Friday, July 22, 2022

What Harvard means by 'diversity'

by Jeff Jacoby

THE LEFT-WING takeover of American elite universities is a very old story. In 1951, a young William F. Buckley Jr. created a sensation with God and Man at Yale, his first book, which documented the largely socialist and atheist worldview that even then prevailed in the classrooms of the Ivy League institution from which he had just graduated.

In much of American academia today, that worldview no longer merely prevails. It overpowers. It is pervasive, aggressive, and deeply intolerant. Half a century after Buckley's debut, an even younger conservative graduating from another prominent university — Ben Shapiro of the University of California Los Angeles — published his first book, Brainwashed, which picked up where Buckley had left off. "I have seen firsthand the leftist brainwashing occurring on campus on a daily basis," wrote Shapiro. "Under higher education's facade of objectivity lies a grave and overpowering bias."

That was in 2004. The imbalance Shapiro described then is even more pronounced now. It seems almost superfluous to document the phenomenon, but documentation continues to be compiled. In surveys of college faculty members by the Higher Education Research Institute over several decades, liberals have always outnumbered moderates and conservatives. That is especially the case in New England, as Sarah Lawrence College political scientist Samuel Abrams noted in a 2016 New York Times column:

In 1989, the number of liberals compared with conservatives on college campuses was about 2 to 1 nationwide; that figure was almost 5 to 1 for New England schools. By 2014, the national figure was 6 to 1; for those teaching in New England, the figure was 28 to 1. . . . If you are looking for an ideologically balanced education, don't put New England at the top of your list.

And definitely don't put Harvard on your list.

The Harvard Crimson reported last week that 82 percent of Harvard's faculty of arts and sciences characterize their political leanings as "liberal" or "very liberal." By contrast, "only 1 percent of respondents stated they are 'conservative,' and no respondents identified as 'very conservative.'" Compared to the rest of the country, New England's 28-to-1 lopsided liberal faculty dominance may appear wildly out of whack. But it is a model of evenhandedness compared to the 82-to-1 slant among the Harvard professoriate.

Moreover, reports the Crimson, that's the way most Harvard instructors like it. "When asked whether they would support increasing ideological diversity among faculty by hiring more conservative-leaning professors, only a quarter of respondents were in support," the paper reported.

From time to time in the world of higher education, proposals are floated to actively increase the share of faculty members whose outlook is more conservative. A few years ago, an Iowa lawmaker drafted legislation to require public colleges in his state to ensure that liberal and conservative faculty members be hired in equal numbers. The University of Colorado at Boulder has an endowed visiting professorship in Conservative Thought and Policy. The conservative activist David Horowitz for several years promoted an "Academic Bill of Rights," lobbying state legislatures to pass measures barring universities from (among other things) hiring, promoting, or terminating professors based on their political beliefs.

I am skeptical of such efforts. The steady leftward march of academia's most prestigious institutions is a genuine problem, but it isn't one that can be solved by tokenism or litmus tests, or by involving the government in hiring decisions. Frankly, I doubt that it can be solved at all other than perhaps by building up new institutions of higher education — a worthy process, but one that, even in the best of circumstances, will take many years to succeed.

Harvard's 82-to-1 faculty ratio of liberals to conservatives makes a mockery of the university's avowed commitment to diversity. A handsome page on its website declares that "Harvard's commitment to diversity in all forms" — my italics — "is rooted in our fundamental belief that engaging with unfamiliar ideas, perspectives, cultures, and people creates the conditions for dramatic and meaningful growth."

Those fine words aren't true, of course. Everyone knows that Harvard has no desire to uphold "diversity in all forms." Like other institutions that go out of their way to trumpet their embrace of diversity — the media, Hollywood, major-league sports — Harvard wants its people to be "diverse" only when measured by the yardsticks that matter least: race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation. But the clash of ideas? A robust competition among worldviews? The exposure of students to compelling arguments that challenge liberal and progressive shibboleths? That's not what Harvard is interested in. It hasn't been for decades.


Broke Colleges Resort to Mergers for Survival

When Covid-19 first tore through the nation, hundreds of college presidents sent students home, looked across their empty campuses and wondered how they were going to pay their bills.

Northeastern University President Joseph Aoun saw an opportunity. On May 15, 2020, he called six senior managers to his office. “Colleges and universities will be challenged,” he told his cabinet, he recalls. “This may be the time to start looking at mergers and partnerships.”

Over the next few weeks, Northeastern created a specialized M&A team to assess the value and vet the balance sheets of dozens of flailing colleges in the U.S. and abroad. His directive came to fruition on June 30 when Boston-based Northeastern absorbed Mills College, a 170-year-old women’s school on a 135-acre campus not far from Silicon Valley.

In exchange for the land, worth perhaps $1 billion, the school’s roughly $191 million endowment and an art collection that includes works by Diego Rivera and Winslow Homer, Northeastern is absorbing $21 million in Mills’s liabilities, putting $30 million toward an institute designed to continue the school’s feminist scholarship—and keeping open a college that planned to close.

Dr. Aoun called the deal a once-in-a-generation opportunity to expand Northeastern’s footprint, prepare students for careers in Silicon Valley and amplify Mills’s tradition of women’s leadership and social justice. Some Mills alumni are calling their school leaders dupes, given the deal’s lopsided nature. Higher-education experts see the event as emblematic of a sectorwide shakeout.

Students continue to pack into flagship universities and brand-name colleges. Less-prestigious schools are struggling. The number of colleges closing down in the past 10 years, around 200, has quadrupled compared with the previous decade.

And in the past four years, there have been 95 college mergers, compared with 78 over the prior 18 years, according to data compiled by the consulting group EY Parthenon. In the past two months, St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia absorbed the crosstown University of the Sciences, and Boston College announced it will absorb Pine Manor College, also in the Boston area.

Schools merge to broaden their enrollment base, diversify programs, expand facilities and create efficiencies of scale. About 40% of mergers involve private, nonprofit schools, and the majority involve schools within the same state and with fewer than 5,000 students. Public university systems with excess capacity have made or are considering mergers in Pennsylvania, Georgia and Wisconsin.

The stress they face is driven by rising costs for college and uneven return on investment, which has diminished public confidence in higher education, opened the door to competitors and led to falling enrollment.

In 2019, 51% of American adults considered a college degree to be “very important,” down from 70% in 2013, according to a Gallup poll. Positive perceptions of college among adults 18 to 29 fell the fastest of any group, to 41% from 74%.

Meanwhile, companies including Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Coursera Inc., as well as coding bootcamps, have eroded colleges’ and universities’ near monopoly on post-secondary education, offering inexpensive online courses a la carte that are closely aligned with the labor market.

