Bill Scott's blog

Thoughts on learning, sustainability and the link between them

Monthly Archives: December 2013

While snow the window-panes bedim

📥  Comment

This is
 John Clare’s December that speaks of simple pleasures of a child’s Christmas, which, despite our more material, comfortable, and increasingly electronic times, can still make winter memorable.

While snow the window-panes bedim,

The fire curls up a sunny charm,

Where, creaming o'er the pitcher's rim,

The flowering ale is set to warm;

Mirth, full of joy as summer bees,

Sits there, its pleasures to impart,

And children, 'tween their parent's knees,

Sing scraps of carols o'er by heart.

And some, to view the winter weathers,

Climb up the window-seat with glee,

Likening the snow to falling feathers,

In fancy infant ecstasy;

Laughing, with superstitious love,

O'er visions wild that youth supplies,

Of people pulling geese above,

And keeping Christmas in the skies.

As tho' the homestead trees were drest,

In lieu of snow, with dancing leaves,

As tho' the sun-dried martin's nest,

Instead of ickles, hung the eaves,

The children hail the happy day –

As if the snow were April's grass,

And pleas'd, as 'neath the warmth of May,

Sport o'er the water froze as glass.

…………………

Reviewing the Manifesto launch

📥  Comment, New Publications, News and Updates

I wasn't able to be at the launch of the Manifesto we all Want the other day.  Had I been there, however, I hope that I might have managed to write the sort of perceptive review that the University of Worcester's Paul Davis and Peng Li produced.  With their kind permission, here it is in full:

Briefing NoteRio+20 Manifesto Launch, Westminster, London, 17th December 2013.

The Manifesto Strategy:

Opening remarks concerned the long run aspiration for this venture.  One speaker (JW) identified a need to adopt a ‘journey-based’ approach that engages and argues with naysayers – but potential opponents were not really identified or given due regard throughout the meeting.  IP depicted the Manifesto not as an 'end document' but rather, a prompt for dialogue around sustainable futures.

Instead, relatively bold commitments were made by MPs to engage in governmental action – a domain with which they are more familiar, of course.  KB criticised the lack of explicit reference to sustainable development in provisions of the Education Act.  It was noted that national curriculum requirements for sustainable development education in schools were present in early years, but that an unexplained break then occurred around Keystage 4, when that requirement lapsed.  The Shadow Minister undertook to incorporate the sustainable development theme more consistently into a revised Act and ensure alignment with sustainable development goals through enhanced inter-departmental discipline.  The emphasis was on cross-cutting action to make sustainable development goals an autonomic function of future governmental action.  KB signalled an intention to review curricular policy on election.  He observed, based on experience, that policy fragmentation frequently blunts ministerial edict.

Throughout the opening addresses, there was recurring use of phrases like 'our home'.  These themes of sharing and inherent unity underscored the strong appeal to collective interest and natural constituencies that was a mark of the session as a whole.  This theme recurred.  AF (SEEd) noted that efforts at environmental education have a long lineage – but again, the theme is still very partially present in the National Curriculum: it is not embedded, not ‘made safe’.  This suggests resistance – which could be active or (more difficult) passive in nature.  She posed the question of how to unlock that resistance.  She appealed, as part of this, to common needs and collective interests of a presumed collective whole, or a movement.  What one might expect, in this depiction of the future, is a high degree of volatility in stakeholder identities in future sustainable development politics.  This would feature much entryism and potentially, the formation of new alliances.

Social Identities and Stakes in Sustainable Development:

The Manifesto talks of the ‘moral responsibility’ of the education and training sector as a whole to argue the case for sustainable development.  It does not really specify exactly who might be expected to do what in shaping social norms.  The witness sessions addressed social roles in a ‘better future’, albeit in conflicting ways.  In this, young people were depicted as ‘custodians’, but it is notable that such an appeal to future generations carries no legal status in either English or European law.  As such, it is easy to talk in such terms, for it is without prejudice.

