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Expert opinion from IOE, UCL's Faculty of Education and Society


Archive for the 'Further higher and lifelong education' Category

Universities enrich communities, as well as educating students – new research

Blog Editor, IOE Digital29 October 2020


Elaine Unterhalter.

Education helps us share knowledge, develop understanding, and supports our connection with each other. As the COVID-19 pandemic has continued, governments have been preoccupied with how to re-open schools.

However, there has been more doubt about universities. Discussions about the rise in COVID-19 infections in student populations have often raised the question as to why students are at university at all, running risks for themselves and local populations. These questions often link with views of universities as expensive, elitist – and perhaps not worth it at all.

Together with colleagues, I have conducted research commissioned by the British Council to assess the value provided by higher education. We reviewed 170 research studies published since 2010 (more…)

Covid-19 and education: how can we help the young generation missing the ‘best years of their lives’?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital2 October 2020

Emma Watson.

Post-millennials, or GenZ, have been described as the first true digital natives, growing up without memory of a time before smart phones or social media. So when England moved into lockdown in March 2020, and life moved online, you might expect this generation to be the most prepared to handle the change. However, our research suggests that this generation feel they are missing out on the “best years” of their lives, having been told to stay inside, losing access to university campuses, their social lives, and job opportunities.

Between May and July this year, the ASPIRES study recorded 48 interviews with 20- and 21-year-old participants who we’ve been fortunate enough to talk to every few years, since they were ten. ASPIRES is led by Professor Louise Archer, Karl Mannheim Professor of Sociology of Education at UCL Institute of Education. We’re interested in their science and career aspirations, their life experiences and views on a range of issues. The majority of these interviews were with individuals who were graduating from university this summer, others were mid-way through university, and a handful were either already working, about to start new jobs, or looking for work in a post-pandemic economy.

The young people we spoke with shared the financial difficulties they were experiencing. For instance, university students who depended on paid work during holidays or term-time to support their living costs had been particularly hard hit. As Luna* (more…)

‘When Black lives matter all lives will matter’ Part 2: forging new alliances

Blog Editor, IOE Digital23 September 2020

Ann Phoenix, Afiya Amesu, Issy Naylor and Kafi Zafar – a teacher and three students discuss the BLM movement in their second blog.

The scrutiny of racism that Black Lives Matter has produced raises questions of commonalities and differences in experiences of racism across groups. One consequence is that Asian people have found themselves remembering the pain of being subjected to implicit and overt racism. One example is learning that others thought there was something inherently wrong with darker skin through being asked at age five years, “why is your skin black?” before having any concept of race, ethnicity, or skin colour.

Fons Americanus by Kara Walker, displayed in the Tate Modern Turbine Hall. Photo by Les Hutchinson via Creative Commons

Part of the complexity ingrained in everyday racist practices is that it is not simply between those who are white and those who are ‘other’. Instead, South Asian children learn early that, not only is there a great deal of racism and casteism towards South Asians, but also within their own South Asian communities. Comments from elders range from complaints of becoming too tanned in the summer, and darker skin ruining marriage prospects for young girls, to offhand remarks about how beautiful a baby is for no other reason than their fair complexion. This is, arguably, as destructive as external racism since it tears South Asians apart from the inside. This colourism is now recognised to be one face of racism that has gained strong footholds because of histories of enslavement and colonialism. It highlights the importance of recognising what Avtar Brah, in the 1990s, called ‘differential racisms’.

Increasingly, young British Asians are fighting against these ideologies through not only embracing their own dark skin, but also breaking down the stereotypes and stigma (more…)

‘When Black Lives Matter All Lives Will Matter’

Blog Editor, IOE Digital22 September 2020


Ann Phoenix, Afiya Amesu, Issy Naylor and Kafi Zafar – a teacher and three students discuss the BLM movement in a two-part blog.

The publicity following the death of George Floyd after the white policeman Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck galvanised support for the Black Lives Matter movement. BLM and the attention it has garnered over the last few months has thrown light on the ongoing discrimination and systemic racism that black people continue to face.

Alongside the unprecedented global protests against racism, there seems a new appetite to understand the specificities and ubiquity of anti-black racism and its subtle, every-day materialisations as well as its murderous manifestations. That quest for understanding has seen an extraordinary outpouring of testimonies from black and mixed-parentage people, telling stories of events and day to day experiences that have generally been reserved for insider conversations on microaggressions and discrimination.

It is evident in institutions such as the media and universities that both like to see themselves as progressive but are repeatedly shown to reproduce social inequalities. A crucial (more…)

The Covid-19 cohort and the ‘mess’ of public exams: reconsidering roles and responsibilities

Blog Editor, IOE Digital13 August 2020

Melanie Ehren and Christopher Chapman.

On 18 March the Secretary of State for Education told Parliament that, in response to the Coronavirus  pandemic, schools and colleges in England would shut to all but the children of critical workers and vulnerable children until further notice. Exams scheduled for the summer would not take place.