Enrollment declines accompanied these shifts. From 19.6 million students enrolled in spring 2011, the number fell to 17.5 million in spring 2019. The pandemic sped the decline, and the number was down to 16.2 million by this spring, according to the National Student Clearinghouse.

The steepest declines are at for-profit schools, community colleges and less-prestigious private colleges. Lower demand has pushed some to hand out more scholarships and grants. In the 2021-22 academic year, students paid just 45.5% of the sticker price on average, the lowest ever, according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers.

Some schools have dealt with falling revenue by offering fewer classes and services—leading to still more enrollment challenges. The term applied to schools engaged in such a death spiral? Zombie colleges.

“These are schools that are under-preparing and under-serving their students,” said Ricardo Azziz, who coined the term. They “have excess capacity and are resistant to considering consolidation.” Dr. Azziz was president of Georgia Health Sciences University in 2012 when he oversaw a merger with Augusta State University.

The U.S. government gave $76 billion in aid to colleges and universities to shore up their balance sheets as Covid-19 swept the country. That money delayed some hard decisions, says Robert Zemsky, a professor of higher education at the University of Pennsylvania. He predicts that 500 four-year colleges and universities will close in the near term.

“This is an industry that is almost totally unprepared for this,” Dr. Zemsky said. “There’s a lot of pain ahead for a lot of small colleges.”

Northeastern University was built a century ago on a work-study model. Today, its students intern at one of 3,100 companies during their education. That forces professors to adjust their curricula repeatedly to meet the needs of industry.

This exposure solves a problem that has long plagued higher education, says Northeastern’s provost, David Madigan. Schools are organized around academic disciplines, a system he calls “inward looking and tantamount to medieval guilds,” and they struggle to stay relevant at times of rapid change in the economy.

Northeastern’s model has helped make the onetime blue-collar commuter college one of the nation’s more selective universities. In 2021, 91,986 students applied for 2,620 spots.

About a decade ago, Northeastern began looking beyond Boston. It examined regional labor markets to identify gaps between the supply of workers for an area’s industries and the local academic programs to produce them. Over the past decade, Northeastern has opened campuses in Charlotte, N.C., London, Portland, Maine, San Francisco, Seattle, San Jose, Calif., Toronto and Vancouver. A campus in Miami is in the works.

Northeastern’s Dr. Aoun earned degrees in Lebanon and Paris before getting a Ph.D. in linguistics and philosophy at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He said studying on three continents gave him an appreciation for the American university system, which encourages innovation more than others. “If you look around the world, you see everything is determined in a centralized way by the government and minister of education,” he said.

Despite the opportunity to innovate, he sees plenty of groupthink in higher education. Universities in the U.S. are “diverse but not differentiated,” he said. “Everyone follows the same approach.”

Northeastern’s work-study model tends to force innovation. Dr. Aoun, who is 69, switched his sneakers last year because students told him a new brand was better. “If the world is changing around you and you’re not changing, that is risky,” he said.

Instead of other universities, he looks to global companies for insights on expansion. A notion he has gleaned is that each campus should serve the needs of the area where it’s located.

As the technology sector grew, so did Northeastern’s interest in having a toehold in Silicon Valley. In 2015, it opened a small campus inside the offices of a tech company in San Jose. It offers programs in computer science, data science and information systems.

Mills College, in nearby Oakland, began in 1852 as a women’s seminary. It grew into a liberal arts college with a focus on women’s rights and gender equity, with graduates who include well-known artists and activists such as Rep. Barbara Lee (D., Calif.) and singer-songwriter Laurie Anderson.


Australia: Queensland teachers strike gold

Teachers have won a 3 per cent “cost-of-living’’ bonus in Queensland after union leaders accepted an inflation-busting pay offer that will put pressure on ­public sector payrolls and other industries.

Queensland teachers and principals will pocket the highest salaries in Australian schools through pay rises ranging from 11 per cent to 20 per cent over the next three years, pegged to the rate of inflation.

The Palaszczuk government has broken ranks with other states, with the inflation payment smashing the 2 per cent annual pay rise accepted by Victorian teachers in May, and the 3 per cent pay rise offered to striking ­teachers in NSW. The inflation bonus could potentially blow out Queensland’s public education sector wage bill – currently more than $8bn – by more than $1bn over the next three years.

The Queensland Teachers’ Union has recommended its members accept the pay deal of a 4 per cent pay rise this year, backdated to July 1, with rises of 4 per cent next year and 3 per cent in 2024. The pay package includes a “cost of living adjustment” worth up to 3 per cent each year, to be paid to teachers in a lump sum if the annual consumer price index in Brisbane outstrips the pay ­increase.

Should inflation hit 7 per cent this year, as forecast by some economists, starting salaries will soar by as much as $100 a week to $78,783 a year – more than the ­average wage for newly graduated doctors, lawyers or engineers.

Beginner teachers in Queensland would pocket a $2945 pay rise, plus a cost-of-living bonus worth an extra $2297.

Lead teachers would get a $5001 pay rise plus an inflation bonus of $3900, boosting their pay to $133,926 this year – the highest teacher salary in Australia.

Queensland Education Minister Grace Grace, who is also the Minister for Industrial Relations, on Thursday boasted about the generosity of the pay deal that also offers bonus payments to teachers who move to regional or remote schools.

“This is an offer that includes some of the highest pay increases and best working conditions for teachers in Australia,’’ she said.

“The Palaszczuk government is committed to making the Queensland Department of Education the employer of choice for teachers in Australia.’’

Teachers in Queensland have until July 29 to vote on the offer.

NSW Teachers Federation president Angelo Gavrielatos on Thursday dismissed the NSW government’s 3 per cent pay rise offer as a “pay cut” because it failed to keep pace with inflation.

He refused to rule out ongoing strikes to secure more money, nominating an increase of 10 per cent or 15 per cent over the next two years as a “starting point’’.

“Our claim is more than reasonable considering the inflationary pressure that exists today,’’ he said.




Thursday, July 21, 2022

Oregon Education Department anti-bias training accuses White people of having a 'thorough racist conditioning'

The training included central topics in the critical race theory lens. For example, the literature in the training, reviewed by Fox News Digital, accused the U.S. of encompassing "white dominant culture."

"For white people living in North America learning to be anti-racist is a re-education process. We must unlearn our thorough racist conditioning to re-educate and re-condition ourselves as anti-racists," the literature from the training stated. "We are constantly tempted to detour off course by the racist propaganda of society and our own guilt and denial. In the face of society’s and our own resistance, sustaining the will to continue this journey takes bold and stubborn effort."