DA (NUS) was resolved that respondents to a succession of NUS surveys wanted to learn more about sustainable development.  He portrayed them as the primary stakeholders in future development.  This was based on a categorical assertion that a green economy will 'clearly solve our problems'.  If this were to come to pass, then the conduct of many others (businesses, governments, other citizens) would reflect that status.  Their conduct would demonstrate the moral care associated with normative stakeholder practice.  It evidently does not do so at present.

Further to Higher Education interventions, AT wryly noted the legacy of cleverness (with clear shades of arrogance) underpinning the claims of many academics.  This social positioning did not well fit them to adopt some of the egalitarian stances required of a co-authored future.  She was persuaded that, given academics’ own consequentialist pressures (Research Excellence; module-specific perspective et cetera), sustainable development appeals to them needed to be based on opportunities that were closely aligned with wider academic realities.  Her work had also identified specific opportunities for both reflection and reflexion, as well as relevant academic networks for the sharing of good practice.  In the HE academic sphere, normalisation of sustainable development should be the goal.

MJ emphasised the current reality that sustainable development advocates were members of multiple communities and that this was a potential source of strength.  Heterogeneity was, she opined, crucial to the generation of innovation (by which one presumes that she intended social as well as technical innovation).  Her bête noir was a syndrome of passive role obedience.  This theme was also articulated in subsequent discussion by a London Headteacher, in an attack on the undue conformism that he associated with compliance with a hyper-detailed National Curriculum.

In many ways most radically, CL called for the complete transformation of existing relations.  She noted the poverty of measures of well-being based on Gross Domestic Product, echoing longstanding calls for  ‘GDP-plus’, Costa Rica indices and French joie de vivre valuations.  What was more significant, she emphasised some of the practices of sharing – which can be reinterpreted here to emphasise the principles of non-reciprocity (giving without expecting in return) and ideas of the gift economy.

Echoing these themes, SE underscored that sustainable development would concern a learning process, not just curricular content.  Having said that, it was clear that sustainability literacy was a goal and Higher Education was seen as playing a central role in achieving that.  Its meaning does need closer specification, though, since for now it remains an opaque idea.  In pursuing what is recognisably an Enlightenment aspiration, central diktat can play only a very limited role.  What will be required is change within universities, focusing on alignment between institutions and individuals.  Here, subsequent discussion of values and their importance across the entire educational system made it clear that these could function as an important alignment tool.

A statement ‘from the floor’ by MD on behalf of the Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative (who are specifically involved in Business School morals) outlined their current approach to this actor.  A twin track approach was described: inspired and morally rooted practices based on coideation, on the one hand, and (as he termed it) ‘rod of iron’ accreditation processes, on the other.

Key to Speakers:

DA – Dom Anderson NUS
KB – Kevin Brennan MP
MD – Mark Dreswell, Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative
SE – Steve Egan, HEFCE Interim Chief Executive
AF – Ann Finlayson, SEEd
MJ – Miranda Jupp, Conservative Futures
CL – Caroline Lucas MP
AT –Ashling Tierney, University of Bristol PhD student
JW – Joan Walley MP

Paul Davis, Peng Li   18th December 2013

Co-production of knowledge with plants, animals, materialities ...

📥  News and Updates

Are you tired of life?  Are you jaded by its materialist urgings?   Do you feel yourself helpless in a neo-liberal embrace?  Have you lost sight of what it is to be inter-human?  Do you no longer know who you really are and what you're for?   Do you feel as if your spiralling into that existential black hole of inconsequence?  If so, this could be the conference for you.

The blurb says:

The co-production of research with(in) communities is a welcome effort to democratize, de-centre and reenergize knowledge production (Durose et al ).  Inspired by a variety of feminist epistemologies, as well as emancipatory movements from South America and Africa (e.g. Freire), the central components of the co-production agenda have been the desire to support the inclusion of marginalised voices in the research process, to make research accountable to those it affects, and, in the process, to transform the practices of research and knowledge production. However co-production often remains in the human/social realm consisting of partnerships, collaborations, conflict management, development plans, etc. between individual and collective social agencies. We are concerned that co-produced research which stays within the (narrowly prescribed) social (human)  realm becomes ‘part of the problem’ rather than ‘part of the solution’ in terms of  long term flourishing of diverse life.

