Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Public policy futures: A Left trilemma?

an article by Peter Taylor-Gooby (University of Kent, UK) published in Critical Social Policy Volume 33 Number 3 (August 2013)


Why is it so hard for the Left to produce a coherent, progressive and practicable response to the crisis, when markets and private enterprise have so obviously failed?

One answer is that the Left faces a trilemma in developing adequate, electable and progressive public policy.

It must respond adequately to the economic crisis to be seen as competent, it must address the established themes in public opinion to be electable, and it must develop generous and inclusive policies, to be progressive.

This article identifies conflicts in all three areas: low public sector productivity growth and demographic shifts tighten already harsh spending constraints. Entrenched public suspicions of higher taxes for any but the distant rich and a public discourse which makes rigid distinctions between those deserving and undeserving of state welfare conflict with egalitarian or redistributive policies. Both spending constraints and the key themes in public opinion conflict with generous and inclusive policies.

The Coalition strategy, by contrast, rests on a private enterprise-led recovery, work-ethic values and policies that exclude less deserving groups. It does not face the same problems.

This article analyses a range of policy programmes suggested by commentators on the centre-left in the light of these points.

It concludes that a central task for a progressive strategy is not so much designing the policies which will be attractive and will meet needs effectively as developing a framework of provision which will help to build solidarity and shift public discourse in order to make inclusive and generous policy possible.

How Dynamic is the Private Sector? Job Creation and Insights from Workplace-Level Data

an article by Bob Butcher (National Institute of Economic and Social Research and BIS) and Matt Bursnall (BIS)published in National Institute Economic Review Volume 225 Number 1 (August 2013)


Private sector employment rose by over a million in the past three years. Commentators often interpret this number – which is a net figure – as ‘job creation’. But how many jobs really are created each year, and conversely how many are lost? How has this changed with the downturn and what does it imply for the recovery?

This article uses findings from business and workplace-level data to map
  1. job creation and destruction over recent years,
  2. its components in accounting terms,
  3. the relative contribution by firms of different size and age, and
  4. the reallocation of resource between firms and to workplaces within firms.
There are four main points:
  1. Job churn far outweighs net change. Before the downturn, an average of 4.0 million jobs were created each year and a slightly smaller number lost (3.7m), resulting in a net increase of about 300,000 per year.
  2. Most job creation (over 70 per cent) is within existing firms; but within that, over a third comes from the creation of new workplaces set up within those firms.
  3. The net reduction in jobs in 2008–11 was not, in contrast to earlier recessions, due to higher rates of job loss; instead it reflects a sustained period of lower job creation in new workplaces, especially in SMEs (figure 1). This is consistent with ongoing credit constraints hitting SMEs particularly hard, as discussed in Armstrong et al. (2013), or could simply be in line with lack of confidence to invest at this time.
  4. Looking at the years 2008–11 individually, the downturn begins with reduced levels of entry, followed by a peak of job destruction in 2009 in line with reduced aggregate demand, and then a continuation of low levels of entry of new SMEs, and lower levels of destruction too ((figure 2).
JEL classification: E32, G21, J63, L22

Full text (PDF 12pp)

The evaluation of Business Improvement Districts: Questions and issues from the Scottish experience

an article by Mhairi Donaghy (EKOS Economic and Social Development, UK) and Anne Findlay and Leigh Sparks (University of Stirling, UK) published in Local Economy volume 28 Number 5 (August 2013)


Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) are an increasingly familiar component of the management of places and the delivery of some services.

However, how do we know if they succeed?

An extended framework for the evaluation of BIDs is developed and then used in primary research on the Pathfinder BIDs in Scotland. The proposed framework, incorporating less tangible aspects of BIDs operations, appears to capture broad dimensions of activities, outcomes, impacts and processes.

The Scottish experience shows limitations in traditional evaluation of BIDs and the benefits of an extended evaluation framework.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Bank of England Quarterly Bulletin

2013 Q2 | Volume 53 No. 2 provides the following:

Topical articles

Macroeconomic uncertainty: what is it, how can we measure it and why does it matter?
By Abigail Haddow and Chris Hare of the Bank’s Conjunctural Assessment and Projections Division, John Hooley of the Bank’s International Finance Division and Tamarah Shakir of the Bank’s Macroprudential Strategy Division

The onset of the financial crisis in 2008 brought an end to the ‘Great Stability’ period, making prospects for UK and global economic growth appear not just weaker, but more uncertain. This elevated uncertainty is likely to have adversely affected spending decisions and contributed to the depth of the recent recession and the weakness of the recovery. While uncertainty is not directly observable, this article constructs an aggregate measure of the economic uncertainty faced by households and companies, based on a number of proxy indicators. It also provides some quantitative analysis of the impact of uncertainty on economic activity, drawing a distinction between shocks to uncertainty that are short-lived and those that are more persistent.

Do inflation expectations currently pose a risk to the economy?
By Becky Maule and Alice Pugh of the Bank’s Monetary Assessment and Strategy Division

People’s expectations about future inflation play an important role in determining the current rate of inflation. There is a risk that the recent prolonged period of above-target inflation, which the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) judges is more likely than not to continue over much of the next two years, may cause inflation expectations to become less well anchored. By pushing up wages and prices, higher inflation expectations could lead to inflation becoming more persistent. At the moment, most indicators are consistent with inflation expectations remaining anchored to the target, although there is tentative evidence that financial market measures of inflation expectations have become a little more responsive to developments in the economy. There are currently few signs to suggest that prices and wages have increased as a result of higher inflation expectations. The MPC will continue to monitor and assess indicators closely.

Public attitudes to monetary policy
By Michael Goldby of the Bank’s Monetary Assessment and Strategy Division

This article examines the latest results from the Bank/GfK NOP survey concerning households’ awareness and understanding of monetary policy, and their satisfaction with the way the Bank is conducting monetary policy. Results from the latest surveys indicate that public awareness of the policy framework has remained broadly constant over the past year at a reasonably high level. Satisfaction with the way the Bank sets interest rates in order to control inflation remains much lower than before the financial crisis. While remaining positive over the past year, net satisfaction fell to a series low in 2012 Q3, before recovering a little in subsequent surveys. The extent of satisfaction with the Bank has moved closely with changes in consumer confidence, which in turn is linked to a range of macroeconomic variables including GDP growth, inflation and unemployment.

Cross-border bank credit and global financial stability
By Bob Hills and Glenn Hoggarth of the Bank’s International Finance Division

This article looks in detail at one aspect of global liquidity: cross-border credit provided by banks. Cross-border banking can potentially have considerable benefits, especially by diversifying the available sources of lending and borrowing, and by increasing banking competition. But such flows can also amplify risks in times of stress. As this article sets out, cross-border bank lending contributed to the build-up in vulnerabilities before the recent crisis, and exacerbated the bust once the crisis hit. The article then considers possible policy responses, arguing in particular that policymakers need to ensure that they can properly monitor these flows, from the point of view of recipient countries and the global system as a whole.

