Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

Boot camps closing

August 10th, 2017 by Graham Attwell

Interesting press release from Reuters regarding the American Coding Boot Camps – a model some policy makers in Europe have been looking at as a model for adoption.

Reuters report that “closures are up in a field now jammed with programs promising to teach students in just weeks the skills needed to get hired as professional coders. So far this year, at least eight schools have shut down or announced plans to close in 2017, according to the review website Course Report.

Two pioneers in the sector, San Francisco’s Dev Bootcamp and The Iron Yard of Greenville, South Carolina, announced in July that they are being shut down by their corporate parents.

Others, including market leaders like General Assembly, a New York firm that has raised $120 million in venture capital, are shifting their focus to corporate training.”

Some of the Boot Camps offer  online programmes, others have face to face training. What they share in common is that they are fee paying. According to Reuters average tuition is just over $11,000 for a 14-week course. The spread of the boot camps has been largely funded by Venture Capitalist who have pumped in more that 250 US dollars.

Following on the failure to monetise MOOCs venture capital  seized on boot camps as another route to “disrupt” education by creating a new privatised market.

Interestingly though, Code Academy who have always offered free online training in coding have come up with a new business model. According to Bloomberg they have launched a three-tiered paid service which will allow personal learning, provide mentored help in building websites from scratch and build front-end applications. The fee ranges from $19.9 to $499 per month.

What is industry 4.0?

August 7th, 2017 by Graham Attwell

I’ve long wondered what is meant by industry 4.0. Some shining techno world of robots and Artificial Intelligence? Or the end of batch production for individualised goods (although we have been told this is happening for the last thirty or so years). The rise of service – although how does this relate to industry and it is hardly new? And whatever was Industry 3.0, 2.0 and 1.0 for that matter?

Erinc Yeldan, Professor of Economics at Yasar University, sums it up pretty well writing in Social Europe. In an article entitled “Beyond Fantasies Of Industry 4.0″, he says”

As a popularized futuristic concept for the 21st Century, “Industry 4.0” reveals a Messianic expectation of a technological revolution encompassing the utilization of advance techniques of digital design and robotics for the production of “high value-added goods”. It doesn’t matter in this conjuncture, nor of relevance, to ask what the characteristics of the first three episodes of industrialization were, and why do we conceptualize the emerged fourth industrial advance with a digitalized mark (4.0), rather than in plain English. It seems what matters now is the urgent need for creating an image of vibrant capitalism serving its citizens in the embrace of globalization.

If we accept the idea of Industry 4.0 as real (and I am highly dubious), Erinc thinks the question of ownership is critical for the future:

..to whom will the ownership rights of the robots belong? States as owners of public (-?) capital? Private ownership as organized along trans-national corporations under the post-imperialist phase of global capital? Men and women of the scientific community who in the first place designed and projected them? Or perhaps, a de-centralized, democratically operating societal network, above and beyond nation states?

Although I agree, this is just a part of the argument about teh future of technology. Technology is not a natural phenomenon, it is a socially derived process. How we use technology – for private profit or for public good is a political and social issue. It is long time the meanings and assumptions of the Industry 4.0 fantasy were explored from a social viewpoint.

Why is there such a big gender difference in graduate employment

June 16th, 2017 by Graham Attwell

salaries grad

In our work on Labour Market Information Systems, we frequently talk about the differences between labour market information and labour market intelligence in terms of making sense and meanings from statistical data. The graph above is a case in point. It is one of the outcomes of a survey on Graduate Employment, undertaken by the UK Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).

Like many such studies, the data is not complete. Yet, looking at the pay by gender reveals what WONKHE call “a shocking picture of the extent of the pay gap even straight out of university, and how different subject areas result in a diverse range of pay differences.”

Understanding why there is such a gap is harder. One reason could be that even with equal pay legislation, employers simply prefer to employ male staff for higher paid and more senior jobs. Also, the graph shows the subject in which the students graduated, not the occupational area in which they are employed. Thus the strikingly higher pay for mean who undertook nursing degrees may be due to them gaining highly paid jobs outside nursing. Another probable factor in explaining some of the pay gap is that the figures include both full and part time workers. Nationally far more women are employed part time, than men. However, that explanation itself raises new questions.

