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Future uses for student accommodation

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 24/06/2020 - 1:44pm in


Housing, Students

Vacant dwellings 720

Since the late 1990s, Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) has been a feature of development in and around the centres of education in our cities, housing the burgeoning student population that has significantly contributed to Australia’s population growth in recent years.

Now, as overseas migration, including most international students, has slowed to a trickle, how will we use these towers of one-bedroom units? Kieran McConnell shares some insights from his capstone research project into PBSAs – future ghost towers, or ghettos in the sky?

High levels of vacancy resulting from depopulation or a change in economic conditions can have long-lasting ramifications for the urban environment in which vacant buildings and houses are located.

Cities have always experienced varying levels of occupancy due to the ebbs and flows of the economy and changes in living preferences. Normally, this is a gradual phenomenon, that allows for organic regeneration and growth (creative destruction).

However, when areas contain a heavy concentration of a specific demographic and/or an industry, rapid change, either deliberate or via external shocks leaves them overexposed to a rapid loss of said people and industries, and because policymakers can be blinded by the good times, there is generally little in the way of ready to go interventions to stem the tide.

COVID-19 – a challenge for ‘student cities’

Australian cities where international students account for a large share of residents are scrambling to find solutions to the possibility of empty high rises and streets due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Restrictions put in place to contain the virus have, in part, resulted in the first decline in student visa arrivals since March 2013. Adding, to the reduction in demand, capital cities are experiencing a boom in purpose-built student accommodation developments.

The City of Melbourne alone has over 10,000 accommodation units currently under construction or with planning approval. As a result, demand for student accommodation – once thought of as a given and projected to grow for the foreseeable future – is now staring down a double barrel of low demand and substantial oversupply.

These are the key elements for long term vacancy and has been historically correlated with social problems for cities including vandalism, abandonment of buildings and ultimately a cascading deterioration of whole areas.

Are there alternative uses for PBSAs?

To avert the negative consequence of population loss, other suitable uses for PBSA facilities need to be found.

However, questions have been raised over the ability for PSBA units to be retrofitted. And with an impending economic downturn (our recently-updated national forecasts are showing Australia’s national growth rate at 0.7% in 2020/21, down from 1.2% in 2019/20), some previous viable options such as general residential, hospitality and commercial use, may now be untenable.

For operators of PBSA facilities, they would prefer to fill the empty beds with students once again, and so too would city planners (this is reflected in the restrictive section 173 agreements that stipulate PBSA facilities can only accommodate students).

Getting students back to Australia

Lobbying by universities for the federal government to introduce policy that allows students back next year through ‘special travel bubbles’ and quarantine measures will in some way help avert a situation of ‘destudentifaction’ (out-migration of students). However, with Universities such a Melbourne Uni forecasting $1 Billion lost in revenue for the next three years, the status quo returning is looking highly unlikely.

As a consequence, operators of PBSA facilities in Australia have approached and been contracted by state and local governments to utilise extra capacity for social housing. Scape, Australia’s largest provider of PSBA has offered excess capacity to the Victorian State government for quarantine purposes and in Queensland, the state government is utilising a Scape PSBA facility in inner Brisbane to accommodate 300 homeless persons for the duration of the pandemic.

Being cautious about short term thinking

Little or no planning controls or policy exists for such a situation and worryingly, this change in use is being considered and implemented in extreme circumstances.

Yes, it will quickly increase the number of beds and satisfy immediate requirements, but will the converted units and their location meet the needs of its future residents, most likely our most vulnerable citizens?

Are PBSA facilities suitable for social housing?

This situation has led me to investigate whether social housing is an appropriate alternative use for PBSA facilities. My research focused on the spatial and building characteristics of PBSA facilities constructed post-2002 in the City of Melbourne to determine a level of transformation suitability.

The analysis generated a score based upon a like-for-like swap (structural changes not considered). It demonstrated that most PBSA facilities had a medium-to-high level of appropriateness. Generally, facilities have a high number of services present within walking distance. And despite the relatively small size of the standard PBSA units (Type 1 – PBSA design guidelines), facilities have potential to satisfy a combination of community housing guidelinesBetter Apartment Design Standards and current supportive housing recommendations, due the provision of communal areas.

Furthermore, in addition to satisfying these characteristics, the majority of PBSA facilities are made up of studio or one-bedroom units. This configuration according to Victorian Auditor General report into the state’s public housing system is what it desperately needs and is failing to address (there is an overall lack of one-bedroom stock across the state but there are also serious spatial mismatches – in particular, a lack of appropriate housing stock in growth areas).

A win-win-win

For State governments like Victoria, this change in use could quickly and effectively increase the quality and number of units available for social housing.

For the PBSA operators, it could help plug the huge revenue hole that the reduction in the number of international students coming to Australia has caused, and will continue to cause.

And for affected local governments, it may avert depopulation and its negative economic and demographic effects.

Learn more about this work

Kieran McConnell is a forecaster with our local government forecasting team, and has prepared this piece as a summary of his capstone research project. For a more detailed analysis of opportunities related to Purpose Built Student Accommodation in your area, or to read the full study, contact our forecasting team here.

Sydney Uni students and staff start the fight against cuts and fee increases

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 22/06/2020 - 12:28pm in

Students and staff at Sydney Uni are leading the way in the fightback against cuts on campus. With the Liberals announcing new plans to increase student fees, we need to escalate the fight to defend our education.

Sixty arts units are currently on the chopping block at the university. Casual staff have been told they are unlikely to have jobs next semester, with further cuts expected until revenue returns to “normality” in 2024.

Despite not being on campus, students have spent the last few weeks of semester building opposition to the cuts, passing motions in over 80 Zoom classes.

At a 100-strong protest in the last week of semester, students stuck a photo collage of the classes that had passed motions, as well as an open letter to the Vice-Chancellor with 700 signatures, to the wall outside the administration building.

