london met

Sep. 4th, 2012 10:30 am
glitzfrau: (jesusgun)
I was going to post a big long rant about how angry I am that the UK Borders Agency has revoked London Metropolitan University's right to issue visas, leaving thousands of international students threatened with deportation right before the beginning of term. The The Pequod posted pretty much exactly what I think of this decision, so that's OK. One or two extra points:
  • [livejournal.com profile] biascut argues, correctly, that the whole ungodly mess is largely the result of government cuts. UKBA is woefully understaffed, and is running four months behind in issuing visas. Meanwhile, they have outsourced as much as possible of their work to universities.

  • This is the one I am furious about, and have been for three years: I am an unpaid agent of the UKBA. If you work in UK higher education, chances are you are too. Every time I fill in an attendance register for a class online, it is sent to UKBA, and if international students miss too many classes, they're liable to deportation - because of my actions. I don't know who's an EU student in my classes, and I don't want to know. I don't want to discriminate. But an EU student has the right to attend a family funeral at short notice, take time off for the Olympics, spend a morning in bed with a hangover, with no greater sanction than a bollocking from me or, at worst, suspension from studies; non-EU students get deported for that. I think that's gross. In fact, I think when I go back I have half a mind to check which students are non-EU and mark them present at every class, just because.

  • What is the result of an international headline stating 'International students at UK university to be deported through no fault of their own?' A drop in international recruitment, of course. Commentators are arguing that this is an appalling knock-on effect, that the reputational damage is irreparable, what were the government thinking? I say, if you want to know why a decision was made, look at its outcomes. Outcome: the Daily Mail is happy, racism is stoked among the population (all the discourse in the headlines is about 'genuine' versus 'fraudulent' students - just as it was last year about 'fraudulent' benefits claimants), and Johnny Foreigner is told he's jolly well not welcome in Britain. I would say that's exactly what the government wanted to achieve. Where is David Willetts, defending these students and the institution? Nowhere. That speaks for itself.

  • And ANOTHER thing: I suspect one ancillary reason why the government doesn't give a toss or is rejoicing in London Met's downfall is that they are mostly Oxbridge poshos. They can't imagine that any 'genuine' international student could possibly want to pay £30,000 to attend a dismal ex-poly like London Met. Everyone knows that genuine international students are luminaries like Aung San Su Kyi and Benazir Bhutto studying PPE at Oxbridge and glittering in the Students' Union there.

    What Brazilian would pay through the nose to do a scummy course like - ugh! - media or business studies at London Met? Only a fraudster, clearly. About time this racket was closed down, and elitist excellence restored. If the knock-on effect damages more of those so-called 'new universities', so much the better, right? They were supposed to wither away and die under the new fees regime anyway.


END OF RANT. I am cross. But oh well, the booing of George Osborne and cheering of Gordon Brown at the Paralympics last night are glorious things.
glitzfrau: (jesusgun)
ME: Why did the Today programme just ask Ed Miliband why people thought he was weird? He's not weird! He's perfectly normal! What an odd question.

[livejournal.com profile] biascut: Because he's Jewish. Sorry, am I obsessed?

ME: No, you're quite right. Of course.

*both girls sigh*
glitzfrau: (knew it all by sinsense)
I HAVE A NEW THEORY ABOUT THE RIOTS. And I will mention it briefly, then move on, because the analysis and reconstruction are much much better left to wiser, more patient, more experienced people than an armchair middle-classnik like me. (Read [livejournal.com profile] ultraruby, for instance.) But anyway, I am wondering to what extent the Great British Narrative of Decline informs the situation, at every level. Tories spouting that family breakdown and liberal policing have caused the misery, unlike an imagined golden age in the past where paterfamilias kept order and your friendly local white bobby just had to frown at one of the dastardly gypsies from Enid Blyton and crime was averted. Lefties blaming the cuts in EMA and youth services, as though there were never any riots, any theft or any deprivation in the glorious Blair years or in the 1950s, as though people weren't still dying young of TB and as though all those vaunted manufacturing industry jobs didn't also routinely cause hideous industrial accidents and life-long disability. Liberals talking about poverty of aspiration in an increasingly unequal society, as though the "more equal" Britain of the 1960s wasn't built on a toxic practice of empire and on trade protectionism; just look at Britain's filthy little satrapy in Northern Ireland in those years for a flipside to the narrative of the "age of opportunity", never mind the ways in which Jamaican immigrants or Kenyan freedom fighters were treated.