One of the foremost proponents of participatory research - Peter Reason – has argued that the ethical and political imperatives implicit within the co-production paradigm need to be extended to non-humans. Claiming that we need to re-conceive ourselves as embedded within biotic systems, Reason characterises the notion of the more-than-human as an emergent edge within participatory research. Durose et al have also drawn attention to how long-standing epistemological debates about the nature of knowledge and expertise lie at the heart of debate about the impact of co-producing research.

Engagement with a whole range of work that identifies human exceptionalism as a fundamental impediment to knowledge, has been recognized as key to effectively addressing socio-ecological challenges. The (neglected)  interdependencies between the social and the ecological are writ large in the current era of ‘ecocide’, and realigning them from toxic to therapeutic forms is essential. However, transformative dialogues between co-production practitioners and those working on the more-than-human, which promise so much for both approaches, have yet to take place.

Thus we are specifically interested to explore how co-produced research can be inclusive of a wider set of actors than just the human. And in how to meet the challenges and opportunities offered by exploring methods and philosophies of co-production and how it might be transformed by the recognition of experiences, desires and knowledges of more-than-human agencies. And, in turn, how more-than-human approaches might learn from the attentiveness to community, voice, participation and methodology which have been developed within the field of co-production.  The session draws inspiration from a variety of recent projects and writings which have sought to bring non-humans of one kind or another (plants, animals, technologies, and wider materialised processes) into knowledge co-production. These have variously engaged with ideas of empathy, agency, witnessing, experimental partnering, data sonification, narrative theory, conversation and voice to explore possibilities of co-working with non-humans.

Contributions (using tradition or non-tradition formats) might: -

  • report upon work that has sought to co-produce knowledge with non-humans.
  • speculate (plan) conceptually and methodologically on how co-productions with non-humans of differing stripe might be done.
  • Stages dialogues between specialists in co-production and those specialising in the more-than-human (broadly conceived).
  • Methods for more-than-human participatory research.
  • Explores what areas like animal-geographies could learn from participatory geographies?
  • Working with non-humans as agents? Including the place of scientific, craft and art expertise, learning from ethology and from those who work with and know particular non-humans.
  • De-centring the human? Moving from Cartesian knowing self to a more ecological form of self as collective/network.
  • Theriomorphism and projections of the human.

It's in London in August.  Can't wait.  Shall I see you there!

 

Every sentence a rebuke ...

📥  Comment, New Publications

I commented a while back on draft guidance produced by HEAQAA experts.  This included 50+ (E)SD learning outcomes for students leaving universities.   In my response, I raised a number of issues about their content and about who they were for – and about who was going to be teaching it all.

I've just read the comments on the guidance that Stephen Sterling has made, and which he sent to SHED SHARE the other day.  I'd say that they will be a sobering read for the HEAQAA group.  Very oddly, Stephen was not deemed suitable to be a member of the expert group, which is a strange exclusion given that he is the country's leading expert on these matters.  Politicking, I presumed.

Well, the intellectual clarity of Stephen's critique illustrates the folly of his exclusion.  I'd say that HEAQAA should just accept his edits with as much humility as they can muster.

 

All change at English Heritage as it becomes Historic England – and English Heritage

📥  Comment, News and Updates

I am slowly catching up with the changes to English Heritage [ EH ].  These are visionary or desparate, according to taste.  EH is to be broken up:  one part, still to be called English Heritage, will become a charity with a remit to manage historic sites.  The other bit will be called Historic England [ HE ], whose role will be EH's current responsibilities for advising on and helping conserve England's wider historic environment.  The old EH will set up the new charity, with a tax-payer grant of £80m or so – for monumental upkeep.  This will not go far across its 400 sites.  The new EH will be expected to be a money-spinner with income from members, visitors, sponsorship, and other sources.