Government worked with the education sector and Ofqual to develop a process to provide calculated GCSE, AS and A level grades for each student which reflects their performance as fairly as possible and ensure consistency across the sector. The process involves the following steps: (more…)

Higher education’s ‘new normal’: building connections in the post-Covid-19 era

Blog Editor, IOE Digital31 July 2020

Allison Littlejohn

The Higher Education sector is facing the highest level of uncertainty in its long history. Prospective students are wondering what to expect from study in the 20-21 academic year.

A recent study by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) found over 70% of UK students expect some online teaching, but only 18% expect all learning to be online. Through our UCL Institute of Education ‘Task & Finish’ Group on sustained future for taught provision, we have been talking with students about their experiences of learning remotely during the pandemic. In general students are understanding about the challenges of moving to teaching online.

They appreciate that the rapid move to online teaching was necessary to protect students and staff from the risk of infection. However, they miss the face-to-face ‘connection’ with academics and other students, so it’s important to re-establish connections in ways that enable our whole community – academics, students and professional services colleagues – to work together. The question is, how do we do this in a way that allows for the current operating restrictions due to Covid-19?

The IOE’s UCL Knowledge Lab has been leading a study of the experiences of staff across UCL during the rapid move to online teaching, research and working from home through the UCL Moving to Online Teaching and Homeworking project (MOTH). Data was gathered beginning March 26, 2020 via an online survey, with (more…)

The First World War prompted an expansion of HE after devastating destruction. Can we draw lessons 100 years on?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital24 July 2020

Georgina Brewis.

Students coming to UK universities in September 2020 are facing a unique year: virtual freshers’ fairs, online lectures, social distancing and compulsory face coverings on campuses. Yet as lockdown eases, there is a renewed enthusiasm for continuing higher education – UCAS applications from UK school leavers are at an all time high.

A hundred years ago, there was a similar rush to the universities and colleges after the devastating disruption and loss of the First World War. A new open access article in the journal History, co-written with Sarah Hellawell and Daniel Laqua, is the first to examine an innovative government scholarship scheme for ex-service students. Between 1918 and 1923, the ‘Scheme for the Higher Education of Ex-Service Students’ broadened the social class base of UK universities and colleges, and marked a significant development in the provision of state funding for students’ higher education.

UCL Cloisters in the early 1920s showing photographs of the fallen and the roll of honour. Source: UCL Special Collections.

Immediately after the Armistice in November 1918, young people began planning their return to the universities and colleges they had left for military or civilian service. Many institutions, including University College London, ran an emergency year from January to August 1919, teaching through the vacation to enable students to complete their studies. A pressing shortage of school teachers drove a surge in demand for teacher training. At the London Day Training College (more…)

Covid-19 and higher education – a chance to re-imagine the sector, at system and classroom level

Blog Editor, IOE Digital9 July 2020

IOE Events.

In the third and final debate in our mini-series on Covid-19 and education we took a look at what the future could – or should – resemble for our higher education system. For What if… our education system changed for good in light of COVID-19? Part 3: higher education we heard from professors of higher education and of learning technology, a specialist in university regulation and governance, and a former universities minister.

Prior to the arrival of Covid-19, the debate about the right path for England’s higher education sector was still very much a live one. Debate was rooted in value positions running from ‘more means worse’ elitism through to calls for comprehensivisation, as well as contrasting attitudes towards marketisation. For the moment, it is not clear where the experience of the pandemic will take government policy on higher education over the medium term. In the meantime, our panel (more…)

Higher education in the era of COVID-19: have universities considered all the issues for moving teaching online?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital7 July 2020

Gillian Stokes, Alison O’Mara-Eves, Antonia Simon, Preethy D’Souza, Meena Khatwa and Michelle Richardson

The coronavirus pandemic arrived like Nature’s curveball from the blue, and it has had a huge impact on the landscape of higher education (HE). Teaching and learning from home have rapidly become the new normal, with no clear end in sight.

The discourse surrounding HE teaching and learning just as rapidly shifted focus.

Universities’ ability to deliver ‘fit for purpose’ remote learning is under scrutiny. Staff, parents and students are raising worries about privacy, technology and teaching methods. Lecturers have engaged readily and adapted teaching to try to ensure the best experience for their students. But they also have concerns.

We believe discussions about HE and online teaching need to become more nuanced. Here, we identify four key issues (more…)

Wellbeing: engaging with students on their experience of moving online

Blog Editor, IOE Digital1 July 2020

Nadine Zwiener-Collins, Lisa Fridkin, Neus Bover-Fonts.

In the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, universities worldwide have experienced rapid changes to the way they teach, especially the move to online teaching. These changes and their consequences are widely discussed within the Higher Education sector; however, because the changes are so new, systematic evidence on how students are coping is just emerging and so far, we know little about students’ own perceptions of the impacts on their learning experience and wellbeing.

These impacts are likely to be complex and multidimensional, and shaped not only by the students’ own diverse backgrounds and individual circumstances but equally by the specific responses of universities and individual programmes to the crisis.

We asked one cohort of students about the effects of the crisis on their wellbeing and learning just after the end of Spring Term and shortly after (more…)