The UK released around 600m tonnes of CO2 (MtCO2) into the atmosphere in 1990. As signatories of the Paris Climate Accord that aims to limit average temperature rises to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, they have committed to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, Since 1990, the UK has reduced its emissions by 40%, a faster reduction than any other major developed country, and aims to get that number to 78% by 2035.
The UK achieved this reduction in large part to cleaner electricity production, moving from coal to gas and renewables. Other factors include the reduction of energy use by both industry and homes, few total miles being driven and more efficient vehicles.
In 2020 The Government released the ‘Ten point plan for a green industrial revolution’ that included an investment promise of £12 billion by 2030 to be directed to green technologies including hydrogen, offshore wind, nuclear, electric vehicles, heat, and buildings.
“What gets measured gets managed — even when it’s pointless to measure and manage it, and even if it harms the purpose of the organization to do so.
Goodheart’s Law: When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.
Campbell’s Law: The more a metric counts for real decisions, the greater the pressure for corruption, the more it distorts the situation it’s intended to monitor.
“Quantitative measures of performance are tools, and are undoubtedly useful. But research indicates that indiscriminate use and undue confidence and reliance in them result from insufficient knowledge of the full effects and consequences. Judicious use of a tool requires awareness of possible side effects and reactions. Otherwise, indiscriminate use may result in side effects and reactions outweighing the benefits (…) The cure is sometimes worse than the disease.”
V. F. Ridgway
“It’s Not About the Result, It’s About Awareness.
The trick is to realize that counting, measuring, and tracking is not about the result. It’s about the system, not the goal.
Measure from a place of curiosity. Measure to discover, to find out, to understand.
Measure from a place of self-awareness. Measure to get to know yourself better.
Measure to see if you are showing up. Measure to see if you’re actually spending time on the things that are important to you. (Make sure to measure backward, not forward.)”
In a recent interview, Chamath Palihapitiya said, “people just want economic security and to be left alone”. The ‘left alone’ part needs no explanation, but what exactly does economic or financial security mean?
Economic security or financial security is the condition of having stable income or other resources to support a standard of living now and in the foreseeable future. It includes:
To have economic security, you need to have and maintain a reasonable standard of living. Beyond the basic needs of shelter, warmth, and food, this standard tends to be heavily comparative and determined by the living standards of those around you. Someone who has a standard of living near or above the average of those they interact with will feel like they have economic security. However, this standard of living must be sustainable through continued solvency, a predictable future cash flow, and job security.
Continued solvency means that you have more assets over time than you have liabilities, so the total value of equity in your house and car and the amount you have in savings and investments is greater than the value of your mortgage, loans, and credit card debt. The predictability of cash flow means that you have a good idea of your income over the next few months to a year, either through a reasonable promise of continued employment as an employee or entrepreneur and/or a stable investment income from stocks, bonds, or a pension. Employment security refers to the confidence that if you continue to do your job, you will keep it and that you have control of your continued employment.
Beyond a comfortable living, what other factors are essential in living a happy life? Since early 2019, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has been identifying and tracking metrics that the government can use as a measure of prosperity separate from the financial measurement of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
According to this well-being study, you are happier in Britain if you have a high level of perceived health, are married, employed, own your home, and earn slightly above the average household income of £29,900 per year. You are also happier if you are female. Multiple studies show that self-reported life satisfaction is heavily age-dependent following a U shape, with a dip in happiness in your late thirties and early forties.
So if you want a safe bet at happiness, you need to find a stable job that pays just above the national household average, live below your means, avoid unsecured debt, build security with additional income streams, stay healthy, get married and buy your home.
If you are a government, you should focus your efforts on getting as many people as possible to the situation described above and then leave everyone alone.
To mark the launch of the Student Futures Commission, the UPP Foundation, using Cibyl as a research partner, sent out a survey to 1.5 million students at over 140 institutions to understand their university experience during the pandemic. 2,147 students responded between 14th-19th May 2021. Like the rest of us, students miss face to face community.
Students want universities to prioritise a return to in person teaching and are missing face-to-face interaction around their wider student experience, according to a major new survey.
Student Futures Commission
The key findings:
The preferences for study structure next year:
45% mostly in-person with online teaching once or twice per week.
29% fully face to face
21% mostly online
6% fully online
The majority of students did not participate in any extracurricular activities this academic year
63% believe the pandemic has negatively affected them academically
48% do not believe they have missed any aspect of teaching despite disruptions to delivery
72% are neutral or satisfied with changes to academic assessments
65% believe their course will still help them find a job.
The full data set can be downloaded from the UPP Foundation website.
