense from the government that they have the interests of the next 30 or 40 years of Britons in mind.” Of the country’s 2.45 million unemployed, close to 60 per cent are under the age of 30.The new budget has not only frozen civil service hires, it scrapped two youth jobs funds, slashed rent subsidies, and cut the money for new housing by half. Howker, who along with Shiv Malik wrote the just-released Jilted Generation: How Britain Bankrupted its Youth, says the sense of despair is becoming overwhelming. “Our generation just seems to be a lot worse off. In terms of key things like getting stable housing, or a well-paid job, or a successful career, we just don’t have it.” The boomers’ aren’t evil, he says, but they nonetheless bear much of the responsibility. The generation that relentlessly mythologizes its “peace and love” heyday became ardent consumers as they aged, and ended up moulding politics in their “me-first” image. “It’s a consumer version of democracy, where politicians realized that if they merely satisfied the short-term desires of their electorate, rather than think in the long term and make good decisions on behalf of the future of the country, they would win elections,” Howker argues. The bills become somebody else’s problem.
Want a scary number? How about $1.5 trillion, the amount the C.D. Howe Institute estimates Canada’s rapidly aging boomers are going to cost Ottawa and the provinces in extra health and pension expenses over the next 50 years. Or perhaps 2,500, the number of new long-term care facilities the Canadian Medical Association says will be needed to accommodate the doubling of Canada’s 65-plus population in two decades. Sixty thousand is how many RNs the Canadian Nurses Association predicts we will be short by 2022. Or maybe just one per cent, the expected annual amount of real per-capita GDP growth in Canada over the next 30 years as boomers leave the work force—less than half of what we’ve experienced over the past four decades.
Combine a demographic bulge with a falling birth rate and ever-increasing life expectancy (now 80.7 years at birth in Canada), and pretty much all the figures start looking ugly. “We have a significant challenge ahead of us,” says Chris Ragan, a professor of macroeconomics and economic policy at McGill. “The tax base will slow down, and spending will speed up. We can’t just do nothing.”
Older students, who are going back to school, are leading the surge
Applications to British universities have increased by nearly 10 percent since last year, with the biggest surge coming from older students, according to new figures from the British University and College Admission Service.
The Guardian says the jump has been fueled by “rising numbers of older people applying to do a degree in the recession.” It also pointed out that due to a government cap on spending for extra university seats, imposed early 2009, means “competition for places at university will hit a new high as 52,000 extra people attempt to get a full-time place at university where there are only 3,000 extra spaces in the system.”
For more from The Chronicle’s story, click here.
Tuition hikes increased first-year student spending by 12 per cent over three years
From the BBC:
Students are spending more money and receiving more support than ever before, suggests a survey of student finance in England.
The Student Income and Expenditure Survey shows that higher tuition fees have increased first year student spending by 12% in three years.
Driving this was the introduction of higher tuition fees, which were implemented in the 2006-07 academic year. The accompanying grants, bursaries and loans also pushed up the income of students.
Report author, Claire Johnson, a principal research fellow at the Institute for Employment, said student income had risen overall, although most of the increase was driven by income from tuition fee loans.
Some students skeptical government will actually follow throught
Oxford’s student newspaper, Cherwell, reports the British Higher Education Funding Council for England chief executive David Eastwood "has proclaimed that universities nationwide should not be expecting tuition fees to rise with inflation, in light of the current economic crisis."
Interestingly, the economic crisis is cited as a reason to freeze tuition.
However, a promise is not a guarantee. One student politician told the paper, "for the government to say they’re not raising tuition fees is like someone attacking you in the street promising not to hit you again."
Aside: The picture used to illustrate the article is not British in origin, it’s actually from the 2007 CFS Day of Action in Toronto.
Oxford goes searching for academic potential—outside of private schools
After years of criticism that Oxford University favoured students from upper-class private school backgrounds, the university is implementing changes with the hope of better balancing the socio-economic backgrounds of students that the famed institution recruited.
The university is using postal codes, academic achievement, and the high school to find students who have high academic potential but would not traditionally get an interview at Oxford. These students are granted the opportunity to interview for admission. They are not necessarily granted admission.
Certain elements of British society are very upset by the change and are labeling it “social engineering” and an attack on the middle class.
It’s horrible: how dare universities go in search of academic talent who didn’t have a rich daddy to pay for private school?
Oxford has been forced to change their admission procedures across the board as record numbers of students are applying with “straight A” marks. (Students at private schools were three times more likely than average to “achieve” straight A marks)
With grade inflation rampant and elite British universities not inflating their enrolment to match, tensions are rising as students with straight As are being rejected by elite universities.
The current outrage over Oxford’s outreach efforts are merely an extension of this fight. Private schools are increasingly concerned with changes to admission formulas which favour students in public schools and they’re not afraid to state so.
Professor hopes to make students aware of ergonomics
Homework is not meant to be comfortable. But one British professor’s efforts to get his students to create fully operational torture devices has even some of his colleagues wincing.
Students at Kent University School of Architecture in southeast England were asked to manufacture the devices as part of an attempt to sensitize them to the principles of ergonomics – the science of reducing fatigue and discomfort.
A copy of the assignment – entitled “Torture” – was carried on the website of The Architect’s Journal.
The journal said the assignment was written by Kent University tutor Mike Richards.
No one at the university or the Royal Institute of British Architects immediately responded to phone and e-mail messages seeking comment Saturday. But The Guardian newspaper quoted one of the institute’s former presidents, Paul Hyatt, as saying he was appalled.
The copy of the assignment on the website showed a diagram of a Gestapo electric torture table and invited students to “look at the dark side of ergonomics.”
“Proposals have to be realizable in 2008…. No Sci-Fi devices please,” the assignment said. “It has to be fit for purpose, robust and effective and well thought out; it has to work.”
The assignment suggested using recycled material. It also warned against careless use of electricity.
“We don’t want you to become a victim of your own device,” it said.
- with a report from CP