Students Have Easy Access to Ghostwriters for Hire — What Should Teachers Do?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/11/2019 - 6:02am in

Recently, Eric Winsberg (South Florida), as an experiment, tweeted, “Who could I pay to write a five-page essay for me that I need to turn in for my philosophy class?”

As the semester comes to an end and assignments pile up, some students may be tempted to cheat by hiring others to write their papers for them. Professor Winsberg (@ewinsberg) found out you no longer need to approach these ghost-writing services or visit their sites. They’ll come to you—quickly, and in droves.

A sample:

This is not exactly news. Winsberg himself joked at his naivete in being surprised by the responses to his tweet. “I was aware there were paper mills,” he said in response to someone who linked to a news report on Kenyan ghostwriters who do some of that work, adding “I wasn’t aware that all you had to do was tweet and 20 would pop up.”

According to a New York Times article on the use and production of ghost-written papers, it is not clear how many students purchase them. It reports that 7% of undergraduates admitted to submitting papers written by someone else, but that statistic is from 14 years ago, an eon and a half in Internet years. There are worries that it is now “a huge problem.”

The use of ghost-written essays is difficult to detect. Plagiarism detection software will not catch it unless the ghost-writer uses plagiarized material, and, as David Tomar, who says he worked as a ghost-writer for essay mills for years, says:

Though the optimistic educator may take some comfort in the view that paper mills are not legitimate enough to constitute a threat, there are rules for professional paper writers and the more successful companies will enforce them. Chief among these rules is the responsibility to provide completely original, never-before-used material crafted to respond to a specific assignment inquiry. This product is the cornerstone of this industry’s success.

So what to do? Here are some pieces of advice from Tomar for making it more difficult to use ghost-written work:

1. Teach up-to-date, carefully-constructed courses that make use of distinctive content and assignments:

A generic assignment begets a generic essay. If this is all an instructor seeks from his or her students, said instructor makes it nearly impossible to differentiate between the work of a pupil and the work of a person who has never set a foot in the lecture hall. If, by contrast, one designs materials, assignments and exams with thought, care, and specificity, one has much better odds of spotting the work of an outsider.

2. Give in-class writing assignments:

Partial emphasis on in-class writing exercises, when supplemented by out-of-class assignments, is a powerful way of getting to know students’ writing capabilities and voices. Class time should be used to challenge students with unique and fun writing exercises… No matter how convincingly a ghostwriter writes on a given subject, this approach provides a document whose authorship is not in question as a point of comparison.

3. Assign multiple drafts:

Using the multi-draft process can stretch an assignment out across weeks or months. This results in a greater length of exposure for the cheating student. Instead of the once-and-done security of getting away with a single ghostwritten assignment, each student knows that his or her work will be held up to sustained and ongoing scrutiny. By inserting one-on-one conferences into this draft process, the instructor can heighten this scrutiny by requiring each student to defend the approach, argument, and decisions comprising the written work.

4. Personalize the subject matter:

Assignments that incorporate personal experiences and interests not only offer students a welcome reprieve from the rote, repetitive, or regurgitation-based work that makes up so many courses, they also make it more difficult for the ghostwriter to assume a student’s identity. This challenge may even strain the credibility of submitted assignments to the point of making them more detectable… Knowing one’s students on a personal level might, in this case, provide more than enough information to peg suspicious assignments.

5. Emphasize class discussion in writing assignments:

Assignments that rely strictly on standard texts make the ghostwriter’s job very easy. Most texts are readily available online. By contrast, a lecture, a class discussion and the experience of being a part of both should be something unique and impossible to replicate. 

6. Give assignment “exit interviews”:

Standardizing one-on-one conferencing with each student following assignment-submission requires each student to defend his or her writing. This is an especially attractive approach because it need not revolve around the suspicion of cheating. This healthy exercise can simply serve as a way of helping the student to reflect on the content of an assignment and the process involved in its completion.

Tomar  gives much more advice here, including tips on detecting ghost-written assignments but also on getting students to be sufficiently engaged in the course that they are less motivated to outsource their assignments.

Feel free to share your experiences, advice, and ideas.

The post Students Have Easy Access to Ghostwriters for Hire — What Should Teachers Do? appeared first on Daily Nous.

The winners of the 2019 Schools Economics Challenge

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 05/11/2019 - 4:07am in

Why is addressing climate change so difficult?

That’s the question we posed in the 2019 Schools Economics Challenge, in which we partnered with the Financial Times for Schools. Teams were challenged to create an accessible and entertaining short video, making use of The Economy (if you’re wondering what we have to say about the climate emergency, you’ll find it in Unit 20, “The Economics of the Environment”.

Winner: Dulwich College Shanghai

(£1,000 for the school and £500 Amazon vouchers for students)

Dulwich College Shanghai studentsCongratulations to (left to right) Fredric Kong, Aria Jain, Jonathan Dragon, Cherry But, Dominic Woetzel, and Titan Tsui for a video that the judges decided was “clearly willing to both raise and critique theories that matter”. It was “interesting and well-structured … The students displayed an ability to engage critically with the question and to back up their arguments.”

You can see for yourself:

“I believe that students, the voice of the future, should become more engaged in environmental protection and speaking out about the importance of reducing climate change,” Titan says, “The challenge has encouraged me to think outside the box and has given me the skills needed to break those complex issues apart and to see the issue from another perspective. The challenge augmented my analytical skills, but has also made me a more open-minded person.”