The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street
By John Keyworth, curator of the Bank’s Museum (and the Old Lady’s oldest and longest-serving employee)

The popular nickname for the Bank of England dates back to a caricature of the institution from the 1790s. An exhibition in the Bank’s Museum celebrates two centuries of visual comment, some of which is discussed in this short article. Fascinating

Central counterparties: what are they, why do they matter and how does the Bank supervise them?
By Amandeep Rehlon of the Bank’s Market Infrastructure Division and Dan Nixon of the Bank’s Media and Publications Division

The Government introduced major changes to the system of financial regulation in the United Kingdom in April 2013, including creating the Financial Policy Committee and transferring significant new supervisory responsibilities to the Bank. As part of this, the Bank is now responsible for the supervision of central counterparties, or CCPs. This article explains what CCPs are, setting out their importance for the financial system — including the benefits they bring and some of the risks they could present if not properly managed. It also summarises the Bank’s approach to supervising CCPs and describes some of the key priorities the Bank will be pursuing.

Recent economic and financial developments

Markets and operations

This article reviews developments in financial markets between the 2013 Q1 Quarterly Bulletin and 24 May 2013, drawing on the qualitative intelligence gathered by the Bank in the course of meeting its objectives of monetary and financial stability. The article also sets out usage of the Bank’s operations since the previous Bulletin.


A review of the work of the London Foreign Exchange Joint Standing Committee in 2012 This article reviews the work undertaken by the London Foreign Exchange Joint Standing Committee during 2012

Summaries of speeches and working papers
  • Bank of England speeches
  • Summaries of recent Bank of England working papers – The Bank of England’s forecasting platform: COMPASS, MAPS, EASE and the suite of models
Full text (PDF 98pp)

Measure for measure: towards a measurement and evaluation framework for skills utilisation policy in the UK

an article by Jonathan Payne (ESRC centre for Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance (SKOPE), School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University, UK) published in Journal of Education and Work Volume 26 Number 2 (April 2013)


Policy makers throughout the developed world have long insisted that skills are central to economic and social success.

However, there is a growing recognition that if skills are to deliver on this agenda, they have to be utilised in the workplace.

In the UK, skills utilisation is gaining prominence as an issue, particularly in Scotland. If such policies are to function effectively, knowing what skills utilisation is, and how to measure its presence, is vital as is the ability to evaluate specific policy interventions.

The article offers some initial reflections on the construction of a measurement and evaluation framework.

Contributions of Social Status and Family Support to College Students’ Career Decision Self-Efficacy and Outcome Expectations

an article by Jennifer Metheny and Ellen Hawley McWhirter (University of Oregon, Eugene, USA) published in Journal of Career Assessment Volume 21 Number 3 (August 2013)


The purpose of this study was to better understand the roles of social status and family support in the career decision making of young adults in college.

We tested a path model predicting career decision self-efficacy and career-related outcome expectations in a sample of 270 male and female undergraduate students. Predictor variables included family of origin socioeconomic status, perceived social status, perceived family support, and intentional family career-related interactions.

The sample was randomly split into a calibration sample and a validation sample. Based on a path analysis with the calibration sample, the hypothesised model was modified, and a multiple group analysis was used to test for model invariance for the revised model.

The results of this study suggest that both family status and family support are associated with social cognitive career development outcomes. Implications for both research and practice are discussed.

Learning and Refugees: Recognizing the Darker Side of Transformative Learning

an article by Linda Morrice (University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, UK) published in Adult Education Quarterly Volume 63 Number 3 (August 2013)


Learning is generally viewed as a positive process bringing benefits to the individual, leading to growth and self-development.

But is this always the case?

This article draws on empirical research with refugees and considers the processes of transforming experience and learning that accompanies transition to life in the United Kingdom. I will argue for the importance of social context and nonformal learning, and suggest that models and theories based on transformative learning that ignore context provide only a partial and distorted picture of the learning and identity processes at work for this particular group of immigrants.

There is a complexity and depth to the learning that they experience, which calls for an enlarged concept of learning and its potential outcomes.

Age-Appropriate Transition Assessment: The Position of the Division on Career Development and Transition

an article by Debra A. Neubert (University of Maryland, College Park, USA) and Pamela J. Leconte (The George Washington University, DC, USA) published in Career Development and Transition for Exceptional Individuals Volume 36 Number 2 (August 2013)


Age-appropriate transition assessment (TA) serves as the foundation for youth with disabilities to identify measurable postsecondary goals and to determine necessary transition services to pursue such goals during the secondary school years.

This position paper provides guidelines for special educators, transition specialists, and other members of the Individualized Education Program team to work with youth with disabilities, their families, and interagency personnel in providing ongoing TA.

The Division on Career Development and Transition endorses this position paper, which identifies federal policy; definitions, terms, and purposes; a conceptual framework and process; and competencies for personnel involved in age-appropriate TA.

Hazel’s comment:
Whilst this article is about a specific programme in the USA I believe the article contains some useful thought for UK advisers.

Monday, 29 July 2013

10 useless items which may interest you as much as they did me

Scheduled for yesterday but then I found that it only had NINE items in it!!

Style Show: 1922
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave
Style Show: 1922
June 17, 1922. Washington, D.C.
“Group winners at Tidal Basin bathing beach”
On the right we have eternal Shorpy sweetheart Iola Swinnerton; the others are interchangeable nonentities who serve only to emphasize her many charms. In the background is the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
View original post

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Yelp, Amazon, and the like have upended the idea of critical authority. On those fronts now seesaws the battle for the future of taste and expertise… more


The True Science of Parallel Universes

Do you believe in the existence of parallel universes or in a single universe only?
What do you picture things ‘being like’ if you believe in the concept of parallel universes?
MinutePhysics presents an awesome overview of three distinct proposed multi-verse models and a brief look at a new super-model in this terrific explainer video.

For almost every day last month (that would have been March 2013) Malaysian artist/architect Hong Yi (who often goes by the nickname Red) created a fun illustration made with common (and occasionally not so common) food. Her parameters were simple: the image had to be comprised entirely of food and the only backdrop could be a white plate. With that in mind Yi set out to create landscapes, animals, homages to pop culture, and even a multi-frame telling of the three little pigs. The project, which still appears to be ongoing, has been documented heavily around the web, but if you haven’t seen it all head over to her Facebook [link no longer available?] and read an interview on designboom. Photos will also be appearing on her Instagram at @redhongyi.
Here is my favourite (I think).
Artist Hong Yi Plays with her Food for 30 Days food

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Oscar Wilde in America. Though little known when he arrived, he was supremely confident. “I  have nothing to declare except my genius”… more

The Oldest Star in the Universe
via How-To Geek by Asian Angel

When it was first measured in 2000, 'HD 140283′ also known as the 'Methuseleh Star' appeared to be approximately 2 billion years older than the universe. Obviously something was amiss and SciShow explains how the mystery was eventually solved by scientists in this terrific video.

