Tag: money (page 2 of 6)

Face-to-face university classes during a pandemic? Why?

Earlier in my career, when I worked for Jisc, I was based at Northumbria University in Newcastle. It’s just been announced that 770 students there have been infected with COVID-19.

As Lorna Finlayson, a philosophy lecturer at the University of Essex, points out, the desire to get students on campus for face-to-face teaching is driven by economics. Universities are businesses, and some of them are likely to fail this academic year.

[A]fter years of pushing to expand online learning and “lecture capture” on the basis that it is what students want, university managers have decided that what students really want now, during a global pandemic, is face-to-face contact. This sudden-onset fetish reached its most perverse extreme in the case of Boston University, which, realising that many teaching rooms lack good ventilation or even windows, decided to order “giant air circulators”, only to discover that the air circulators were very noisy. Apparently unable to source enough “mufflers” for the air circulators, the university ordered Bluetooth headsets to enable students and teachers to communicate over the roar of machinery.

All of which raises the question: why? The determination to bring students back to campus at any cost doesn’t stem from a dewy-eyed appreciation of in-person pedagogy, nor from concerns about the impact of isolation on students’ mental health. If university managers had any interest in such things, they would not have spent years cutting back on study skills support and counselling services.

Lorna Finlayson, How universities tricked students into returning to campus (The Guardian)

I know people who work in universities in various positions. What they tell me astounds me; a callous disregard for human life in the pursuit of either economic survival, or profit.

This is, as usual, all about the money. With student fees and rents now their main source of revenue, universities will do anything to recruit and retain. When the pandemic hit, university managers warned of a potentially catastrophic loss of income from international student fees in particular. Many used this as an excuse to cut jobs and freeze pay, even as vice-chancellors and senior management continued to rake in huge salaries. As it turned out, international student admissions reached a record high this year, with domestic undergraduate numbers also up – perhaps less due to the irresistibility of universities’ “offer” than to the lack of other options (needless to say, staff jobs and pay have yet to be reinstated).


But students are more than just fee-payers. They are rent-payers too. Rightly or wrongly, most of those in charge of universities have assumed that only the promise of face-to-face classes would tempt students back to their accommodation. That promise can be safely broken only once rental contracts are signed and income streams flowing.

Lorna Finlayson, How universities tricked students into returning to campus (The Guardian)

I predict legal action at some point in the near future.

The crisis in professional sport is one of its own making

I couldn’t agree more with this analysis from Barney Ronay, one of my favourite sports writers:

Professional sport is facing a crisis of unprecedented urgency. It must be prepared to face it largely alone.

At which point it is worth being clear on exactly what is at stake. This is a moment of peril that should raise questions far beyond simply survival or sustaining the status quo. Questions such as: what is sport actually for? And more to the point, what do we want it to look like when this is all over?

It helps to define the terms of all this jeopardy. There has been a lot of emotive rhetoric about sport being on the verge of extinction, its very existence in doubt, as though the basic ability to participate, support and spectate could be vaporised out from beneath us.

This is incorrect. What is being menaced is the current financial management of professional sport, its existing models and cultural practices, much of which is pretty joyless and dysfunctional in the first place.

Barney Ronay, Never waste a crisis: Covid-19 trauma can force sport to change for good (The Guardian)

Was sport less enjoyable before loads of money was thrown at it? As Ronay points out, Gareth Bale earning £600,000 per week “could keep every club in League Two in business by paying their combined wage bill out of his annual salary”.

I’m not sure the current model is sustainable, so if the pandemic forces a rethink, I’m all for it.

As scarce as truth is, the supply has always been in excess of demand

Robot saying "I'm not a robot" to people who look like journalists

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Quotation-as-title by Josh Billings. Image from top linked post.