“With the CORE SEC, our team was introduced to the imperfect markets which characterise much of reality. In developing countries with weaker institutions and less developed infrastructure, these imperfect markets are more prevalent and likely to make internalising the externality more difficult … this is a testament to the social and political importance of economics,” Fredric adds.

Fiona Charnley, the head of Business and Economics at Dulwich College Shanghai, submitted the entry on behalf of her students. “We see economics as a dynamic subject so links between theory and real world application are very much encouraged in class discussions, and also in assessment tasks,” she says, “The team are very much engaged with sustainability and see the video as an opportunity to spread important information about the challenges of addressing climate change.”

Second place: Toldy Ferenc Gimnázium, Budapest

(£750 for the school and £300 Amazon vouchers for students)

Balázs Bellus, Rozi Lili Mezei, Bence Kis, and Zsombor Zilahy submitted their own very creative animation, including what one judge called “a unique proposal for a new international organisation to help coordinate and even implement climate policies”. As another judge commented: “It is inspiring to hear the students come up with their own ideas on how to tackle climate change.”

Third place: Merchant Taylors’ School, London

(£500 for the school and £200 Amazon vouchers for students)

The video from Bert Edwards, Zak Torns, William Bettridge, and James Tillotson was partly recorded on location in central London on the evening of the global climate strike. It broke new ground for student video competition winners by working in a reference to the Treaty of Westphalia. Judges were also impressed by “a great understanding of core concepts in modern economics.”

Winner, collaborative entry: Hammersmith Academy and St Paul’s Boys School, London

(£1,000 for each school and £500 Amazon vouchers for students)

Each year, participating schools may each enter one additional collaborative entry with another local school. This year the winning collaboration was submitted by Lorena Russo, Luke Polmear, James Allen, and Kourosh Chaharsough Shirazi.

Judges praised a “wide range of economic theory”, including discussion of lobbying power and politics, and “one of the few videos to use game theory and explain it well to a general audience.”


Congratulations to the winners, thanks for all your entries. And if you are a teacher and want to help your students investigate the data behind the climate emergency, why not investigate our Doing Economics projects on the topic?

The post The winners of the 2019 Schools Economics Challenge appeared first on CORE.

Magonia on Right-Wing Tories and UFOs

Going through a stack of old copies of the small press UFO magazine, Magonia, yesterday evening I came across a couple of articles, which mentioned the bizarre attitudes of two right-wing Tory MPs. One of these was a humorous piece about the Eurosceptic politico Teddy Taylor, who was beating his drum against the EU because they wanted to set up a commission to study UFOs. The article was in Magonia 48 for January 1994, titled ‘Watch the skies – and your wallets’ and ran

According to newspaper reports, Eurosceptic Tory MP Teddy Taylor has been looking into a potentially profitable new gravy-train for clued-up ufologists. In a Parliamentary question to Trade and Industry Secretary Michael Heseltine about “unidentified flying objects and aliens in the asteroid belt”, and their “implications for public policy” he has been trying to shake loose information on a ‘fact-finding tour’ (i.e. publically funded bunfight) about UFOs by Euro MPs. Taylor fumes: “These MEPs have been swanning around Europe asking people if they’ve seen one. They’ve come to the staggering conclusion that aliens might exist, but that you can’t be certain.” Amazingly, it appears the European parliament is considering setting up a Euro UFO Observation Centre as an official European Institution. “This may sound fun, but it makes me angry. My constituents have lost jobs because of the EC’s incompetence and nuttery.”

It makes us angry too – if the EC (sorry, EU) is throwing money at UFOs, why is none of it coming our way? We are investigating. You have not heard the last of this. Brussels, be warned!

The second is more serious, and comes from a review of Nick Redfern’s On the Trail of the Saucer Spies: UFOs and Government Surveillance (Anomalist Books 2006) In Magonia 92, June 2006, p. 18. Redfern’s book also claims that various extreme right-wing groups have tried to infiltrate Ufology. This comes from an anonymous individual, who claims that he was a member of Special Branch tasked with combating such infiltration. This is highly debatable, as the extreme right-wing group involved was APEN, which was a hoax perpetrated by a student at Cambridge University. The supposed whistleblower also doesn’t mention real instances of right-wing infiltration, like a conference on conspiracies set up in the 1990s that gave a platform to anti-Semites and Nazis like Eustace Mullins, or how some of them also joined the ‘Witness Support Group’. This was supposed to be a group to support people, who had witnessed UFOs or been abducted by aliens. Its newsletter, Rapport, contained some extremely nasty anti-immigrant ravings by a member of the BNP, who put all his hate into sub-Kiplingesque poetry. The group ended in tragedy when one its members committed suicide after some moron told them they were under CIA surveillance.

But the Magonians also pointed out in the review that one of the leaders of the big British UFO organisation, BUFORA, Patrick Wall, also had very extreme right-wing views and deeply unsavoury connections.

And if we are going on about the far right connections of ufology, then what about BUFORA’s one time President Patrick Wall, often regarded as the most racist and reactionary of all post-War Tory MPs. Wall was associated with a shadowy ‘anti-communist’ movement, the World Anti-Communist League, said to be financed by Saudi Arabia and Taiwan (then under the dictatorship of Chiang Kai Shek), and involved in channelling funds to all sorts of extreme right organisations, and used to channel money for the CIA to help set up the Provisional IRA.

With friends like that, who needs to do any infiltrating?