1960s : John Lennon having a cup of tea
via Retronaut by Chris Wild

See more

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Diederik Stapel’s psychology experiments produced eye-opening results – all fabricated, it turns out. “It was a quest for beauty instead of the truth”… more

The trial of a 14th century female doctor
via Boing Boing by Maggie Koerth-Baker
In November 1322, Jakoba (or Jacoba) Felicie stood trial in her native Paris for the crime of practicing medicine without official sanction. Over the course of the trial, it became clear that her work as a doctor had been excellent. But Dr. Felicie was stuck in an unfortunate catch-22. She could not legally work as a doctor without first getting professional training. And she could not get professional training because she was a woman.
The ScienceZest blog tells her story.

Caught Our Eyes: A Giant Bat Roost?
via Picture This: Library of Congress Prints & Photos by Barbara Orbach Natanson
Bat Roost, San Antonio
This photo caught many eyes when we shared it in the Library of Congress Flickr account.
"Bat Roost, San Antonio." Photo by Bain News Service, between ca. 1915 and ca. 1920.
Continue reading
It's enormous!!

Evaluation of the Work Choice Specialist Disability Employment Programme: Findings from the 2011 Early Implementation and 2012 Steady State Waves of the research

A report of research (Research Report No 846) carried out by Inclusion on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions


Work Choice is a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) specialist disability employment programme introduced in October 2010. It provides employment support to disabled people who cannot be supported through mainstream employment programmes and their employers. Work Choice was the first specialist disability employment programme to be commissioned under the terms of the 2008 DWP Commissioning Strategy. The evaluation of Work Choice therefore explored both the new programme model and the effect of the DWP commissioning approach on this area of specialist provision.

This report offers findings from the Early Implementation and Steady State waves of research. This follows on from the previous Transition Wave of research, the findings of which were published by DWP in 2011 Work Choice Evaluation: Commissioning and Transition of Clients to the Programme. The Early Implementation and Steady State research took place over two years and involved a series of case studies and interviews with programme participants, their employers, provider staff, Statutory Referral Organisations and staff from Jobcentre Plus and DWP, as well as an online survey with providers both inside and outside the Work Choice supply chains.

Findings from the research explore the success of Work Choice against the programme aims and Critical Success Factors. This includes an examination of factors which influence access to the programme and participant profile. They also cover an exploration of what works in specialist disability employment provision, a review of the Work Choice wage incentive for young people and a comparison of Work Choice and Work Programme delivery. Commissioning findings examine the provider market structure and how this was affected by the commissioning of Work Choice. They also present views on the relationship between the provider market and programme delivery, and examine other features of the DWP commissioning model, including performance management and outcome-based funding.

Full text (PDF 197pp)

Going from bad to worse? Social policy and the demise of the Social Fund

an article by Mark Drakeford and Kirrin Davidson (University of Cardiff, UK) published in Critical Social Policy Volume 33 Number 3 (August 2013)


This paper considers the origins and traces the history of the Social Fund, an ideologically-motivated social policy departure of the Thatcher era.

It identifies the controversy, in research communities amongst others, which surrounded the establishment of the Fund, and considers the evidence of recurring difficulties in its practical operation over a thirty-year period. It then turns to the Coalition administration in Westminster’s decision to divest itself of responsibility for key parts of the Fund, devolving such obligations to local authorities in England, the Parliament in Scotland and the Assembly in Wales.

The paper sets out a comparison of the approaches being developed to discharge the Fund’s prior responsibilities in the three nations.

It concludes that the essential policy thrust lies in a determination to roll back central state obligations in poverty relief and income maintenance which had hitherto been accepted by all post-war administrations.

Strategies to Avoid Audism in Adult Educational Settings

an article by Sheryl Ballenger (University of Georgia, Athens, USA) published in Adult Learning Volume 24 Number 3 (August 2013)


Humphries first defined the term audism as “the notion that one is superior based on one’s ability to hear or behave in the manner of one who hears”. Audism is a prejudice related to the physical hearing condition of the human body. The point of this article is not to substantiate or negate the term’s importance but to inform adult educators of the issues of oppression surrounding the term.

The purpose of this article is to explore the basis and origins of audism, literature supporting the idea of audism, experiences labelled as audism, implications of audism in the field of adult education, and strategies to avoid five common pitfalls of adult educators.

Understanding the term, and its usefulness to some individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, will benefit adult educators and provide strategies to avoid audism in adult education environments.

Hazel’s comment:
I had never heard of audism until I read this piece. Lots of other isms but not this one.

Determinants of Household Earnings Inequality: The Role of Labour Market Trends and Changing Household Structure

Luxembourg Income Study (LIS) Working Paper Series No. 591 by Wen-Hao Chen, Michael Förster and Ana Llena-Nozal (Social Policy Division, OECD) published June 2013


This article assesses various underlying driving factors for the evolution of household earnings inequality for 23 OECD countries from the mid-1980s to the mid-2000s.

There are a number of factors at play.

Some are related to labour market trends – increasing dispersion of individual wages and changes in men’s and women’s employment rates. Others relate to shifts in household structures and family formation – more single-headed households and increased earnings correlation among partners in couples. The contribution of each of these factors is estimated using a semi parametric decomposition technique.

The results reveal that marital sorting and household structure changes contributed, albeit moderately, to increasing household earnings inequality, while rising women’s employment exerted a sizable equalising effect.

However, changes in labour market factors, in particular increases in men’s earnings disparities, were identified as the main driver of household earnings inequality, contributing between one-third and one-half to the overall increase in most countries. Sensitivity analysis applying a reversed-order decomposition suggests that these results are robust.

JEL classification: D31, J12, J22, I30

Full text (PDF 41pp)

Government is failing to acknowledge we're not ready for ageing

via JRF blog

If the Government wants people to get ready for ageing, it needs to lead the way, says Claire Turner.

At the end of last week, the Government issued its formal response to the Ready for Ageing report published in March by the House of Lord’s Select Committee on Public Services and Demographic Change. The Committee’s report concluded that the Government and our society are ‘woefully underprepared’ for our ageing population and called on the Government to set out a clear and overarching vision, in a White or Green Paper, with analysis of the issues and the best options for preparing for an ageing society.