The literature also accused White children of being trained to hold prejudice.

"Most of us first became aware of racial prejudice and injustice as children. As white infants, we were fed a pabulum of racist propaganda. That early 'training' was comprehensive and left little room for question, challenge or doubt," the literature stated. "We resisted the lies, the deceit and the injustice of racism, but we did not have the skills to counter the poisonous messages. Our conditioning filled us with fear, suspicion and stereotypes that substituted for true knowing of people of color. We internalized our beliefs about people of color, ourselves, other white people and about being white. Those internalized attitudes became actualized into racist behavior."

One of the sessions in the seminar asked participants to enact microaggression scenarios over what may come up in a workplace.

Racial microaggressions are defined by, according to ODE, "Commonplace verbal or behavioral indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative slights and insults."

To deny one's "personal racism" or role in its perpetuation is a "microinvalidation," the training said.

Another "microinvalidation" included "statements which assert that race plays a minor role in life success," under an umbrella title called the "Myth of Meritocracy."

"Denial or pretense that a White person does not see color or race," another "microinvalidation" example said.

The anti-bias training, which was launched in 2020, focused on "understanding of the institutionalized racist barriers that hinder elimination of the racial achievement disparities in our schools." ODE told Fox News Digital that "Supporting every learner requires addressing racial equity… We know there are long-standing inequities in our systems that have led to gaps in outcomes for students of color. We emphasize culturally responsive professional learning for Oregon Department of Education staff that is reflective of all communities in our state. There is both an intellectual and ethical basis for centering equity in professional learning and instructional materials."

Attendees were also instructed on "Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" of "White privilege."

The examples of White privilege included not being asked to "speak for all the people of my racial group."

"I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to the 'person in charge' I will be [f]acing a person of my race," ODE's training said. "I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race."


Texas professor under fire after proposing a ‘cure for homosexuality’

A Texas professor was being scrutinized after an appeal to find a “cure for homosexuality,” along with the bizarre suggestion that doctors try to identify gay babies during prenatal testing.

Professor Timothy Farage is under investigation by The University of Texas at Dallas after a tweet that made misleading claims about an alleged link to homosexuality and monkeypox.

“Can we at least try to find a cure for homosexuality, especially among men,” the computer science professor wrote.

Farage insisted he has “nothing against homosexuals” during an interview with WFAA-TV, but suggested we try to find a “cure” to change someone’s sexual preference.

“I’m saying, do medical research on the causes for homosexuality,” he said while suggesting that the supposed testing could be administered in the womb.

Farage then admitted: “I don’t know, I’m not a doctor.”

The Rainbow Coalition, an LGBTQ+ student organization at UT Dallas, called on the university to take “immediate action” against Professor Timothy Farage, for the since-deleted post.

“Farage has a long, well-documented history of hostility on LGBTQ+ issues,” they said in a tweet. “He has been known to discuss controversial political positions and promote personal social media account during lectures, which goes against university guidelines for professor’s conduct.”

The university “received several complaints” and said the incident was under investigation.

“We take this matter seriously and that the statements by this individual do not reflect the core values of our institution,” the university said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the university offered students the opportunity to take classes with another professor.


Affirmative-action fix: Let students know how they’ll fare before choosing a college

The affirmative-action debate’s many dimensions — legal, ethical and more — will receive another airing in the months ahead. But in a new Manhattan Institute issue brief, I examine a more empirical topic that strikes at the heart of affirmative action’s purpose: To what extent do affirmative action’s beneficiaries suffer from being “mismatched” with better-qualified peers, rather than benefiting from enhanced educational opportunities?

The question is hard to answer, both because social science is always difficult and because schools have been reluctant to release the needed data. Some things are clear, others quite muddy.

First, while many colleges are basically unselective, pickier schools do use race in their admissions processes, sometimes quite heavily, admitting students from underrepresented minority groups who’d have had little chance if they were white. In a recent paper, for instance, Peter Arcidiacono, Josh Kinsler and Tyler Ransom looked at the data shaken loose from the two schools currently before the Supreme Court. At Harvard, blacks get a fourfold increase in their chances of admission. At UNC, black applicants get a 70 percent increase if they’re in-state and a more than tenfold increase if they’re applying through the far more competitive out-of-state pool.

Second, schools rely on criteria such as test scores and high-school grades to begin with because these variables predict success in college.

Third, there’s lots of debate over whether these students would be better off at lower-ranked schools in concrete ways — completing difficult majors without switching to easier ones, graduating, passing the bar (in the case of law school). The evidence is stronger for some outcomes than others, but a commonsense way of interpreting the literature is simply that affirmative action has different effects in different situations.

What is to be done? The Supreme Court’s decision won’t moot this topic, even if schools comply with the ruling in good faith. Common alternatives to race-based affirmative action, such as preferences based on class or geography, can also create mismatch. I propose a simple solution: Give kids accurate information about how they’ll likely fare in the college programs that accept them, based on how similar students have performed in those same programs.

Recent years have seen a broad push toward providing better data on colleges, such as the government’s College Scorecard, which reveals important statistics such as graduation rates and median earnings after graduation. My additional suggestion is simply to work out how these outcomes vary based on students’ entering credentials.

This is common sense, and others have made similar proposals. In a 2017 Urban Institute brief, Jordan Matsudaira suggested giving students “personalized predictions of the likelihood that they complete programs of interest and the earnings outcomes associated with these programs,” predictions that would benefit from data on students’ academic backgrounds. Arcidiacono, Kinsler and Ransom have written that “universities have a moral imperative to provide students with accurate information about their prospects of success.”

Liberals and conservatives do not see eye to eye on affirmative action, and a Supreme Court decision will not settle the matter. They should be able to agree, however, to help prospective college students make better-informed decisions when they choose a school.




Wednesday, July 20, 2022

After 2 Years Homeschooling Using High School Curriculum, Boy, 13, Graduates College With 3.78 GPA

After two years of homeschooling using high school curriculum, 13-year-old Elliott Tanner graduated college with a bachelor’s degree and a 3.78 GPA. Now, he’s a doctoral student at the University of Minnesota with ambitions to become a professor.

“It doesn’t really faze us that he is young, because this is just our life,” Elliott’s mom, 45-year-old Michelle Tanner, told The Epoch Times. “He has put in his time, and has proved himself to everyone that he is capable of being successful in college.”

Michelle, who lives with her family in St. Louis, always knew her son had big academic ambitions.

Elliott, who is the only child of his parents, loved being read to as a baby and taught himself to read at 2 years old, without any formal instruction. He started writing a year later, and became interested in math, moving quickly past basic sums into 3- and 4-digit addition, multiplication, and division.