The data from HESA shows the value of data and at the same time the limitations of just statistical information. The job now is to find out why there is such a stark gender pay gap and what can be done about it. Such ‘intelligence’ will require qualitative research to go beyond the bald figures.

The threat to research

June 14th, 2017 by Graham Attwell

I just realsied I had not updated the editorial since July last year. Then I wrote a hasty and angry editorial about the threat that Brexit posed to Pontydysgu and to the wider educational community. Since then a lot has happened!

For companies like Pontydysgu, along with other small enterprises working in research, we have the flexibility to move offices to more sunny climes within the European Union. But friends in universities in the UK tell me teh situation is seen as increasingly dire as lack of access to European project funding threatens to compound reduced resources and higher work pressures brought about by UK Higher Education policy and enthusiastically adopted by senior managers. Perhaps things look a little more hopeful after last weeks rejection of austerity by UK electors. But Brexit is not only a monetary threat to research in the UK: as important is isolation from the international and cross disciplinary research networks built up by researchers in universities throughout Europe.

Stress and academic identities

May 7th, 2017 by Graham Attwell

I was planning to write an article on academics and ‘well being’ today so it is somewhat serendipitous that Twitter gave me a link to an article in Times Higher Education on academic stress.

The article reports on a study by Roland Persson, professor of educational psychology at Sweden’s Jönköping University who has developed a ranking of academic stress in 91 countries. Germany, Canada, Denmark, Finland and Malaysia are judged to be relatively stress-free sectors with Chian most successful and UK coming somewhere in the middle.

Professor Persson, ascribes Germany’s success in generating high staff morale and strong job satisfaction among academics to the country’s relative lack of a performance management culture, according to Times Higher.
My article was going to be nothing like so scientific. But I have many friends working in universities sin the UK and am struck how demoralised most of them seem to be.

And Professor Persson’s findings tally with what my friends tell me. He identifies excessive workload as a key driver of stress, alongside a lack of support, understanding and respect from managers. But I think it goes further than that. Universities in the UK are being run as businesses and badly run at that. Tayloristic management was developed for running production lines in car factories. Many modern industries, especially those involved in creative or intellectual work have moved different management paradigms. Yet UK universities now seem to be both excessively hierarchical and at the same time have ado-ted management by target, with targets ever increasing.

Most researchers and teachers I know in universities are dedicated to their students and to their research area. There is a stark culture clash between doing the job in the right way as they see it and a management culture based on cutting costs and generating profit. At heart of this conflict is the identity of teachers and researchers. All that is keeping many of them in their jobs is the lack of alternative.

First of May and “PULSE OF EUROPE”

May 1st, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

So, once again we have celebrated the First of May – the special day of working people and international workers’ movement. Usually I do not feel inclined to engage myself (as an expatriate) in the politics of my host country (Germany). But to me the First of May demonstrations are clearly that kind of citizens’ participation in which I can join whatever my citizenship status may be. (To be sure – as an EU-Citizen I have no reason to complain: I have voting rights in the local/regional elections in Bremen and I can choose whether to vote for Finnish or German candidates in the elections of the EU-parliament.) In a similar way I have found my way way to the “Pulse of Europe” movement and its weekly demonstrations on Sundays.

Now that the First of May happened to be on Monday, I have been in two demonstrations on the successive days. Below I give short reports of both events. I will start with the First of May and the go back to the Pulse of Europe movement and its events in Bremen.

First of May in Bremen: The usual story – but with something new to think about

During my years in Bremen I have participated several times in the First of May demonstrations. Sometimes (in particular before the elections) there has been more interest to participate, sometimes less. This time – as I remember it – we were fewer than couple of times before. But we were enough to pass the message that this is a living tradition. Yet, when looking at the groups involved – they were pretty much the same: The major trade unions formed the majority. The political parties of the left (SPD, die Linke and the smaller groupings) were also there – of course. And we had the left groupings of several ethnic minorities – in particular the Kurdish people were actively present pleading for solidarity to their cousins in Turkey, Syria and Iraq. The German trade unions drew attention to the need to improve the resources in education and the care of elderly people – petitions were presented and signed. This was the familiar side of the event.