Students are organising within their departments against the cuts. Government and international relations units are being heavily targeted, with 20 courses threatened—so students held a speak-out at Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence’s subsidised mansion. Seven history units are in jeopardy including American Slavery and Fascism and Anti-Fascism. On 2 July history students will hold a teach-in outside the Great Hall to highlight the attack on critical thinking.

Units in Sociology, Anthropology, English and political economy will also be suspended.

Despite quietly gutting Indigenous Studies over the years, rendering it what staff call a “skeleton” major, more Indigenous focused units are set to go.

Already protest action has forced Sydney University to revise down their list of arts subjects being axed.

Whilst the majority of units being cut are elective, management is trying to reduce staff even in compulsory units for degrees. Permanent staff are being asked to teach courses run by expert and experienced casual and fixed term staff. The outcome will be an erosion of teaching quality and higher workloads for permanent staff.

Whilst the revenue shortfall due to reduced international student enrolments is real, staff and students should not have to foot the bill.

Sydney Uni has the funds to avoid cuts, including $600 million in borrowing capacity plus $482 million in cash reserves. Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence’s $1.63 million salary would pay for around 10,000 hours of casual tutoring, according to NTEU policy and research director Paul Kniest.

No fee increases

The Liberals could fund the $5 billion hole across the university sector for a fraction of their $60 billion underspend on the JobKeeper program. Instead they have excluded university staff from JobKeeper and refused any extra support for the sector.

Now the Liberals want to make students pay more for their degrees, and push people into courses that serve the needs of business.

The government has announced a doubling of fees for humanities degrees. For these courses Commonwealth contributions will fall to 7 per cent and students will pay 93 per cent of the cost or $14,500 a year. Fees for law and commerce will also increase, while those for nursing, teaching, maths and science will be reduced. But overall students will pay a higher share of the cost of degrees, up from 42 to 48 per cent.

At a time where our Prime Minister claims slavery never existed in Australia, and defends statues of colonial figures including Captain Cook, fighting for a free, accessible education that critically engages with history and politics is of great importance.

Large student protests can help give staff the confidence to take the unprotected industrial action needed to win.

The rank and file staff networks that formed to fight the union’s now-defeated National Framework, which would have conceded across the board cuts to wages, need to be deepened and used to mobilise a fight against cuts and for federal funding.

We need to fight for a University education that is free and publicly funded, not one where big business and politicians dictate what students learn.

By Jordi Pardoel

The post Sydney Uni students and staff start the fight against cuts and fee increases appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Three simple questions to re-define higher education

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 04/06/2020 - 8:00pm in

The purpose and future of universities, higher education and research has been subject to ceaseless debate, often focused on complex issues of the bureaucratic structure of universities and their relationship to the state. Matt Rosen argues that by returning to three basic questions about higher education – What should the end or aim of education … Continued

We need a fight to stop every cut to jobs, pay, and courses: USYD Solidarity Students’ Statement

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 20/05/2020 - 11:13am in


Students, Students

The latest attacks on tertiary education are unprecedented—thousands of jobs and hundreds of courses are slated to be slashed. USYD Chancellor Belinda Hutchinson isn’t mincing her words, “We are putting into place an austerity program.”

Vice-Chancellors across Australia are using the crisis to cut jobs and slash courses. Universities Australia have announced they expect to cut 21,000 jobs across the sector. At USYD, management is forcing through a 30 per cent cut to Arts courses to decrease costs.

The fight over uni jobs has broader implications than students’ education: it will help set the tone for workers’ resistance to the looming economic crisis. More than half of all workers are either unemployed or on Job Keeper. And unions everywhere are proposing the strategy of compromise and concession. The NTEU rank and file are putting up one of the most serious fights against this.

Uni students and workers need to unite and set an example of what kind of fight can save the jobs, stop the cuts and win the vision for a publicly funded university made for education, not profit.

Liberals and the Vice-Chancellors: two edges of the same sword.

The Liberals’ claim they cannot afford to cover the cost of the $5 billion shortfall caused by coronavirus. This is nonsense. $5 billion is a drop in the bucket compared to the $320 billion total stimulus spending. The Liberals are choosing to prioritise bailing out private profits at the expense of workers and students.

Across the board VCs pass the buck and blame the government for the austerity they are trying to implement on campus. But the Liberals and the Vice-Chancellors are two edges of the same sword.

The free, publicly funded uni enjoyed by today’s politicians was dismantled in the 80s. Funding was withdrawn and replaced by HEC debts and fees. Vice-Chancellors were transformed into high paid CEOs on a mission to squeeze profit out of staff and students. Meanwhile corporate tax was slashed from 45 per cent to less than 30 per cent.

Vice-Chancellors operate as the Liberals’ attack dogs on campus. They help to enforce the consequences of government underfunding. But they don’t stop there. The logic of a uni system infected with the logic of profit drives them to try to squeeze every last cent out of staff and students even when they can afford to weather a temporary fall in revenue like we are seeing now.

Usyd is a case in point. Usyd is a massive institution that could easily absorb revenue losses without any cuts—they have $482 million in cash reserves, plus almost $5 billion in assets that they could borrow against. According to analysis by the NTEU they have well in excess of $600 million borrowing capacity.

Yet Usyd VC Michael Spence is wielding the axe while refusing to ditch his own $1.5 million salary. Arts is facing a savage 30 per cent course cut and casuals won’t have work in Semester 2. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

The uni is blatantly using Covid as a cover for cuts it wanted to make anyway. A uni spokesperson told the Sydney Morning Herald that the course and job cuts are unrelated to the coronavirus crisis, but rather are designed to make the school “operate sustainably in the medium to long term”.

Fighting for an alternative to the dysfunctional corporate uni also means a fight for every job and course here and now. We cannot allow the Liberals and Spence to sacrifice staff livelihoods and students’ education in return for the university’s balance sheets.