Actually, if Teddy Taylor was worried about politicians with weird views about UFOs wasting public money, he needn’t have gone as far as the EU. One was much closer to home in the shape of the Earl of Clancarty, otherwise known as Brinsley Le Poer Trench. Trench was a market gardener, who inherited a place in the House of Lords as he was a cousin of an Anglo-Irish lord. He was very racist, anti-immigrant, and a supporter of Ian Smith’s Whites-only government in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. He also believed in UFOs, ancient astronauts and that the Earth was hollow and inhabited by subterranean civilisations. In 1979 he organised a debate in the House on UFOs, in which he also asked questions about what the government knew about alien bases in the asteroid belt. Uncovered Editions published the documents from the debate as a book in the 1990s. Trench’s debate was notorious at the time, and one of the countercultural presses published a piece about it, calling it ‘a most visionary and loony debate’.

Finally, why the EU was certainly flawed, membership in it is far preferable to the chaos and economic destruction that’s going to hit this country if the Eurosceptics like Taylor get their way. MEPs spending public money to ask people if they’ve seen alien spacecraft is a small price to pay for jobs, proper funding for industry, access to the single market and working migrants and students bringing their skills and hard work to this country.

Scientists Demand Outlawing Teaching of Creationism in Wales

Here’s a different issue to Brexit and the Tories, but one which, I think, also raises profound questions and dangers. According to today’s I for 6th September 2019, David Attenborough has joined a number of other scientists backing a campaign to ban the teaching of Creationism as science in Welsh schools. The campaign was started by Humanists UK. The article, titled ‘Attenborough calls for creationism teaching ban’, by Will Hazell, on page 22, runs

Sir David Attenborough is backing a campaign urging the Welsh Government to outlaw the teaching of creationism as science from its new curriculum.

The broadcaster is one of dozens of leading scientists to sign a letter calling for evolution to be taught at primary level as well as an explicit ban on teaching creationism as science.

Humanists UK, which organised the letter, claims the draft national curriculum does not teach evolution until ages 14 to 15.

The letter reads: “Pupils should be introduced to [evolution] early – certainly at primary level – as it underpins so much else.

“Without an explicit ban on teaching creationism and other pseudoscientific theories as evidence-based, such teaching may begin to creep into the school curriculum.”

In 2015, the Scottish Government made clear that creationism should not be taught in state schools, while in England, state schools – including primaries – have to teach evolution as a “comprehensive, coherent and extensively evidence-based theory”.

The new Welsh curriculum, due to be rolled out in 2022, set out six “areas of learning and experience”, including science and technology.

A spokeswoman for Wales Humanists said it “could allow schools much more flexibility over what they teach”. “This is very worrying, as it could make it much easier for a school to openly teach creationism as science,” she added.

But a spokesman for the Welsh Government denied the claims, saying: “It is wholly incorrect to claim that evolution will only be introduced at 14 to 16.

“We believe that providing children with an understanding of evolution at an early age will help lay foundations for a better understanding of wider scientific concepts later on.”

Both Mike and I went to an Anglican comprehensive school, which certainly did teach evolution before 14 or 15 years of age. In the first year I can remember learning about the geological history of the Earth and the formation of the continents. We were also taught evolution, as illustrated by the development of the modern horse from ancestral species such as Eohippus.

Theories of Evolution before Darwin

I am also very much aware that the history of religious attitudes towards evolution is much more complex than the accepted view that Christians and other people of faith are uniformly opposed to it. One of the first books promoting the evolution of organisms from simpler ancestral forms was written by Erasmus Darwin, Charles Darwin’s grandfather. Erasmus Darwin was part of the late 18th century scientific group, the Lunar Society, who were the subject of book, The Lunar Men, published a few years ago by the British writer and academic, Jenny Uglow. I think Erasmus was a Quaker, rather than a member of a more mainstream Christian denomination, but he was a religious believer. In his book he argued that the evolution of different organisms made the existence of a Creator ‘mathematically certain’. Erasmus Darwin was followed in turn by the great French scientist, Lamarck, who published his own theory of evolution. This was highly influential, and when Darwin was a student in Scotland, one of the lecturers used to take him and the other students to a beach to show them the shells and other fossils showing the evolution of life. And one of the reasons why Darwin himself put off publishing his magnum opus, The Origin of Species for so long was because of the reception of another, preceding book on evolution, Joseph Chambers’ Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation. Chambers’ book had caused a sensation, but its arguments had been attacked and refuted on scientific grounds. Darwin was afraid this would happen to his own work unless he made the argument as secure as possible with supporting facts. And he himself admitted when it finally was published that even then, the evidence for it was insufficient.

The Other Reasons for Darwin’s Loss of Faith

Darwin certainly lost his faith and it’s a complete myth that he recanted on his deathbed. But I think the reasons for his loss of faith were far more complex than that they were undermined by his own theory, although that may very well have also played a part. Rather, he was disturbed by the suffering in nature. How could a good God allow animals to become sick, prey on each other, and die? I might also be wrong here, but I think one of his daughters died, and that also contributed to his growing atheism. As you can understand.

Christian Acceptance and Formulation of Theories of Evolution

At the same time, although Darwin’s theory did cause shock and outrage, some Christians were prepared to accept it. Bishop Samuel Wilberforce, when he debated T.H. Huxley on Darwin’s theory, opened the debate by stating that no matter how uncomfortable it was, Christians should nevertheless accept the theory if it were true. And after about two decades, the majority of Christians in Britain had largely accepted it. One of the reasons they did so was theological. Some of the other theories of evolution proposed at the same time suggested that evolution was driven by vital, supernatural energies without the direction of a creator. The mechanistic nature of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection rebutted the existence of these non-materialistic forces, so that Christians could still believe that God was in charge of the overall process.