What was new then? Firstly, during the procession I got into conversation with a representative of teachers and researchers (GEW), who informed me of their local initiative group for international solidarity and cooperation. I became aware of their cooperation with similar trade unions in Turkey, Palestine and Burkina Faso – with initiatives that cover school education as well as higher education. I was invited to have a closer look at their activities and I will try to follow this up. Also, during the procession I got a leaflet of a solidarity initiative to support the refugees stuck on the isle of Lesbos (Lesvos). There was no chance to start a conversation but I will try to get a more detailed picture on the situation and on the work of the support initiatives. Here are the links to the websites:

http://www.lesvossolidarity.org and  www.bremenlesvos.wordpress.com.

Pulse of Europe in Bremen: The new movement with a clear message

In February and March I became aware of a new pro-European movement that had started weekly demonstrations for a positive thinking about Europe. Clearly, this was thought as a counter-model to the Dresden-based “PEGIDA” – a xenophobic and islamophobic movement that has provided a basis for right-wing populism and radicalism. And clearly, the Brexit-referendum in the UK and the presidential election in the USA in 2015 were the wake-up calls. The founders – individual citizens in Frankfurt – came to the conclusion that we need a popular movement that raises awareness of positive values, ideas, achievements and citizens’ participation opportunities related to the European Union. The initiative has to keep itself independent and open to all who are interested in taking action for Europe. And furthermore – the movement itself calls for active voting and contacting voters and politicians. It all started in a local demonstration in Frankfurt and the movement has spread all over Germany and to several other countries.

The demonstrations follow the same pattern: The ‘Pulse of Europe’ initiative is presented as an open and independent  citizens’ initiative. The 10 points manifesto is presented. There may be a guest presentation. Then there is a review on key events or incidents at European level. The audience is then invited to sing the Pulse of Europe version of the “Ode for Joy”. Then there mey be a ‘Greetings to …’ action with postcards or with posters and group photos. Then comes the “Open microphone” session for participants to present their views, arguments, messages or critique to be taken on board. And finally, there is the cultural concluding part when the participants join in a chain of people round the square to dance or to listen to a music performance. We have been dancing Sirtaki (focus on Greece) and listened to a bagpipe player (focus on the UK) and so on (I have missed couple of events when travelling).

To me this new movement has been a most welcome fresh wind. I have been happy to see, how the organisers and participants take this mode of participation seriously. Everyone knows that such a popular movement that tries to keep itself open for people with different political opinions cannot go into great detail. Yet, the ten points and the issues brought into discussion provide a good balance between positive ideas and critique of the aspects in present-date EU that tend to alienate citizens and decision-makers from each other. One of the key points of the movement is that we have reform EU to make it sustainable – but we have to keep it first to be able to reform it. And this is the message that the movement has been passing to other nations who have had or will have elections – in particular the Netherlands and France. The current message to our French neighbours is: “Restons ensemble!” (Let us stay together!) Or – as I would continue it: “Marchons ensemble!” (Let us proceed together!)

Here the links to the website of #Pulseofeurope and to the facebook-group:

http://pulseofeurope.eu  (in German)

http://pulseofeurope.eu/pulse-of-europe-what-is-at-stake/?lang=en  (in English)

https://www.facebook.com/PulseofEurope/

Next Sunday we will meet again at the central square of Bremen (Marktplatz) at the City Hall (Rathaus). We will continue.

More blogs to come …

 

 

 

Hyvää Kalevalan päivää 28.2. – Happy Kalevala Day February 28th

February 28th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

Normally I have not made great noises about my Finnish nationality. And it has never crossed my mind to to start blogging in my own language – after all, I have been working several years as a European researcher (using English as the working language). However, this year – the year 2017 – is something different. Finland is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its independence (I have already blogged on this after the 99th Independence Day 2016).  And today, on the 28th of February we celebrate Kalevala – our national saga. So, this calls for a little explanation on the importance of Kalevala for our nation-building and on the circumstances in which it was created.