Continue reading

Friday, 26 July 2013

Brick wall

On Wednesday afternoon I hit a brick wall.

I think it is called “I’m over-tired”.

Rather than struggle through it I decided that a couple of days off would be a good idea. And so it has proved. Quite a bit better now so if I can do a couple of trivia posts over the weekend I can pick up on Monday.

Partly I think that I'm finding this weather very draining and partly I know that I have needed to take pain-killers for the arthritis in my knee which has decided to flare up.

The pains and perils of old age!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Dissenters, Managers, and Coworkers: The Process of Co-Constructing Organizational Dissent and Dissent Effectiveness

an article by Johny T. Garner (Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, USA) published in Management Communication Quarterly Volume 27 Number 3 (August 2013)


Previous research on organisational dissent has explored a number of issues, but that research has been overly focused on the dissenter while neglecting the active role of others in co-constructing dissent.

That line of scholarship has also tended to examine dissent expressions in isolation rather than exploring how previous experiences shape present expectations.

This essay redefines dissent to situate interaction centrally and to focus on dissent interactions over time as a process rather than a one-time event. The success or failure of dissent is conceptualised as part of that process. Such a perspective reveals nuances by including the stories and discourses that are told as part of and in addition to an initial dissent conversation.

A case study demonstrates how this reconceptualisation of dissent recognises the primary importance of interaction in constituting organisations and advances process theory by explicating the value such a perspective adds to this context.

Austerity + disability = poverty

an article by Mike Oliver in Disabilitynow newsletter (June 2013)

As cuts to social security, disability benefits and services bite yet more deeply, Professor Mike Oliver calls for the kind of lobbying, campaigning and access to shaping policy which brought results in the 70s and 80s.

Continue reading

The role of higher education in their life: Emerging adults on the crossroad

an article by Shu-Chen Chiang (National Taiwan Normal University) and Josh Hawley (The Ohio State University) published in New Horizons in Adult Education and Human Resource Development Volume 25 Issue 3 (Summer 2013)


This study describes the experience of younger, so called “emerging” adults, as they transition to full-time work, focusing specifically on the role of education in this process.

When leaving their family-of-origin, emerging adults re-centre themselves to settle down in permanent identity and different role commitments. Our findings show that the weakening of institutional ties (like school) underlies the critical stage of emerging adulthood, particularly for the non-college bound group.

Education functions, however, as an avenue to upper levels of work as the non-college bound group come to grips with the challenge of obtaining good jobs. The process of job exploration and self-identification differentiates the stage of emerging adulthood from other stages in the life-span perspective, especially for those from low socioeconomic family.

In light of this, strategies to strengthen job exploration and self-identity through the education system are proposed.

Understanding Employment Barriers for Lone Parents in Great Britain: Research Gaps and Missed Opportunities

an article by Tina Haux (University of Lincoln, UK) published in Social Policy & Administration Volume 47 Issue 4 (August 2013)


A key feature of the previous Labour government in Britain was the large increase in government-sponsored research as part of its wider commitment to evidence-based policy-making.

This article focuses on one area of government-sponsored research as a case study to examine the relationship between research evidence, policy ideas and programme evaluation. The case study chosen for this article is research on lone parents not in work commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensions between 1997 and 2010.

Following a brief review of the research, the main shortcomings in our understanding of the employment barriers for lone parents as well as the reasons for these shortcomings are identified and discussed. The reasons explaining the lack of progress are related to both the content of the research as well as the institutional set-up of research commissioning in government.

The article concludes by drawing lessons from this case study to improve the quality and potential usefulness of research for policy-making in the short and medium term.

Britain and Babies (and if you don’t know why that’s a topical headline I guess you found this article in a web search several months in the future)

via TouchStone by Richard Exall (and yes, this does have a serious point to make but not until you click through to read the whole item)

Yes, it’s July 2013 and Britain’s going royal baby bonkers! You can chuckle at the tweets of someone who hasn’t been born yet (over three thousand followers, last time I looked) and read the Guardian in royalist and republican versions (though the live coverage mainly consists of variations on the theme of “still nothing happening …” [obviously this bit of the post is going to look dated quite quickly])

Continue reading please! Lots of important research is highlighted.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

The employment equation: why our young people need more maths for today’s jobs

a research report by Jeremy Hodgen and Rachel Marks (King’s College, London) published by The Sutton Trust (July 2013)

  1. This report reviews over 50 research studies to consider the level and type of mathematical skills needed by employers in today’s economy. It considers five key questions:
    • What mathematics (level and content) is required in the workplace today?
    • How and why have the mathematical needs of the workplace changed over time?
    • In what ways is mathematics used in today’s workplace?
    • To what extent do specific workplaces have specific mathematical demands?
    • What are the implications of mathematics use in the workplace for post-16 education?
  2. This report looks in detail at the application of mathematics by those without numerate degrees in six key sectors: Health (predominantly nursing); Engineering; Construction and Manufacturing; Transportation; Retail; Finance.
  3. Mathematics participation levels in England are recognised internationally to be low. While over half of young people gain at least a C grade at GCSE maths, only 20% continue to study any maths post-16, whereas across the OECD, the majority of young people in all other developed countries outside the UK continue to study maths until age 18.
  4. The level of mathematics used by people in the workplace and required by employers for all but the most highly numerate and technical jobs is “simple mathematics in complex settings”. The academic level of the mathematics required lies almost wholly within the GCSE curriculum.
  5. However, although the mathematical content may be at GCSE level, it is embedded within complex settings and the transfer of mathematical skill to the workplace is not always straightforward. Many workplace settings require the sophisticated use of these basic mathematical skills, particularly when people in the workplace are faced with modelling scenarios. Increasingly, and particularly in combination with the use of technology such as Computer Aided Design and modelling software, employees work in collaboration to reach joint understandings.
  6. All the evidence suggests that workplaces are now technology-rich environments. Many people in the workplace are engaged in ICT, particularly in using spreadsheets and graphical outputs. However, this study finds many examples of people in the workplace using a ‘black-box’ approach to some mathematical techniques, where they lack the mathematical knowledge to understand fully the techniques they are using, to control the technology, and to understand and use the outputs.
Full text (PDF 29pp)

Mindful Authoring through Invocation: Leaders’ Constitution of a Spiritual Organization

an article by Boris H. J. M. Brummans and Jennie M. Hwang (Université de Montréal, Canada) and Pauline Hope Cheong (Arizona State University, Phoenix, USA) published in Management Communication Quarterly Volume 27 Number 3 (August 2013)


This article examines how those who hold leadership positions in an internationally renowned Taiwanese Buddhist humanitarian organisation establish themselves as legitimate authors of their organisation by invoking a spiritual leader in their daily interactions and use this invocation to author their organisation with a shared sense of compassion and wisdom.