Students, the union and the fightback

Given the significance of the battle ahead, it is tragic that the Executive of the NTEU staff union have proposed a deeply flawed solution to the attacks: to strike a deal with the Vice-Chancellors. Their deal would see uni workers trade a 5 to 15 per cent pay cut for staff, in return for a promise that VCs limit sackings to around 9,000 jobs. The NTEU executive are pushing for staff to accept the cuts in a plebiscite on this “National Jobs Protection Framework”.

Tellingly, USYD Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence has actually indicated he doesn’t intend to use the NTEU’s ‘national framework’. Management is already pursuing massive cuts without needing to resort to it.

And although most students cannot vote themselves in the upcoming national union plebiscite, we can stand in solidarity with staff campaigning for the ‘no vote’. This includes the Sydney Uni branch of the NTEU which has shown an important lead. As well as saying no to the National Framework they have also called an in-person protest at Sydney Uni as part of the NDA.

This is exactly the kind of fight we need. There is an alternative strategy that refuses these massive cuts to jobs and wages: mass mobilisations of students and staff can stop the job cuts, and build a serious campaign for public funding. We must build a political campaign that can both embolden the “no vote” and stop the cuts. 

In 2012 340 job cuts were justified by falls in revenue. Thousands protested and students went on strike and launched occupations saving half the academic jobs. In 2016 a 65 day occupation stopped Sydney College of the Arts being closed and saved half of the jobs and several studios threatened by the closure. This year when the Liberals refused to include uni students in their package of increased centrelink payments campaigning forced them to back down.

The National Day of Action (NDA) against the Liberals needs to be the first step of building this campaign: a campaign that says no to the Liberals’ corporate uni and no to every wage cut, course cut and job cut. Solidarity students and others have organised motions in more than 20 classes in support and 200 have signed a statement supporting the NDA and opposing all cuts. Staff successfully contested the attempt to cut the political economy course ECOP1001. We need to build the power that can win.

The post We need a fight to stop every cut to jobs, pay, and courses: USYD Solidarity Students’ Statement appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Facts and Figures About U.S. Philosophy Departments

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/05/2020 - 12:09am in

Humanities Indicators, a project of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences that gathers information about the humanities in the United States, has released a report that includes a variety of details about philosophy departments.

The report focuses on data regarding the humanities in 2017. Besides philosophy, the report also covers art history, English, history, history of science, languages and literatures other than English, linguistics, anthropology, religion, folklore, musicology, classical studies, communication, American studies, race and ethnic studies, and women and gender studies.

Below are some of the report’s findings for philosophy, which were shared with my by Robert Townsend, director of the Washington Office of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.


  • Among philosophy departments that were granting degrees in 2012, total enrollment in undergraduate courses was 492,300 in fall 2017 (with an average enrollment of 654.7 per department).
  • On average, philosophy departments awarded nine bachelor’s degrees per department in the 2016–17 academic year (a statistically significant decrease from 2012). Students also completed an average of 8.9 minors per department.
  • Total enrollment in graduate-level philosophy courses was 24,970 in fall 2017 (with an average enrollment of 33.2 students per department). The average number of students pursuing an advanced degree in philosophy was 54 per department that granted such degrees.


  • Philosophy departments employed 6,735 full- and part-time faculty members in fall 2017—the 5th highest among the disciplines surveyed, with an average of nine faculty members per department. (For some comparisons, there were 24,060 English faculty, 15,640 history faculty, 5,090 anthropology faculty, 4,630 religion faculty, and 2,005 classics faculty).
  • 68% of philosophy faculty were either tenured or on the tenure track, compared to 62% for all disciplines surveyed. 
  • 17% of philosophy departments hired a new permanent faculty member for the start of the 2017–18 academic year (the smallest share found among the disciplines included in the survey)
  • 27% of the departments had a faculty member come up for tenure in the previous two years (also a comparatively small share).
  • Women constituted 27% of the faculty members in philosophy departments in fall 2017, the smallest share among the disciplines included in the survey. 25% of tenured faculty members were women, compared to 48% of faculty members on the tenure track and 15% of those off the tenure track.
  • While 90% of philosophy departments provided research support for their full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty members and 66% offered such support for full-time nontenured or non-tenure-track faculty, only 24% offered such support for part-time faculty.

Supporting Student Careers:

  • 43% of philosophy departments rated the career services programs at their college or university “good” or “very good” for their students, while 11% rated the services “poor” or “very poor.”
  • A relatively small share—about 10%—of philosophy departments had a professional program (such as teacher credentialing). (The average for all disciplines in the survey combined was 24%.) Philosophy, however, had a relatively large percentage of departments with faculty teaching courses in a professional school at their institution (17%, compared to 12% across all disciplines in the survey).

Digital Humanities / Online Instruction:

  • A comparatively small share of philosophy departments, 11%, had one or more faculty members specializing in the digital humanities. The survey found a smaller share only among combined English/LLE departments.
  • In the 2016–17 academic year, 37% of philosophy departments offered fully online courses, while 14% offered hybrid courses. Departments offered an average of 4.1 fully online courses and 0.5 hybrid courses (each average was calculated over the number of departments offering a course of that kind).

You can view the whole report here and the philosophy-specific report here.

The post Facts and Figures About U.S. Philosophy Departments appeared first on Daily Nous.

The Sexual Orientations of First-Year Philosophy Undergrads

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 15/05/2020 - 11:20pm in

What’s the distribution of sexual orientations among first-year undergraduates who are majoring in philosophy? Eric Schwitzgebel (Riverside), Morgan Thompson (Pittsburgh), and Eric Winsberg (South Florida) looked at data from Higher Education Research Institute’s “Freshman Survey” to find out that and other information.

