The Cameron government denied that the current immigration policies are hurting the UK Higher Education sector. Despite the precipitous fall in the applications to British universities, particularly from South Asia, and the near-total extinction of the private education sector which used to provide feeder routes to the universities, the government claims that their policies will encourage 'genuine' students to come to the UK, and therefore help protect the brand and the excellence of the British Higher Education. Like so many other things, they are wrong on this count too.
But, then, it is difficult to expect anything from this government anyway. Apart from protecting the banks and hobnobbing inappropriately with Murdochs, the government ministers seem incapable of getting anything done. The problem, indeed, is their world view, one so antiquated that they fail to understand or anticipate the aspirations or requirements of a modern society. With their Lib Dem stooges frozen into paralysis of ideas, the Neo-tories under Cameron is driving the country to obsolescence, with disastrous consequences for the economy and society in general, and Higher Education in particular. The rhetoric around genuine students is a clear example of how they are getting things wrong.
UKBA seems to think that the British Higher Education is full of bogus students. That is plainly wrong. The policy-makers seem to be operating with one, limited, idea of a student - with impeccable command of English and manners, Middle class parents, and a somewhat clear idea of what they want to do in life - and tolerance range thereabout which allows the inner-city state school students to sneak into the realm of genuineness. However, this idea is based on the demand for education in a matured society, where students are given a proper childhood by their parents and would want to follow their parents' paths to a good life. What is missed is that the British Higher Education is a global industry servicing a very different world, a world where students are allowed to speak in languages other than English, aspire not to follow the parents' footsteps but to do better so that they can offer their parents a comfortable retired life, and where hard work, pragmatism and ambition are the only qualifications that one need to possess. These students were flocking the British Higher Education for the last decade or so: This is exactly where the brand of British Higher Education was built. However odd it may look from the Oxfordshire county view of the world, this is the shape of the new global demand. If the British Higher Education needs to maintain its leadership status among the competing higher education systems, it can not afford to overlook the shifting demand profile of higher education.
Indeed, one would now invoke the private colleges, those favourite whipping boys of the Ministers and UK Border Agency, whose misdeeds, many will claim, brought in the new era of controls. I must declare that I am associated with the private college industry, and have written about various issues in the sector. I shall contend that most of the problems in this sector comes from poor governance and regulatory mechanisms. However, the current government has employed a lazy, unthinking, kill-all policy to close down the sector, and then ended up implementing it badly. The policy already has a crippling effect on the sector, forcing not better governance and quality standards, but disenfranchisement of students due to closure of colleges and general confusion, and this will have many consequences, including the closure of feeder routes to university courses, and an absence of home-grown education entrepreneurs, as investment shifts away from the sector in favour of Asian and African owners, who are buying into this sector mainly to take the brands and partner relationships to their own home markets. Under the public radar, this is the start of another proud industry shifting away from Britain, and this will only make the country poorer in terms of ideas and innovation.
If the government was not so out of touch, they could have seen the roles that private colleges play in context. The new global demand presents its challenges to the traditional higher education, where the conception of quality is based on selectivity and freedom of thought, rather than widening access and result orientation. Indeed, the government needed to clamp down on visa abuses and bogus colleges, but this has always been an implementation issue, which remains unresolved to date. Instead, they have taken on themselves the job of defining the 'genuine' students, a big hammer to fix a relatively tiny nail, and ended up getting it roundly wrong.
Is there a way not to be grossly pessimistic about the British Higher Education sector in the midst of all this? It is a difficult ask, given the best idea the British Universities minister could come up with was to ask the universities to go abroad. This is a strange anomaly: The British government balks every time and shy away from necessary legislation to control banks (despite watching haplessly how failures of governance at a powerful bank, Bankia in Spain at this instance, can pull a whole country down) because the banks threaten to go aboard, but they are happy if their universities have to leave. Indeed, if public priorities have to be based on tax revenues, the universities sector and their poor international students contribute an equivalent amount in public coffers as the rich bankers, because most bankers actually don't pay taxes at all (going by the government's own admission of failure to tax the top earners, which was cited as a reason, perversely, to justify scrapping of top 50p tax rate).
In summary, then, this is the British Higher Education's deja vu moment. One would hope that either common sense or the God will come to its rescue. If not, one should be reminded that leadership in Higher Education should not be taken as granted. The spate of uninformed visa controls may eventually lead to loss of global leadership to another country like Australia, Canada or Germany. In fact, the process may have already started.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
A week into lockdown and things are beginning to change. Mornings are late, afternoons are lazier and evenings never end; meditations are filling out the time for Yoga routines and Netflix profiles are strewn with half-finished movies. This state-mandated, state-funded period of idleness is being likened to being called up to serve, but is nothing like that: Such a comparison is really an affront to the idea of service. Instead, this is just one long streak of panic; of the centre not holding and life not going on as usual. With the usual patterns and rules in suspended animation and business talk - and business - being rendered meaningless, space is opening up for unusual questions: Is Capitalism about to end? Is this the death of globalisation? Does it get uglier from here? My grandfather's generation would have scoffed at us. They saw through wars and pandemics. But, in fairness, we haven't had a life-ending crisis of our own. Notwithstanding the experiences of th
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
The ‘Why’ Question? Adolf Hitler was appointed the German Chancellor by President Von Hindenburg on 30th January 1933. This was an extraordinary turn of events. Previously, President Von Hindenburg consistently refused to appoint Hitler the Chancellor, despite the impressive electoral performance of NSDAP in July 1932, Hitler’s uncompromising demand of the Chancellor’s post and a repeat election in November 1932 which failed to break the deadlock. Explaining his refusal, Hindenburg wrote in a letter on 24th November, “a presidential cabinet led by you would develop necessarily into a party dictatorship with all its consequences for an extraordinary accentuation of the conflicts in the German people.” The question ‘why’ Hitler was appointed Chancellor, despite the President being acutely aware of what might follow, is therefore a significant one. The NSDAP had election successes throughout 1932, and was already the biggest single party in the Reichstag and various Landtags acros
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.