Finland in the 19th century – the search for Finnish national identity and Finnish national saga

During the Napoleon wars in the 19th century Sweden lost Finland to Russia. Since the wars were going on elsewhere in Europe, Russia was inclined to integrate the new province in a smooth way. So Finland was granted the status of an autonomous Grand-Duchy and the Russian Czar adopted the title Grand-Duke of Finland as well. Finland could keep the old Swedish legislation and govern itself as before – now showing loyality to the new rulers. This could be settled rather easily.

Yet, for the language, culture and national identity this transition was a challenge. So far the educated classes had spoken Swedish and tried to integrate with the elites of the Swedish motherland, whilst Finnish had remained as a language of uneducated. Now, Russian language came into picture as the language of the new rulers. The educated classes faced the question – how to position themselves in the new situation. A new movement emerged with the motto: “We are no longer Swedes, we don’t want to become Russians – let us be Finns!”

And as a part of this movement several hobby-folklorists started to roam around the rural areas to collect old folklore runes and songs to compile the new nation in making its national saga. The leading person in this movement was Elias Lönnroth who collected a huge amount of folklore and edited the national saga “Kalevala”. This saga tells of the arcaic ‘motherland region’ of Finland – Kalevala and of the ancient heroes of the past. Strangely enough, most of these heroes were tragic or tragicomic characters and this was explicit in the stories. (Perhaps the ancient Finns were kinsmen of Kaurismäki.)

The Kalevala runes

As usual with ancient folklore, the stories were told as runes or sung as songs, With Kalevala, the metrics were similar as Ilias and Odyssey: the Kalevala-trokee. Therefore, the obligatory Kalevala-reading at schools has been a challenge for the younger generations. So, it has been easier to pick the tradition via shortcut-versions of particular versions, modern-styled movies with ancient characters or cartoon-versions with dog-shaped humans portraying the Kalevala characters.

But enough with the explanations – let us give sample of Kalevala poetry! Below I start with an original quote (the first verses of Kalevala). Then I continue with a self-styled Kalevala Day greeting (bringing the main Kalevala characters and their contributions together). And to be sure – this all will be in Finnish. And to pick metric, I have hyphenated the first verses. Enjoy it!

Mie-le-ni mi-nun te-ke-vi, ai-vo-ni ajat-te-levi,
lähte-ä-ni lau-la-ma-han, saa’ani sa-ne-le-mahan,
suku-virttä suolta-ma-han, laji-virttä lau-la-mahan …

Väinämöisen kanteleista, Ilmarisen ahjoista,
joukahaisen jousesta, Lemminkäisen miekasta,
Kullervon kirouksesta, Aino-neidon kohtalosta …

Mutta toki muistanemme, mielessämme kantanemme
Ilmattaren aikojen alusta – Väinämöisen kantajan,
Pohjan Akan mahtavan – Kalevalaisten pelkäämän,
Pohjan Tytin kaunokaisen – Ilmarisen emännän,
Lemminkäisen äidin huolen – poikansa pelastajan,
Sekä meidän Marjatan, jolle poika puolukasta.

Näistä kertoo Kalavala, Suomen kansan tarina,
juhlapäivä tänään on, juhlavuosi verraton!

– – –

This was my contribution to the Kalevala Day celebration on this special jubilation year of Finland. I think I will get back to topics like this later on this year.

More blogs to come …

Eine folgenreiche Reise – Martin Luther King in Deutschland

January 17th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

On Monday 16.01.2017 the Americans celebrated once again Martin Luther King Day as a national holida. With this blog entry I join with my belated congratulations the ones who respect his legacy by sharing my experiences as a radio-listener in Germany. On Sunday morning – the day before – I happened to listen to the radio program “Am Sonntag morgen” (on Sunday morning) – this time provided by the German Lutheran church. And it was a special program about the travels of Marin Luther King Sr and Jr in Germany. Inspired by the program I started a blog entry but had to stop just after the introduction and only share the link to the audio recording. But I made a commitment that I will continue writing the blog and give more information, why the travel of Martin Luther King Jr to Germany and Berlin in 1964 was a travel with consequences.  Here the link:

Eine folgenreiche Reise. Martin Luther King in Deutschland

Now, after several busy days at work (I will report) I have found time to keep my promise. So, let me give some clues why the travel(s) of Martin Luther King(s) can be characterised as trips with consequences.