Britain was better, then. People worked harder, aspired more, had decent jobs to go to, respected community more, were wealthier, healthier, less in thrall to television. Not like today's broken Britain. All the coalition government and the UK media have to offer the British public is a non-stop narrative of misery, austerity, corruption, sinking living standards, cuts in services, poverty in old age, massive middle-class debt, the pauperisation of social tenants, decline and fall.

Maybe I'm wrong, but thinking back to the 1980s Ireland of my childhood, where there was an enormous amount of poverty but not so much social unrest (we exported it to the North), I think that narratives of decline and fall had no place. There was no golden age for us to hark back to; there was the grinding poverty of the 1950s, the unsustainable and preposterous separatism of the 1930s, and the humiliation of colonisation. Whether or not things had been better under the British in the 1910s than under de Valera in the 1940s (as I sometimes suspect they must have been), no Irish citizen in the 1980s and no Irish citizen now yearns to return to British imperial rule. Even now, I don't hear many Irish people saying "if only we could return to the glorious Tiger days of 1999". We know we've messed up, but the only way is forward, hoping and planning for a new better Ireland. And I suspect - though what would I know? - that this is why the Irish culture of education is so much stronger than the British one, where 50% going to university is only an abandoned aspiration (in Ireland, it's the norm, and numbers are going up year on year). Maybe I'm just a big Hegelian banging on about narratives of progress here, but the British narrative of decline just seems to be leading to despair and rancour. I am very tired of it.
glitzfrau: (lowry)
From about 4.00, [livejournal.com profile] biascut was getting a bit agitated on Facebook worrying about the rumours on Twitter. This struck me as a little too much social media fussing, so when she came home at five, I told her to stop being silly and to go out to her pottery class in the leafy suburbs. Sure if she would be safe anywhere, it would be in posh Chorlton! I sent her on her way, and decided to finish up work in favour of going to Boots for medicine for a very minor complaint. It's ten minutes' walk into the city centre from the houseen, and once I had crossed the boundary into the shopping area, the streets were thrumming with riot police. Glitzy Cathedral Street was filled with nervy teenagers and shoppers; all the high-end shops were shut up, apart from that palace of classiness, the UGG shop, smashed in and looted. Walking on, M&S had a smashed window, JB Sports was boarding itself up, and Boots was shut. Everything was shut. Well, shite. Home for me, dinner and more work.

Except as I came in, [livejournal.com profile] biascut came in too. She'd gone to meet her pottery chum @maerk for their ritual burrito-before-pottery at Piccadilly Gardens, locked up her bike, come out to find it turned upside down and the frame dented. Also, the busses to the leafy suburbs were cancelled. So that was that, and she was a little rattled. My father's hotel was on Piccadilly, and I started ringing him to no avail; probably, I consoled myself, he was in a lecture theatre, blissfully unaware of events.

The rest of the night was mostly Twitter, really, and trying to ring my father. I rang my mother in Dublin, who was maddeningly unconcerned, and said, 'Maybe your father is holed up in the university with a gun poking out of the castellated turrets!' Twitter told me Miss Selfridge was up in flames; the Arndale was broken into; Affleck's, the alternative market, was being looted; the shops under Brideshead Revisited's flat being looted (he was fine, but holed up in some alarm); Oxfam was being trashed; the police were chasing gangs of gurriers. Around eleven, I finally got through to my father, who had been at dinner in town only a few metres from the BBC's live riot cam.

'Do you want to come here, Daddy?' I asked, worried. 'It's quiet here, and I know it's hairy in Piccadilly'. 'Oh no, not after the Arndale!' he said. 'It's safer here... erm... there's a crowd of rioters running down the street outside my window... I've never seen so many... they must be organised... oh, there's riot police chasing them down the street... and now they're being encircled against my hotel...'

'Eek, you stay put!' I said, 'we're safe here at least... erm... is that smoke I smell? Oh look, a huge plume of smoke outside my bedroom window... erm... maybe I'd best investigate that'.