In the 1840s in Britain, Samuel Baden-Powell, a professor of Mathematics at Oxford, proposed a view of evolution that attempted to prove that it was driven by the Almighty, by comparing it to the manufacturing process in factories. In 1844 the Polish writer, Juliusz Towianski, published his Genezis z ducha – ‘Creation through the Spirit), an explicitly religious theory of evolution. He believed that God had created the world at the request of disembodied spirits. However, these were given imperfect forms, and since that time have been striving to ascend the evolutionary ladder back to God through a process of transformation and catastrophe. By the 1900s in many Christians eye evolution had become an accepted theory which posed no obstacle to religious faith. The term ‘fundamentalism’ is derived from a series of tracts, Fundamentals of Christianity, published in America in the early 20th century. This was published as a response to the growth in religious scepticism. However, it fully accepts evolution.

Scientists Against Evolution

The Intelligent Design crowd have also pointed out that rather than being the sole province of churchmen and people of faith, many of Darwin’s critics were scientists, like Mivart. They objected to his theory purely on scientific grounds.

Creationism, Christianity and Islam

If the history of the reaction to Darwin’s theory is rather different than the simplistic view that it was all just ignorant religious people versus rational scientists, I also believe the situation today is also much more complex. A decade ago, around 2009 when Britain celebrate the 150th anniversary of the publication of the Origin of the Species, there was a determined attack on Creationism, particularly by the militant New Atheists. Some of this was driven by anxiety over the growth of Creationism and the spread of Intelligent Design. This was framed very much as combating it within Christianity. The problem with that is that I understand that most Creationists in Britain are Muslims, rather than Christians. There was an incident reported in the press in which one Oxford biologist was astonished when a group of Muslims walked out of his lecture. This was Steve Jones, who presented the excellent Beeb science series about genetics and heredity, In the Blood back in the 1990s. One male student told him frankly that this conflicted with their religion, and walked out of the lecture hall, leaving Jones nonplussed. The far right Christian Libertarian, Theodore Beale, alias Vox Day, who really has some vile views about race and gender, caustically remarked on his blog that this showed the powerlessness of the scientific establishment to opposition from Islam. They were so used to Christians giving into them, that they didn’t know what to do when Muslims refused to cave. That said, I would not like to say that all Muslims were Creationists by any means. Akhtar, who led the demonstrations against the Satanic Verses in Bradford in the late ’80s and early ’90s, angrily declared in one of his books that Salafism – Islamic fundamentalism – did not mean rejecting evolution, and he could point to Muslims who believed in it.

Scepticism Towards Evolution Not Confined to the Religious

Another problem with the assumption that Creationism is leading to increasing scepticism towards evolution is that the statistics seem to show the opposite. Back around 2009 there was a report claiming that 7 out of 10 Brits didn’t believe in evolution. One evolutionary biologist was quoted as saying that this was due to the marginalisation of the teaching of evolution in British schools, and demanded that there should be more of it. Now it might be right that people don’t believe in evolution because of its teaching or lack therefore in British education. But this was the same time that the New Atheism was on the march, led by Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion. This was supported by statistics showing that Christianity and church attendance was well in decline in this country. According to the stats, although many people identified as Christians and about 70 per cent at the time declared they believed in God, the actual number who go to church is far smaller. Only a few years ago further polls revealed that for the first, atheists were in the majority in this country. The growth of disbelief in evolution can’t simply be explained as the product of Creationism, whether Christian, Muslim or whatever.

Atheists and the Problem of Persuading Creationists to Accept Evolution

There’s also the problem here in that, however, well meant Humanists UK’s campaign may actually be, at one level they and Richard Attenborough are the last people, who should be leading it. They’re atheists. A few years ago Attenborough was the subject of an interview in the Radio Times, in which he photographed chatting with Dawkins. He was also quoted as saying that he had stopped believing in God when he was child, and at school he used to wonder during services how anybody could believe in such rubbish. He’s not the first or last schoolkid to have felt that. But it does mean that he has a very weak personal position when dealing with Creationists. Many Creationists object to the teaching of evolution because not just because they think it’s unscientific, but because they also believe that its a vehicle for a vehemently hostile, anti-Christian or simply irreligious and atheist political and intellectual establishment to foist their views on everyone else. A campaign insisting on the teaching of evolution by an atheist organisation like Humanists UK will only confirm this in their eyes.

Anti-Creationist Campaigns also Attacking Reasoned Critique of Materialist Views of Evolution

Another problem with the campaign against Creationism is that is leading scientists to attack any critique of the contemporary neo-Darwinian theory or materialist views of evolutionary. Gordon Rattray Taylor, a former Chief Science Advisor to the Beeb and editor of the Horizon science series, himself published a detailed critique of conventional evolutionary theory, The Great Evolution Mystery, shortly before his death in 1981. He states in it that he doesn’t want to denigrate Darwin, but he concludes that it is not so much a theory, as a subset of greater theory that has yet to be formulated. He also quotes another evolutionary biologist, von Bertalanffy, who said

‘I think the fact that a theory so vague, so insufficiently verifiable … has become a dogma can only be explained on sociological grounds’.

Rattray Taylor himself concludes

Actually, the origin of the phyla is not be any means the weakest point in the Darwinian position. Many facts remain inexplicable, as we have seen. Modern biology is challenged by ‘a whole group of problems’ as Riedl remarks. Now, however, the attempt to present Darwinism as an established dogma, immune from criticism, is disintegrating. At last the intellectual log-jam is breaking up. So we may be on the verge of major advances. The years ahead could be exciting. Many of these advances, I confidently predict, will be concerned with form.