The teen officially started homeschooling at the age of 6, after Spanish immersion in kindergarten. His parents provided him with “a ton of books,” mentors and tutors, and even industry tours to cater to his burgeoning love of math, physics, chemistry, and computer coding.

He finished high-school algebra and geometry at 7, took trigonometry at 8, and enrolled at college three weeks after his ninth birthday for calculus classes and beyond, earning an associate’s degree in mathematics at the tender age of 11 during the pandemic.

“He didn’t have a typical graduation ceremony, it was online,” Michelle lamented. “It was bittersweet; we were incredibly proud of him, but wished he could have celebrated by walking across the stage.”

While studying for his bachelor’s of science in physics, with a minor in math, at the Univesity of Minessota, Elliott contributed to research for the International Short-Baseline Neutrino Program at Fermilab in Chicago, Illinois. His research was determining the effects of Rayleigh scattering in the SBND.

Michelle recalled her son’s college experience.

“Before he was 13, I would take him to school and stay on campus while he was in his classes; I would find a coffee shop,” she said. “Once he turned 13, we felt good about being able to just drop him off and pick him up.

“Elliott took full days of classes and was also involved in the Physics Club … loved being able to hang out in the physics student lounge, attended Math Club. The workload of college isn’t too much for Elliott.”

She explained that he doesn’t spend long hours studying at night and usually gets his homework done in between classes, so that when the other junior high-school kids are getting off the bus, he can already be home and get ready to play.

Another of Elliott’s favorite pastimes was virtual reality gaming with his close friend, the actor Iain Armitage, who plays Sheldon on the TV show, “Young Sheldon.”

Elliott, who loves Minecraft, Dungeons and Dragons, board games, and hanging out at the amusement park with friends, used to “stick out” and prompt double-takes among his college peers when he was little. Some even assumed he was a student’s child in class. But since growing taller, he fits in, said Michelle, and the “shock value” of his age wears off quickly.

Apart from having great executive skills and maturity, Elliott also brings in a little fun at school, Michelle said.

Due to his academic achievements, many think he “doesn’t get to be a kid,” or that his childhood was taken away from him, Michelle revealed. However, she assures that is not the case at all.

“Not only does he regularly play with age-similar peers, but he also has his academic needs met,” Michelle said. “So he is able to hang with other teenagers as well as speak to other physics students and professors about high-level physics concepts. It’s been a perfect match to be able to stimulate all areas of his life, both socially and academically.”

Michelle, a freelance photographer and social media manager, and her music-producer husband, 56-year-old Patrik Tanner, advocate for their son as best they can, despite it being difficult for Elliot to be accepted in the industry.

“His age has drawbacks, such as not being offered a teaching assistant position at the university for his PhD program,” Michelle explained. “This means he is one of only 3 percent of physics PhD students in the U.S. that do not have a tuition waiver or stipend, so we have to try to raise funds for his tuition.


Betsy DeVos calls for the Department of Education to be abolished

Former education Secretary Betsy DeVos said the former department she led should be abolished.

Speaking at a "Moms For Liberty" summit in Tampa, Florida, DeVos said on Saturday that the Department of Education that she once led should be abolished in order to leave education decisions to state and local boards.

"I personally think the Department of Education should not exist,"DeVos said during her a keynote speech at the summit.

The Moms For Liberty group is a parental-rights group that advocates for parental rights at all levels of government, according to their website. The group was founded in Florida, by parents who opposed mask mandates for children in school due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The co-founder of Moms For LIberty Tiffany Justice who interviewed DeVos during the summit are vocal opponents of government-backed mask mandates and teachers unions. She recently blasted teachers unions for their "radical agenda" and not fully representing parents and students.

The summit was a three-day event to equip members from 30 states on how to elect more conservative candidates to school boards. The event featured DeVos as one of the prominent Republicans to speak along with Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Throughout her time in the Trump administration, DeVos was a frequent target of teacher unions and Democrats because of her advocacy for school choice and vouchers. The former education secretary recently called the Biden administration's new parents council a "laughable" attempt to fix "a very glaring issue" in a recent interview with Fox News Digital.

"Parents across the country are upset for a variety of reasons with how the system has handled the last two years. And they remain upset and they… want to have control of their children's education," she said.

The Department of Education announced the National Parents and Families Engagement Council earlier this month as a means of finding "constructive ways to help families engage at the local level." The committee, the department said, will conduct "listening sessions" to explore what schools can do to help students recover from the pandemic. The formation of the council followed a wave of criticism aimed at the Biden administration and Democrats for downplaying parents' roles in their children's education.

Parents all over the country have been speaking out against coronavirus related mandates in schools and progressive curriculums that have been associated with critical race theory or gender theory.

The Biden administration specifically drew the ire of parents when the National School Board Association (NSBA) sent a letter to the Justice Department that requested parents' actions at school board meetings be examined under the Patriot Act as "domestic terrorists." Attorney General Merrick Garland announced a task group to investigate threats of violence against school boards after the NSBA letter. Critics called the move an attack on parents.


Labour-run council becomes first in UK to stop excluding pupils for behaving badly unless they are risk to other children's safety

Students in a Labour-run council will no longer be excluded from school for their bad behaviour, it has been revealed.

In what is believed to be a UK first, secondary schools in Southwark, south London, will allow misbehaving pupils to remain as long as they do not put another child's safety at risk.

Teachers will instead be encouraged to understand the reasons behind the bad behaviour by using a 'trauma-informed response' and to not take it at 'face value.'

The schools have all signed up to the agreement after a 2020 report found the council had a higher than average exclusion rate.

The same report, conducted by the council, also found that academies excluded more children than other schools.

Meanwhile, a separate investigation by the council found that black students in the borough were 1.5 times more likely to be excluded than their white counterparts.

According to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), councillors want the borough to be the first in England to exclude no pupils in the coming years.

Schools in Southwark reported zero exclusions in the 2021 autumn term.

Southwark police will also be asked to sign up to the agreement, which reads: 'Our aspiration is for 100 per cent inclusion of children in education that keeps them safe and enables them to flourish.

'Where appropriate, we will implement a trauma-informed response to behaviour of concern in children.

'By this, we mean not taking concerning behaviour at face value, but striving to understand what is driving that behaviour. […]

'We will strive for best practice across our policies and processes and towards 100 per cent inclusion approaches to behaviour in education settings.'

Councillor Jasmine Ali, cabinet member for children, young people and education, told a meeting on July 18 that 'even one child excluded' was too much.

She added: 'We're absolutely delighted to bring this charter.

