Friday, 1 June 2012

Privatisation: the Ministry interfering at Hogwarts

Our universities are being privatised, or so many on the Left would have us believe. But how true is it? And is it necessarily a bad thing? In a series of features over the next few weeks, I will be investigating several areas of privatisation at Imperial College and at universities across the UK, areas where corporations are filling a role that used to be public.

I’ll look at the Careers Services at our Universities, to try to find out why many students are dissatisfied with the variety they offer. I’ll discuss Corporate Partnership schemes, to see whether academic-industry collaboration really can be a good thing.

But this week I’ll look at every academic’s nightmare: the Research Councils.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

More and more scandals, less and less news

David Cameron's father avoided tax! Who would've guessed? The latest Guardian exclusive reveals how £300,000 of David's inheritance was obtained through legal but morally dubious means!

I can't help but feeling that this story is completely trivial, that no one actually cares particularly about Cameron's tax affairs, especially if they're legal. I know Cameron is Prime Minister and has to set a good example and all that, but this is about his father's misbehaviour, not his. If we end up asking David to apologise for what his father did decades ago, we become no better than the idiot who asked Richard Dawkins to apologise for his ancestors' involvement in the slave trade.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The Second Coming

Jesus returns in 2012 and meets the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, for a lengthy conversation.

Jesus pops his head around a heavy oak door. “Hello?” He has a very cockney accent.

“Wha...This is a private room! Who gave you the authority to-“

“Authority!? Private!? Who do you think you are? The son of God?” Jesus winks at John, and smiles cheesily. His teeth glisten in the midday sun, a sparkle of realisation alights John’s eyes.

“Oh Christ!”

“Call me Jesus,” he vigorously shakes the Archbishop’s hand, “and I’ll call you... What’s your name?”

Monday, 9 April 2012

One thing Trenton Oldfield did right

Trenton Oldfield attacks the elitists

Everyone thinks Trenton Oldfield is an idiot, it seems. Even amongst Guardian readers – those you might expect to be sympathetic – 77% thought “he spoilt a nice day out and alienated millions”. His main problem is that, in truth, he has no idea what he's talking about. “Elitism leads to tyranny,” he says. No, dear. The Neoliberal agenda leads to tyranny; elitism just leads to the “elite” and “non-elite” not liking each other very much.

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Why did the BBC ignore the NHS bill?

It seems that the BBC's reporting on the Health and Social Care Bill (now the Health and Social Care Act) was inadequate. Why? Naturally, the BBC likes to be uncontroversial. Perhaps they wanted to appease Conservative ministers who, if they had their way, would undoubtedly privatise the BBC as well. Or maybe it's because the Chairman of the BBC Trust is a Conservative Lord? But a little investigation reveals that there could be more to it than that.

The BBC is governed by two management boards, the BBC Trust and the Executive Board. The Executive Boards manages the BBC, the Trust ensures that standards are kept to. In theory, either of these boards could censor reporting on the NHS, and either of these boards could demand an increase in reporting. So if the BBC's reporting was inadequate, one of these boards is (at least partially) to blame.

Monday, 5 March 2012

A response to "The career advice scandal"

At Felix Online, one of my articles is preceded by a 3-paragraph disclaimer from the editor. It states three times that my article "The Career Advice Scandal" contains "factual inaccuracies", once referencing "several factual inaccuracies". It also claims that Felix was never threatened with legal action. These claims are all false, but since I am evidently unable to challenge these points in Felix, I had better do so here.

I am in possession of an email sent by Imperial College to Felix explaining their problems with my article "The Career Advice Scandal". I would love to publish the email, but I it would be illegal. Instead, I will paraphrase the College's problems with my article, and respond to them.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Keep the Cat free!

The importance of independent student journalism

In this week's Felix, I had intended to publish an article which exposed what I believe are serious problems with Imperial's Careers Advisory Service. It detailed how the service has been susceptible to privatisation, it explained why so much of our career advice is just advertising for the financial sector and it criticised the College for allowing such an important service to become biased towards wealthy corporations.

Before the article could be printed, however, a member of College staff emailed the Felix editor asking him not to publish it. She said that it contained accusations “which could be considered defamatory” in its “serious claims about a College service and its staff”. The email implicitly threatened Felix with legal action if it printed the article. Understandably, it was not published. 

