Archive for the ‘Data’ Category

SMEs are not the same as large firms

December 18th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

Much of my work at the moment is focused in two different areas – the training and professional development of teachers and trainers for the use of technology for teaching and learning and the use and understanding of labour market data for careers counseling, guidance and advice. However as data increasingly enters the world of education, the two areas are beginning to overlap.

This morning I received an email from the European Network on Regional Labour Market Monitoring. Although the title may seem a little obscure, the network, which has been active over some time, organises serious research at a pan European level. Each year it selects a theme for research, publications and for its annual conference. Over the last year it has focused on informal employment. Next year’s theme is Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) which they point out can be viewed as perhaps the most vibrant and innovative area of the European economy. However, when it comes to researching and understanding SMEs it is not so easy

A number of European or national statistics exist to analyse SMEs’ but they generally use the same categories as for large firms and are, in general, constructed from a large firm perspective or in any case not from a framework based on SME characteristics. Many academic papers focusing on SMEs show that they cannot fully be understood using the same categories as with large firms. The general idea is that firstly, SMEs are same as large ones, just smaller. Secondly, the assumption that they will grow up to become Midcaps, then large firms, is incorrect. Torres and Julien (2005) start their article explaining that “Most, if not all, researchers in small business have accepted the idea that small business is specific (the preponderant role of the owner-manager, low level of functional breakdown, intuitive strategy, etc.)”. A 2019 French publication directed by Bentabet and Gadille tackles the issue of SMEs focussing on their specific “social worlds”, their “action models and logics”, while elsewhere the influences of institutional logics and multi-rationalities of SMEs have been considered. The entry of social worlds highlights the great diversity of micro-enterprises and SMEs, which often makes it difficult to analyse them. As a counterpoint, specific knowledge of these companies is required because they are at the heart of the debates on flexibility, labour market dynamics, skilled labour shortage and disruptions in the vocational training system.

SMEs will be the focus for the next Annual Meeting of the Regional Labour Market Monitoring to be held in September 2020 in Sardinia

Understanding the gender pay gap

December 5th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

We have written before about the gender pay gap in the UK. According to the Office for National Statistics the average hourly (gross, excluding overtime) gender pay gap in the UK for all employees fell from 17.8 per cent in 2018 to 17.3 per cent in 2019. However, nee research has revealed cross-national gaps vary from as much as -5 per cent in Wigan to 32 per cent in Slough suggesting that only focusing on a national perspective might be overly simplistic.

The Centre for Cities has found that 7 of the 10 cities with the highest gender pay gap are located either in the South East or East of England. They say that “as cities in these regions tend to perform economically better than cities in the North of England, economic performance seems to influence the gender pay gap in cities. In general, cities with higher average weekly earnings (e.g. Cambridge, London, Reading, Crawley, Slough) tend to have a higher gender pay gap.”

Another factor the Centre for Cities things is driving higher gender pay gaps in the south of England is the bigger difference between men and women holding a managerial position. While 5.2 of men and 3.2 per cent of women in the north east hold such a position, 8.1 per cent of managers in the south east are men while only 4.4 per cent are women (data is not available below regional level).”

Six out of the ten cities with the smallest gender pay gap are located in the North of England: Wigan, Burnley, Warrington, Sunderland, Blackburn and Middlesbrough. These cities have weaker economies and lower rates of employment

The Centre for Cities has looked at the industrial composition of the labour market in Warrington and Wigan, finding that both cities have a higher share of jobs in education, human and health activities and social work than cities with higher gender pay gaps such as Slough and Crawley.

The composition of sectors in and around cities is seen as important and since women are more likely to be employed in the public sector, for instance, as teachers, social workers and nurses, the gender pay gap tends to be lower in cities with a higher proportion of public sector jobs such as in Middlesbrough, Blackburn, Swansea and Glasgow.

Travel to university time a factor in student performance

August 14th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

My summer morning’s work is settling into a routine. First I spend about half an hour learning Spanish on DuoLingo. Then I read the morning newsletters – OLDaily, WONKHE, The Canary and Times Higher Education (THE).

THE is probably the most boring of them. But this morning they led on an interesting and important research report. In an article entitled ‘Long commutes make students more likely to drop out’, Ana McKie says:

Students who have long commutes to their university may be more likely to drop out of their degrees, a study has found.

Researchers who examined undergraduate travel time and progression rates at six London universities found that duration of commute was a significant predictor of continuation at three institutions, even after other factors such as subject choice and entry qualifications were taken into account.

THE reports that the research., commissioned by London Higher, which represents universities in the city found that “at the six institutions in the study, many students had travel times of between 10 and 20 minutes, while many others traveled for between 40 and 90 minutes. Median travel times varied between 40 and 60 minutes.”