'In 2018 we were rightly concerned that 49 pupils were excluded from education in this borough and they were disproportionately represented by children and young people of black and minority ethnic backgrounds, special education need or disability and many of them had care experience.'

It comes after a report in April suggested there be no exclusions in primary schools from 2026 onwards.

The paper from former Children's Commissioner Anne Longfield also highlighted the 'adultification' of black students who are treated with less care and protection because of perceived maturity.

Those children seen as older are more likely to be punished or excluded, the report claimed.

Longfield's report came a month after the Metropolitan Police was heavily criticised for strip-searching 'Child Q' - a black 15-year-old girl - without an appropriate adult present on suspicion of possessing cannabis.

Ms Longfield said: '[Adultification is] very real and it has a huge impact on children's lives,' she said. 'Essentially, it's young people being viewed as older.

'That means that we look after them slightly less and they don't get the protections and safeguarding they should.'

The report from the Commission for Young Lives also included a suggestion to ban exclusions at the primary school level from 2026.

Ms Longfield said the report is not about ignoring behavioural problems in schools but is about bringing in 'a new era of inclusivity'.

She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: 'This isn't trying to ignore the problems that are clearly being displayed with the child, nor is it about reducing expectations around academic achievement, but it is about taking that responsibility for all children within the classroom.

'And what we know is if we intervene early and offer that support to those children, often who will have special educational needs, they will be able to thrive in school.

'But schools really often find themselves wanting to do that, but between a rock and a hard place.

'They don't have often that specialist support on hand, and to some, sadly, they say exclusion is the only option for them.

'That's why we want to see a new era of inclusivity that can support those children to thrive.'

The report said the kind of treatment Child Q and other black children have been subjected to is damaging to their confidence in schools and the police.

It also said that race-equality training should be a core part of teacher training while the school curriculum should be reformed to make it more inclusive.

Jahnine Davis, director of child-protection company Listen Up, told BBC News: 'Black children are at a greater risk of experiencing this form of bias, due to preconceived ideas about black children being aggressive, deviant, and almost needing to be safeguarded from rather then safeguarded.

'Black girls tend to be met with suspicion. They tend to be perceived as being loud, as being aggressive and being hyper-resilient.

'If you want to explore the adultification of black girls, we have to look at the history, which is rooted in slavery and colonialism.'

In the past three years, 5,279 children were searched in London, with 3,939 (75 per cent) from ethnically-diverse backgrounds according to disclosures made under Freedom of Information laws.

Some 16 of those searched were aged between 10 and 12.

The Met has launched a review of its strip-search policy after the widespread backlash at the revelations about Child Q.




Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Genes and personality in education

Kathryn Paige Harden, a professor of psychology and behaviour geneticist from the University of Texas, says acknowledging "genetic luck" could be used to help create a more equitable society.

When it comes to how well kids and adolescents do in school, Professor Harden says we already know all things aren't equal.

"We have a ton of research about that from educational and developmental psychology," she says. We know that poverty and disadvantage outside of school impact students' educational outcomes.

But Professor Harden argues that cognitive ability is another part of the equation. "If you have better working memory, better visual spatial reasoning [or] a stronger vocabulary, school is easier for you," she says.

Non-cognitive factors also come into it. One of those is personality, something that Professor Harden is very interested in.

"There are personality traits that might make school easier or harder," she says. Things like impulsivity, how organised you are and how persistent you are. And these traits are at least partly shaped by our genes, she says.

The relationship between genetics and educational and economic success is complex. Professor Harden says people often try and simplify it by comparing it to a poker game.

"There's the genes or the hand you get dealt, but there's still how you play that hand," she says.

But the effect of genes on things like personality means this metaphor can break down.

"Our genes are also influencing how we play the hand we're dealt. It influences how motivated we are, how [much we plan], how much impulse control we have," she says. "It makes this line between what's effort and agency and what's [genetic] luck kind of impossible to tease apart."

Given genes are immutable, Professor Harden says a lot of people have asked why the recent studies matter so much.

She says this is because there is scope to intervene and make a difference. "Just because something is genetic doesn't mean we can't intervene on it environmentally."

One example she highlights is how family therapy is used to help treat alcohol abuse problems in adolescents.

"[Genetically speaking], not every teenager is equally likely to develop an alcohol abuse problem. Some of that genetics has to do with how your body metabolises alcohol, but some of it has to do with personality," she says.

"Do you tend to like loud, rowdy friends? Do you like to go to parties where substances will be on offer?"

Professor Harden says randomised controlled trials have shown that family therapy, which aims to improve parent-teenager relationships and communication, is an effective treatment and helps kids who are "most genetically at risk".

"That's because one of the pathways between their genetic risk and their addiction is through their social environment."


Success Academy shows again that charter schools can excel

Success Academy keeps showing how great public schools can be — when they’re focused on excellence for the kids, rather than serving adult “stakeholders.” The latest: The Post reports over 93% of Success Academy eighth graders passed four state Regents exams, when passing five is the central qualification for a Regents high-school diploma.

These kids are predominantly poor and black or Hispanic, and they were stuck in remote learning for more than a year. But they’re outperforming students in the regular public schools who are three and four years older.

That’s because the Success Network doesn’t fall back on excuses: It’s determined to teach, to help every scholar reach his or her highest potential. Even during COVID, every student learned from live instruction. (In one concession to the remote-learning challenge, Success dropped the passing score from 70 to 65, but that’s still a higher standard than the regular system uses.)

As a result, most of these young men and women not only passed, but scored at a high level in Algebra I, Global History, Living Environment and English. This, when fairly few city eighth graders even take one Regents exam.

Meanwhile, the state education establishment is working to please “equity” advocates who want to do away with the exams, watering them down and seeking every opportunity to cancel the tests.

No wonder students and families are fleeing city-run public schools and flocking to charters and other high-quality alternatives.

The only thing preventing more kids from enrolling at high-quality charters like Success is the state cap (preserved at the behest of the teachers unions) that prevents more such schools from opening.

Happily, GOP gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin vows to eliminate the charter-school cap if elected in November. That makes him the clear choice for any voter who cares about public education, or simply about kids.


Urgent warning issued to millions of Australians with student debt - with payments set to SOAR again

Millions of Australians still paying off their student loans will be hit with yet another increase in repayments amid the spiralling cost of living crisis.

Millions of former university students will be stung with a $2.7billion interest bill after annual indexation rates surged from 0.6 per cent to 3.9 per cent.

The soaring interest rates mean graduates with HECS or HELP debts will pay an extra $923 on top of the average loans repayment of $23,685.

Indexation is a formula applied to student loans that have been unpaid for more than 11 months after the student has graduated.