Let us start with the father – Martin Luther King Sr. He was originally called Michael – and so was his son. But in the year 1935 he and some other baptist preachers attended an international baptist conference in Berlin. The Nazis were already in power and tried to make an image as tolerant rulers allowing such events to happen. But this was not the point of this story. King Sr (still called Michael) took the opportunity to visit the home places of the reformer Martin Luther (Wittenberg and Eisenach). There he got very much impressed of the spirit of Martin Luther – civil courage and self-determination – and he wanted to convey this spirit to the American civil rights movement where he was already involved. So, after returning home he renamed himself and his son as Martin Luther King – Senior and Junior.

The son – Martin Luther King Jr – follows in the footsteps of the father and continues his work as a preacher, intellectual and activist in the civil rights movement. By the year 1963 he had become world famous as the leader of the non-violent civil rights movement of black Americans – the man who gave the speech “I have a dream …” in the largest demonstration for civil rights. One year after – in 1964 (nearly 30 years after his father) he travels to Europe to participate in the international conference of baptists (this time in Amsterdam). And just like his father, he has his own extension program to explore Germany – but his target is the divided Berlin.

Little is known of this part of the travel of Martin Luther King – and mostly we thank for our knowledge a Berlin school pupils’ documentation project “King Code”. What this project has found out by interviewing witnesses and tracing documents makes us clear, why the details of this visit were kept secret.

On 13.09.1964 a well-known person from the German Democratic Republic (DDR) tries to escape to West-Berlin and is shot at just before he reaches the other side. An American sergeant risks a lot by dragging the wounded person to the Western side and takes him to the hospital. Martin Luther King gets to know of the incident, visits the place of shooting and visits the victim at the hospital. In his famous speech at the Waldbühne he predicts that the wall- the symbol of inhumanity for him – will fall down. But he wants to do more – he insists to visit East Berlin as well. The American authorities wanted to prevent this and confiscate his passport but he manages to get through the border control with his credit card as a travel document.

Thanks to the above mentioned school project we can listen to witnesses and an audio recording of the speech of Martin Luther King in the crowded Marienkirche (and memories of another speech in the nearby Sophienkirche). King presents his audience greetings from America and from all over the world. He then emphasises that people on both sides of the Berlin Wall ar e children of God and thus alike as human beings – and therefore, no regime can take that quality away from them. He speaks of justice, equality and civil rights – determined that that the path leads to freedom. Three months later he receives the Nobel Price for Peace and continues his work in the civil right movement.  Sadly, King was murdered some years later but his life work became know everywhere. And so, for the civil rights movement in DDR his message was present when they demonstrated for freedom and justice with the message for non-violence: “Keine Gewalt!” And in November 1989 the Berlin Wall and the borders of DDR were opened – another dream to come true.

In 2013 the activists of the school project “King Code” had the pleasure to witness the visit of the first black president of the USA to Berlin and to listen to his speech. Barack Obama spoke for open-mindedness between different religions as well as between residents and migrants. And in the spirit of Martin Luther King he emphasised that injustice at one place on earth is a threat to other places as well. In this respect he passed the message further to the young generation.

– – –

I think this is enough of this radio program. Please note that the content was provided by Andrea Schneider for Deutschlandfunk as a contribution of the Evangelic Lutheran church, whilst the translations above were my private efforts to convey the message in English. I hope that I did justice to the program and to the legacy of Martin Luther King. Please find more information on the program here:

http://rundfunk.evangelisch.de/kirche-im-radio/am-sonntagmorgen/eine-folgenreiche-reise-8611

I was pleased to do my bit to give some insights into it and to the message tha has even more actuality now. But from now on I will get beck to my ‘working and learning’ themes.

More blogs to come …

 

 

 

 

Time to tap the breaks?