Flexible learning is about student choice, putting learners at the centre of the learning experience and providing them with the flexibility to access learning opportunities around the different areas of their lives. To deliver this requires balanced pragmatism in delivery methods and institutional agility in the structures and systems used by the university to provide choice in an economically viable and sustainable way.
According to the HEA’s flexible learning framework, a choice should be offered to students in how, what, when, and where they learn through the pace, place, price, and mode of delivery.
“When well supported, this positively impacts recruitment, retention and progression; widens participation; and offers opportunities to learners of all ages, backgrounds, ethnicities and nationalities.”
An undergraduate degree is 360 credits. A postgraduate degree is 180 credits. One credit is equivalent to ten notional learning hours; an undergraduate (UG) course should take a maximum of 3600 hours and a postgraduate taught (PGT) degree a maximum of 1800 hours. Current rules on the maximum duration of study for UG studies is eight years and five years for PGT; this means that the pace of study can be anywhere from 90 weeks to eight years at UG and 45 weeks to five years at PG based on a maximum 40-hour study week. Most university courses currently run off 32 weeks a year for institutional convenience, but the pace could be altered considerably to fit the student.
The place where learning is delivered or received is becoming more flexible. Traditionally courses have been offered on-campus with students travelling to the lecturer and their facilities. The Univerity of London began offering courses by correspondence in 18, posting out study materials, and asking students to attend in-person for the exam only. More recently, these correspondence courses have been replaced with online learning. As work-based learning becomes essential and workplaces increasingly partner with universities for higher education, this provision is being delivered in the workplace or other facilities where specialist equipment or experiences are avalible.
Most mature students see higher education prices as the most significant barrier to enrollment. Changes to funding have seen considerable drops in part-time student numbers over the last ten years. The Augar report made suggestions to address this, and the Government is set to enact many of these, including a part-time postgraduate loan that allows students to study flexibly. Many part-time postgraduate courses have begun to offer flexible payment options, including per module, per term, or annually.
The OECD lists the mode of study as the student’s study load, whether full-time or part-time, but may also refer to distance, a mixture of on-campus access methods, or various work-based learning options. HESA, the higher education statistics agency, lists up to 16 different modes of study, categorised primarily for funding purposes, including:
Full-time – according to funding council definitions or other
Sandwich – thick, thin, or other
Part-time – regular, released from employment, or not released from employment
Open or distance learning
Writing-up – previously full-time
These modes aim to provide students with options to access study that fits their need and availability.
The article ended with paraphrased comments from Professor Graham Galbraith, vice-chancellor of Portsmouth university:
The bigger danger to universities was a “utilitarian” government view that they existed only to train workers in “skills the government decides are needed”. “Our broader role in producing well-rounded graduates . . . is being lost,” he said.
First, Is a utilitarian view a bad thing for a government to take on mass education?
Utilitarianism: the doctrine that actions are right if they are useful or for the benefit of a majority. The doctrine that an action is right in so far as it promotes happiness, and that the greatest happiness of the greatest number should be the guiding principle of conduct.
Second, how are the government deciding on the skills needed?
“The drive to place employers at the heart of the skills system comes as the Prime Minister launches a new Build Back Better Business Council. The new group will see business leaders work directly with government to fuel the Covid-19 economic recovery.”
Pioneering reforms to boost skills and jobs, Gov.UK
After years of government-supported rapid expansion, in part at the expense of cash-starved further education colleges, the university sector faces genuine challenges. According to the Office for National Statistics, university student numbers have almost doubled since 1992. Graduate numbers are now over 50%; informed by the Augar review, the government has moved its attention to the other 50%.
Forward-looking universities are working with the government to deliver new qualification such as degree apprenticeships and higher technical qualifications. Both parties are working with businesses to address the genuine global, national, and regional skills gaps. Students, too, are looking for the promise of a more economically secure future and are voting with their feet towards attractive courses, reputable universities, and the perceived boost to career opportunities.
The solutions are far from perfect and often seem like two steps forward one step back, but they are transparent in their direction of travel and open to universities involvement in helping write how we get there. What is included in courses to make students well-rounded is still in the control of those delivering them and businesses are still keen on students that can think, solve problems, and be agile. Universities need to decide if they want to be small elite institutions that service a minority or mass centres of learning that prepare students for a better future.
The tricky thing about a free market in higher education is that it is democratic; the supply and demand have to respond to each other.
The current recommended levels of physical activity to reduce the risk of early death by up to 30% is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity, 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or a combination of the two per week. Just under a third of people globally do not achieve this minimum standard and it is higher in richer countries. But a new study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine has found that these recommendations for activity levels are not enough to avoid chronic illnesses for those that spend most of their day sitting down.