[photograph by Muholi Zanele]

They conclude that “Students intending to major in philosophy are more likely to identify as non-heterosexual than are students in other majors.” Here are the numbers:

Overall, across all majors, 92% identified as straight, 4% as bisexual, 2% as other, and the remaining groups 1% each. Philosophy majors were more likely to report non-heterosexual sexual orientation: 88% straight, 6% bisexual, 3% other, 2% gay, 1% queer, and < 1% lesbian. (p < .001, comparing the proportion straight).

Non-response rates of 10% for philosophy majors and 8% for students over all was “an issue”, they say, but “the proportions, absolute numbers, and effect sizes are large enough to permit some confidence in the conclusion”.

They add, “Unsurprisingly, philosophy isn’t the queerest of all disciplines.” That designation would go to Women’s and Gender Studies, with 42% of the students identifying as non-heterosexual.

They also found that “43% (485/1132) of intended philosophy majors were women (1%, or 7 total, declined to state), compared to 58% of first-year students overall.”

They attempted to determine the proportion of philosophy students who are transgender, but, they say, “given the small number of self-reported transgender students and these resulting interpretative difficulties, we are hesitant to draw conclusions about the proportion of students who are transgender or about whether philosophy students were more likely than other students to be transgender.”

You can read more about their study here.

Related: “The Personality of Philosophy Majors“, “The Political Views of Philosophy Majors“, “Philosophy Majors Are Less Likely To Marry Each Other“, “The Philosophy Major Sees Increase in Numbers and Diversity“, “Proportion of Philosophy Majors Who Are Women Varies Widely Across Schools“.

The post The Sexual Orientations of First-Year Philosophy Undergrads appeared first on Daily Nous.

Racist and Biased Equalities and Human Rights Commission Drops Tory Islamophobia Investigation

Here’s another revolting development, as it would be described by Marvel Comics’ ever-lovin’, blue-eyed Thing, the idol o’ millions and butt of the Yancey Street gangs’ pranks. On Tuesday Mike reported that the Equalities and Human Rights Commission had decided not to go ahead with an investigation into islamophobia in the Tory party. It considered that this would not be ‘proportionate’ after seeing the Tories’ own plans and terms of reference for its own investigation, which included specific reference to islamophobia.

The Muslim Council of Britain declared that these terms were a ‘facade’ and that the investigation was too narrow compared to Labour’s Chakrabarti investigation into anti-Semitism. They went on to say that the investigation would hide the hundreds of incidents of bigotry in the Tory party, which they had uncovered.

Mike in his article makes the very valid point that it doesn’t matter what the EHRC says about ant-Semitism in the Labour party. It has shown it cannot treat the two parties equally. Indeed, BoJob’s own behaviour provides a prima facie case for investigation. Mike concludes

If the EHRC can’t see that, then no decision it makes about the Labour Party can have any weight at all.

I recommend that it be disbanded and replaced by an organisation staffed by people who can do the job properly.

Equalities watchdog undermines itself by refusing to examine Tory Islamophobia

Of course, Mike’s right. There’s Johnson’s wretched book 72 Virgins, a wish-fulfillment fantasy if ever there was one, about a bike-riding Prime Minister foiling an evil Islamist plot to bomb parliament. This also included racist comments about other ethnic groups as well, including a Black character, who is described as a stupid coon, and a shady Jewish businessman who makes his money by exploiting migrant workers. This nasty anti-Semitic stereotype was accompanied by the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory about the Jews controlling the media. And then, of course, there’s Johnson’s vile newspaper column in which he compared women in burqas to bin bags and letter boxes. Despite all the bluster about how he was merely being un-PC and it was an act of free speech, nothing more, Johnson’s rhetoric did lead to a spike in islamophobic assaults, especially against women clad in that way.

Zelo Street and other left-wing bloggers have also put up articles about the numerous supporters of BoJob and Rees-Mogg revealed by the internet activist Jacobsmates, who posted viciously islamophobic and anti-Semitic comments on Twitter. Like the various Conservative politicos Mike and Zelo Street also reported were suspended by the Tories for their islamophobic conduct. In their posts they had declared that Sadiq Khan and other Muslim and ethnic minority politicos, like Diane Abbott, should be killed, ranted about how Muslims were plotting to destroy the country and were responsible for rape and terrorism and supported the old anti-Semitic conspiracy libel that Muslims and non-White immigrants were being imported into Europe and the West by the Jews with the intention of destroying the White race.

And the Equalities and Human Rights Commission is grossly disproportionate itself in the importance it gives to the allegations of anti-Semitism in Labour on the one hand and islamophobia in the Tories in another.

The reality is that there was far less anti-Semitism in Labour under Jeremy Corbyn than in wider British society, and that the vast majority of it comes from the right, and especially the far right. What those screaming about Labour anti-Semitism really objected to was anti-Zionism and support for the Palestinians. This is why Corbyn was viciously denounced as an anti-Semite for attending a speech by a Holocaust survivor, who compared Israel’s persecution of the Palestinians to the Nazis’ persecution of himself and other Jews, while the same witch-hunters had nothing to say about Tweezer and Rachel Reeve singing the praises of Nancy Astor, a real anti-Semite and supporter of Hitler. Part of the motivation for the anti-Semitism smears against Labour was pure partisanship. It was a convenient stick for the Tory establishment, including the Thatcherites within the Labour party, to beat Corbyn and try to oust him or prevent the party from ever coming to power. It didn’t matter whether they were true or not. And western geopolitical interests were involved. Israel is one of the pillars of British Middle Eastern policy, along with Saudi Arabia. Tony Greenstein among other bloggers and activists has put up a number of quotes from British officials showing that it always was regarded as a centre of western influence in the region from the days of the British Mandate in Palestine, comparable to Ulster in Ireland.

The anti-Semitism smears had nothing to do with real anti-Jewish hatred. It was purely about defending Israel and preventing a genuine the formation of a socialist, genuinely Labour government.