At one university, every additional 10 minutes of commuting reduced the likelihood of progression beyond end-of-first-year assessments by 1.5 per cent. At another, the prospect of continuation declined by 0.63 per cent with each additional 10 minutes of travel.

At yet another institution, a one-minute increase in commute was associated with a 0.6 per cent reduction in the chances of a student’s continuing, although at this university it was only journeys of more than 55 minutes that were particularly problematic for younger students, and this might reflect the area these students were traveling from.

I think there are a number of implications from this study. It is highly probable that those students traveling the longest distance are either living with their parents or cannot afford the increasingly expensive accommodation in central London. Thus this is effectively a barrier to less well off students. But it is also worth noting that much work in Learning Analytics has been focused on predicting students likely to drop out. Most reports suggest it is failing to complete or to success in initial assignments that is the most reliable predicate. Yet it may be that Learning Analytics needs to take a wider look at the social, cultural, environmental and financial context of student study with a view to providing more practical support for students.

I work on the LMI for All project which provides an API and open data for Labour Market Information for mainly use in careers counseling advice and guidance and to help young people choose their future carrers or education. We already provide data on travel to work distances, based on the 2010 UK census. But I am wondering if we should also provide data on housing costs,possibly on a zonal basis around universities (although I am not sure if their is reliable data). If distances (and time) traveling to college is so important in student attainment this may be a factor students need to include in their choice of institution and course.

 

Learning Analytics Cymru

June 25th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

Jisc report that “Learning Analytics Cymru is generating interest across the world.” The service, which has every higher education institution in Wales signed up and is supported by the Welsh Government, is the focus of a new article for US edtech organisation Educase.

In the piece Jisc consultant Niall Sclater’s  discusses the Learning Analytics Cymru model and how it provides a blueprint for delivering such services on a national scale.

By pooling resources, institutions are benefiting from opportunities to share experiences and learn collaboratively in the emerging field of learning analytics.

Cite your data

June 17th, 2019 by Graham Attwell


Neat short video from the UK data service about why and how you should cite data. Citations are always a bit of a pain, but the video shows how using the DOI make slife easy (and it expelains what the DOI is!

Is manufacturing finished in the UK?

June 12th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

The Guardian newspaper highlights a report by Cambridge University for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), showing that Britain’s manufacturing sector is much larger than official figures suggest.

The report argues that official statistics, which estimate that manufacturing output accounts for 9% of national income, are based on “outdated and inaccurate methods of counting” and the figure is much higher.

The report avoids putting a fresh figure on the proportion of GDP accounted for by the sector, but one of its authors said it was nearer 15% once activities tied to the sale of UK-made products, including engineering support and contracted services, were included.

“It is essential that policymakers have accurate information on the size of manufacturing sectors in order to develop an internationally competitive industrial strategy,” said Eoin O’Sullivan, one of the report’s authors.

“In particular, policymakers need to be able to measure manufacturing in a way that better reflects how firms actually organise themselves into value networks.”

While the Guardian news spin on the report focuses on the threat to the manufacturing by tariffs on exports resulting from a no deal Brexit, the report has wider implications. Manufacturing has long been seen as in decline and is accordingly unattractive as a careers option when compared to the growing service sector. Yet the report shows the continuing importance of occupations like engineering.

Understanding data about society

May 29th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

I have often written about the problems in interpreting and making sense of data. I very much like an article ‘What drives anti-migrant attitudes‘ by and published on the Social Europe Site yesterday.

They analysed data from the European Social Survey (ESS)—a biannual survey of Europe’s societies and people’s attitudes since 2002and looking at how people think about migration and migrants. They say: “It is not the presence of migrants as such that generates anti-migrant sentiments: these are strongest in countries with very few migrants. Similarly, on an individual level there is a strong negative correlation between personal contact with migrants and attitudes.”

“The analysis of the data showed that more general societal processes are more likely to shape attitudes: the level of trust in one another and in state institutions, the perception of social cohesion and the feeling of safety in a direct (physical) and indirect (existential) sense. We found that individuals who rejected migrants, extremely and homogeneously, did not differ in demographic characteristics from the rest of the population. Where they did differ was in their subjective perceptions of control: to a much greater extent, they feel they have financial difficulties, are alienated from politics, lack trust and hold security-focused, individualistic values. All in all, people who feel politically disempowered, financially insecure and without social support are the most likely to become extremely negative towards migrants.”

The European Social survey is a time series survey. This allows comparison with earlier results. Messing and Sagvari found a similar pattern in looking at changing attitudes over time. Those countries in which people are more trusting of public institutions, and more satisfied with the performance of their governments, democratic institutions and national economies, are the most likely to be more accepting of migrants.

Where do graduates come from and where do they go?

February 21st, 2019 by Graham Attwell

I’ve written too many times about the problems in sense making from data – particularly where the labour market and education are involved. This presentation from the UK Centre for Cities makes an admiral attempt to use the data to tell a story about where students are coming from to study at Glasgow’s Universities and where they go afterwards.