Damage done: a rather handsome but derelict Victorian pub set on fire at the edge of our estate, all the streets filled with smoke. I'm about to walk down Piccadilly to get the train, so that will be a little heartbreaking. My mother was supposed to come to Manchester tonight till Saturday, but she's not going to come now; the plan was to shop, and what's the point in that now?

In London, marginalised black people turned on their own areas in a horrifying exhibition of rage and nihilism. Here in Manchester, white kids came in from the suburbs to loot Armani and Ugg. Teenagers testing boundaries, as teenagers do, and going that little bit further than underage drinking in underpasses and smash-and-grab raids on parked cars. It didn't take these riots to tell me that there's an enormous amount of social deprivation and exclusion in Greater Manchester, sure there always has been, since the industrial revolution. Yes, UK society needs changing, and my friend English Thomas optimistically hopes that these events will unmask the bankruptcy of aristocratic rule, but the riots tell us nothing other than that teenagers running riot can go way too far. Shite.

I had grown so proud of the handsome fabric of Manchester and the ambitious building projects that even now, in the thick of the recession, were springing up everywhere around my house. I can only hope that the vandalism acts as a catalyst for renewal, like the IRA bomb. And the worst of it was thinking of my elderly nervy father, alone in his glass tower in the heart of the violence, and me unable to help him one bit other than being on the other end of the phone. Awful. I wonder if my parents will ever come back.
glitzfrau: (jesusgun)
Why is no-one anonymising today? Here's anonycomments with a difference: if you met a member of the British cabinet or the Irish government on your commute home this afternoon, what would you say to them in person? Unpopular political opinions can be uttered without fear of personal retribution!
glitzfrau: (jesusgun)
Why is no-one anonymising today? Here's anonycomments with a difference: if you met a member of the British cabinet or the Irish government on your commute home this afternoon, what would you say to them in person? Unpopular political opinions can be uttered without fear of personal retribution!
glitzfrau: (ueberspod)
I am not the best authority to comment on the Browne report or the spending review in higher education, but here are my thoughts, anyway:
  • The proposal to strip funding from all but 'core' subjects in the Browne report will necessarily hit languages very hard, and arts subjects in general hard, as we are and will continue to be heavily dependent on teaching funding from the government. It is generally acknowledged that the proposed rise in the fees to a 'soft cap' of £6000 will not cover teaching costs once the government cuts our teaching funding. Departments, faculties and schools will close.

  • There is a myth surrounding arts degrees: the graffiti over the toilet roll holder, saying Arts degrees, please take one. Employers, in the private sector as well as the public sector, love arts graduates, for their critical thinking skills, self-motivation, writing skills, research skills and the rest of the package. Arts graduates are to be found in the most influential positions around the world - Obama, for instance, and if we were to go through the UK cabinet present and past, the number of arts graduates would be very high. Arts skills are essential to the economy, but so far employers aren't prepared to fund them, in the way that they are happy to cross-fund science graduates via industry collaborations with universities. So when departments, faculties and universities shut, unless industry and public sector bodies start funding the arts students they desperately need, the economy will lose a proven, essential high-skills resource. Very foolish.

  • Apparently, free fees in Scotland haven't widened participation; free fees have widened participation mildly in Ireland; moderate fees in England have widened participation significantly. So there is a case to be made for fees. However, the premium promised to graduates at present is only £100,000 increase in earnings over a lifetime, an unlikely figure in any case, and this will shrink as more people have degrees. Further, once students graduate with £50,000 in debt, the attractiveness of that premium will shrink. So I cannot see how this massive hike in fees will not dissuade people on low incomes, and condemn them to a life at the bottom of an economy that, increasingly, relies on graduates, not unskilled or low-skilled workers.

  • Further, has anyone gender-proofed this proposed fees hike? Men may earn enough to pay off their debt and realise a profit; women, who earn less in general and in particular once they have children, may well not.

  • Finally, as Jonathan Freedland said, the entire argument for raising fees is an individualistic one that sees a degree as a commodity, and a university as a service provider for a rational, discriminating sixteen year old consumer. (I have yet to meet this sixteen year old, but if you know the one who does patient, disinterested research into their degree without being influenced at all by their family, class and social group, please let me know.)

