Weekly digest - 12 August

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This summer saw the return of a full exam series in all four UK nations following the pandemic. Scottish students received their results on Tuesday 9 August and A Level results are released next Thursday. The House of Commons library has published a research briefing on the background of school exams and assessment in 2020 – 2022 and The Times has an article examining the potential impact of Ofqual’s grade deflation policy on results and admissions.

Industrial action

UCU has announced plans to hold another round of strike ballots. This would be the first aggregated ballot of the dispute, meaning that at least 50% of the 80,000 polled must vote so that the union can legally take action en masse at 149 institutions. Unison is also balloting its HE members at 92 institutions, including Bath, so any future strike action could see support staff joining academics on the picket line.

Postgraduate finance

The issue of non-refundable deposits for postgraduate degree programmes has resurfaced in the news in recent weeks, after a story emerged online that an applicant to a masters programme took his own life due to the “hopelessness of his situation”. A tweet from the applicant said that they had lost £1000 in a deposit to a university because, while they met the offer requirements, it became clear they hadn’t made enough money to fund their living costs after two years saving in full time work. The university in question also received criticism online for its response to the reports. The case raises food for thought about the practice of non-refundable deposits, the regulation of postgraduate fees, and the responsibility of institutions in these circumstances.

Post-pandemic learning

The University of Manchester has appointed Simon Thomson as the UK’s first professor of hybrid learning to oversee the institution’s development of a new flexible learning strategy and to carry out further practice-based research in this area. THE has the story.

Data shows that a sixth of postgraduate courses being offered by UK universities for the 2022/23 academic year have the option of a winter start date in a sign that increased flexibility introduced during the pandemic is here to stay. Post-92 institutions and private universities were more likely to offer incoming students the option of when they begin their course, with Russel Group universities more likely to stick with autumn start dates. THE has more details.

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