Wednesday, June 30, 2010

So what did the UK's Attorney General think of the legal case for Iraq War before a curious change of mind?

We now know thanks to the now declassified document here. The short version? Something like this: "we need a new UN resolution explicitly endorsing the use of force." Details from the BBC are here.

Friday, June 25, 2010

What to do post-lobbying career?

One option is to work at a kosher pizza restaurant. Details here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

British education budget to be slashed by up to 25%

The BBC has the full details here. An excerpt:

"[. . .] Education spending in England could be cut by as much as 25% over the next four years, the Chancellor has said.

But George Osborne said in his Budget statement that he recognised the "particular pressures" on the education system.

Teachers and lecturers also face a two-year pay freeze. [. . .]

[. . .] The Chancellor said all departments would be hit by an average spending cuts of 25%, but that not all departments would experience the same rate of reduction.

The detailed settlements would be set out in the comprehensive spending review in October. [. . .]

[. . .] universities and colleges are already grappling with £1.4bn worth of cuts over the next three years.

University and College Union general secretary Sally Hunt said: "Starving education of funds and making families pay more to access a university education, while authorising billions in tax giveaways to big business would be a disaster for the UK.

"Today's corporation tax cut could have funded university places for all students forced to cough up for university fees." [. . .]."

It is a gloomier than expected picture for education. My best guess is that universities will feel perhaps more than their share, in part, because of the widely expected conclusion of Lord Browne's review to raise university fees for students: this new income would then be expected to make up this shortfall. Thus, all will have to do perhaps much more simply to remain running still. This seems like a real mistake: if the government funded more places for students to attend university, then (a) more students who want to attend university could do so and (b) these students would not count in the unemployment figures.

It will remain to be seen where the up to 25% reduction will come from. Let us hope our vice-chancellors are ready to defend our sector . . .

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Queen's Honours List

Yet another year and (again) no philosophers are given nifty titles in the Queen's Honours List. Some academics are notes, such as the now Dame Alison Richard (Vice-Chancellor, University of Cambridge).

With philosophy and the humanities coming ever more under siege, it may have been helpful for academics in these areas (rather than yet more working in medicine) to have been honoured -- if only to give greater weight to the continuation of these subjects post-emergency budget. Maybe next year . . .

Of more local interest, I was delighted to learn that Jacquenline Fischer (Principal, Newcastle College) has been made a Dame for services to higher education.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Oxford Bibliographies Online

. . . can be found here.

The best Politics departments in the UK

. . . according to the Guardian newspaper here. The list:

1. Oxford
2. Cambridge
3. King's College London
4. St Andrews
5. Queen Mary
7. Warwick
8. York
9. Exeter
10. LSE
11. Lancaster
12. Birmingham
13. UCL
14. Dundee
15. Leicester
16. Sheffield.
17. Durham
19. Bristol
19. Nottingham
21. Glasgow
22. Aberystwyth
23. Edinburgh
24. Sussex
25. Stirling [....]
43. Newcastle
44. Leeds
45. Manchester [...]
52. Queen's UB

British higher education should face "radical change"

. . . claims the new coalition government's minister for universities. The full story is here. An excerpt:

"[. . .] The university system is in need of "radical change" to give a better deal for taxpayers and students, England's universities minister has said.

David Willetts said Labour had left university funding in a "mess" and the coalition needed to make £700m savings.

Universities in England had to find cheaper and more flexible ways to teach, he said.

A tuition fees review is under way, led by former BP boss Lord Browne, and is expected to report in the autumn.

Mr Willetts told the BBC he did not want to prejudge the outcome of the review and was not "assuming that fees should rise", but that students should consider university fees "more as an obligation to pay higher income tax" than a debt.

Current fees in England are £3,225 a year and graduates pay the money back only when they earn a salary of £15,000 or more. [. . .]

[. . .] Mr Willetts is promoting the idea of students studying for a degree at any university in England, with lectures and classes being held at their local further education college or other institute.

"That means that you don't have the costs of living away from home but you do get a prestigious degree and that's actually how we spread our access to higher education," he said.

This would also help meet rising demand for degrees, he argued.

It would also be a far cheaper option.

The model the government has in mind is that of London University.

It says it has 45,500 students studying by distance and flexible learning in 180 countries.

Another 6,000 students in the UK do the same.

This is on top of the tens of thousands of students - the majority - who do study at the university's institutions in the capital.

The university is made up of 19 colleges and institutes.

Thousands of other UK students already study through distance learning with the Open University and degree courses are also taught by some further education colleges.

It is the extension of universities into this area that the government is keen to encourage. [. . .]"

While more encouragement of distance learning may well be a good thing, I am not sure if it would be good for it to be the normal "university experience" students might expect. School education is about more than learning English or maths, but also learning with and learning from others together in an educational setting. Likewise, the same holds -- or so I would argue -- at university or college. It'd be a real pity if the on campus university student experience was one open only to society's most privileged or only a real option for those who could commute from their family's home.

I will be watching these developments very closely and commenting on them as they appear . . .

Taking from the poor to pay for the rich?

The BBC reports the following here (an excerpt):

"[. . .] The poorest performing universities may have to be closed so as not to hinder more successful institutions, a business leader warns.