It maintains the real value of a loan by adjusting it in line with changes in the cost of living, which is measured by the consumer price index.

The rate is closely tied to inflation, which rose to 5.1 per cent in the March quarter.

The surging borrowing rates comes as students feel the pinch from increasing costs of living, affecting the cost of petrol, groceries and electricity.

Graduates hoping to secure a home loan will also be impacted as banks consider outstanding HECS or HELP debt when deciding how much to lend.

Data from the Australian Taxation Office has revealed student debt has more than doubled in the last seven years with just under three million students owing a total of $69billion to the government.

Students graduating in the next three years could be hit even harder by surging indexation rates after the former Liberal government axed taxpayer subsidies for arts, law or business courses from 2021.

Graduates are required to start making payments on their HELP loans when they earn more than $48,361 - with the minimum wage just $42,000.

In May, students with HECS or HELP were warned they would soon be slugged with the highest increase in repayments in 10 years.

As a result, former students may choose to start making voluntary repayments towards their debt to bring the total down and decrease the interest rate.

Experts however said it would be foolish to pay HECS debt early because it's the cheapest loan a person will ever receive.

Pivot Wealth founder Ben Nash told the indexation rate was concerning because it exceeded current wage growth.

'When you look at it against the wage growth, which is annualised at 2.4 per cent, you can see that it is challenging at a rate higher than the growth in wages,' he said.

'So it means that people are going to have to pay more of their salary to have the same impact'.

Mr Nash said the numbers shouldn't discourage people from seeking higher education because it's likely the indexation rate will average out to about two per cent over 10 years.

'It's only slightly positive because the cost is still going up, but the HECS increases are not as high as increases in a lot of other goods and services,' he said.




Monday, July 18, 2022

Library Group Recommends ‘Pronoun Book’ for Infants

“Children’s entertainment” is no longer guaranteed to be appropriate for children. With Disney vowing to promote sexual perversion, and a drag queen story hour targeting children in every city, this conclusion has become increasingly obvious.

Yet, somehow, the Association for Library Service to Children has managed (or is it womanaged?) to up the ante yet again, aiming woke propaganda not at kindergartners, but at infants.

According to Amazon, “The Pronoun Book” is “for children aged 5+” and “gently encourages children to learn pronoun etiquette and educates them on they/them pronouns, trans and non-binary identities, misgendering and neo-pronouns such as xe, zir and hir.”

According to the Association for Library Service to Children’s 2022 Summer Reading List, the book is for children aged “Birth-Preschool” as well.

He might be drooling all over their onesie, but at least he’s got their made-up pronouns memorized—just kidding, he still calls his mother “dada” because that’s the only sound he has learned to make. In reality, this book is only useful for teaching toddlers what sound a duck makes.

Also Association for Library Service to Children-recommended for the “Birth-Preschool” crowd is “Our Skin: A First Conversation About Race.”

The Amazon description for “Our Skin: A First Conversation About Race” does say the book is for “toddlers on up.” It continues, “research shows that talking about issues like race and gender from the age of two not only helps children understand what they see, but also increases self-awareness, self-esteem, and allows them to recognize and confront things that are unfair, like discrimination and prejudice.”

After all, before a child learns the difference between red and blue, they should know that a few shades of difference in skin pigmentation tell them all they need to know about a person. Instead of enjoying a care-free playdate with her minority friend, that 3-year-old should be apologizing for her white privilege and giving away all her toys.

In fact, much of the list, which was “compiled and annotated by members of the ALSC’s Quicklists Consulting Committee” gives evidence that the committee members neither remember what it was like to be a small child, nor spend much time caring for infants and toddlers.

The books the association recommends range from potentially disturbing (“a story about a cat so adorable that anyone who sees her explodes”) to overly mature (“Jeff has eaten breakfast, watered the plants, and tried on the underwear his grandma gave him”—exactly what does a tot in size 3 diapers know of such things?), but mostly not appropriate for these tender ages.

Where are the likes of “Go, Dog, Go!,” “Fox in Socks,” “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom,” or even “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit”? Where are the books about how much Mommy loves them, sharing, or what sorts of things you can find in a supermarket?

Maybe, somewhere, there is a small child with a long enough attention span to sit through “100 Animals,” but a book on fake pronouns? Little Johnny’s going to squirm right out of your lap.

There are books on the association’s infant list about urban light pollution, lost mail, and traffic congestion—real world problems of which the 4-and-under crowd is blissfully unaware. Learning to walk, talk, and share is hard enough without someone who is miserable writing books to make you miserable, too.

The list contains “a primer on spatial awareness,” a “book about personal boundaries and consent,” “the complexities of emotion,” a “primer for little ones on color theory,” updated “nursery rhymes from a feminist perspective,” and other abstract concepts far beyond the grasp of little ones who can’t yet tell time, count money, or sing their ABCs.

Why the obsession with forcing woke gender and race theory into kids like they’re mashed peas? Likely because the left understands what George Barna’s research has uncovered. “Between 15 to 18 months of age is when most children start forming their worldview,” he said. “By the age of 13, it’s almost completely in place.” For the left, indoctrination must begin with baby books.

That’s why children must absolutely be protected from such poisonous contaminants at such an early age.

When, Lord willing, my wife and I welcome our first child into the world later this year, it will be our duty as parents to love him, clothe him, feed him, care for him—and, yes, to teach him, too. That will look like singing the ABCs with him in the car, reading Bible stories at bedtime, warning him about electrical outlets and busy streets, and habitually thanking God for every meal.

But it will also involve—in a way that was unthinkable 20, 10, or even five years ago—carefully curating the baby books we read to him to guard against the harmful content that is promoted even by the so-called Association for Library Service to Children.


Those destroying public schools don’t want you thinking about alternatives

What comes after the end of public schools? Anyone who cares about the education of children should be asking that question. So of course it’s one that the teachers unions don’t want us to discuss.

New York City schools are in trouble. As The Post reported Friday, “the city Department of Education expects to enroll roughly 28,100 fewer students this fall.” Enrollment at the city’s regular public schools already fell during the pandemic, and this new projection suggests it’s not improving any time soon.

And New York leads a large pack: California, Illinois, Oregon, Mississippi and Michigan have all seen serious losses of students departing their public-school systems.

Why? A Gallup poll last week showed only 28% of Americans have “a great deal or a lot” of “confidence in U.S. public schools.”

Much of this is tied to long closures during the pandemic. Teachers unions, with people like American Federation of Teachers chief Randi Weingarten leading the charge, pushed hard to keep schools closed for far too long. The shutdowns (and the travesty of remote learning) smashed public trust and it simply isn’t that easy to rebuild. Researchers at the American Enterprise Institute found that the longer a school district stayed remote, the larger its enrollment drop.