In so doing, this article extends the literature on mindful organising and offers practical insights into the cultivation of mindfulness in an organisational setting. In particular, this study underscores the importance of understanding how a spiritual organisation is communicatively constituted by voicing a revered figure into everyday situations, illustrating the profound connections between voice, invocation, and vocation.

The long reach of childhood bullying

an article in CentrePiece (Summer 2013)

Does the fear of being bullied in childhood affect people’s resilience to adverse life events they may face in adulthood? Nattavudh Powdthavee investigates whether the ‘scarring’ effects are particularly damaging to individuals who lose their job.

Full article (PDF 2pp)

This article summarises Resilience to Economic Shocks and the Long Reach of Childhood Bullying by Nattavudh Powdthavee, CEP Discussion Paper No. 1173

Full text (PDF 44pp)

Spatial Impacts, Local Labour Market Characteristics and Housing Prices

an article by Liv Osland and Inge Thorsen (Department of Economics, Stord/Haugesund University College, Norway) published in Urban Studies Volume 50 Number 10 (August 2013)


This paper takes as a starting-point a model where spatial variation in housing prices is explained by urban attraction and labour market accessibility effects. Using data from a region in south-west Norway, estimation results are found to be encumbered, however, with significant spatial effects.

The spatial Durbin model is used to account for this and to provide estimates of direct and indirect impacts. In addition, hypotheses are tested that some of the spatial variation in housing prices reflects local labour market characteristics.

Some support is found for a hypothesis that a model specification should account for sub-centres located at some distance from the central parts of the region. The indirect impacts estimated in the spatial Durbin model suggest that spatially related misspecifications of implicit elasticities in the ordinary least squares model are mainly due to negative externalities close to areas of high labour market accessibility.

The bag is nearly empty

My usual practice for getting these blog posts written is to scan a whole load of journals in my reader (goodbye Google Reader, hello Feedly) and mark up abstracts for the articles that I think will interest you.

These items sit in Blogger (just my luck that will be the next thing that Google trashes) and I pick out five or six each day, do a little bit of twiddling and tweaking so that items look roughly similar and hey, presto.

It’s the first part of the operation that takes the time, reading through a table of contents, deciding whether it is worth my time to read the abstract, and then wondering whether you, my reader, will be interested.

Emailing into Blogger is clunkier that it was with Reader but it does work!

So, what is on the agenda for today?


Unless I go back and pick up a load of drivel for which you would not thank me there is very little coming. A few LMI items and then I’m into August’s journals already.

We could be down to three or four items a day for a while unless the quality picks up quite dramatically.

Ramble over!

Monday, 22 July 2013

Obstacles to Evidence-based Policy-making in the EU Enlargement Countries: The Case of Skills Policies

an article by Will Bartlett (European Institute, London School of Economics and Political Science, UK) published in Social Policy & Administration Volume 47 Issue 4 (August 2013)


The global economic crisis has had a significant impact on the EU enlargement region by reducing inflows of external finance. Unemployment has increased in a context of already high long-term and youth unemployment. As governments seek to restrict their budget deficits there will be little scope for much increase in government expenditure in the near future.

These effects of the crisis highlight the need for better policy-making in the region, drawing on better understanding of the causes of economic and social problems, better appreciation of the range of policy options and their relative chances of success or failure.

However, there is a substantial knowledge gap that can only be filled by well-designed research studies based on research questions that are relevant to the needs of policymakers. In this context, evidence-based policy-making techniques have a valuable role to play in improving the policy process.

This article points out the specific nature of the policy process in transition countries and the difficulties of formulating rational policy during periods of rapid structural change in which the administrations have become politicised and state capture by big business interests is common. In addition, pervasive policy transfer, often of a coercive nature, is an additional constraint on rational policy-making. The conflicting advice received from multiple donors and external advisers provides an incentive for playing the system and producing inconsistent policy formulas.

The article concludes that there is significant scope for improvement in policy-making through the use of evidence-based policy-making techniques. Governments should, therefore, encourage the use of systematic review and ex-post evaluation of policy programmes and analysis of natural experiments where possible, while at the same time maintain a realistic awareness of the dangers and distorting effects of the influence of advocacy coalitions, state capture and partyisation of economies.

Are you happy while you work?

an article by Alex Bryson and George MacKerron published in Centrepiece (Summer 2013) CEPCP390. June 2013.

Happiness surveys typically ask people to say how they feel about their life experiences in retrospect, but smartphone technology makes it possible to collect responses on wellbeing 'in the moment'. The authors use this new 'Mappiness' data source to question whether we really are happy while we work.

Full article (PDF 4pp)

This article summarises Are you happy while you work? by Alex Bryson and George MacKerron.
Full text (PDF 29pp)

A Primer on Metadata: Separating Fact from Fiction

Ann Cavoukian, Information & Privacy Commissioner, Ontario, Canada

Since the recent revelations of the NSA’s sweeping surveillance of the public’s metadata, the term “metadata” has been regularly used in the media, frequently without any explanation of its meaning. Metadata’s reach can be extensive – including information that reveals the time and duration of a communication, the particular devices used, email addresses, or numbers contacted, which kinds of communications services were used, and at what geolocations. And since virtually every device we use has a unique identifying number, our communications and Internet activities may be linked and traced with relative ease – ultimately back to the individuals involved.

All this metadata is collected and retained by communications service providers for varying periods of time and, for legitimate business purposes. Key questions arise, however, including who else has access to all this information, and for what purposes? Senior U.S. government officials have been defending their sweeping and systemic seizure of the public’s personal communications on the basis that it is “only metadata.” They say it is neither sensitive nor privacy-invasive since it does not access any of the content contained in the associated communications.

A Primer on Metadata: Separating Fact from Fiction, explains that metadata can actually be more revealing than accessing the content of our communications. The paper aims to provide a clear understanding of metadata and disputes popular claims that the information being captured is neither sensitive, nor privacy-invasive, since it does not access any content. Given the implications for privacy and freedom, it is critical that we all question the dated, but ever-so prevalent either/or, zero-sum mindset to privacy vs. security. Instead, what is needed are proactive measures designed to provide for both security and privacy, in an accountable and transparent manner.

Full text (PDF 18pp)

Home Truths: How affordable is housing for Britain’s ordinary working families?

a research paper by Vidhya Alakeson and Giselle Cory for the Resolution Foundation


One third of Britain is effectively off-limits to lower-income working families looking to rent a home privately because they can no longer afford a property in those parts of the country.

An alarming new report, Home Truths, is the first to give a comprehensive assessment of where less affluent families can reasonably afford to live, revealing that even a very modest rented home is beyond the reach of low income households in 33 per cent of all local authority areas.