Richard Lambert, director-general of the CBI, said ministers should consider axing weak universities as they press ahead with public spending cuts.

Mr Lambert said a small number of institutions were already "in serious financial difficulty".
He said bailing them out could be at the price of better institutions.

In a speech at Sheffield University, Mr Lambert said "a large cohort" of universities were heading for "very big trouble".

"What would the government do about it?" he asked.

"Would it take the politically explosive but probably economically sensible decision to close or merge the worst run institutions? Or would it instead attempt to bail them out?

"That would mean the already reduced quantities of jam having to be spread even more thinly across the system, making our best universities pay the price for the incompetence of the worst." [. . .]"

This may be worrying news for some as the new coalition government announces the need for "radical change" (see here).

What if there was a major coffee spill . . . ?

A comedy sketch can be found here imaging a major coffee spill.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Top UK philosophy departments

. . . according to the Guardian newspaper here:

1. Oxford
2. UCL
3. Cambridge
4. Essex
5. King's College London
6. St Andrews
7. Warwick
8. LSE
9. Exeter
10. Bristol
11. UWE
12. Aberdeen
13. Durham
14. UEA
15. Hertfordshire
16. Glasgow
17. Dundee
18. Newcastle
19. York
20. Sussex
21. Sheffield
22. Staffordshire
23. Lancaster
24. Stirling
25. Kent
26. Heythrop
27. Central Lancashire
28. Cardiff
29. London Met
30. Liverpool

Monday, June 07, 2010

Journal of Moral Philosophy 2009 submission data

The latest data for 2009 submissions at the Journal of Moral Philosophy is as follows:

* 176 submissions received
(Submissions came from Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Denmark, France, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, UK, and USA. 71% from US and UK.)

* 8% acceptance rate
(14 of 176 papers were accepted)

* review times:
2 months or less: 74%
3 months or less: 81%

There will be additional data broken down by gender on submissions, acceptances, and reviewers over the JMP's history published shortly in the APA Newsleter on Feminism and Philosophy. I will note the link as soon as it is up.

As usual, my very sincere thanks to our members of the editorial board and our many referees for their support and efforts. Any journal is a collective project and the JMP has been blessed to have the kind support it has received since its launch in 2004.

"Prove you're a philosopher!"

Philosophers Anonymous has a hilarious story here.

"What if political scientists covered the news?"

I suspect it would look much like this fantastic article in Slate. An excerpt:

"[. . .] A powerful thunderstorm forced President Obama to cancel his Memorial Day speech near Chicago on Monday—an arbitrary event that had no affect on the trajectory of American politics.
Obama now faces some of the most difficult challenges of his young presidency: the ongoing oil spill, the Gaza flotilla disaster, and revelations about possibly inappropriate conversations between the White House and candidates for federal office. But while these narratives may affect fleeting public perceptions, Americans will ultimately judge Obama on the crude economic fundamentals of jobs numbers and GDP. [. . .]

[. . .] Democrats have also slipped in their standing among "independent voters." That phrase, by the way, is meaningless. Voters may self-identify as "independent" but in almost all cases they lean toward one party.

Poll numbers also confirmed that Americans are in an anti-incumbent mood. … Ha! Just kidding. The anti-Washington narrative was concocted by dominant media outlets based on the outcomes of a statistically insignificant handful of largely unrelated races. Sorry. [. . .]

[. . .] Prospects for an energy bill, meanwhile, are looking grim, since Obama has spent all his political capital. He used to have a lot. Now it's gone. Why winning legislative battles builds momentum but saps political capital, I have no idea. Just go with it.

Possible "game changers" for Obama include plugging the oil leak, peace between the Palestinians and Israelis, and World War III, although these events would be almost entirely outside Obama's control. [. . .]

[. . .] The GOP—a stupid acronym we use only so we don't have to keep repeating the word Republican—will have to decide between a moderate "establishment" pick and a more conservative Tea Party favorite. In reality, both candidates would embrace similar policies in the general election.

That candidate will then face off against Obama, whose charisma, compelling personal story, and professional political operation will prove formidable. Actually, Obama will probably win because he's the incumbent. And because voters always go with the guy who's taller. [. . .]"


Saturday, June 05, 2010

Want a graduate job? Well, first work for free . . .

The BBC reports here (an excerpt):

"[. . .] Too many professions are relying on young people doing unpaid work, a think-tank has said.

The Institute for Public Policy Research says it is unfair that school-leavers and graduates are expected to work for free [. . .] The TUC says a third of those on work placements and internships are unpaid.

Universities Minister David Willetts says he is concerned the practice discriminates against the less well off and the government will look into it.

One in five businesses are expected to offer work placements and internships this summer, but many - especially in areas like the arts and media - will not pay those employed even though they do productive work. [. . .]."

Thought of the day: "Drill, baby, drill"?

So who still thinks the answer to America's energy needs is simply "drill, baby, drill"? Details on current mess are here.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Like everybody is on Facebook

. . . even former US President George W Bush. Details here.

Now even if "Facebook friends" are not quite the same as "y'know, real friends," then I am still fairly certain I will avoid sending any "friend request" to "W" soon . . .