But parents tell me they have many reasons for saying “enough.”

New York City’s crushing of merit-based admissions under Mayor Bill de Blasio pushed people out, as did general woke nonsense replacing academics. Other parents pulled their kids when toddlers stayed masked after the rest of the city had stopped.

Mayor Eric Adams isn’t mincing words: “We have a massive hemorrhaging of students — massive hemorrhaging. We’re in a very dangerous place in the number of students that we are dropping.” But the City Council (clearly lobbied by the teachers union) is pushing for schools to retain funding at the old enrollment numbers. That’s crazy: These schools aren’t meeting families’ needs; they shouldn’t be rewarded for this failure with cash.

Especially because money is so often set on fire in the New York City system. Schools Chancellor David Banks and over 50 other staffers attended a conference last week “at a swanky hotel near Universal Studios in Orlando,” The Post reports. Kids had to zoom to get an education for over a year, but the grownups need to meet up near theme parks to discuss their education plan? Ridiculous.

Public schools are in a serious downward spiral. The options are fixing them, which hasn’t worked for decades, or letting parents get their kids out.

Public charter schools are, understandably, booming despite getting far less funding. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently pointed out, “Charter schools educate 7% of all public-school students, yet they receive less than 1% of total federal spending on K-12 education.”

On average, charters have higher math and reading scores than traditional public schools; Bloomberg notes, “Research has found that the benefits are especially pronounced for Black, Latino and low-income students.”

But the teachers unions hate charters. They hate when parents have choices for their kids.

They also hate outspoken parents fighting for their kids. Weingarten called parents showing up to school board meetings “racists” and has argued that school vouchers, which would give parents a way to get their kids out of failing schools, are “the end of public education as we know it.” To which we all should say: good.

Public education shouldn’t exist to serve Weingarten. It’s our money paying for our children to get an education.

School-choice activist Corey DeAngelis always asks, “Why would giving families a choice ‘end public schools’?” That’s the exact right question.

If parents are finding that the public-school system doesn’t serve their children, we need to give them an option to exit. If they all take that exit, that means their children have been failed by our current public-education model — and that’s a travesty we can’t ignore.

Politicians shouldn’t preserve this failing model because Randi Weingarten wants them to. They should remember: The last time they listened to her, public schools across the country lost over a million students.


Australia: Queensland’s most in-demand public schools continue to be flooded with thousands of out-of-catchment students despite strict enrolment requirements

State High is selective. Out-of-area students have to pass a type of IQ test. That raises the standards of the school generally, which makes it popular: A virtuous circle

Queensland’s most in-demand public schools continue to be flooded with thousands of out-of-catchment students despite strict enrolment requirements and even threats of police action.

An exclusive Courier-Mail analysis can reveal more than 50 schools across the state have at least 500 out-of-catchment students enrolled this year.

Despite using private investigators and even threatening police involvement over catchment fraud, top public school Brisbane State High School still saw more than 1564 out of catchment students enrol in 2022, comprising about 46 per cent of its total student population.

According to the school’s enrolment management plan, BSHS – the country’s largest high school – still accepts more than 1000 kids into its selective entry program.

This is despite the state government building a brand new high school, the $153m Brisbane South State Secondary College, just three kilometres away.

Brisbane State High School has seen its percentage out-of-catchment students barely shift over the past three years with 48 per cent of students’ out-of-catchment in 2020.

Other major and in-demand public high schools also saw large numbers of students enrolled from outside the catchment zone.




Sunday, July 17, 2022

Woke Academic Gobbledygook Makes You Rich and Famous

This week, a professor went viral during congressional testimony regarding the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overruling Roe v. Wade. During her testimony, professor Khiara Bridges of Berkeley Law School refused to acknowledge any value at all in unborn children, instead stating, “I think that the person with the capacity for pregnancy has value and they should have the ability to control what happens.”

This prompted Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., to ask, “You’ve referred to people with a capacity for pregnancy. Would that be women?” Bridges immediately responded, “Many cis women have the capacity for pregnancy. Many cis women do not have the capacity for pregnancy. There are also trans men who are capable of pregnancy as well as nonbinary people who are capable of pregnancy.”

Hawley asked incredulously, “Your view, the core of this right is about what?” To which Bridges shot back, “I want to recognize that your line of questioning is transphobic, and it opens up trans people to violence.” She then blamed Hawley for the high suicidal ideation rate of those who identify as transgender, and lectured him, “We have a good time in my class. You should join.”

Hawley was of course correct that only women can have babies; women who believe they are men are still women. And the notion that suicidal ideation rates among LGBT people are the result predominantly of societal bigotry is completely evidence-free; suicidal ideation rates among LGBT people remain massively higher than among cisgender heterosexual people in San Francisco just as they would in Alabama.

The question that should trouble us, then, isn’t whether men have babies. They don’t. The question is why our most prestigious academic institutions now churn out privileged pseudo-intellectuals who spout utter nonsense at the drop of the hat, and do it with self-assured sententiousness.

The answer lies in the incentive structure in higher education. Our higher education system is designed to benefit claims of victimhood rooted in intersectional identity politics. That is the only way to explain just why Bridges, one of the most educationally privileged members of American society, makes a career complaining about the systemic evils of the United States. It takes enormous gall and equal ignorance to claim that bigotry lies behind the reality of sexual dichotomy; it takes just as much gall and ignorance to claim that a country that has afforded you the opportunity to achieve a degree from Spelman College, a JD from Columbia Law School, a Ph.D. from Columbia in anthropology, and a career in classical ballet is somehow a country shot through with systemic racism.

And yet that is precisely what Bridges does for a living. Her study specializes in “race, class, reproductive rights, and the intersection of the three.” Author of “Critical Race Theory: A Primer” and a self-described “critical race theorist,” Bridges believes in the “rejection of legal conventions” and advocates in favor of the ideas that “racism is a normal feature of American society (and not a deviation from an otherwise fair and just status quo)” and that “traditional liberal understandings of the problem of racism and how racism will be defeated” ought to be rejected.

This, too, is nonsense. But it is nonsense cherished by the elite institutions that churn out supposed academics like Bridges. Our system of academia is irrevocably broken. Academia was originally perceived as a place of merit-based higher learning, a place in which the best and brightest formulated the most important policies. Academia was the West’s intellectual oligarchy. But if the idea behind a merit-based academic elite used to rest in the actual merit of ideas and performance, that idea was left behind long ago. Now, the self-perpetuating academic elite is happy to maintain control by paying lip service to radicals like Bridges. All that matters, in true Foucault fashion, is power. That, presumably, is the reason why Bridges treats dissent as a form of violence — oligarchs usually do. Intellectual oligarchs are no different. And the biggest casualty is truth.