Full text (PDF 38pp)

Very useful maps which show clearly where the unaffordable places are. And they’re not all predictable.

Labour Market Statistics and Regional Labour Market Statistics, July 2013

Labour Market Statistics, July 2013

For March to May 2013:
  • The employment rate for those aged from 16 to 64 was 71.4%, down 0.1 percentage points from December 2012 to February 2013 but up 0.6 from a year earlier. There were 29.71 million people in employment aged 16 and over, up 16,000 from December 2012 to February 2013 and up 336,000 from a year earlier.
  • The unemployment rate was 7.8% of the economically active population, down 0.2 percentage points from December 2012 to February 2013 and down 0.3 from a year earlier. There were 2.51 million unemployed people, down 57,000 from December 2012 to February 2013 and down 72,000 from a year earlier.
  • The inactivity rate for those aged from 16 to 64 was 22.5%, up 0.2 percentage points from December 2012 to February 2013 but down 0.4 from a year earlier. There were 9.04 million economically inactive people aged from 16 to 64, up 87,000 from December 2012 to February 2013 but down 144,000 from a year earlier.
  • Total pay rose by 1.7% compared with March to May 2012. Regular pay rose by 1.0% over the same period.
Full text (PDF 61pp)

Regional Labour Market Statistics, July 2013

Key points
  • Employment rate highest in the South East (75.1%) and lowest in the North East (66.1%).
  • Unemployment rate highest in the North East (10.4%) and lowest in the South West (5.8%).
  • Inactivity rate highest in the North East (26.0%) and lowest in the South East (19.7%).
  • Claimant Count rate highest in the North East (7.1%) and lowest in the South East (2.7%).
Full text (PDF 14pp)

Sunday, 21 July 2013

10 useless items which may interest you as much as they did me

Back after a very long break

Iron Man: 1941
via Shorpy Historical Photo Archive – Vintage Fine Art Prints by Dave

August 1941
“One end of the Hull-Rust-Mahoning pit, largest open pit iron mine in the world, near Hibbing, Minnesota. The pit is two and a half miles long, three quarters of a mile wide and about four hundred feet deep.”
Medium format safety negative by John Vachon for the Farm Security Administration
View original post

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
“What sort of person goes around saying that mass murder has a good side?” asks Ian Morris. “The sort of person who’s been surprised by his research”... more

Enid Blyton – hero or villain?
via AbeBooks by Richard Davies

Gardening guru and booklover Alan Titchmarsh has weighed in on the Enid Blyton debate after folks in Beaconsfield objected to a plaque (I originally wrote ‘plague’ instead of ‘plaque’) to commemorate the author. They say her books are racist and offensive.
Continue reading

Why Flying A Drone Is Just As Stressful As Flying A Bomber
via Big Think by David Berreby
A study of U.S. Air Force drone operators has found they experience post-traumatic stress and other mental health troubles at the same rate as pilots who are actually flying aircraft in war zones. That may sound odd if you accept the stereotype of high-tech warfighting as a bloodless videogame.
Continue reading

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Welcome to the problem-free future. “Smart” trash cans monitor your recycling, forks regulate your diet. It’s social engineering, disguised as product engineering... more

Bees sense electric charge from flowers
via Boing Boing by Xeni Jardin
Scientists are studying another element that attracts bees to flowers, in addition to colour and scent: the distinct electric field a flower emits.

Colour Mixing: The Mystery of Magenta
via 3quarksdaily by S. Abbas Raza

Arts & Letters Daily – ideas, criticism, debate
Why cursive? Done well, it’s the pinnacle of elegant handwriting, a mark of sophistication. Too bad it’s rarely done well anymore... more

The lesson you never got taught in school: How to learn!
via Big Think by Neurobonkers
A paper published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest has evaluated ten techniques for improving learning, ranging from mnemonics to highlighting and came to some surprising conclusions.
Continue reading

Famous Record Covers Transformed Into Abstract Art
via Flavorwire by Tom Hawking
We came across these abstract pieces via Creative Blog, and were rather taken with their bold horizontal lines of colour. The really interesting thing, however, is that they’re actually album covers – they’re part of a series called Average Albums, produced by artist Matt Booth via a technique that breaks the image into a series of horizontal strips and then averages the colour value of the image across each row. The result is abstract compositions that evoke the pieces they’re based on, but also have a life of their own. Interestingly, some covers jump out at you, perhaps indicating how important colour is in their composition (Nirvana’s Nevermind and Primal Scream’s Screamadelica are good examples), whereas others are pretty much unrecognisable. Either way, the results are interesting.
Check them out for yourself.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Economic place making: policy messages for European cities

an article by Michael Parkinson and Richard Meegan (Liverpool John Moores University, UK) published in Policy Studies Volume 34 Issue 3 (May 2013)


The global recession, Eurozone crisis and austerity programmes have had a huge impact upon the European economy and present even greater future threats. They have sharpened debates about policies for recovery and the role that different territories can play in this. In this context in particular they have encouraged a debate about the economic contribution of capital and non-capital cities and whether countries perform better if they concentrate their investment in their capitals or spread investment across a wider set of cities.

Drawing on the findings of a recently completed study of European second-tier cities and a review of the academic and policy literature on local and regional economic development, the paper argues the case for a ‘place-based’ approach to support second-tier cities across Europe.

The key policy messages of this approach for policy-makers at national and European levels are highlighted.

The UK’s low pay recovery

A TouchStone blog post by Anjum Klair

New TUC analysis shows that seventy-seven percent of net job creation since June 2010 has taken place in industries where the average wage is less than £7.95 an hour.

Just over one in five net new employee jobs created since June 2010 has been in the highly paid computer programming, consultancy and related services industries, where the average hourly wage is £18.40.

In the middle-paid industries, which account for nearly three-quarters of the UK workforce and where the average is between £7.95 and £17.40 per hour, there has been no net job creation since June 2010.  [my emphasis]

Continue reading

Learning is the only pathway to reducing re-offending

Posted by AmaDixon on NIACE’s More, Different and Better blog

Before I got involved with Offender Learning, or should I say when I was an unsuspecting member of the general public, my views on learning in prisons and opportunities for offenders in the community were at the very least skewed and at the very most totally off the beam. I heard somewhere once that you could do a degree in prison, in fact I have friends who include it as part of their career planning, and I believed it. I was bemused at the concept of paying for ‘criminals’ to learn. Surely we are only making them better ‘criminals’.

I never knew though that a significant percentage of people in the criminal justice system have low educational attainment levels or that there is a prevalence of mental health, learning difficulties and disabilities, drug and alcohol misuse among offenders. Neither did I know that many offenders are themselves, in fact, victims of abuse. Like the rest of Joe Public I was interested only in the sensationalism of criminality and not the root causes of it.