It is unfortunate that the Creationists are exploiting this new atmosphere by pressing their position; this naturally drives the biologists into defensive attitudes and discourages them from making any admissions.

Evolutionists have been blinkered by a too narrowly materialist and reductionist approach to their problems. But the trend of the times is away from Victorian certainties and Edwardian rigidities. In the world as a whole, there is growing recognition that life is more complex, even more mysterious, than we supposed. The probability that some things will never be understood no longer seems so frightening as it did. The probability that there are forces at work in the universes of which we have scarcely yet an inkling is not too bizarre to entertain. This is a step towards the freeing of the human mind which is pregnant with promise.


This is an effective rebuttal to the charge that challenges to materialist conceptions of evolution are a science-stopper, or that they will close minds. Rattray Taylor’s book was published in 1983, 36 years ago. I have no doubt that it’s dated, and that scientific advances have explained some of the mysteries he describes in the book. But I believe he still has a point. And I am afraid that however genuinely Humanists UK, Attenborough and the scientists, who put their name to the letter, are about making sure Welsh schoolchildren are scientifically literate, that their efforts are also part of a wider campaign to make sure materialist views of evolution are not challenged elsewhere in society and academia.

More women deserve places in STEM—no to sexism at UTS

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 04/09/2019 - 5:09pm in

The news of UTS lowering its ATAR score requirements
for women in engineering and IT has not been well received by all. Some
students have organised a “Men in STEM” event, seemingly deliberately
counterposed to the uni’s “Women in STEM” focus.

We oppose this kind of “men’s rights” activism on campus. Removing
barriers for women in gaining entry to STEM courses is a welcome step in
addressing entrenched sexism.

Women are massively under-represented in STEM in Australia. Only 12 per cent of engineers in Australia are women. This is appalling. By way of contrast, the figure is 50 per cent in Iran.

According to
Professionals Australia major contributing factors to women’s
under-representation are the gender pay gap, economic insecurity,
discrimination, stereotyping and bias. In addition, career penalties for
working part-time or taking maternity leave are a major factor.

These barriers
are a form of structural sexism that contributes to the under-representation of
women in STEM degrees at UTS and elsewhere.

stereotypes can negatively impact women’s performance in STEM subjects. As a
2010 research report by the American Association of University Women argues,
“A female student taking a math test experiences an extra cognitive and
emotional burden of worry related to the stereotype that women are not good at

On top of this there is no automatic relationship between capability and
someone’s ATAR. All sorts of factors, including what kind of school they
attend, family background, and the experience of racism, sexism and class
inequality can distort a student’s ATAR score.

UTS Women in
Engineering and IT Director Arti Agarwal told the Guardian “We looked at
the performance of Atar and the performance of [grade point average] so a lower
Atar did not mean they would get a lower GPA. A higher Atar did not mean they
were best in the class,”

She noted a large number of engineering students gained entrance to the
undergraduate degree through other pathways, often beginning in other courses
with lower ATAR requirements.

The gender disparity in Engineering should be urgently addressed, given that according to the university “on average, females received 4-8 per cent of UTS offers to study mechanical engineering/mechatronics.” It is an overwhelmingly good thing that “The university expects the score adjustment will increase female study offers to about 20 per cent.”

There is,
however, much more UTS could do to address sexism. The university has a
notoriously high rate of casualisation amongst staff and according to the Human
Rights Commission insecure contracts make sexism and harassment more prevalent
and harder to challenge.

And with all
this in mind the idea that score adjustment is “unfair” is
ridiculous. The sexism that makes score adjustment necessary in the first place
is the problem. And the confected outrage about “men’s rights” being
promoted by some students only serves to underline the fact there is a problem.
Amongst these students real threats to equality are ignored, while non-existent
ones provoke outrage. We will use all avenues to challenge this complacency and
ignorance that only serves to reinforce the unacceptable and sexist status quo.

Produced by UTS Solidarity club


The post More women deserve places in STEM—no to sexism at UTS appeared first on Solidarity Online.

What students and their teachers tell us about ESPP

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 30/08/2019 - 8:50pm in

“I told them it would be experimental,” says Carlos Cortinhas, who introduced the first beta units of Economy, Society and Public Policy (ESPP) to his students at the University of Exeter in 2018, “I explained to them that’s what economics is about. We try experiments. Sometimes they work, and sometimes they don’t.”

Carlos created one of the innovative courses that used our beta version of ESPP over the last year. It worked for him: ESPP‘s 1.0 version, launched on 27 August, will now be the standard text for Exeter’s economics minors. The department is also introducing CORE’s The Economy for its 2019 cohort of Economics majors.

What inspired him to take a chance on the first draft of a new, and new type of, textbook to teach economics and policy to non-economics students? He explains that the cohort, like many similar courses, contained a broad mix of students who were majoring in 10 other subjects. The class was also made up of students who had studied economics at school alongside others who were new to the subject. Historically students from all backgrounds at Exeter had a similar opinion of their economics minor courses, which used a standard entry-level text: they didn’t like them.

“Teaching this course used to be challenging,” he recalls, “the students had done economics at A level were bored, because all the same material was repeated. The other half was struggling because it was quite technical.”

(If you want to hear in more detail how Carlos planned the ESPP-based course, what succeeded and what improvements he will make in 2019, watch the video of his presentation to our 2019 workshop).