January 15th, 2017 by Graham Attwell


Graham Brown Martin talks about Personalised Learning. Does #EdTech personalise, individualise or standardise, he asks? “In the age of big data and learning analytics, are we seeing Taylor’s ideas – masquerading as progressive “personalized learning” – forced upon unwitting education systems where all that matters is the what rather than the why?” And he says that despite the fact he is not anti technology it may be time to “tap the breaks”.

The end of the Obama era – the great Obama moments

January 14th, 2017 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous blog I wrote from a personal point of view on the coming of a new era. But, of course from a global point of view I have a stronger reason to use the expression ‘change of era’ when referring to the end of the Obama presidency in the USA. It is not my habit to comment the politics of other countries on my blog. Therefore, I will not make comments on Obama’s successor and what to expect of his presidency. What I want to do at this point is to celebrate the outgoing statesman and the special Obama moments during his years of service as the president. Much of this has been written and will be written elsewhere. So I limit my remarks to personal experiences and to observations on recent events.

Barack Obama gets elected and re-elected

Strangely enough, I find it difficult to retrieve my memories from the time when Obama was elected for the first time in 2008. Somehow there were too many things going on that I didn’t quite pick the momentum. Of course, Obama had impressed me with the “Yes we can” but yet I was waiting for him and his popular movement to show where this enthusiasm brings him and his administration. Yet, I do remember the politically correct gesture of the good loser, senator McCain when he announced that he had had the honour to congratulate Obama as the next president. (And already at that time the republicans showed that they are poor losers by greeting McCain with angry boo-shouts.)

Far more strongly I experienced the re-election of Obama in 2012. I was on other duties in Berlin and then continuing from there to Barcelona to attend the Learning Layers kick-off meeting. The elections in the USA took place on the very night that I spent in a hotel in Berlin before my morning flight to Barcelona. At this time there was much at stake and the result of the elections was not clear before the critical day. So, I just couldn’t get sleep and turned the TV on to follow the program of the German TV-channel ZDF. So the night passed, there were moments that I was nodding away and then getting wake. The race was tight and at the end there were the famous ‘swing states’ of which one was never so sure which side takes the votes.

And then – in between – came the announcement of the moderator Christian Sievers: “And the next president of the USA is – Barack Obama!” Indeed, Obama had won in Ohio and that already ensured the result. Then, with similar results from the remaining states the victory of Obama was clear. And I felt so relieved. At the airport I met some older American tourists who were heading to Barcelona. They were very disappointed and made it clear. I didn’t feel a temptation to enter a debate with them – after all, it was up to the US citizens to elect their president.

The farewell speech of Barack Obama – spelling out his legacy

Then time passed – and I had my attention mainly on the project work with the Learning Layers – and before long there was the time for the next US elections. And now it was about the successor of Barack Obama. Well, the results was what it was – the citizens had spoken (popular vote) and the election system had spoken (the result in terms of electors). One may speculate just as much one can – but the result remains. The Obama presidency will come to an end with a hand-over to a completely different presidency.

At this moment I prefer to focus on the farewell speech of President Barack Obama and how he has explained his legacy to his voters and supporters . To my great pleasure I found that the report of the leading German TV channel ARD on this event provides a link to Obama’s speech in full length (and not dubbed into German). So, let us give our full attention to Barack Obama making clear what has been achieved during his presidency and how to face the challenges of the American democracy in the coming times:

Other kinds of Obama moments to be remembered

But when speaking of Obama moments to be remembered, it is not only about Barack Obama as the president that we are thinking. Clearly, Michelle Obama has made something special of here role as the First Lady – by staying with the ordinary people and keeping her feet on the ground. And that has been appreciated – she has given the people their own Obama moments. When a popular TV show invited people to express their thanks to the outgoing First Lady, there were many volunteers with deep thoughts and deep feelings. And the TV-program and Michelle Obama had their special way to return the compliments to them. Let us enjoy these Obama moments as well:

Michelle Obama Surprises People Recording Goodbye Messages to Her.

I think this is enough of the Obama moments to be kept in memory. I will not continue with comments on American politics on my blog. But I am pleased to express my thankfulness and respect to the Obama couple now that they take the most important office in a democracy – that of a citizen.

More blogs to come … 

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