    But a degree is a social and personal good. We provide free primary and secondary education because society as a whole could not function without them; increasingly, the same is true of tertiary education, and every other European country subsidises higher education for this reason. Eastern Europe has poured money into higher education in the past ten years, Germany is stepping up its investment; they will reap the rewards, and English young people will be left crushed by a choice between unemployability or massive debt that Czech and French young people will never need to be worried by. This does not strike me as the way to ensure national prosperity.

    Further, higher education provides a cultural resource for a society, of a graduate cohort who have engaged with and created cultural and scientific knowledge, who bring that knowledge into their careers and families and use the skills they have learned at university to better society and the economy. That seems irrelevant to the government, too.

    I am beginning to think that the only way to sell an arts degree to a student in future will not be in terms of value for money - because no non-professional degree will be able to guarantee value for money at £50,000 a pop - nor in terms of employability, but more in the good old-fashioned terms of higher education: the three years at university are valuable in themselves as a wonderful time spent developing the mind. I genuinely believe that this is true. Unfortunately, in the future it looks as though only the very, very privileged English will be able to afford it.


Me, I'm happy to emigrate, as are many other scientists and academics. And I suspect many students will begin to do the same. Why would an English student pay £50,000 for a British degree when they could do a degree at Ghent or Uppsala, in English, for a fraction of the price?

Es wird nichts so heiss gegessen wie es gekocht wird; we will see what will really happen. But these new suggestions are ridiculous.
glitzfrau: (ueberspod)
I am not the best authority to comment on the Browne report or the spending review in higher education, but here are my thoughts, anyway:
  • The proposal to strip funding from all but 'core' subjects in the Browne report will necessarily hit languages very hard, and arts subjects in general hard, as we are and will continue to be heavily dependent on teaching funding from the government. It is generally acknowledged that the proposed rise in the fees to a 'soft cap' of £6000 will not cover teaching costs once the government cuts our teaching funding. Departments, faculties and schools will close.

  • There is a myth surrounding arts degrees: the graffiti over the toilet roll holder, saying Arts degrees, please take one. Employers, in the private sector as well as the public sector, love arts graduates, for their critical thinking skills, self-motivation, writing skills, research skills and the rest of the package. Arts graduates are to be found in the most influential positions around the world - Obama, for instance, and if we were to go through the UK cabinet present and past, the number of arts graduates would be very high. Arts skills are essential to the economy, but so far employers aren't prepared to fund them, in the way that they are happy to cross-fund science graduates via industry collaborations with universities. So when departments, faculties and universities shut, unless industry and public sector bodies start funding the arts students they desperately need, the economy will lose a proven, essential high-skills resource. Very foolish.

  • Apparently, free fees in Scotland haven't widened participation; free fees have widened participation mildly in Ireland; moderate fees in England have widened participation significantly. So there is a case to be made for fees. However, the premium promised to graduates at present is only £100,000 increase in earnings over a lifetime, an unlikely figure in any case, and this will shrink as more people have degrees. Further, once students graduate with £50,000 in debt, the attractiveness of that premium will shrink. So I cannot see how this massive hike in fees will not dissuade people on low incomes, and condemn them to a life at the bottom of an economy that, increasingly, relies on graduates, not unskilled or low-skilled workers.

  • Further, has anyone gender-proofed this proposed fees hike? Men may earn enough to pay off their debt and realise a profit; women, who earn less in general and in particular once they have children, may well not.

  • Finally, as Jonathan Freedland said, the entire argument for raising fees is an individualistic one that sees a degree as a commodity, and a university as a service provider for a rational, discriminating sixteen year old consumer. (I have yet to meet this sixteen year old, but if you know the one who does patient, disinterested research into their degree without being influenced at all by their family, class and social group, please let me know.)

    But a degree is a social and personal good. We provide free primary and secondary education because society as a whole could not function without them; increasingly, the same is true of tertiary education, and every other European country subsidises higher education for this reason. Eastern Europe has poured money into higher education in the past ten years, Germany is stepping up its investment; they will reap the rewards, and English young people will be left crushed by a choice between unemployability or massive debt that Czech and French young people will never need to be worried by. This does not strike me as the way to ensure national prosperity.