Continue reading and watching

OECD Employment Outlook 2013 - How does your country compare?

How does the United Kingdom compare? July 2013

The OECD Employment Outlook 2013 looks at labour markets in the wake of the crisis.

It includes chapters on the experience of different labour market groups since 2007; employment protection legislation; benefit systems, employment and training programmes and services; and re-employment, earnings and skills after job loss.

As always, it includes an extensive statistical annex.

Full press release (PDF 2pp)

Workplace trade union activists in UK service sector organising campaigns

an article by Melanie Simms (Warwick Business School, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK) published in Industrial Relations Journal Volume 44 Issue 4 (July 2013)


This article examines the roles of activists as they develop during campaigns to establish a workplace union presence. Evidence shows that there is surprising variation within and between campaigns, which is explained by:
  1. management decision making;
  2. union policies and structures; and
  3. the skills of the activists themselves.
This suggests UK union organising places considerable emphasis on supporting workplace activists with the knowledge, skills, and expertise of organisers and officers in the wider union.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Pathways back to work for problem alcohol users

Linda Bauld and Jennifer McKell (University of Stirling, Scotland, UK), Lorna Templeton (Independent Research Consultant, Bristol, UK), Karin Silver (University of Bath, UK), Claire Novak (University of Bristol, UK) and Gordon Hay (University of Glasgow, Scotland, UK) published in Policy Studies Volume 34 Issue 3 (May 2013)


The relationship between alcohol misuse, employment and unemployment is complex.

Alcohol misuse is correlated with a range of other problems, including, for example, drug misuse, mental health problems and social deprivation. Together these can be a barrier to accessing and sustaining employment.

The aim of this study was to explore these issues with a sample of adults in the UK who were currently accessing treatment for an alcohol problem. The study involved a systematic literature review followed by qualitative research with 53 treatment service clients and 12 professionals across 5 research sites in England, Scotland and Wales. The findings focus on the main facilitators and barriers, both individual and organisational, for returning to work identified by interviewees. Some of the facilitators and barriers identified were similar to those described in the literature for other groups of unemployed adults.

Others were more specific to alcohol misusers; for example, the stigma experienced by interviewees as a result of the views of others regarding substance misuse, the nature of recovery from addiction and the challenges posed by the prevalence of coexisting mental and physical health problems. Despite the problems faced by many of the study participants, however, the majority were eager to return to work, and this desire to gain employment is discussed in the context of ongoing welfare reform in the UK.

Supporting the educational transitions of looked after children at Key Stage 4: the role of virtual schools and designated teachers

an article by Jennifer Driscoll (Programme Director at the Department of Education and Professional Studies, King's College London, UK) published in Journal of Children’s Services Volume 8 Issue 2 (2013)


There has been little research on the education of looked after children over the current school leaving age of 16, although the underperformance of this cohort at Key Stage 4 (age 14-16) has been the subject of considerable academic commentary. This paper aims to contribute to understanding of the ways in which looked after young people nearing the end of compulsory education can be supported and encouraged to continue in education and training.

Interviews were undertaken with 12 designated teachers for looked after children and four virtual school heads, as part of the first stage of a three-year longitudinal study following 20 looked after children in England from years 11-13 (ages 15-18).

Participants identified particular challenges in ensuring a successful educational transition for looked after young people in year 11 and expressed concern at the cumulative effect of multiple transitions at this stage on young people’s lives. There appears, however, to be an increasing focus on and commitment to giving young people a “second chance” to acquire qualifications commensurate with their potential post-16. The comparative advantages and disadvantages of school and further education colleges for this cohort at Key Stage 5 are considered.

Practical implications
The implications of the forthcoming extension of the school leaving age for professionals supporting looked after young people post-16 are discussed.

The designated teacher for looked after children became a statutory role in 2009, and to date there has been little research on the role of these professionals, or the work of virtual schools.

Drive to get more disabled people into mainstream jobs

Press Release from Department for Work & Pensions; Department for Business, Innovation & Skills; and Department for Education

Disabled people on traineeships, supported internships, work trials and work academies to get additional help through Access to Work.

Disabled people will get more support to gain the skills and experience they need to get a job under changes to the government’s specialist disability employment scheme announced today (16 July 2013).

Disabled people on traineeships, supported internships, work trials and work academies will for the first time get additional help through the Access to Work scheme – which provides funding towards the extra costs disabled people face in work, such as travel costs, specially adapted equipment or support workers.

Minister for Disabled People Esther McVey said: “Young disabled people tell me how difficult it can be to get a job without experience – and they want the same choice of training opportunities as everyone else to help them into work. We’re opening up Access to Work to do just that – so that more young disabled people can get a foothold in the jobs market, get their careers on track and achieve their full potential.”

Recent changes also mean that businesses with up to 49 employees will save up to £2,300 per employee who uses the fund by no longer paying a contribution towards the extra costs faced by disabled people in work.

Disabled jobseekers who want to set up their own business through the New Enterprise Allowance are also eligible for Access to Work funding. Access to Work has previously been called ‘the government’s best kept secret’ so to raise awareness of the changes, the government will continue its marketing campaign – targeted at young disabled people and people with mental health conditions.

Last year the programme helped 30,000 disabled people keep or get employment. Research also shows that around half (45 per cent) of Access to Work customers would be out of work if they did not receive support through the scheme.

“How to apply” and “More information”

Are e-readers suitable tools for scholarly work? Results from a user test

an article by Siegfried Schomisch, Maria Zens and Philipp Mayr (GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences, Cologne, Germany) published in Online Information Review Volume 37 Issue 3 (2013)


The purpose of this paper is to offer insights into the usability, acceptance and limitations of e-readers with regard to the specific requirements of scholarly text work. To fit into the academic workflow, non-linear reading, bookmarking, commenting, extracting text or the integration of non-textual elements must be supported.

A group of social science students were questioned about their experiences with electronic publications for study purposes. This same group executed several text-related tasks with the digitised material presented to them in two different file formats on four different e-readers. Their performances were subsequently evaluated in detail.

E-publications have made advances in the academic world; however e-readers do not yet fit seamlessly into the established chain of scholarly text-processing focusing on how readers use material during and after reading. The authors’ tests revealed major deficiencies in these techniques.

The usability test of e-readers in a scientific context aligns with both studies on the prevalence of e-books in the sciences and technical test reports of portable reading devices. Still, it takes a distinctive angle in focusing on the characteristics and procedures of textual work in the social sciences and measures the usability of e-readers and file-features against these standards.