If you're thinking that the new EH charity role sounds just like what the National Trust does, you are not alone.  So, we are going to be twice-blest with two charities looking after England's old and pleasant land.  Or, competing, more like, for increasingly hard to come by cash.  Well-placed heritage-types think the NT is bound to win this particular race.  The ace up its sleeve, of course, is that it owns properties that a significant well-heeled slice of the public actually want to visit and spend money in.  This does not apply to EH to the same degree.

Recent visitor stats are instructive:  EH sites get about 6m visits a year (1m of which are at Stonehenge).  The NT, by contrast, gets 19m, but the most popular of these (Stourhead) only gets 350,000 visits with a further 18 properties that charge for entry getting over 200,0oo visitors.  By contrast, EH has only two properties (apart from Stonehenge) that have over 200,000 visitors.  This shows the magnitude of the problem EH has.

So, Stonehenge is key for EH – a newly revamped Stonehenge, with its new toilets that are no longer a disgrace to the civilised world.  Actually, the old ones would have been something of a disgrace to the Neolithic.  EH has done well to find a few €zillions to separate tour buses and stones, close roads and create a visitor centre that critics actually like.  I have been watching this building emerge out of the Plain for a few months now, as I have travelled to and from the A303.  To my bemusement, what I took to be scaffolding turns out to be architecture!  Rumour has it that is just what Neolithic folk said when Stonehenge was built.  Looking forward to visiting the centre; whether I shall go to the stones is another matter.

 

So, was there LiFE in Copernicus?

📥  Comment, News and Updates

About a year ago, I wrote this:

We are encouraged to take both the Copernicus Alliance, and EAUC’s LiFE (Learning in Future Environments), seriously, as major initiatives supporting sustainability and learning, and I have no doubt that, for those involved, there is something to be gained by membership.  But those involved seem as rare as a Vice Chancellor who’s got a good word to say about ESD.  Building on what remained of the Copernicus Campus, the Alliance currently has 19 members across Europe, more than a third of which are in Austria (with over half of these in Graz).   Similarly (although over a shorter time, and only in the UK) LiFE has 17 university members signed up.

Who will be the first to 25, I wonder?  My money (though not much of it) is on LiFE as it seems to have more to offer institutions, even if they are ponderously slow to appreciate this.

Well, there are now 15 university members of LiFE, which is something of a backward step, and 21 universities in Copernicus, (more than a third of which are still in Austria).  This is not exactly a great leap forward.

So, what does this say about LiFE or Copernicus? Are they are too pricey for what they offer?  Or is what they are offering not felt appropriate by those that might join?  Or is it just that there's a tide ebbing against the joining of such things?

And will they both still be around in 12 months time?  Well, this time, my money (though still not much of it) is on Copernicus because of its smart linking with UN processes.

 

Let's blame academics, says a Guardian headline

📥  Comment, New Publications

The headline to a Guardian HE Network blog, published last week, says:  Why have academics been so slow to work with students on sustainability?

It's always a newspaper temptation to identify a culprit or two.  The blog post itself, by Soton's commendable Simon Kemp, considered why it is that, historically speaking, academics, estates staff and students have not worked together very much on sustainability-related activities and developments in universities.  Although things are certainly changing, this remains a good question, as there is much evidence that, in times past, there have been parallel developmental tracks rather than shared interests and, hence, activities.

The Guardian headline is a problem, however, and had I been writing it, I'd have wanted to say something like: Why have students and staff in universities been so slow to work together on sustainability? This would have had the merit of being both accurate, and even-handed.

Indeed, Simon himself asks this in the blog post.  He writes: The question is, why have academics and students been so slow to engage in meaningful sustainability partnerships? and goes on: Is it because academics have been wary of a lack of perceived credibility in working with students rather than with other academics?  Is it because the financial rewards from traditional funded research collaborations are clearer, an issue that might be partially redressed through the Students' Green Fund?

I'd say that the problem may well (historically) have been quite different in that academics, estates teams and students (unions) have not taken much note of each other, even when there were overlapping interests.