Carlos’s new course sums up our approach: he teaches using empirical and policy examples drawn from the news and real life, applying theory to make sense of it. Using this technique, he has managed to challenge both groups equally. Students now have a course in which they are expected to take part in discussions in tutorials, instead of watching a TA going through the solutions to abstract maths problems. They sometimes have guest lecturers from outside the university, because they do their reading before the lectures, and so don’t want the book material repeated back to them. Of course, it’s not universally popular. Some students, veterans of school economics teaching, question why an economics course doesn’t start with supply and demand.

Exeter is not an outlier. When we collected student and teacher responses to the first year of ESPP teaching, practical relevance was overwhelmingly what attracted them to the course.

Teacher experiences of ESPP

Humberto Llavador has used ESPP with his students at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona. “Policy problems, real data examples, and the companion Doing Economics make the frontier of modern economics accessible to students from all backgrounds without sacrificing rigorousness,” he says.

Mark Dodd, at the University of Adelaide, told us that “ESPP was a very successful text for non-Economics majors. They really appreciated how they could get a great introduction to economics that focused on the real world and data, and was meaningful to their own experience of the world.”

“I would recommend ESPP as an excellent resource for a wide range of courses teaching introductory economics with a focus on public policy,” says Stephen Wright at Birkbeck, University of London, who uses it to teach his PPE MSc students. “It takes some of the key material from The Economy and re-packages it for students who are not specialising in economics, and who want to see the subject in a wider context. I appreciate the increased focus on data.”

Stephen also points out that, if students or teachers want to go into more depth on a topic, he can always direct them to equivalent or follow-on material in The Economy.

Students enjoy it too

But of course, there’s no point in pleasing teachers if the students hate it. Before we created ESPP, we had been told there was an urgent need for a new type of material that to satisfy non-specialists, or for courses with a heavy emphasis on policy – for example, for the growing number of PPE degrees, or quantitative social science and public policy courses. Teachers who had attempted to use traditional economics text books told us that students found them too dry and mathematical. The theory-first approach often turned them off before they got to the policy applications that excited them. Also, traditional economics texts did not meet the increasing demand to learn empirical skills at the same time as theory.

Anecdotally, students overwhelmingly responded positively to ESPP‘s beta. For example, it has been used to help teach an MPA at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. Alaina Leggette, a student on the course, told us:

“Other economics textbooks teach you about the individual tools economists have in their toolboxes … ESPP, on the other hand, teaches you how to address complex issues such as inequality and unemployment by simultaneously using all the tools in the toolbox … this approach allowed me to evaluate current events and policy proposals through an economically comprehensive, rather than fragmented, lens.”

We worried that our non-traditional teaching approach might be off-putting to mature students, or for those who had studied the subject before. But then we received a testimonial from Simon Greaves, for 30 years a writer for the Financial Times and He is also now an MSc PPE student at Birkbeck, University of London (Birkbeck does most of its teaching in the evening so that its students can study while working).

“When I took my economics honours degree 43 years ago I always felt it unfinished business,” he wrote to us, “We were warned by the course leader before the start that we would not see the world in the same way after studying the [CORE] module and this proved to be the case. While tackling the deep issues of global inequality and market failures CORE also gave us quick insights into specialist areas and analytical tools so I was able in the exam to solve a pure strategy Nash equilibrium, and answer questions on the use of monetary policy and explain models of welfare economics. The course succeeded in refreshing and updating my thinking and gave me confidence to work in more depth within the economics field.”

Tell us your story or ask us for advice

We’re always looking to hear about how you have used our material, both the things you liked, and the challenges you faced. It helps us to improve. It also helps us to build a community of ESPP users who can share experiences, and so we are pleased to hear from you if you’re considering using the whole book, a unit, a project, or even just a model, and don’t know where to start. We will try to help.

Because no two courses will use ESPP (and the companion empirical projects in Doing Economics) in the same way, they we realise that adoption may be daunting for some departments. But if you want to challenge your students and refresh your teaching, please get in touch. We will try to share the experiences of teachers like Carlos, Humberto, Mark and Stephen. Many of them have shared their course material and teaching slides with the community too – so if you have teacher access, sign up for CORE Labs to help you get started.

The post What students and their teachers tell us about ESPP appeared first on CORE.

Launching today: Economy, Society and Public Policy version 1.0

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 27/08/2019 - 8:15pm in

Today we can unveil the 1.0 version of Economy, Society and Public Policy (ESPP), designed to introduce the power and excitement of economics to a wider audience – whether they are non-specialists taking a course in economics, in the workplace, or learning for themselves.

ESPP 1.0 is online now and, as always, is free and open-access. As with our other publications, it is the joint work of The CORE Team. You can find out more about who has contributed to ESPP here.

The 1.0 launch of our second ebook is another major milestone for CORE. ESPP has been two-and-a-half years in the making: at the beginning of 2017, we were given a grant by the Nuffield Foundation to develop a course for students who were not majoring in economics. The idea was that they could learn economic methods by engaging with policy issues such as inequality, climate change and innovation.

Our idea was to produce units that were inspired by The Economy, our text for economics majors that has been used in 206 countries, by more than 87,000 learners that we know of, and more than 8,300 teachers. ESPP shares some of the discussion, figures and models, but is focused on public policy and has been designed to be accessible to students from every background and discipline.

If you have seen or taught last year’s beta version (it lives on, here), you may be wondering what’s different in version 1.0. The structure remains the same, but there are five major improvements:

1. A major rewrite in response to feedback

We pride ourselves on listening to ideas and opinions from a wide range of sources, including reviewers and academics and teachers, but also students’ experiences, so that we can crowdsource a better textbook.