Girl Punished for Her Addition to BLM Poster

A 7-year-old girl who deviated from the acceptable language allowed by school officials when describing Black Lives Matter was punished by her California school.

But parent Chelsea Boyle is fighting back after her daughter was disciplined for putting “any life” under the words “Black Lives Mater” in a drawing, according to Fox News.

RedState reported Monday that the issue began in 2021 when the parents of a friend of Boyle’s daughter saw the drawing and complained.

Boyle said Jesus Becerra, the principal of Viejo Elementary School in Mission Viejo, forced the girl, then in the first grade, to make a public apology.

To drive home the point that deviation from prescribed language about race is not allowed, the child was denied recess time.

Boyle, however, knew nothing of this until she heard about it from another parent in March, roughly a year after the incident.

“My immediate reaction is just … I feel like I got hit by a bus, but I didn’t understand it. And I thought, oh, you know, my daughter has just been discriminated against. And I didn’t even want to contact a lawyer, but I just didn’t know what had happened to us,” she said, according to RedState.

At that point, Boyle asked her daughter about the incident.

“And then when I talked to my daughter — I think she said it was so sad. … And I said, ‘Well, what did the principal say to you?’ and [she said], ‘I can’t draw pictures anymore. And I can’t write those words.’ And I said, ‘Why did you write [those words]?’

“I don’t teach [about] Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter, [or] anything in my house because I think my children are too young [for politics]. My children see color as a color, as a description. I am trying to raise them the way the world should be, not the way it is. That’s how I’m trying to make my personal change.

“[H]er best friend is brown — not black, but brown — and she didn’t understand why she didn’t matter, why her friend didn’t matter. She has another friend that is Japanese; she doesn’t understand.”

Boyle said that the wording was not even a variant that has raised hackles with the woke community.

“It wasn’t ‘all lives matter,’ it was ‘any life.’ It was something she came up on her own. She just didn’t understand it. It was completely innocent, and that broke my heart,” the girl’s mother said.

Boyle asked the school for an apology. She did not even get a response.

Alexander Haberbush, her lawyer, said the school just dismissed her concerns, Fox News reported.

Haberbush said a lawsuit could be brought against the Capistrano Unified School District, but he and Boyle are “trying to give the school every opportunity to settle this amicably.”

But they have “not heard a word from the school,” he said.

“Their silence is unacceptable,” Haberbush said in a statement to Fox News, adding that the school’s action was “a flagrant violation of the First Amendment rights of a student placed in their care.”


Australia: Crisis on campus as student discontent rises by degrees

University cost-cutting is driving dissatisfaction among students as staff shedding and the shift to online teaching compromise academic achievement.

Students paying to study a degree have little recourse if they’re unhappy with the calibre of their education. Car buyers have more consumer rights than the students who fork out tens of thousands of dollars in tuition fees to institutions that effectively make and adjudicate their own rules.

National Union of Students president Georgie Beatty laments that many universities have failed to reinstate the face-to-face lessons that were standard before the Covid-19 pandemic forced courses online.

“The quality of education has gotten to the stage where it’s considered completely acceptable for you to pay $3000 for a subject and have to sit in a Zoom class with 40 other kids,” Beatty told Inquirer.

“We’re hearing so many stories of academic quality going down across the board. But there is no quality control and no protection or complaints mechanism in place, so we have to deal with a crap education. We are helpless in the face of these mighty vice-chancellors.”

Australian car buyers have consumer rights entitling them to a repair, replacement or refund if a new car is faulty. But what can students do if the university degree they’re paying for falls short of the quality or experience that was promised?

Beatty is concerned that the federal government’s Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency has not held a meeting of its student advisory board since April last year. “TEQSA says they care about students but their student advisory board hasn’t met for nearly a year and a half,” she says.

“They’re meant to keep universities accountable but they’re not doing it.”

As the agency that registers higher education providers and approves their courses, TEQSA fobs off most student complaints. “If you are unhappy about aspects of your experience with a higher education provider, you should access the policies and procedures they have established to resolve complaints,” its website states.

University students lodged just more than half the 289 complaints with TEQSA last year. The biggest issues involved online course delivery during the pandemic, the inadequacy of universities’ complaints handling processes and a failure to follow published admission policies.

“TEQSA is not a complaints resolution body and typically does not have a role in addressing individual complainants’ requests or grievances,’’ a TEQSA spokesman told Inquirer.

“Academic quality and student wellbeing and safety continue to be compliance priorities for TEQSA, and we will take action where we consider there are systemic issues or failures. This action may include informal resolutions, warning letters, enforceable undertakings, conditions on registration, revocation of registration or civil or criminal sanctions.”

TEQSA’s latest compliance report reveals it finalised only one investigation and 43 compliance assessments last year while imposing conditions on 47 course providers and negotiating 19 voluntary undertakings. “The most common Covid-19 related concern was in relation to … teaching and courses, including quality of online delivery,” the report states. For half of those complaints, “we decided it was approp­riate to bring the concern to the providers’ attention to inform their internal quality assurance and make improvements where appropriate”.

A four-year cycle of complaints at Central Queensland University relating to its sonography degree highlights the difficulties faced by students who were dismissed as “disgruntled”. CQU offers the nation’s only degree in sonography, costing students $8017 in the first year alone. It has 601 students in Brisbane, Mackay, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth who must complete 2000 hours of clinical placement during the four-year degree.

CQU began fielding gripes about the course in 2017, when 34 students signed a complaint sent to the university’s student ombudsman. However, it took three more years for CQU to acknowledge this as a formal complaint. In the meantime, one of the students complained about an assessment to the Queensland Ombudsman, which liaised with CQU and arranged for her to re-sit an exam in 2018.

Queensland’s Office of Fair Trading fielded a complaint from the same student last year, seeking a refund of her course fees. The OFT tried to conciliate. “Unfortunately, they weren’t willing to give you a refund,” an official wrote to the student. “The OFT cannot force a trader to give you a refund. Unfortunately, this means I am unable to assist you any further and your complaint will be closed.”

A former student complained to Fair Trading NSW that the course “has extremely high and unacceptable failure rates that show the service they provide is completely inadequate”. She was told university degrees were “not its jurisdiction”.

CQU waited until last year to launch an internal investigation, after what it described as a “spiral” in complaints from students ranging from fail rates and assessment issues to staff communication and industry placement problems.

The investigation was conducted by the school of health, medical and applied sciences, which CQU told Inquirer was “independent from the medical sonography academic team”.