Simon ends with:  The future of sustainability in our sector depends upon collaboration.  Not in the traditional sense of academics collaborating with other academics, but academics collaborating with students. But is the academic community really ready for this shift?

I don't much like these false choices.  Why cannot we all collaborate?

 

Free social learning towards a sustainable world

📥  Comment, New Publications

The day began with a free vintage (c. 2007) e-book offer from Arjen Wals: Social learning towards a sustainable world.  The publisher's blurb begins with commendable understatement:

"This comprehensive volume – containing 27 chapters and contributions from six continents  presents and discusses key principles, perspectives, and practices of social learning in the context of sustainability.  Social learning is explored from a range of fields challenged by sustainability including: organizational learning, environmental management and corporate social responsibility; multi-stakeholder governance; education, learning and educational psychology; multiple land-use and integrated rural development; and consumerism and critical consumer education.  An entire section of the book is devoted to a number of reflective case studies of people, organizations and communities using forms of social learning in moving towards sustainability."

It continues with an extract from Capra, F's Foreword:

"This book brings together a range of ideas, stories, and discussions about purposeful learning in communities aimed at creating a world that is more sustainable than the one currently in prospect. …  The book is designed to expand the network of conversations through which our society can confront various perspectives, discover emerging patterns, and apply learning to a variety of emotional and social contexts."

And ends with a part of Apple, M's Afterword:

"Joining what is so clear and refreshing in this book with the larger movements toward a critically democratic and activist education that is worthy of its name, is but one step in the struggle for sustainability. But it is an essential step if we are to use the insights that are included in this book."

… which I don't begin to understand.  But it is free.

 

Higher Education for Sustainable Development – an interview

📥  Comment, Talks and Presentations

A while back, I had an "interview" by questionnaire.  An odd process; whilst it certainly gave me a lot of time to consider and shape my responses, there no time to interact with the interviewer.  I sent a few papers (not all mine) along with my responses.  Here are the questions and answers:

My name is ****. I'm a Postgraduate student in **** University.  This interview is for my dissertation which is about Educational for Sustainable Development (ESD) in Higher Educational Institutions.  Thank you for your time and participation in this interview.  This interview has 9 questions, including 5 main questions and 4 sub-questions. In-depth/detailed responses are appreciated.  Please read the 'in detail' hints before you answer the questions, to help save time.  Also, specific names are not necessary in the examples you provide.  If you have any questions, please email me and I will answer immediately.  Thank you again for your participation!

1.  Could you please briefly introduce yourself? (Gender, work experience, years of involvement with ESD, institutional affiliations)

I am William Scott (male), an emeritus professor at the University of Bath having recently retired from there as Director of the Centre for Research in Education and the Environment.  I am Chair of the community interest company South West Learning for Sustainability Coalition, a Trustee of the Forest of Avon Trust, vice-chair of the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, and President of the National Association of Environmental Education.  My research has focused on the role of learning in sustainable development, on the contributions that education (viewed broadly) can make to this, and on the problems of researching the effectiveness of such activities.  I have a particular interest in the idea and practice of sustainable schools and universities, and have written extensively about these.  In particular, Ihope that schools, colleges and universities will take sustainability seriously through what they teach and how the operate as institutions, but not to the extent of disempowering people by telling them how to live their lives and what values to hold.  I blog on issues to do with sustainability and learning at: http://blogs.bath.ac.uk/edswahs

2.  At present, the popularity of ESD is quite high in the UK, and government apparently plays an important role. Could you share your views on the government activities?

In detail: How does the government promote/prevent the development of ESD?  Do you have any suggestions for improvement?

I do not agree with your view that ESD is popular in the UK, or that the UK government plays an important role in it.  My first point about government is that there are 4 governments to take into account; the UK one, and the three devolved administrations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.  Please see Paper 1 which sets out my view on ESD and the policy context across the UK.  You will find that it is only the Scottish administration that seems to take ESD at all seriously.