We successfully pioneered this approach for The Economy, and we have applied it just as rigorously here. This spring and summer we rewrote, adapted and updated large sections of ESPP to make it easier to teach and more readable, but crucially to bring the empirical, policy-led approach out even more. Teachers and students alike told us that this was what interested them most about economics.

2. Interactive data charts at Our World in Data

For the first time, many of ESPP‘s figures now have links to the website of our partner Our World in Data (OWiD). You can now click on the button to see the latest data in an interactive format. Look for a clickable button underneath many of the data figures in ESPP:

For example here’s ESPP Figure 4.2 (Figure 3.1 in The Economy too) in OWiD’s interactive version.

Top left and right: a video timeline, and a button to download the data.  Bottom left and right: the sources in full, save the output as an image, and note the buttons for social media.

3. Combining labour market, product market, and the economy in a single model

There’s a major innovation in Unit 8.

Since day one of the project, we have argued that product and labour markets are fundamentally different in their structure (as intermediate and advanced students will learn). We do not help introductory students when we draw crossing curves of labour demand and labour supply, and then create reasons why the empirical data on wages, inequality and unemployment don’t match what this model tells us.

We believe our treatment of the labour market has always been a better introduction. But, for the first time, we have found a way to integrate it into a single model of a firm that sets a price and wage, extend it to the aggregate economy, and show the outcome for unemployment and inequality.

“One way to think about it is that it’s CORE’s alternative to consumption, production and general equilibrium,” says Wendy Carlin, who leads our steering group, You can listen to Wendy explaining how the model works in Session 9 of the 2019 CORE workshop.

4. Closer integration with Doing Economics

It has been a busy summer, as we are also improving and expanding the 12 empirical projects in Doing Economics. While you can use either text independently, we believe they complement each other even better than before – not least because many teachers have adopted ESPP for courses with a strong quantitative element. You will find a guide to the matching empirical project at the end of each unit of ESPP. (And, if you want to find out how teachers have used it in their courses, Session 6 of the 2019 CORE workshop will help.)

5. Windows, Android and Apple iBook apps

Watch this space! They will be available later this week. Apps mean you can access the material even when you don’t have a data connection. Check back on our website for the links.

A print edition, too

On 12 September at 6:45pm, Oxford University Press will launch the print book at the ‘Developments in Economics Education’ conference at the University of Warwick. You can order copies online here.

Just as with The Economy, the printed version will have an affordable price. It will sell for £34.99 in the UK. And as always, we continue to be free and open-access online.


We hope you agree with us that the 1.0 version of ESPP is the best text available to teach these topics to non-economics students. If you are teaching it already, please tell us about your experience (we will be covering some of the feedback we have already in our next blog). If you have feedback on any element of the 1.0 version, or are planning to use ESPP in your teaching and would like to contact a teacher who has experience using the text, please let us know.

The post Launching today: Economy, Society and Public Policy version 1.0 appeared first on CORE.

Reflections on the Student Movement in the UK

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 06/08/2019 - 11:51pm in

image/jpeg iconstudentdemo2015_2.jpg

In 2010 the announcement by the Coalition government that university tuition fees would be tripled sparked a wave of student protest. Remaining largely within the confines of the campus, the movement exhausted itself and failed to spread to other sectors. Nine years later, what’s left?

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Private For-Profit University Collapses in London

Last Thursday’s I for 1st August 2019 carried a report by Ewan Somerville on the  collapse of one of the private universities set up in recent decades, GSM, on page 11. The article, titled ‘Private London university GSM collapses’, ran

One of Britain’s largest private universities has collapsed into administration, leaving thousands of students fearing they will not be able to complete their degrees.

GSM London, a for-profit private degree provider with 3,500 students, will close in September after failing to “recruit and retain sufficient numbers of students” to stay afloat. It says 247 jobs are threatened.

The UCU lecturers’ union blamed the “marketisation of education” and warned against an “increase in poorly regulated private providers”.

Jeffrey Fernhout, 23, who has just completed an economics degree at GSM, told the I he received “no warning” about the collapse. “This has left a lot of students angry, frustrated and uncertain about their future,” he said. “But the organisation was very badly managed so this isn’t a shock.”

The Office for Students, the higher education watchdog, said its “priority is to ensure that students are able to complete their studies”. GSM promised to “support as far as possible “those needing to be relocated.

The Department for Education reiterated its stance of not “bail(ing) out failing providers”.

So much for their superiority of market forces and private enterprise. Of course, this isn’t the only university in trouble. Very many are experience financial problems, partly due to cuts in government funding. When I was studying for my Archaeology Ph.D. at Bristol, I was told that the archaeology department was faced with laying off some of its teaching staff because of funding cuts made by the Blair government. Blair, Mandelson and co. funding policy was inadequate to support courses that required expensive technical equipment. I also heard from academic friends this weekend that one university has also been forced to close their conservation course for archives and libraries, despite it being considered the leading course of this type in the country. Again, the reason was the high cost of funding against the small number of students taking the course. It’s a financially simplistic attitude that ignores the fact that archives and libraries need skilled conservators, and that the money spent on such a course is repaid in the continuing upkeep of rare and valuable materials held in institutions up and down the country.

I also think that many other universities, which are similarly experiencing financial problems, also have problems recruiting the necessary number of students. Years ago, way back at the beginning of the century, another academic friend of mine predicted this would happen. He had been looking at the demographic rates, and concluded that the bulge in the number of people in their late teens and early twenties, who would enter Higher Education, had passed. Colleges and polytechnics, which were perfectly good as they were, were encouraged, if not required to expand into universities. I think that as a result, many of them have seriously overstretched themselves. Universities have complained that the initial student fees they were allowed to charge, which were capped at £3,000, were inadequate. Hence the increase to £9,000. And this has led in turn to massive student debt.