The EHRC’s decision not to investigate Tory islamophobia may also be connected to the anti-Muslim prejudices of its leader, Trevor Philips. He is, or was, a member of the Labour party, but was suspended a little while ago by General Secretary Jennie Formby for islamophobia. He had accused Muslims of forming a ‘nation within a nation’ and stated that the members of the Asian grooming gangs, who abused White girls, committed their horrendous crimes because ‘Muslims see the world differently’. He seems to regard Muslims as fundamentally different and Other to the rest of British society, stating that they ‘are not like us’. He also chaired a Tory conference on ‘Challenging Islamophobia’, in which he and several of the others attending even blamed Muslims themselves for the terrorist attacks on the mosques in New Zealand and Finsbury Park. They were, Phillips and the others declared, a natural response to Muslim terrorism. In 2006 Ken Livingstone, then mayor of the London Assembly, accused Phillips, who was chair of the Commission for Racial Equality, as the EHRC then was, of pandering to the right and turning it into a huge press department while at the same time winding down its legal work. Six of the EHRC’s commissioners also resigned in protest at Phillips’ leadership. Phillips has also presented programmes for Channel 4 which accused Blacks of being far more inclined towards criminality than Whites, and that a significant number of British Muslims had terrorist sympathies among other accusations. Both of these were misleading. In fact, the number of British Muslims, who had terrorist sympathies was s1-3 per cent, rather than the nearly quarter that has been claimed.

Tony Greenstein has put up a long piece including several other articles, which extensively discusses Phillips’ islamophobia  and shabby career and critiques and demolishes the two programmes he presented. Greenstein states that when he was active in student politics in the 1970s, he came across Phillips politically. It struck him then that Phillips really had nothing to say about racism, and was only using the fact of his colour for political advancement.


And its very noticeable that, as Greenstein describes in the above article, Phillips has received glowing support from a series of notorious racists and islamophobes like Tommy Robinson. Phillips is also another Labour rightist, who has weaponised the anti-Semitism smears for his own benefit. When he was suspended for islamophobia, he claimed that it was really because he had spoken out about Labour anti-Semitism. Which is purest twaddle.

With someone creditably accused of islamophobia himself in charge of the EHRC, it’s not surprising that it has decided not to pursue anti-Muslim prejudice in the Tories.

And this sorry episode also illustrates another point Quentin Letts has made about race relations in this country. In his book, Bog-Standard Britain, the Tory journo argued that there was a racial hierarchy of power and influence amongst ethnic and other minorities. Jews were at, or near the top. Blacks and Muslims were much lower down. I think Muslims may well have been at the bottom.

There’s much truth in this, as Sayeeda Warsi herself has complained that people are able to say things about Muslims with impunity, for which they would be immediately attacked if they said them about Jews.

Tony’s article also reports that Richard Littlejohn, another scummy right-wing hack, has even claimed that Phillips only agreed to chair the EHRC in order to close it down.

Perhaps this would now be the right action to take. Mike’s right in that at present it seems utterly unfit for purpose.

Free Speech at Oxford (updated with an important correction)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 05/05/2020 - 9:26pm in

Flying around social media yesterday were cheers that Oxford University had issued a “Statement on the Importance of Free Speech” in response to a motion from the Oxford Student Union allegedly to “ban ‘ableist, classist and misogynist’ reading lists”.

Here’s Richard Dawkins on Twitter, for example:

I checked out the widely circulated Oxford Blue article linked to in Dawkins’ and others’ tweets, as well as the Oxford Student article first reporting on the Student Union motion. Though there were a few snippets here and there, neither article included or linked to the whole text of the motion, or even a substantial block of it.

And what of the “Statement on the Importance of Free Speech” that Oxford University “released”, according to the May 3rd Oxford Blue article? Fortunately, the authors of the article included the entire text of that statement. However, it appears to be the exact same text already posted last year on at least a couple of Oxford sites and released at least as early as May, 2017. It’s not clear what actually happened here. Perhaps the university simply referred the journalists at Oxford Blue to this pre-existing statement. [Update: according to the reporter, yes, this is what happened.]

Oxford Blue also reports that “the university” (they don’t specify who) said, “I can confirm that the University has no plans to censor reading materials assigned by our academics.”

Censor reading materials? Is that what the students were calling for? Not exactly.

Jenny Saville, “Stare III” (detail)

A fellow twitterer answered my request for the actual motion, and from the looks of it, the students were basically aiming for four things:

  1. For Oxford University to add gender identity, disability status, and socio-economic status as protected classes to its policy on acts of hatred and hate speech, which currently only concerns race, religion, and sexual orientation (as it is modeled on Part III of the UK’s Public Order Act of 1986, which concerns “acts intended or likely to stir up” hatred or violence).
  2. For Oxford University to not require students to take any courses whose content would “amount to” criminal hate speech, were the policy amended as in 1.
  3. For Oxford University to require faculty to consider the impact of “including prejudicial articles” on the well-being of protected groups as they finalize their reading lists and to include content warnings if appropriate for any of the readings.
  4. For two Oxford University Student Union officers—the Vice-President for Access and Academic Affairs and the Vice-President for Welfare and Equal Opportunities—to “condemn… the use of hateful material” in required courses. [Note: initially this was reported with the mistaken assumption that these vice presidential positions were administrative positions of the university. Rather, they are student union positions.]

What to make of these demands? The first thing to note is that none of this is censorship. So, for “the university” to say that it has “no plans to censor reading materials” is not, strictly speaking, to reject the student union motion. The closest we get to censorship in the motion is in the condemnation called for in #4, above. That isn’t technically censorship, but it may have similar effects (I don’t know, as I don’t know anything about those particular offices or whether Oxford faculty care about whether they condemn their reading selections). [Note: in light of the correction of #4, above, I think it is safe to say that #4 does not come close to constituting censorship.] #2 might strike some as censorship but it seems “pro-freedom” to me, for if its effect would be to give students more choice—here, not to take a course they otherwise would have been required to.