My second point is that, from the policy perspective, there are quite different positions on ESD (viewed broadly) depending whether it is schools, FE or HE that you are talking about.  In the main, it is universities that are most encouraged by government and its agencies to address sustainability and ESD (compared to schools and FE colleges).  The higher education funding council for England [Hefce] has long been a champion of sustainable development, and of the importance of learning to this.  It has never espoused ESD with the same enthusiasm.  The Higher Education Academy [HEA] has done this, however, through projects and dedicated officers, and the Quality Assurance Agency [QAA] is now taking an interest – working with the HEA to generate ‘materials’.   Paper 2 sets out a recent analysis of how learning and sustainability plays out across schools / FE / HE.

This situation will only improve when there is greater coherence across government (and governments) in relation to seeing how all departments face up to sustainable development, and how learning is seen as integral to this.  There is no sign of this happening.

2.1  What about Non-government organisations (NGOs)?

In detail: How do the NGOs promote/prevent the development of ESD?  How might NGOs engage more effectively with government?

NGOs have been hugely influential on the development of ESD, and before this, EE and DE.  This has often involved both work on the ground with teachers and institutions, as well as influence on government.  This is probably more common with schools than other education sectors.  At the end of the day, however, NGOs are not disinterested; they have agenda and interests of their own, and this should be taken into account when looking at what they do.  I’ll give one example, Eco-Schools is interested in signing up schools to its award scheme.  Because of this, it cannot afford to make the accreditation process too exacting – otherwise schools would not sign up or get their green flags. This directly inhibits schools’ development.

3.  Higher Educational Institutions have the capability to influence the future direction of the country. Do you have any opinions on the current practices (regarding ESD) of universities?

In detail: Do you have any examples of good practice? (What it is about? How it is done? What is the result of it?).  Does your good practice example have any specific limitations?

You should look to the literature for these examples of practice; these are increasing, as is the number of journals that cater for such articles.  But what is “good”?  How are we to establish the criteria by which “good’ can be identified?  The last survey of practice in England was in 2008 (attached).  This raised a lot of issues around how “good” might be conceptualised – and how difficult this was to agree upon.  My personal view is that such practice would need to enable students critically to engage with how their discipline and ideas around sustainable development intersect.  The outcomes of this would involve deeper thinking about both the discipline and sustainable development.

3.1  ESD awareness of university staff is the top priority. However, awareness does not mean good practice. ESD cannot be achieved by awareness solely. Do you have any examples of this problem?

In detail: Why are some faculty members and academic disciplines seemingly reluctant to engage with ESD?  What can be done about it?

I do not agree that “ESD awareness of university staff is the top priority”.  My priority would be that HE staff come to understand that their teaching (and hence student learning) would be more effective (and hence useful to the student) were it to have a naturalistic focus on sustainability.  I seem to see this almost entirely opposite to the way you do.  I am not at all interested in spreading / encouraging / enabling / etc ESD.  I am interested in helping staff see the potential that sustainability has for enhancing the student experience and the effectiveness of their degree experience.  These are entirely different.  You seem to have swallowed the crackpot idea that ESD is real.  It’s not.  It’s engineering / chemistry / philosophy / sociology / etc that are real.

As to why “some faculty members … [are] seemingly reluctant to engage with ESD”, well, maybe they don’t see what’s in it for them.  There are too many people going about saying you should do this because it’s good for the planet / the future / the poor / etc.  The attached paper 3 goes into this in more detail.

As to what can be done, I’d engage HE staff on their own terms – in relation to what’s important to them – rather than trying to tell them that ESD is important.  As John Kennedy almost said: Ask not what you can do for sustainable development, but what sustainable development can do for you.

4.  Obviously, the success of ESD cannot be achieved without teachers, pedagogy, and students. So, from your perspective, what teaching/learning  experience has challenged you the most?

In detail: Can you tell me the reasons? (teaching method/ experience/student just cannot accept knowledge about SD at that particular period/other)

I used to think that working with student teachers was really crucial (Unesco said it was the priority of priorities).  Through seeing how such new teachers struggled to make any impact in schools, I came to the view that working with school leaders was much more important.

