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Higher education policy making: hope, prejudice and wishful thinking Bahram Bekhradnia Director Higher Education Policy Institute City University 26 January.

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Presentation on theme: "Higher education policy making: hope, prejudice and wishful thinking Bahram Bekhradnia Director Higher Education Policy Institute City University 26 January."— Presentation transcript:

1 Higher education policy making: hope, prejudice and wishful thinking Bahram Bekhradnia Director Higher Education Policy Institute City University 26 January 2010

2 Guess who said this? "My second cautionary note concerns evidence-based policy making. … if we mean that evidence should determine policy, then we are living in cloud-cuckoo land. … - Sir Howard Newby (then CEO of HEFCE)

3 Agenda for today oTheme: Policy making, political decisions and even academic discourse in England often pay little regard to research evidence oExamples examined: -Research on male and female participation and progression in HE -Fair access -Non-continuation and drop-out

4 Male & female participation over time Source: from DfES/DES Annual Reports

5 Bear in mind that males account for a much greater share of the population So the position for males is even worse than it looks

6 Ah, yes, but: the myth of female under-privilege oMany women are studying in lower-status universities; many are mature or part-time students. The university continues to be a space where class privilege is maintained and womens participation is limited to the bottom of a hierarchical continuum. Penny Jane Burke, lecturer in higher education in the School of Educational Foundations and Policy Studies at the Institute of Education, University of London Quoted in Class rifts eclipsed by sex divide, a report by Paul Hill in the Times Higher Education Supplement, 21 January 2005.

7 Nature of institution attended, by gender Source: HEFCE (unpublished)

8 Participation by gender and mode Source: HEFCE (unpublished)

9 Young participation by gender Source: HEFCE (unpublished)

10 Gender and class of degree Source: HEFCE (unpublished)

11 Gender and subject preferences

12 The problem is essentially a school problem Source: DfES

13 The underperformance of boys is a world-wide phenomenon Men and womens entry rate differences as a fraction of the sum of the rates Source: OECD, Education at a Glance (2004)

14 Reactions to the research

15 Reactions

16 The report touched a nerve (and possibly other parts too) In the last two decades, the sexuality revolution has impacted and infiltrated university life. Consequently, fashion-conscious female students, armed with good looks shaped by beauty parlours and salons, and sexy bodies shaped by fitness centers, and sexy clothes, accessories and perfumes shaped by designer labels, have been launching a multi-sensory attack on male minds. This has proved a big distraction for male students. In other words, it's like, male students are in a constant psychological state of arousal 24 x 7. Universities encourage promiscuity by supplying free condoms to students. This affects and distracts male students more than female students. From the male student perspective in terms of academic performance, female students and female teachers are not just a distraction, they are a curse.

17 A different point of view oBut Louise X, of, criticised the report. oThis report is full of castration anxieties. The author refers to the dominant position of females… The report, like feminisation discourse itself, is underpinned with the semiotics and imagery of greedy, rapacious women taking over the academy and desiring too much. It is evocative of the obesity hysteria. Womens over- performance is women getting too big. They are newcomers who do not know their place. oAngela Y, of, said she was a little suspicious of organisations and campaigns that suggested that everything was fine with young women,. Theres an implicit argument that young women have unfairly benefited from support and attention at the expense of young men. From there, its easy to move towards an explicitly anti-feminist model that is about turning the clocks back. oWere seeing an assertion of panic-stricken masculinity, Professor Y said.

18 oCarole Z, also considered a recent report by the Higher Education Policy Institute, Male and Female Participation and Progression in Higher Education, to be an "unhelpful" example of how gender inequality in the sector is treated. oCarole Z said: "By saying men are missing out, Hepi ignores the gender balance in courses. Men tend to have a higher concentration in courses with a higher pay packet waiting at the end of it." She added that the report ignores the "general culture of masculinity in the academy".

19 oBut Carole Z, of, said the report manifested the "moral panic" that has dogged female educational achievement in recent years. o"The language and arguments made are evocative of a familiar and unhelpful 'sex war' mentality that has been around for a decade or more - indeed, as soon as girls and women were seen to be 'overtaking' men educationally," she said. o"The lack of an equivalent panic about men's domination of higher education for the previous eight centuries says it all. oHowever, Professor Zs analysis of the proportion of UK-domiciled female undergraduate students in the top and bottom ten institutions featured in The Times Good University Guide 2008 shows that women constituted a far higher proportion of the student body in lower-ranking universities. There they accounted for 62.5 per cent of numbers: in the top institutions, the figure was 50.6 per cent.