Many students now feel that they cannot afford their education, and that includes nurses. A little while ago BBC Bristol produced a documentary reporting that students number on nursing courses had fallen. Interviewing some of those still on the course, they explained that the reason was that they simply could not afford to support themselves and pay the tuition fees. Some of those still on the course explained that they had to work to support themselves. These young people often worked long hours, as well as the time they spent on their academic and practical studies. Those aspiring nurses, who are continuing their studies in this environment, are clearly to be admire for their dedication. But it’s a deplorable way to treat the future skilled medical staff which Britain needs, especially with its aging population.

And the situation has not been helped by the concern of university management and administrators for their own enrichment at the expense of teaching staff. I understand that many of the lecturers at universities are actually poorly paid. Quite a number actually work only part-time, because full-time positions are rare and extremely difficult to get. Meanwhile, we’ve seen a procession of university chancellors awarding themselves salaries in the hundreds of thousands of pounds. This mirrors the way business management has consistently voted massive pay rises for themselves, while cutting investment and freezing pay or even finding ways to deliberately underpay their employees. Like zero hours contracts.

But despite the precariousness of university finances, thanks to Thatcherite educational policies, the government is determined not to give financial support to those failing. Which means that if they go under, tens of thousands of students will have racked up tens of thousands in debt for zilch.

The introduction of market forces and the privatisation of Higher and Further Education is a failure. It’s leaving universities in financial trouble, forcing some lecturers and other non-management staff to accept poor wages and job insecurity, and leaving students with a mountain of debt which many will find impossible to pay off.

It’s another example of the utter failure of Thatcherism, despite its continuing loud promotion by a shrilly intolerant media and political establishment. It’s time to bring it to an end, and get rid of it. All of it, including the parties supporting it – the Brexiteers, the Tories and the Lib Dems. Get them out, and a proper Labour government in.




Doing economics and the climate emergency

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 17/07/2019 - 1:11am in

If you read the blog we published yesterday, you might have noticed that three of the four winners of the student Doing Economics Data Competition 2019 took on the same subject: the climate emergency. That wasn’t a fluke, because the majority of the entries we received were on that topic too. The environment was one of the topics we identified in 2013 as an overlooked topic in economics courses. Students told us they wanted, and needed, to learn about it.

Obviously this is clearly one of the most pressing crises that confronts us, and so it’s vital that a wide cross-section of society, not only economics students, engages rigorously with the data on the climate emergency.

This is an exciting challenge to quantitative methods or economics courses. We want students to be able to evaluate, debate and communicate the impact and feasibility of the policy choices available to us, whether those policies are regulatory, technological or behavioural. Policies must be evidence-based if they are to achieve ambitious commitments such as the UK government commitment to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and society needs to hold those policymakers to account.

Doing Economics Project 1: Measuring climate change
Doing Economics Project 11: Measuring willingness to pay for climate change mitigation

So that’s why we were so pleased that our winners were not only able to present the data clearly in ways that non-economists could understand, but their policy recommendations were based on a thorough understanding of the ethical and political, as well as the economic challenges that policymakers face. We’re thrilled because it’s exactly what we (and our generous funders the Nuffield Foundation) set out to achieve when we created Economics, Society and Public Policy and Doing Economics.

Changing the paradigm

Any economic evaluation of the climate emergency involves thinking deeply about market failures, inequality between individuals and generations, fairness, innovation, the role and limitations of government, and how to address social dilemmas. Also, if students are going to think meaningfully about any type of solution, they have to know how to understand and use empirical data from the beginning, not as an optional afterthought.

Perhaps this is why environmental sustainability has been largely ignored by standard introductory economics textbooks—the tools that students need to study it are rarely taught in a standard introductory course. Many of these courses consider environmental policy, if it is mentioned at all, as a niche application of economics.

In contrast, we consider that the economy is embedded in the biosphere (the figure, right, is in Unit 1 of both The Economy and Economics, Society and Public Policy), and so all our economic choices, whether as individuals, households, firms or governments, have an impact on the natural environment. CORE’s material, and emphasis on empirical data from the beginning, uses a consistent set of methods and tools to analyse the climate emergency and the other types of policy challenge that we investigate (see the list in Doing Economics).

Despite this, developing material that deal explicitly with the climate emergency (first in Unit 20 of The Economy, then in Sections 1.9 and 2.10 of Economy, Society, and Public Policy, and finally the two empirical projects in Doing Economics) wasn’t easy. The creative process inspired some very long, and very passionate, debates, and our treatment of the topic has evolved considerably from the first attempts in 2014. In response to feedback from experts, teachers and students we brought in more and better data, developed clearer models of decision-making, and a more precise framing of the problems.

How will we know if the choices we have made have been helpful? By listening to your feedback. Also by discovering how you plan to use, and are using, our material. Please let us know (or ask us questions) by email or on Twitter.

But some of the most encouraging feedback that we could possibly have was from the entrants to our competition, who were rigorous, creative and innovative, as you will discover when you read the prize-winning reports from Matteo, Francesco, and Michele, or Johannes, or Susanna. If you are teaching quantitative methods or setting data projects in your courses next year, we hope it motivates you to adopt Doing Economics. Or if you are studying, and want to develop your data-handling skills and learn how to apply them to  the climate emergency, then we think our winning projects will inspire you to try Doing Economics for yourself.

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