    Further, higher education provides a cultural resource for a society, of a graduate cohort who have engaged with and created cultural and scientific knowledge, who bring that knowledge into their careers and families and use the skills they have learned at university to better society and the economy. That seems irrelevant to the government, too.

    I am beginning to think that the only way to sell an arts degree to a student in future will not be in terms of value for money - because no non-professional degree will be able to guarantee value for money at £50,000 a pop - nor in terms of employability, but more in the good old-fashioned terms of higher education: the three years at university are valuable in themselves as a wonderful time spent developing the mind. I genuinely believe that this is true. Unfortunately, in the future it looks as though only the very, very privileged English will be able to afford it.


Me, I'm happy to emigrate, as are many other scientists and academics. And I suspect many students will begin to do the same. Why would an English student pay £50,000 for a British degree when they could do a degree at Ghent or Uppsala, in English, for a fraction of the price?

Es wird nichts so heiss gegessen wie es gekocht wird; we will see what will really happen. But these new suggestions are ridiculous.
glitzfrau: (jesusgun)

We were wandering around the cold bright cloisters of I Can't Believe It's Not Oxbridge, when a plump, greasy-haired man shambling in my direction caught my eye. "Is that who I think it is?" I muttered to my companion, who looked, did a double take, said "Oh my God, it is!". We did our best not to look conspicuous as Nick Griffin walked along the cathedral precinct, flanked incongrously by teenaged girls. "I bet he's shadowed by fascist goons," I added, and now we're on a BNP watch list for having noticed him. Shit."

"But where is he going?!" asked a shocked companion. We chased after him into the castle yard, but he was gone. Was he going to Evensong too? We didn't see him, and couldn't decide whether it was his thing; on the one hand, what more English than Evensong? but on the other, isn't he a proper blood and runes Nazi? We didn't have to walk out in protest at least.

Anyway. I can confirm that he is as swivel-eyed and dodgy looking in person as he is in the media. And that I am a craven conformist. How often have you heard someone argue passionately, If only I had been in Munich in 1922, I could have shot Hitler and then the whole terrible Nazi history need never have happened. Did I shoot Nick Griffin? No. I did not even spit at him. If all non-white people are expelled from Britain in ten years time, you have me to blame.

In other news, in bed this morning I dreamt I was writing an article, using my hangover as a source. "Glitz (2010) thinks that she just needs to sleep it out," I wrote. "But Glitz (2010) is of the opinion that this will be one of those creeping hangovers that builds all day and crucifies her at three in the afternoon." Sigh.

glitzfrau: (jesusgun)

We were wandering around the cold bright cloisters of I Can't Believe It's Not Oxbridge, when a plump, greasy-haired man shambling in my direction caught my eye. "Is that who I think it is?" I muttered to my companion, who looked, did a double take, said "Oh my God, it is!". We did our best not to look conspicuous as Nick Griffin walked along the cathedral precinct, flanked incongrously by teenaged girls. "I bet he's shadowed by fascist goons," I added, and now we're on a BNP watch list for having noticed him. Shit."

"But where is he going?!" asked a shocked companion. We chased after him into the castle yard, but he was gone. Was he going to Evensong too? We didn't see him, and couldn't decide whether it was his thing; on the one hand, what more English than Evensong? but on the other, isn't he a proper blood and runes Nazi? We didn't have to walk out in protest at least.

Anyway. I can confirm that he is as swivel-eyed and dodgy looking in person as he is in the media. And that I am a craven conformist. How often have you heard someone argue passionately, If only I had been in Munich in 1922, I could have shot Hitler and then the whole terrible Nazi history need never have happened. Did I shoot Nick Griffin? No. I did not even spit at him. If all non-white people are expelled from Britain in ten years time, you have me to blame.

In other news, in bed this morning I dreamt I was writing an article, using my hangover as a source. "Glitz (2010) thinks that she just needs to sleep it out," I wrote. "But Glitz (2010) is of the opinion that this will be one of those creeping hangovers that builds all day and crucifies her at three in the afternoon." Sigh.