It has its drawbacks – mainly due to the lack of data. For instance most of the slides fail to show movements in and out of the UK. Also, I would have loved to have more detailed data about what jobs students go into after university, but this data just is not available from UCAS at a more disaggregated level. And I am not very sure about the click bait title: “the Great British Brain Drain.” If there is a brain drain, nothing in the analysis points to one.

It is interesting to see that manufacturing still accounts for 44% of new graduate employment is Glasgow, despite manufacturing only constituting 30% of total employment in the city. This is much more that the 19& of new graduate working in the much heralded knowledge intensive business services sector.

One of their conclusions is very important: its not just about the student experience or the quality of nightlife in a city but more importantly “Ultimately it’s the jobs available to graduates which determine if they stay. By offering more, and better, opportunities the city will attract more graduates, both those who have studied in the city and those moving in for the first time from elsewhere.”

Young people living with parents for longer

February 8th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

WONKHE reports there has been a significant rise in the number of 20 to 34-year-olds living with their parents in the UK, according to analysis of the Labour Force Survey by think tank Civitas.” The analysis, covered by the Financial Times, finds an increase of 791,600 under 35-year-olds living with their parents between 1996-8 and 2014-15. The rise has been noted in all UK regions, with the most pronounced results in London. Civitas puts the increase primarily down to the cost of housing, and suggests that HE participation could be a factor, as more young adults are financially dependent on their parents for longer.”

Th8s brings UK more into line with other countries in Europe, where young people tend to live at home with their parents until tehy are much older than has been in the UK. It also would be interesting to look at the figures (if available) for numbers of people studying at their home town university, rather than following the ‘rites of passage’ to move to college in another twon or city.

AI and education

February 6th, 2019 by Graham Attwell

Fear you are going to be seeing this headline quite a bit in coming months. And like everyone else I am getting excited and worried about the possibilities of AI for learning – and less so for AI in education management.

Anyway here is the promise from an EU Horizon 2020 project looking mainly at ethics in AI. As an aside, while lots of people seem to be looking at ethics, which f course is very welcome, I see less research into the potentials and possibilities of AI (more to follow).

The SHERPA consortium – a group consisting of 11 members from six European countries – whose mission is to understand how the combination of artificial intelligence and big data analytics will impact ethics and human rights issues today, and in the future.

One of F-Secure’s (a partner in the project) first tasks will be to study security issues, dangers, and implications of the use of data analytics and artificial intelligence, including applications in the cyber security domain. This research project will examine:

  • ways in which machine learning systems are commonly mis-implemented (and recommendations on how to prevent this from happening)
  • ways in which machine learning models and algorithms can be adversarially attacked (and mitigations against such attacks)
  • how artificial intelligence and data analysis methodologies might be used for malicious purposes
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    News Bites

    News from 1994

    This is from a Tweet. In 1994 Stephen Heppell wrote in something called SCET” “Teachers are fundamental to this. They are professionals of considerable calibre. They are skilled at observing their students’ capability and progressing it. They are creative and imaginative but the curriculum must give them space and opportunity to explore the new potential for learning that technology offers.” Nothing changes!


    Graduate Jobs

    As reported by WONKHE, a survey of 1,200 final year students conducted by Prospects in the UK found that 29 per cent have lost their jobs, and 26 per cent have lost internships, while 28 per cent have had their graduate job offer deferred or rescinded. 47 per cent of finalists are considering postgraduate study, and 29 per cent are considering making a career change. Not surprisingly, the majority feel negative about their future careers, with 83 per cent reporting a loss of motivation and 82 per cent saying they feel disconnected from employers


    Post-Covid ed-tech strategy

    The UK Ufi VocTech Trust are supporting the Association of Colleges to ensure colleges are supported to collectively overcome challenges to delivering online provision at scale. Over the course of the next few months, AoC will carry out research into colleges’ current capacity to enable high quality distance learning. Findings from the research will be used to create a post-Covid ed-tech strategy for the college sector.

    With colleges closed for most face-to-face delivery and almost 100% of provision now being delivered online, the Ufi says, learners will require online content and services that are sustainable, collective and accessible. To ensure no one is disadvantaged or left behind due to the crisis, this important work will contribute to supporting businesses to transform and upskilling and reskilling those out of work or furloughed.


    Erasmus+

    The European Commission has published an annual report of the Erasmus+ programme in 2018. During that time the programme funded more than 23,500 projects and supported the mobility of over 850,00 students, of which 28,247 were involved in UK higher education projects, though only one third of these were UK students studying abroad while the remainder were EU students studying in the UK. The UK also sent 3,439 HE staff to teach or train abroad and received 4,970 staff from elsewhere in the EU.


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