(In one line in the original document, the students complain about the lack of “criminalization” of certain forms of biased speech, but what they end up calling for from Oxford isn’t the criminalization of speech.)

The extent to which these demands are anti-free speech turns in part on what material is actually covered by it. I don’t know enough about the legal context to know exactly what kinds of texts would be picked out by “intended or likely to stir up” hatred. Are historical documents and older writings ever included here? Has the assignment of a hateful text for the purposes of study ever been the target of the Public Order of 1986 or university policies based on it? Readers, help us out.

Here’s the actual text of the motion (courtesy of Eric Sheng):

As you can see, the students named one example of a text they think would fall under their expanded hate speech proposal: “Procreative Beneficence: Why We Should Select the Best Children” by Julian Savulescu, which appeared in Bioethics in 2001. In this article, Savulescu argues that prospective parents “should select the child, of the possible children they could have, who is expected to have the best life, or at least as good a life as the others, based on the relevant, available information,” which they took to be objectionably ableist.

I don’t think the students did themselves any favors with this choice of example, in which Savulescu distinguishes between identifying conditions, such as poor memory, that tend to make people’s lives worse (a claim he endorses) and saying that people with those conditions are less deserving of respect or are less valuable (a claim he rejects). Regardless of whether one thinks Savulescu’s argument is any good, this article is certainly neither intended to, nor likely to stir up, hatred against disabled persons. The students are just mistaken that it is an example of hate speech.

Suppose, though, that they weren’t mistaken. Even if it were hate speech, note that the students are not calling for Oxford to ban Savulescu’s essay. Rather, they are arguing that students be given the option to take a course in which it is assigned, and that students be warned about its content. One way to put this is that they’re arguing for “informed consent” for encountering hate speech.

Unfortunately, they are also asking for administrators* [students actually; see the correction to #4, above] to condemn the assigning of the reading. Though I tend to favor “more speech” approaches to allegedly objectionable speech, without measures to separate the authority’s expressive actions from its coercive ones (a la Brettschneider), this is an overreach. [Note: in light of the correction of #4, above, which makes clear that it is students, not administrators, being asked to condemn the readings, I retract this criticism.]

So what to think about all of this? Here are three takeaways (feel free to add your own):

(a) The students care about the welfare of the vulnerable among them and are pointing out what they take to be a problem of arbitrariness in law and policy (that there are protections on the basis of, say, race and religion but not gender and class).

(b) The students are arguing for a more-freedom, more-information, and more-speech approach to solving this problem, rather than censorship.

(c) The students seem to have an overly inclusive conception of what counts as hate speech.

I think (a) is good, (b) is a mixed bag owing to the vague call for official condemnations and  [see the correction to #4, above] the confused language of “criminalization”, and (c) is not terrible but not good, either.

The problem with (c) is not really the legal point, but rather an apparent tendency towards a kind of “affirming the consequent”. Here’s an example. We might expect an atheist to criticize the ontological argument for the existence of God, but someone who criticizes the ontological argument for the existence of God is not necessarily an atheist. That is, it doesn’t follow from one’s making an argument an atheist would make that one is an atheist—it depends on the argument (among other things). Similarly, it doesn’t follow from one’s making an argument a racist or sexist or classist would make that one is a racist or sexist or classist—it depends on the argument (among other things). For example, we might expect a racist to argue against affirmative action, but it doesn’t follow that one is a racist in virtue of arguing against affirmative action.

It isn’t surprising that students are susceptible to this mistaken reasoning. For one thing, they’re still learning how to think carefully. For another, it’s not always a mistake to reason this way, and in some contexts (or for people with certain backgrounds) it could be a reasonable heuristic to employ.

Ironically, this kind of reasoning might have been in play in the widely shared descriptions and attitudes expressed about this story, which framed the students as censors. We might think that someone who favors censorship might express the same kinds of concerns the Oxford Student Union did in their motion. But it would be a mistake to conclude, as many seemed to do, that because they expressed such concerns, the students were calling for censorship. They weren’t.

I suppose an additional takeaway would be that, as with some other disputes over speech, the combatants may have more in common than they realize.


The post Free Speech at Oxford (updated with an important correction) appeared first on Daily Nous.

Can I still use regular statistical releases in a Covid-19 world?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 21/04/2020 - 10:06am in

visualise census data spatially

Amid the economic and demographic uncertainty caused by the spread of COVID-19, we continue to receive statistical updates and releases from the ABS and other sources. Many people are wondering which of these releases can still be used with confidence, and which we should take with a grain of salt. In this blog, Glenn provides some guidance around two significant releases we’ve seen recently – Overseas arrivals and departures, and Labour force statistics – both of which have been significantly impacted.

We often get people lamenting the fact that statistics take time to collate and publish, to the point where they are no longer valid by the time they’re available. In most cases, this isn’t true. We use Census data a lot, and despite being more than 3 years old, many demographic characteristics, particularly for local areas, are still very relevant, and this is the best source of information we have for those communities at the moment. Having said that, there are some statistics at some times, that seem very out of date by the time they are published. The ABS in the last week have put out two of those.

In the current COVID-19 pandemic, the goalposts are changing on a daily basis, so these two publications can’t really be taken as representing the current reality, even though they’re only a month or so old.

Overseas arrivals and departures

The first was the monthly “Overseas Arrivals and Departures” collection.

This was released last week for the month of February. It shows a substantial drop in short-term visitor arrivals to Australia, down 26% from the previous February.

 1.1 Visitor arrivals - short-term trips

Source: ABS, Overseas Arrivals and Departures, Feb 2020 (3401.0)

But, really, the big story here is the country of origin. February was when Covid-19 was mainly in China, particularly Wuhan, and the Federal Government closed our borders to anyone who’d been in China, while other countries were still allowed in. This is very evident from this graph.

