The Growth of the NUMBY

by Roger Wall

Gasland movie cover and trailor linkDoes the Earth move for You? If you live in the North West of England, it already has on a couple of occasions and may well do so more often in the future.  After a one-year moratorium on exploratory fracking, the Government has decided that the scientific evidence does not link the practice of forcing liquids into the ground at high pressures to crack rocks with the occurrence of earthquakes.  Moreover, within weeks of this ground-breaking decision (did you see what I did there?), it has decided to offer huge tax incentives to companies wishing to exploit the supposedly vast reserves of shale gas beneath our feet (or at least under the feet of those who live in the North West).  So after a few wobbles, energy policy appears to have shaken off its reservations, papered over any cracks in the science and embraced shale gas as the next cheap energy alternative.

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Learning Technologies in Higher Education – Friend or Foe?

by Ian McDonald

Until relatively recentTeaser text on equityly, the main equipment in the average lecture theatre and seminar room was a lectern and/or a blackboard (Race 2007, p.109). Now, however, we are experiencing an exposition of new technologies to aid learning and teaching. Firstly videos and overhead projectors were introduced followed by the now omnipresent PowerPoint presentations and use of YouTube clips. Many Universities are even employing specialist staff to design bespoke learning technologies specifically for their own institution, and BCU is no exception here.

Despite my relative youth I struggle with new technology and tend to ‘catch up’ with rather than ‘champion’ new technologies. This has been the case with several technologies which I now use regularly privately, but was slow to initially embrace, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and at work, such as SharePoint. This undoubtedly comes from my suspicion of ‘change’ and my fairly conservative (small ‘c’) educational background. [Read more…]


Research and the Academic World

larkhampaper

by Peter Larkham

Mark Reed makes some provocative statements about academics, research, excellence and impact.  He is quite right to emphasise these points at a time when the academic world is changing fast.  We need to be flexible and change, too.  All academics worth their salary would agree that we need to demonstrate the highest possible standards in research quality output, research impact, and teaching.  But not all excel at all three.

Research quality output: this is the older yardstick by which researchers are measured.  Even so, it seems strangely difficult to secure sound and shared assessments of quality; in fact it sometimes seems to depend how an assessor was feeling that morning.  This gives us some concern when we think about how the next government-driven review, the Research Excellence Framework, will review this aspect of excellence.  The process lacks transparency and detailed feedback – both potentially compromise the quality of the process and its outcomes.  We often feel that we can recognise value and excellence, but just what is it that distinguishes the very best – what one assessor once described as “Nobel-level”?  But there aren’t Nobel prizes in the built environment!  So are all disciplines assessing [Read more…]


Has Health and Safety Gone Mad?

Has Health & Safety gone too far?

Has Health & Safety gone too far?

by Ian McDonald

On 11th June, the Construction workers’ Union (UCATT) held a rally entitled ‘SOS: Save our Safety’ in an attempt to “highlight and expose the … Government’s attacks on health and safety”. This stems from a speech given by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, in January 2012 in which he told an invited audience of entrepreneurs and representatives from small businesses that he is “waging a war against the excessive health and safety culture that has become an albatross around the neck of British business”.

Mr Cameron’s comments were, unsurprisingly, well-received by much of the written press – who have been at the forefront

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