20 How myths are made – unchecked citations Women may have leapt a gender gap but there is still a hill to climb As June AA says … women now make up the overall majority of the undergraduate student population but they are concentrated in the less- prestigious, post-1992 universities that focus more on teaching than research. - Miriam BB, THE 28 August 2008 The battles of 1918 go on "Nor is the situation in our universities rosy. Although women now make up 57.2 per cent of the student population, they are concentrated not in the highest-ranked institutions but in the bottom ten." - June AA, THE 7 August 2008 Sourced from a seminar presentation

21 The original source was less inaccurate, but the interpretation self-serving Academe still male bastion, assert female scholars oWomen made up 57.2 per cent of students. They make up only half the students in the top ten institutions, compared with 65 per cent of students in the bottom ten. oProfessor Z explained the headlines in terms of the fear of emasculation. "This is seen as a threat to masculinity. It is a moral panic. - Carole Z of the quoted in THE 10 July 2008

22 An elementary (or self-serving) mistake

23 There are other problems of under- privilege that are ignored

24 Some universities are highly socially elitist - % students from most disadvantaged groups oUK – 29.8% oOxford 9.8% oCambridge 11.5%

25 Why does it matter? oJust going to a Top University enhances earnings power (Are the top universities worth paying for? I Hussain, S McNally & Shqiponja Telhaj, LSE October 2008) o45% of leading journalists attended Oxbridge (Sutton Trust) o27% of MPs attended Oxbridge (Sutton Trust) oSimilarly lawyers, and presumably other influential professions o25% of all professors in England attended Oxford or Cambridge (either PG or UG)

26 The Prime Ministers views "An absolute scandal" was the phrase Gordon Brown used to embroil the government in a class war with Oxford University (Times 26 May). With the emphatic backing of the Sun (26 May), which enjoyed "his blistering assault on stuck up Oxbridge 110%"

27 The issue of fair access has become a shouting match oOxfords chancellor, Lord Patten suggested that universities were being asked to make up for the deficiencies of secondary education by lowering standards oThe war of words between the government and Oxbridge intensified yesterday. The Secretary of State for universities, John Denham, accused Lord Patten of having outmoded views and seeking to preserve the university for a socially elite intake. o- Guardian October

28 A shouting match (continued) oThe head of admissions at Oxford warned that there was little more the university could do to encourage students from disadvantaged areas to apply without compromising academic standards because there was a finite pool of pupils with the required grades oDenham responded by criticising the university for setting its sight too low

29 A shouting match (continued continued) oAlison Richard (VC Cambridge) universities are not engines for promoting social justice … One outcome is that we can help social mobility. But [that] is not our core mission oDenham Profoundly disagreed. Education is the most powerful tool we have in achieving social justice

30 oThe suggestion that some universities are biased in their admissions is just wrong -In Oxford for example state school pupils made 59% of applications, and received 56% of offers oAnd avoids the real issues -Among them that only 176 of the 13,500 pupils with 3 Grade As are from the poorest backgrounds -School achievement remains highly related to social background

31 Disparity of participation is a problem of early ambition - dropout at 16

32 Diversity in admissions standards and social stratification Analysis of HESA student data

33 Yet the concern of Ministers (and not just Ministers) is understandable oIt is just disingenuous or naïve to say (as elite universities say in England) that all that matters for the purpose of admission is academic potential oThese universities are producing societys elite oThey are already engaged in social engineering - it is legitimate to be proactive in this, as are the top US universities

34 Social engineering does not have to be ducked o"Moreover, such quantitative measures [examination scores and so on] are even less useful in answering other questions relevant to the admissions process, such as predicting which applicants will contribute most in later life to their professions and their communities." Bowen and Bok – The Shape of the River

35 An easy way to rationalise action to compensate for schooling deficiencies "It is perfectly reasonable to suppose that individuals who achieve impressive A level results at a poorly performing school in a disadvantaged community would be a better academic bet than those with a somewhat better A levels from contrasting backgrounds". - Kevin Whitston HEFCE Head of WP THE 30 September 'research which suggests that such students perform better once at university -NCEE Report June Schwartz Report -Etc FACT "We concluded that students from lower performing schools are not expected to do consistently better in HE than similar students from higher performing schools. However, we did find that students from non- independent schools and colleges appeared to do consistently better than students from independent schools, when compared on a like-for-like basis. - Schooling effects on higher education achievement, HEFCE 2005

36 A-level points, school type and HE achievement

37 A levels as a predictor of HE success oA-levels are only slightly better than tossing a coin as a way of predicting who will do well at university, a professor of educational assessment said yesterday ¹.predicting who will do well at university ¹Daily Telegraph 14 August 2002, of research by Professor Dylan Wiliam

38 The relationship is actually quite strong Who does best at University – HEFCE October 2002 Chance of graduate with 24 A-level points having a better degree than another graduate

39 Another convenient (because relatively easy) solution oThe assertion - -Bursaries and scholarships are … successfully encouraging high- achieving lower-income students to opt for more selective universities and colleges.