 2.2 Visitor arrivals - Top 10 source countries - Original estimates

Source: ABS, Overseas Arrivals and Departures, Feb 2020 (3401.0)

Small drops from most other countries, but a 90% fall in Chinese arrivals, reflecting the time when the travel bans took place.

Now as we know, in March, Australia took the unprecedented step of closing our borders entirely to international migrants, so expect the March figures, due for release on May 12, to reflect a much larger drop (borders were still open in early March), followed by the April figures which should be close to a 100% drop.

ABS has acknowledged this and there are some interesting articles on their website about the drop in international students, among other things.

Some other datasets are being released in this area, not all by the ABS. For instance, the Department of Home Affairs have a quarterly update on the number of temporary Visa holders in Australia.

Labour Force statistics

The second publication is the monthly Labour Force release (Labour Force, Australia, 6202.0), where we get the national unemployment rates. This survey of 25,000 households per month is a critical economic and social indicator and forms the basis for the quarterly LGA unemployment estimates which are included in our economic profiles.

This shows national unemployment steady at 5.2% in trend terms, and only a very slight increase in seasonally adjusted terms. This might be perplexing, given the barrage of news in late March about economic shutdowns, particularly in tourism and airline industries, as well as retail, and huge job losses associated with these. The important thing to remember with the labour force survey is the reference period. It’s conducted every month by phone interview, in the second week of the month, with the reference period being the previous week (either first or second week of the month depending on the interview date). So this all relates to the first week of March, when, though the coronavirus was a concern, most businesses were still open, and the major shutdowns were yet to occur. So the major effects will show up in the April release, due out on May 14th.

The ABS have been quite up-front about this too. When the social and economic landscape is changing so quickly, it’s hard for the stats to keep up! This is where economic modelling can come to the fore (for those who missed it, you can watch a recording here of the webinar presented by .id’s consulting economist Rob Hall, sharing some modelling that team are working on to help councils understand the impact of Covid-19 on local economies).

The ABS are also conducting a number of smaller, additional surveys, specifically assessing the impact of Covid-19 on households and businesses. These have a much smaller sample size (~1,000 households rather than the 25,000 in the labour force survey), and are designed to produce rapid statistics at a national level – they can’t include any local information (even for states), but are being released much more rapidly than anything the ABS has done before. One of these came out on Monday. Covid-19 impacts on Australian households. This shows, among other things, a 3% reduction of the proportion of population who had a job in early April (not the unemployment rate, as this is calculated differently).

How to stay up-to-date with these releases

More of these rapid release small surveys are coming out regularly now – the best way to keep up to date with them is to stay subscribed to our blog for analysis from our teams. You can also subscribe to our New data and features email list to be notified when new data and features are published in our public resources.

What are ‘Trend terms’?

Seasonally adjusted figures make adjustments for effects in the data which occur regularly every year. Examples of this include an increase in the workforce in agriculture during fruit picking season, or a reduction in the number of student arrivals in Australia during the Christmas school and university holidays. The trend series takes this smoothing out a lot further, and is used to emphasise long term trends over short term random variability (the irregular component).

The ABS use a technique called the “Henderson Moving Average” to weight the last 13 months (that’s more than a year) of data, with more weighting on the last few months, relative to the earlier months, to derive a smooth trend over the long-term. This means the most recent months are subject to review, as new months of data come into the mix, and you can see trends which are currently in the future.

The ABS recently abandoned the trend series for overseas migration – because of the sharp shock of the current border closures, the long-term trend becomes largely irrelevant, and would put too much weight on the past to have any relevance. Trend series are good at removing random effects and seeing the pattern in slow, longer term change, but not good with rapid fundamental change in a characteristic.

Open letter – Covid-19 demands a rethink of Higher Education funding

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 31/03/2020 - 9:00pm in


research, Students

End tuition fees and market competition
This open letter was launched 31 March 2020 for immediate publication. You can add your name on this Google Form.

Covid-19 is a wake-up call for the whole of society.

Higher Education faces an existential financial crisis just as university researchers bend every effort to defeat Covid-19.

The benefits of HE are not just limited to research. Mass education from secondary to university created a scientifically-literate population. They drove the shutdown, demanding Boris Johnson and his Government acted.

But Higher Education itself has been undermined by a combination of Government policy, high tuition fees and management greed.

In 2010, the ‘ConDem’ Government raised home student undergraduate tuition fees from £3,000 to £9,000 a year, and (mostly) abolished block grants. Within three years, mature and part-time student numbers had almost completely collapsed.

Undergraduate numbers were controlled until 2014 when (with the exception of Medicine) the Government removed limits on student recruitment.

This lit the touch paper on a conflagration. For a £9,000 fee, university managers could make easy money out of undergraduate teaching. With no limit on the number of students universities could recruit, many expanded rapidly and built new campuses. But others, mainly post-92 universities, found their student numbers squeezed by intense competition for places in so-called ‘top’ universities. Brand name, not teaching quality, dominated. Undergraduate expansion encouraged further recruitment of overseas students and taught postgraduate courses, where fees could be even higher. Scottish Universities, not permitted to charge high fees, pursued overseas student recruitment in particular.

Before Covid-19, this system was already teetering on the brink. Universities were reportedly indebted by over £10 billion, and the total UK student loan debt had reached £121 billion by March 2019. Undergraduate student numbers were falling and several universities were rumoured close to bankruptcy.

Covid-19 changes the economic equation. Universities in the UK can now expect a sharp fall in total student numbers in September. Many students will delay applications for a year or two rather than apply for online courses. Some universities are contemplating delaying the start of term until January. It may be several years before the overseas student market recovers.

Already there is talk about bringing back the ‘cap’ on student numbers, even temporarily. But more drastic action is required to save Higher Education. Unless the Government acts now, the UK will see mass redundancies of university staff.

We the undersigned believe now is the time for a new deal for UK HE.

