Sunday, June 12, 2011

Glamorous historian seeks role at 'new Oxford University’

Amanda Foreman, the glamorous historian, wants to lecture at A C Grayling’s proposed New College of the Humanities. A C Grayling’s plans for a private university to rival Oxford and Cambridge have received a glamorous boost.

Amanda Foreman, who once posed naked behind a pile of books, tells Mandrake that she wants to lecture at the London-based New College of the Humanities.

“If they asked me, then I’d love to do it,” the historian says at The Oldie literary luncheon at Simpson’s-in-the-Strand, in London. “Since I’ve had baskets of babies, I haven’t had time for lecturing.”

Foreman, 42, whose book Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire was turned into a film starring Keira Knightley, has five children, but has squeezed in some lecturing. “I did a talk in New York with William Shawcross that raised something like half a million dollars,” she says.

Prof Grayling’s plans for the New College of the Humanities, which will charge fees of £18,000 per year, have provoked such hostility that the philosopher was forced to abandon a talk after a smoke bomb was thrown.

“Obviously, it’s expensive, but I’ve heard that they’re going to fund-raise for it, like they do at private universities in the States,” says Foreman, pictured right. “If they don’t offer bursaries, people won’t go. There aren’t enough rich and clever people out there.”

She supports the rise in fees at other universities. “There was a lot of crap being taught before, like David Beckham studies, Mickey Mouse courses,” she claims. “Hopefully, the rise in fees will stop that kind of course.”


Two British primary school teachers face sack after children serve Irish coffee - even though only one parent complained

Two teachers are facing the sack for allowing pupils to serve Irish coffee to adults at a primary school charity event – even though just one parent complained.

Acting headteacher Steven Raby and a colleague are being investigated for alleged ‘gross misconduct’ after the nine and 10-year-olds sold the whiskey-laced drink to parents.

None of the children was allowed to try the coffee and they were supervised by staff at St Bridget’s Primary School in Warrington, Cheshire.
Warrington Council is investigating St Bridget's School headteacher Steven Raby and a colleague for 'gross misconduct'

Warrington Council is investigating St Bridget's School headteacher Steven Raby and a colleague for 'gross misconduct'

But Mr Raby and his colleague now stand accused of ‘using children to sell alcohol on unlicensed premises’.

Joanne Prinsep, who has two sons at the school, said: ‘Hardly anyone even had the Irish coffee. It’s completely ridiculous.’

Pinaki Ghoshal, assistant director of children and young people’s services at Warrington Borough Council, said: ‘We are conducting an internal investigation into this matter following a complaint from a parent.

'Until this is concluded, it would be inappropriate to make any further comment.’


Australia: Aptitude tests show benefits

IQ rediscovered

APTITUDE tests for school-leavers have proven their value as a way into universities for clever students who would have no prospect of making it on their final exam results, a trial has shown.

A report on uniTEST, released yesterday by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, concludes the assessment facilitated the admission of students who "otherwise would not have received a place, and that these students performed on par with their counterparts who gained entry through other means, most commonly through Year 12 scores".

"While the evidence is limited, both uniTEST and control group students appeared to report similar levels of academic engagement as well as learning and skill development," the report found.

UniTEST was developed by British company Cambridge Assessment and the Australian Council for Educational Research, which also conducted the pilot study. Six universities participated across three years, and while the report does not reveal which ones, the study's lead author, ACER's Hamish Coates, said the Australian National University, Macquarie, Flinders, Deakin and Monash universities were among those who had taken a keen interest in the issue.

During the pilot, almost 1500 people sat the uniTEST, with about 400 gaining admission. The report concluded at least 165 who might have missed out on entry via normal channels had been admitted.

"Scores appear to be particularly helpful for students from historically under-represented backgrounds, and have been shown to be less influenced by important characteristics like socio-economic status," it said. It concluded uniTEST scores combined with achievement scores were an improved predictor of grade point averages during the first two years of university.

Dr Coates said Australia was "drunk" on achievement data including admissions scores such as the Australian Tertiary Admission Ranks. While higher education had grown strongly during the past three decades, there had been no commensurate change in the admissions system and well-designed aptitude tests were part of the answer. "[Not only can we] get people in the door, but once they are there we know they have the intellectual capacity to succeed," Dr Coates said.

The need for a transparent and efficient means of admission was crucial as the system moves to uncap enrolments from next year, and in light of the Bradley target of 40 per cent participation.

Macquarie University vice-chancellor Steven Schwartz supported the uniTEST study, which captured students who might otherwise not qualify for university yet were perfectly capable of succeeding. "We need an admissions system that can find hidden talent that is not revealed by ATAR scores," he said.

However, DEEWR said low uptake in the pilot program meant the department had not drawn any definitive conclusions about the value of uniTEST. "While the report recommends the national implementation of uniTEST, the government does not intend to direct universities to undertake specific enrolment practices," it said.

University of Melbourne expert Richard James, the lead author of a paper on tertiary admission for the Victorian government in 2009, wrote part of a chapter in the current report. "Aptitude assessment deserves a higher profile in university admissions than is presently the case," said Professor James, director of the university's Centre for the Study of Higher Education.

"But aptitude assessment will not be appropriate for all institutions and for all courses. We are likely to see admissions criteria and practices diversify as we move into a more deregulated environment and aptitude assessment ought to be part of the mix."


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