Only the truly ignorant would rank universities according to graduate earnings | Suzanne Moore

The government thinks education can be bought and sold like a vacuum cleaner – how spectacularly stupid can you get?

There ain’t half been some clever bastards, as Ian Dury once said. It is a pity none of them are involved in running our universities. Those who do appear unable to evaluate evidence, understand data or do comparative analysis. They lack in basic skills. What else could explain this “idea” that universities be ranked on the earnings of their graduates? Obviously, graduates’ earnings do not depend just on where they did their degree, but on several factors. D’oh! Do I need to spell this out? Earnings vary according to subject and career choice. Some jobs may never produce high incomes, but they enrich society, whether this be in nursing or the arts. Wages in all sectors vary according to location, with people in the south-east earning more.

The prime factor that determines the lot of graduates remains the wealth of the student’s family. Research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies in 2016 showed that the top 10% of highest-earning men from rich backgrounds earned 20% more than the top 10% of highest-earning men from poorer ones. Social mobility had already stalled before the introduction of tuition fees, but the monetisation of this whole sector means it is but a pipe dream.

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Racist incidents at universities show they aren’t as tolerant as we think | Malia Bouattia

Rufaro Chisango’s abuse at Nottingham Trent is part of a higher-education system that sidelines ethnic minorities
• Malia Bouattia is a former president of the National Union of Students

Many were outraged by Nottingham Trent University student Rufaro Chisango’s footage of people chanting “we hate the blacks” and a stream of other racist abuse. This young black woman felt forced to lock herself into her room for safety. Many have also wondered how this vile abuse was possible, in modern Britain, among educated young people. And not only that, but this weekend we heard of another Nottingham Trent student, Amrik Singh, being forced to leave a bar in nearby Mansfield purely for wearing a turban.

It’s 2018! We’re supposed to be a much more tolerant and progressive society than those grim days, decades ago, of abuse and overt racism. And in today’s universities there is a growing number of black and minority-ethnic students and staff.

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‘I’m quite happy to be a stopgap’: life in a boomerang household

A quarter of young adults in the UK live with their parents. Three families talk about the effects

A report this week found that young adults who return to the family home can have a negative impact on their parents’ quality of life. The London School of Economics study found that about a quarter of young adults in the UK now live with their parents – the highest number since records began in 1996 – as a consequence of spiralling housing costs and poor job security. We talked to three families affected by the “boomerang” generation about life in household with young adults.

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Oxford University says sorry for International Women’s Day gaffe

Oxford University has said it is “deeply sorry” after a female cleaner was pictured removing chalk graffiti saying “Happy International Women’s Day”.

Sophie Smith, the associate professor of political theory at University College, shared a picture of the scene on Twitter, writing: “What an image for #IWD.”

The university replied to the professor in a tweet saying the incident should not have happened. “We are deeply sorry for this and for offence caused. International Women’s Day is hugely important to Oxford. This should not have happened.”

Sophie Smith
(@DrSophieSmith)

Oxford security makes a woman cleaner scrub out “Happy International Women’s Day” on the Clarendon steps. What an image for #IWD, @UniofOxford. #strikeforUSS #UCUstrike pic.twitter.com/E9u5S37hWW

March 8, 2018

Smith thanked the university for the apology but said she hoped the cleaner, whose face she obscured in her tweet, received “a heartfelt apology”. She called on the university to ensure that all low-paid staff at the institution earned enough money to live in Oxford.

“I appreciate your apology, but far more importantly can you please make sure that the woman asked to remove the message receives a heartfelt apology, a warm cup of tea, the rest of the day off and, along with all our precarious staff, good enough pay to live in this city,” she replied.

Sophie Smith
(@DrSophieSmith)

I appreciate your apology, but far more importantly can you please make sure that the woman asked to remove the message receives a heartfelt apology, a warm cup of tea, the rest of the day off and, along with all our precarious staff, good enough pay to live in this city.

March 8, 2018

Garrick Taylor‏, a laboratory manager at Oxford University and the president of the Oxford UCU union, said the symbolism of the image was key to the debate.

“During a peaceful International Women’s Day rally. A low paid and probably precariously employed female cleaner was sent out in the freezing cold to clean chalk writing saying Happy International Women’s Day. Did it have to be removed? Then?,” he wrote.

But others were baffled by the university’s decision to apologise. “Are you for real? I’m assuming it’s her job as a cleaner. Why would she get an apology and the rest of the day off? That’s bizarre,” wrote one.

‘Serious failing’: inquiry to scrutinise Toby Young’s OfS appointment

An inquiry has been launched into the “serious failing” of appointing Toby Young to the board of the Office for Students without studying his long history of incendiary comments, the commissioner for public appointments has said.

Peter Riddell revealed that the Office for Students (OfS) interview panel’s report to ministers “made no mention of Mr Young’s history of controversial comments and use of social media”.

“Without any doubt this row makes a strong case for more extensive due diligence inquiries by departments in any case of doubt about a candidate,” Riddell wrote in a post on the commission’s website.

Young’s ill-fated appointment to the university regulator’s board was announced at midnight on New Year’s Eve. It quickly prompted controversy over comments by Young during his career as a journalist, including a series of sexist tweets.

In a letter to Robert Halfon, the chair of parliament’s education committee, Riddell said he planned to ask the OfS and the Department for Education (DfE) to explain the process that led to Young’s appointment.

Riddell said the report to ministers “indicates that Mr Young was judged as an appointable candidate by a properly constituted panel chaired by Sir Michael Barber, chair of the Office for Students”, before being named to the board.

“The subsequent controversy has, however, highlighted flaws in the process,” Riddell wrote, pointing to ministers’ claims that they were unaware of Young’s offensive tweets. “This was a serious failing of due diligence,” he added.

“I am now seeking the full papers on recent appointments to the board of the Office for Students from the Department for Education so I can establish in detail what occurred and whether this was in line with the government’s governance code.”

Riddell said his main focus was on the procedures. “The merits or otherwise of the appointment of Mr Young and other candidates is a matter for ministers, and not for me,” he wrote.

Young stepped down from the OfS role at the start of this week after criticism from Labour and Conservative MPs, including a call by Halfon for the government to reconsider the appointment.

Riddell’s move comes as Young finds himself embroiled in further controversy over his attendance at a secretive conference held at University College London in May, which discussed eugenics and group genetic and IQ differences. Young has previously written about what he described as “progressive eugenics”.

Young said he attended the UCL conference “only for a few hours on a Saturday”, to gather anecdotal material for a speech he was giving to a conference covering similar topics in Canada.

The controversy puts a spotlight on Young’s role as director of the New Schools Network (NSN), a charity contracted by the DfE to promote and support applications by groups establishing new free schools in England.

Asked if the NSN’s board of trustees had discussed Young’s position, a spokesperson said: “The board has complete confidence in Toby Young as NSN’s director.”

Young was appointed in October 2016 by the network’s trustees, who cited his successful co-founding of the West London free school. Young receives about £90,000 a year as director, according to the NSN’s accounts.

The revelations surrounding Young come at a delicate moment for the NSN. The bulk of its funding comes from the DfE, and last month the department opened its tender to renew the free school promotion role from April 2018, offering up to £3.4m for two years. Tender applications close on 19 January.

But questions also remain over the NSN’s role, as no new free school bids have been approved by the DfE since before the last general election. In recent years, many new free schools have been opened by existing academy trusts, which need less help from the network.