It is time to end the disastrous market experiment.

It is currently unthinkable that the Conservatives will privatise the NHS. Schools and further education know that their funding for next year is guaranteed. But Higher Education is uniquely vulnerable to a short-term fall in student recruitment.

  • We need emergency measures to stop universities going bankrupt. If unemployment rises as a result of a downturn, universities have an essential role to play in re-skilling mature students.
  • We need to return to the principle that Higher Education should be available to all who can benefit.

We call on the Government to:

  1. Abolish the current tuition fee system and underwrite the sector. Bring back the block grant.
  2. Work with university managements to safely exit expensive building projects and long-term loans.
  3. Agree that in the meantime there should be no redundancies, and staff on fixed term or other casual contracts should be paid as normal and not dismissed.

Initial signatories include >> Add your name

Carlo Morelli, UCU Scotland President, University of Dundee
Sean Wallis, UCU Branch President, UCU NEC, University College London
Julie Hearn, UCU Branch President, UCU NEC, Lancaster University
Lesley Kane, UCU NEC, Open University
Deepa Govindarajan Driver, UCU Branch President, UCU NEC, University of Reading
Mark Abel, UCU Branch President, UCU NEC, University of Brighton
Marian Mayer, UCU Branch Co-chair, Chair South Region UCU, National Negotiator, Bournemouth University
Sue Abbott, UCU NEC, Chair Equality Committee and Women Members standing Committee, Newcastle University
Pura Ariza, UCU Branch Equality Officer and UCU NEC, Manchester Metropolitan University
Cecily Blyther, UCU NEC, Petroc
Steve Lui, UCU NEC, University of Huddersfield
Lesley McGorrigan, UCU NEC, University of Leeds
Margot Hill, UCU London Region Secretary and UCU NEC, Croydon College
Lauren Heyes-mullan, FE lecturer, The City of Liverpool College
David Whyte, UCU Branch Vice President, University of Liverpool
Bob Jeffery, UCU Anti-Casualisation Officer, Sheffield Hallam University
Annie Jones, UCU Branch Officer, Sheffield Hallam University
Malcolm James, UCU Branch Treasurer, Head of Department of Accounting, Economics & Finance, Cardiff Metropolitan University
Chris Collier, Associate Lecturer, Anglia Ruskin University
Kathryn Dutton. UCU Yorkshire and Humber Region Chair (HE), York St John
Brian O’Sullivan, UCU West Midlands Region Chair, Bournville College
Sunil Banga, UCU Branch Vice President, Lancaster University
Peter Dwyer, University of Warwick
M Yasacan, PhD candidate, University of Keele
Stefanie Doebler, Lancaster University
Leon Sealey-Huggins, Lecturer, UCU Branch Committee member, University of Warwick
Katucha Bento, University of Leeds
Fatima Rajina, Lecturer
Shirin Housee, Course leader in Sociology, University of Wolverhampton
Johanna Loock, University of Leeds
Erik Jellyman, Research Associate, Lancaster University
Joss Winn, Senior Lecturer, UCU Branch Secretary, University of Lincoln
Roddy Slorach, UCU branch organiser, Imperial College London
Richard Mcewan, UCU Branch Sec, UCU NEC Elect, New City College THC Poplar
Michael Rees, Lecturer in Sociology, UCU Rep, University of Wolverhampton
Benjamin Vincent, University of Dundee
Thomas Gallagher-Mitchell, Lecturer, Liverpool Hope University
Rhiannon Lockley, UCU Branch Secretary, Birmingham City University
Samantha Wilson, Student/EAP Tutor, University of Leeds
George Lovell, Lecturer, Abertay University
Yvette Russell, University of Bristol
Ronald Mendel, Associate Lecturer, University of Northampton
Graham Smith, Deputy Subject Leader for Psychology, University of Northampton
David Saunders, Deputy Subject Leader, University of Northampton
Richard Dixon-Payne, Retired HE lecturer,
Nils Markusson, UCU Branch Treasurer, Lancaster University
Sonya Andermahr, Reader in English, UCU Equality Rep, University of Northampton
Mark Baxendale, UCU Branch Committee member, Queen Mary University of London
David Swanson, UCU Branch President, University of Manchester
Georg von Graevenitz, Senior Lecturer, Queen Mary University of London
Mike Orr, UCU Branch Committee member, Edinburgh University
Shirin Hirsch, UCU History co-rep, Manchester Metropolitan University
Eamonn Leddy, UCU Branch Secretary, Capital City College Group (Centre for Lifelong Learning)
Nina Doran, UCU H & S rep, City of Liverpool College
Naomi Waltham-Smith, Associate Professor, University of Warwick
Grant Buttars, UCU Branch President, UCU Scotland Executive member, University of Edinburgh
Katie Nicoll Baines, Project Manager, University of Edinburgh
Anne Alexander, UCU Branch Committee member, University of Cambridge
Linda Jorgensen, Lecturer, The City of Liverpool College
Claudia Campbell
Megan Hunt, Teaching Fellow, University of Edinburgh
Nadia Edmond, UCU Branch Chair, Falmer, University of Brighton
Verity Bambury, Lecturer, The City of Liverpool College
Tucker MacNeill, UCU H&S Rep, Falmer, University of Brighton
Penny Hope, Lecturer, City of Liverpool College
Cheryl King, Lecturer, City of Liverpool College
Julie Brennan, Leader of KS 4 provision, City of Liverpool College
Carol Cody, Liaison Secretary, City of Liverpool College
Tony Sullivan, London College of Fashion (UAL) Branch Secretary , University of The Arts London
Ümit Yıldız, UCU Black Members Standing Committee, Manchester University
Andrea Genovese, University of Sheffield
Richard Smith, Reader, University of Warwick
Prof Gargi Bhattacharyya, University of East London
Anna Robinson, University of East London
Richard Smith, Reader, University of Warwick