The study looked at the effects of various daily amounts of different intensities of exercise, lack of exercise, and sleep on early death using six previous studies covering over 130,000 adults in the UK, US, and Sweeden. The paper suggests that most of us in the UK and other wealthy countries spend up to twelve hours a day sitting and so require higher levels of movement to counteract the negative effects of a sedentary life than those that sid for just six to seven hours used to model the original recommendations. They suggest a minimum of three minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise or twelve minutes of light physical activity for every hour spent seated each day.
For a person who sits twelve hours per day, the recommendations would mean 36 minutes of vigorous or 144 minutes of light activity each day. If we just followed this for five days per week that is 180 minutes of vigorous exercise, 2.4 times the amount previously suggested for the same level of risk reduction. If you are in bed for eight hours and working for eight to nine hours and then sitting in front of the TV in the evening it is likely that twelve hours seated is realistic and possibly low for some people.
In addition to increased weekly exercise time to offset all the sitting, the paper also suggests using a variety of movements each week to accumulate the required vigorous or light activity. This means that if a person had previously completed three to four runs per week to get in the minimum recommended activity, then adding some strength training, a swim session, and a bike ride could bring better health benefits than more running when using the new benchmarks. For the health benefits, the important thing is to get your heart rate up each day and use a variety of movements across the week, so be creative and use what you have.
Above the suggestion that people should create a daily exercise habit, The study also suggested that moving regularly between exercise and getting good amounts of daily also presented benefits. The UK National Health Service has some good suggestions for exercise and the Canadian government has already adopted a daily approach to movement.
There are certain books and films that make me want to be smarter. These works of art are celebrations of intelligence and innovation and raise expectations of what is possible. Films like Good Will Hunting, The Theory of Everything, Hidden Figures, Limitless, all three Ironman movies, and The Imitation Game inspire me to think differently about solving problems. However, there is no better celebration of maths and science than Andy Weir’s books.
Weir wrote his first released full-length novel, The Martian, as a series of blog posts as an intellectual activity while working as a software engineer. He built up an audience of around 3000 hard-core science geeks by writing stories that included lots of maths and science. He researched using Google and got help and feedback for readers on the areas he was not so sure about, like chemistry and electrical engineering.
I have just finished Weir’s latest book, Project Hail Mary. I will not add spoilers, but if you loved the highly competent characters and pragmatic problem solving mixed in with a series of science lessons and sarcasm does not disappoint.
Equality is one of the central ideals of a liberal democratic society; Everyone is created free and equal and should be treated as such by law. Equality is also the route to prosperity and ensuring that every generation will be better off than their parents. It is about a universal commitment to individual dignity, an open market of ideas, and a belief in human progress brought about by debate and reform.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Article one, Universal Declaration of Human Rights
There are significant problems in human society; extreme poverty and widening inequality, the need for universal health care and education, and a changing egology brought about by human industry. People need the freedom to choose how to live and a commitment to the common interest for these issues to be addressed.
A competitive meritocracy creates prosperity by ensuring that the best ideas win, but it is often closed to the poorest in society, and there are barriers to entry that need to be removed. Providing people with individual dignity and self-reliance generates sources of new thinking and better ideas. Society needs to value equality, diversity, and inclusion and understand that different perspectives are essential for progress.
race including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin
religion or belief
Equality: the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, or opportunities.
Diversity: the practice or quality of including or involving people from a range of different social and ethnic backgrounds and of different genders, sexual orientations, etc.
Inclusion: The practise or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those who have physical or mental disabilities and members of other minority groups.
A commitment to equality, diversity, and inclusion provides a fair society where everyone has the chance to create the life they want and have a positive impact on society. Institutions like universities must provide access to opportunities for anybody prepared to put in the hard work to create a better life. They also must provide society with a broad and diverse range of skilled individuals with unique ideas and perspectives to solve the complex problems we face.
Hours per week: 42.5 – based on Eurostat data on UK full-time employment
92,684 hours of work in a UK career = 47 years x 46.4 weeks x 42.5 hours
This number is considerable, but the equation is highly variable based on your work. If you take an academic working at an English university, the working years, weeks and hours contracted will be less, but actual hours might be greater.
If you started paying into a pension before 2011, it might be possible to retire at 60, and you likely stayed in education through to a PhD so graduated at 26, giving just 34 years of ‘work’. A full-time academic ‘contracted’ hours might be 37 per week, and work 44.4 weeks with 38 days of leave, including bank holidays.
This fictional academic could work just 55,855.2 hours in their career based on contracted hours. However, this is a romantic bare minimum, and self-reporting on working hours is much higher.
The question is, what will you do with the hours you have left?