Sunday, 26 February 2012

What Pokémon can teach us about politics

There are few worlds more pleasant than Kanto. The land of Pokémon Red, Blue and Yellow was a land of innocent joy, of green forests and dark tunnels, mythical caves and pleasant sea-side towns. There is nothing so heart-warming as the ability to talk to every stranger, and to receive nothing but friendly advice in return. There can be no one who, having played the game, has not wished that Kanto were a real place. So what is it that makes Kanto so great, and what can we learn from it?

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Truth, lies and tall tales about "Work for your Benefits"

An in-depth investigation of Workfare

A spectre is haunting our futures – the spectre of unemployment. Most of us are soon-to-be graduates: some of us, inevitably, are the soon-to-be unemployed. With every month, increasing numbers of young people are finding themselves jobless, and increasing numbers are turning to the government for support.

But what kind of support do they receive? The “Work for your Benefits” scandal has filled the media with allegations and insinuations about the government’s treatment of the unemployed: is it supportive help or slave labour? As graduation day approaches, we all need to be aware of what is really going on; we need to be prepared for when unemployment comes for us.

Friday, 17 February 2012

The career advice scandal

How Imperial's Careers Advisory Service has been effectively privatised.

In my inbox last week, I received 12 emails from banks. “Come to our networking event!”, “Join our Graduate Recruitment scheme!”, “Apply for an internship!” For many students this would not be a problem, but for me it is. You see, I never wanted to be a banker, a consultant or a financier; I didn't seek the bland, high-earning, suit-wearing, BMW-driving life of the City worker. But with its daily banking emails, its entirely corporate careers fairs and its finance-focussed careers “guides”, life at Imperial started to alter my perceptions from my very first day.

For several months I completely forgot that jobs like teaching, journalism or charity work existed at all. Whenever I thought a non-corporate thought, another banking email or careers fair would come to the rescue to cleanse the dirty thought from my brain. I'm not sure when it occurred to me that I had been a victim of corporate marketing bollocks, but when I realised what had happened I was furious, and I decided to do some research. Here is the result: the story of how Imperial's Careers Advisory Service (CAS) has become susceptible to the influence of wealthy corporations.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Sexism at Imperial College

Not here, surely? Sexism is everywhere: in the media, in politics, in the arts, but at universities? The centres of liberal thought and tolerance? Where everyone is open-minded and friendly and – above all – extremely egalitarian? If there were ever a place where sexism shouldn’t exist, it is here. And yet it persists like an ugly, cunning mouse peskily dodging the hungry cat of equality.

In lectures, (in most of them, in fact) I listen to the irritating chorus of male voices in the rows behind me discussing the sexual attractiveness of the women in the audience. Life for these boys (they can hardly be called men) is black and white: the girls are divided neatly into fuckable and unfuckable, hot and ugly, those who are “fit” and those who are “wastegash”. And all of this within earshot of the very same women they are “classifying”.

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Protesting about tuition fees is a waste of good placards

Apparently 2012 is going to be a bumper year for protests, and I am quite looking forward to them. As the late logophile Christopher Hitchens once wrote, “seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will provide plenty of time for silence”. But what would the brilliant man have made of the recent tuition fees increase? Having earned a third class degree in PPE from Oxford, and having achieved in his short life much more of merit than Mr David Cameron – who got a first class degree in precisely the same course – he would probably advise against going to university at all. He'd say that it's vastly overrated, except for the free love and alcohol.

In saying this, Hitchens would be – as he often was – wrong but for all the right reasons. When he graduated, he became social science editor on the Times Higher Education Supplement, something unthinkable today, even with a first-class degree. Currently, a good degree is essential for all but the most menial of jobs, and even then, work experience and networking are always necessary for starting in better-paid careers.

Occupy the New Year, but grow up a bit first

Revolution! With it's impassioned rhetoric and gritty anger the Occupy movement is intent on overhauling democracy as we know it. Bitter, disaffected people around the world are answering Occupy's call, and Governments are beginning to pay attention to the voice of the disillusioned masses!

Reading preachy propagandistic non-journalism like the above paragraph makes me crush my glass of whisky in disgust and want to go on hunger strike until Critical Thinking lessons are given to all children of all ages until they're so skeptical they end up believing nothing at all.