4.1 What about your most successful teaching/learning experience? Please explain an describe.

My most rewarding teaching experience was a group of sceptical, but interested, Masters students who knew very little about sustainable development at the start.  I was positively challenged at every turn.  It was wonderful.

5. What teaching method(s) do you think are most effective? Please give reasons and explain context.

Whilst it is fashionable to say that ESD demands certain pedagogies, I have never been convinced by this, thinking that you should select your pedagogy according to the nature of the subject matter, your students, the context, and what you are trying to achieve.  That said, pedagogies that engage the learner in their own learning seem important – but I would always say that.

5.1 What methods of assessment you think is the most effective? Please give reasons with examples

I do not think that ESD should be assessed.  Rather, it is student learning that needs to be assessed from within the discipline in question.  Just as sustainability needs to be an aspect of that disciplinary teaching / learning, so it needs to be an aspect of the assessment.  It’s validity rests on its authenticity.

Thank you for your responses ! If you would like to found out the finding of this research, please send me an email.

 

My week

📥  Comment, News and Updates

This began well with an extended cabaret on the lawn by a green woodpecker and then the arrival of the first fieldfares.  Fortunately, we have enough apples and ants to cater for all.

Poor PISA scores were heralded by Sunday newspaper stories that Mr Gove was already blaming the last government for the continuation of the decline that was recorded in 2009.  The big question was whether the Welsh would still be going backwards.  As I have already noted this week, unsurprisingly, it turns out they are.  Equally unsurprisingly, Mr Gove could not resist pointing this out in a series of House of Commons exchanges with opposition MPs.  Whether Mr G's own policies will stem the tide / stop the rot / choose your metaphor, remains to be seen – probably around 2019 when the blog will fearless report the outcome.

JD lookalike?I was very pleased to see Justin Dillon finally make the finals of the international memory man competition and reveal the secret of where all that talent comes from ...

I noticed that there were new posters on the University of Bath's campus saying that the university was in the top ten in every national league table.   This is the case, but only if you discount the efforts and output of  People and Planet – which the university obviously  does, in more ways than one.

Meanwhile, an enthusiastic email arrived from the normally self-effacing London RCE:

Papers are invited for the forthcoming conference, Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) London: Supporting employability, society and the environment: a curriculum for sustainability – the first Annual Conference of the London Regional Centre of Expertise (RCE) on ESD, organised in partnership with 4 All of Us, a social enterprise event organisation.  Bringing together educationalists, NGOs and employers, the conference aims to develop a London wide community of practice, with a view of inspiring and engaging the participants in promoting a sustainable future for all.

Much evidence of collaborative ambition.  How odd, then, that the first three confirmed speakers are just the usual suspects from higher education (who will probably say what they usually do – and only one will be critical).  So, how many captains of industry will be speaking, I wonder?   How many will be even attending?  Well, you know the answer, but here's a clue: it's the same as the number attending the launch of the Manifesto We all Want.  Why do we (well, some of us) go on about the importance of business, but never bother to talk with its representatives?

Matthew Taylor’s annual Chief Executive’s lecture in which he asked: What does it mean to be a citizen at work? is available.  Taylor argued that, “by implementing robust standards for engagement, accountability, transparency and redress, we can recast the employer/employee relationship and make better employment a national strategic priority.”  Much needed.

To the Guardian Higher Education Awards judging lunch on Wednesday.  Absorbing. The two categories I was involved with generated much discussion and mind re-making around the table.  Was justice done?  Well, it wasn't obviously undone, and I came away happy with the outcomes.  Tricky things these awards.

Then there was the Turnip Prize – awarded on the same evening as the more prestigeous Turner Prize.  Both prizes, though miles apart in seriousness, share a penchant for seriously bad art, though Turnip manages it with more wit than Turner.  Channel 4 covered Turner, from Derry / Londonderry, and BBC West covered Turnip  from a pub in Somerset / Somerset.  The winning Turnip entry is here.