Has Brexit vote hit UK university rankings? | Letters

Scott Andrew says British universities have slipped down QS league tables because of the coalition’s structural reforms. Michael Reardon objects to the focus on Cambridge and notes the progress of other universitiesIs the Brexit vote really as central to understanding Britain’s universities slipping down the QS league tables as your article suggests (British universities plunge again in league table after Brexit vote, 19 June)? The more fundamental cause is surely the structural reforms undertaken by the coalition government.
Switzerland is not in the EU and yet ETH Zurich is going from strength to strength. Outside Europe, the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University (where I work) have shot up the rankings partly because the national government has invested, the universities don’t have to chase the tuition fees of overseas students, and the universities’ missions are tied into national development. Whether or not the Brexit vote is ever enacted, there is .. Read more …

Andy McNab: ‘At 16, I read my first book – and it changed my life’

When he joined the army, the author had the reading age of an 11-year-old. But he can still remember the pride he felt at reading his first book
I joined the army straight out of juvenile detention at the age of 16. I was no criminal mastermind – I burgled the same block of flats repeatedly and was always going to end up getting caught.
The education system had failed me; I had attended nine schools in seven years and I didn’t see the point of it. I wanted to be a panel beater or a tube driver; I had heard they made loads of money and you didn’t need much education for those kind of jobs. So that was it – why bother going to school? All I needed was to get a council flat, and I had that cracked because my parents were already on the list. All that was left was a Mark II Ford Escort and that would be me made.
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‘People are scared of looking foolish’: how maths anxiety is holding us back

Two in three students who worry about maths will eventually succeed at the subject. But does this lack of confidence limit career prospects?

Nearly everyone will know they have felt anxious about a maths question at some time in their lives. What may not seem so obvious is that many other people have felt the same way and that maths anxiety is a real problem.
So much so that the Maths Anxiety Trust has been set up to raise awareness of the issue. It points out the problem could be contributing to a quarter of 11-year-olds being below the standard expected of their age group and nearly a third of students failing to obtain a grade 4 (grade C in the old grading system) or higher in maths GCSE exams.
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Girls will see a path for themselves if we show how engineering makes a difference

When people ask what it’s like to be a woman in this sector, I long for the time we stop boxing people into stereotypes
If there was a single key to levelling the gender imbalance in engineering and technology careers, we’d have cracked it by now. Plenty of evidence shows programming of prejudice starts with babies, and girls begin to be put off engineering between the ages of five and nine.
We need a shift in thinking so people are treated as individuals from birth rather than pigeonholed. There are many good initiatives targeting teenagers – we just need to reach younger children.
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London academics criticise ‘oppressive’ treatment of student protesters

University of London staff speak out against security guards’ ‘heavy-handed’ tactics

Academics have condemned the “oppressive” treatment of student protesters after the university hired private security staff who forcibly evicted a group that were peacefully occupying a campus building in support of outsourced cleaners.
The University of London (UoL) spent more than £1.3m on additional security officers, receptionists and other security measures from March 2018 until November last year, amid student demonstrations and over a dozen workers’ strike days.
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Police investigate leak of GCSE religious studies exam paper

Exclusive: latest in series of security breaches highlights role of social media in cheating
Police have been called in to investigate another exam leak after an unknown number of students had advance sight of part of a GCSE religious studies (RS) paper last month.
It is the latest of a series of damaging security breaches to hit summer exams in recent years, with social media enabling cheats to disseminate leaked questions quickly and easily.
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Free speech isn’t under threat. It just suits bigots and boors to suggest so | Martha Gill

Jordan Peterson’s Thinkspot website is the latest attempt to fight ‘censorship’. But are western societies really afraid of open debate?
You can’t say anything these days. Free speech is a thing of the past. Young people today can’t cope with reality and if you try to tell them about it you’ll get arrested. You may think we live in a free society, but if you cross the PC brigade, they’ll haul you in for questioning and then they’ll disappear you.
This sort of argument is everywhere. It often seems like the first line of defence when a notable figure has overstepped the mark. And just this month the academic Jordan Peterson launched a website, Thinkspot, to protect users from all the “censorship” that is around right now.
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Crisis in special educational needs drives parents to court

Number of families appealing against funding decisions surges by 26% as schools and councils struggle to meet cost of provisionA funding shortfall for children with special educational needs has led to a surge in court appeals, as families turn to legal action to secure extra help from cash-strapped councils.
With a 26% rise in the last financial year in the number of court appeals by families, MPs are warning of a crisis in special needs care. It is the third successive year that an increase has been recorded. The total of 6,374 appeals lodged in 2018-19 was almost double the number of three years earlier, according to analysis by the Special Needs Jungle website.
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Ethics fly out of the window at Oxford University when big donors come calling | Catherine Bennett

For £150m, can anyone buy naming rights at a great academic institution?What do we know about Stephen Schwarzman, the US financier whose name, following his £150m donation to the University of Oxford, is destined to become synonymous – as the Schwarzman Centre – with the humanities, the study of ethics in particular?
Much of Oxford’s press release introducing him to British audiences dwells on the philanthropy evidenced in already-colonised academic zones: the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing; the Schwarzman Scholars programme at Schwarzman College (in China); the Stephen A Schwarzman Building (formerly known as New York Public Library); Yale’s Stephen A Schwarzman Center, Yale protesters having had less success, to date, than angry parents at Schwarzman’s old school, Abington. For a donation of $25m, he had wanted it renamed after himself, with separate spaces going to his twin brothers, Mark and Warren.
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