40 Another convenient (because relatively easy) solution oThe assertion - -Bursaries and scholarships are … successfully encouraging high- achieving lower-income students to opt for more selective universities and colleges. oThe basis for the assertion -28% of students surveyed (28%) believed bursaries were important when deciding where to go to university and a quarter of students who had heard of bursaries reported that the amount of bursary available had influenced their choice of university. Awareness, take-up and impact of institutional bursaries and scholarships in England: Summary and recommendations – OFFA 2009

41 Another convenient (because relatively easy) solution oThe assertion - -Bursaries and scholarships are … successfully encouraging high- achieving lower-income students to opt for more selective universities and colleges. oThe basis for the assertion -28% of students surveyed (28%) believed bursaries were important when deciding where to go to university and a quarter of students who had heard of bursaries reported that the amount of bursary available had influenced their choice of university. oThe reality -In (before bursaries were introduced) 20.8 per cent of students at Russell Group and 1994 Group universities in England were from the poorest socio-economic groups. In (the first year of the new bursary arrangements) the proportion had reduced to 20.1 per cent, and in it had reduced further to 19.8 per cent. So bursaries appear to have had no impact on fair access. Awareness, take-up and impact of institutional bursaries and scholarships in England: Summary and recommendations – OFFA 2009 IUSS Select committee Report August 2009

42 Drop-out (non-completion) – 3 issues oThe Daily Mail issue The Shame of the Student Dropouts oThe frightened politician issue We must bear down on non- completion oThe muddled sociologist issue Drop-out is a social construct

43 To the Daily Mail: HE drop-out rates in the OECD Source: OECD, Education at a Glance (2004)

44 To the frightened politician: Different institutions have very different rates of dropout Analysis of HESA Performance Indicators

45 Different institutions have very different rates of success in widening access Analysis of HESA Performance Indicators

46 Likelihood of drop-out is directly related to prior educational experience Source: HEFCE analysis of HESA data

47 The muddled sociologists o'Drop out' is seen as a threat to the Governments widening participation policy and to its social justice agenda. It is commonly portrayed as a disaster for the students themselves. oInterviews showed that 'dropping out' was not a disaster. Students had sound reasons for withdrawing early. All but one intended to return to education. oThe researchers conclude that working-class students who withdraw early to refocus and re- enter education are real lifelong learners: institutions and policy-makers have yet to catch up with them All quotes from Rethinking working-class 'drop out' from university, by Institute for Access Studies, Staffordshire University – Jocey Quinn, Liz Thomas, Kim Slack, Lorraine Casey, Wayne Thexton and John Noble, published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation

48 Likelihood of Depression - Men Institute of Education: Wider Benefits of Learning Group (http://www.learningbenefits.net/Publications/ResearchReports.htm)http://www.learningbenefits.net/Publications/ResearchReports.htm

49 Likelihood of Excellent Health - Women Institute of Education: Wider Benefits of Learning Group (http://www.learningbenefits.net/Publications/ResearchReports.htm)http://www.learningbenefits.net/Publications/ResearchReports.htm

50 Likelihood of Educational problems in children Institute of Education: Wider Benefits of Learning Group (http://www.learningbenefits.net/Publications/ResearchReports.htm)http://www.learningbenefits.net/Publications/ResearchReports.htm

51 Likelihood of voting - Men Institute of Education: Wider Benefits of Learning Group (http://www.learningbenefits.net/Publications/ResearchReports.htm)http://www.learningbenefits.net/Publications/ResearchReports.htm

52 Part time HE is the future – well if so there is a downside Outcomes of part-time first degree entrants in after 11 academic years

53 Higher education policy making: hope, prejudice and wishful thinking Bahram Bekhradnia Director Higher Education Policy Institute City University 26 January 2010

54 oMiriam David 7 January, 2010 I am delighted that you have taken Professor Carole read's research so seriously, exactly as it deserves to be. Kelly coate's research is also very important, and both deserve much wider coverage, and nuanced attention to their 'evidence', pace HEPI's director who nowhere defines what he means by evidence. oThomas Hobbes 9 January, 2010 Whatever HEPI's director means by "evidence", we can at least assume that he means more than just a collection of anecdotes and snap judgements thrown together by someone obsessively determined to find sexism wherever possible, and then labelled "research". Do any academics these days ever pause for even a moment to wonder why nobody outside the sacred groves takes them seriously?

55 Abuse of research – the case of PQA oMr Rammell said that research showed that pupils from poorer families suffered most because teachers often underestimated the grades that they eventually achieve - while over-estimating the likely results of pupils from wealthier homes ¹. ¹Times 9 September 2005

56 Accuracy of predicted grades, by social class % Correct SES151.4 SES246.3 SES343 SES440.9 SES540.4 SES639.4 Analysis of the Reliability of Predicted Grades –DfES October 2005

57 But lowest SES are over-predicted, rather than under Analysis of the Reliability of Predicted Grades –DfES October 2005


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