Risk factors in e-justice information systems

an article by João Rosa, Cláudio Teixeira and Joaquim Sousa Pinto (Department of Electronics, Telecommunications and Informatics, University of Aveiro, Portugal) published in Government Information Quarterly Volume 30 Issue 3 (July 2013)


• Conflicts among stakeholders may arise from the lack of knowledge on organized development
• Conflicts among stakeholders may arise from the lack of perspectives on the development
• Users involved acquired an ownership (almost paternity like) feeling towards the system
• The introduction of IT in the justice system must also be considered as a risk factor
• The knowledge gap between the design team and the users may impair the entire system


With the increase of the communication systems’ bandwidth and with the dissemination of the information systems, the fields of information and communication technology application expanded in almost all directions. E-government in general and e-justice in particular are no exception and these areas suffered strong changes in the last decades. There is no democracy without a system of swift and transparent justice. Therefore, the introduction of information systems in the courts allows a decrease both in time and number of pending processes, boosting the efficiency of the services provided to citizens and to the society in general.

This paper analyses and discusses different worldwide e-justice experiences. Special emphasis is addressed on the risk factors on the design, development and implementation of such systems.

Finally, we present our own experience in the development of an e-justice information system in Cape Verde, an African development country. The scope of our system ranges from the design team until the training of the justice agents.

Full text (HTML) This is an Open Access article from Elsevier ScienceDirect

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Service user research in social work and disability studies in the United Kingdom

Kathy Boxall (University of Sheffield, UK) and Peter Beresford (Brunel University, Uxbridge, UK) published in Disability & Society Volume 28 Issue 5 (July 2013)


In recent years, there has been growing interest in the involvement of service users in research as well as in research studies that are led by service users.

Although this interest in service users’ roles in research has been evident in both social work and disability studies, the two research disciplines have remained remarkably separate in the United Kingdom.

This paper examines the epistemological underpinnings of social work research and disability studies research and explores the tensions, possibilities and power dynamics of collaboration between the two research disciplines in the United Kingdom.

It concludes by outlining possibilities for social model approaches to social work research.

Postgraduate education: better funding and better access

a CentreForum paper edited by Tom Frostick and Tom Gault published June 2013

Executive Summary

Postgraduate education in Britain is like an exclusive golf club. Home graduates who lack the means to pay course fees upfront need not apply. There is no undergraduate style loans system to ensure fair access, and only very limited funding available from universities, government bodies, employers and commercial lenders. The Professional and Career Development Loan scheme, which the government underwrites, has proven to be breathtakingly inadequate. In 2010 only 5,700 students secured one of these loans – less than 3% of the total number of home students who started a postgraduate course that year.

Importantly, the huge rise in participation at the postgraduate taught level since the 1990s has not been driven by UK entrants but by a substantial increase in the number of overseas students. Participation in postgraduate research has remained broadly static during this period and the number of home graduates enrolling on taught courses has risen only gradually, appearing now to be in decline. There was a 4.5% fall in UK postgraduate participation at English institutions in 2011, while first year part time enrolments in England fell by almost a quarter. Without policy intervention, these trends are likely to continue – the club is getting more exclusive.

In this report we maintain that policymakers should seek to increase the levels of public and private investment in postgraduate education, in particular, postgraduate taught courses such as MAs and MScs. These deliver a high rate of return for individuals and government and are often a prerequisite for those wishing to undertake postgraduate research (PhD, DPhil, EngD or equivalent).

Raising funding levels will address two problems: a numbers problem and an access problem. First, if more British people obtain postgraduate qualifications, the UK will see a corresponding rise in the number of workers with higher level skills (not to mention homegrown academic talent). Employers increasingly desire these skills – evidenced by the widening ‘postgraduate degree/first degree only’ wage gap – and so should government. No country has ever seen its growth rate fall because it has overeducated its population, but there are plenty examples of countries that have suffered from having too few skilled workers.

Then there is the access problem. Postgraduate education has been described by the Sutton Trust as “the new frontier of social mobility”. The majority of home graduates who access it are from upper middle income backgrounds. They have succeeded at school, gone to university and are in a strong position to return to education. A postgraduate funding settlement is necessary to ensure better access to education’s highest tier, and is particularly important when postgraduate qualifications are becoming a common way to differentiate between candidates in an elite labour market. For some professions, they are already a de facto requirement.

CentreForum is not alone in arguing that postgraduate education needs more funding, as the independent contributions in Chapters 2 to 5 serve to illustrate. NUS, the CBI and economists Joanne Lindley and Stephen Machin present the argument from the perspective of students, employers and proponents of social mobility, while the British Academy’s Nigel Vincent and Russell Group’s Wendy Piatt present it from the point of view of academia. The latter two are especially concerned that the funding debate includes postgraduate research, with Nigel Vincent suggesting we should drop the “simplistic distinction” between postgraduate taught and postgraduate research (PGT and PGR), as taught and research programmes become ever more integrated. Wendy Piatt reminds us of the importance of postgraduate research in boosting growth and innovation and attracting investment to the UK.

In 2011, CentreForum put forward the case for income contingent loans for postgraduate taught courses. We revisit this scheme in Chapter 6 on the basis that it attracted considerable support across the higher education sector. NUS have since built upon the idea, and so we include their modelling too. An income contingent loan scheme will support growth by increasing the number of British workers with higher level skills, and it will support social mobility by widening access to postgraduate study. Better still, it is estimated to be cost neutral, as the government is in the unique position of being able to borrow at 0% real interest rates over a long period.

We accept, however, that the funding challenge will not be conquered simply through introducing income contingent loans. The contributors to Chapter 7 illustrate that there are important supplementary actions that can be taken. First, Joel Mullan from the Higher Education Commission suggests that the sector could do more to accommodate part time students by offering more flexible learning, and exploring alternative sources of finance, such as bond markets. Conor Ryan of the Sutton Trust argues that British universities should replicate the success of US institutions in increasing their endowment capacity. He persuades home institutions to set aside a significant proportion of this funding for postgraduate study, citing the University of Sheffield as an example of best practice. Finally, Andy Westwood from GuildHE urges government to proceed with caution when reforming a funding system for postgraduates that balances contributions from individuals, government, employers and universities.

In Chapter 8 we put forward a set of practical recommendations, drawn from our contributors’ analysis and our own thinking, which is intended to inform the debate around postgraduate finance over the remainder of this parliament and beyond.

Key recommendations for government
  • Government should prioritise the collection of data to establish whether current funding arrangements are suppressing demand for postgraduate education.
  • A representative pilot should be commissioned to test the postgraduate loans models put forward by CentreForum and NUS.
  • Government should amend Home Office rules on the employment of overseas students in the UK workforce after finishing their studies.
  • Funding and scholarship models for postgraduate research should be structured around a four year minimum period of study (not three).
Key recommendations for universities and the private sector
  • Groups of universities should source funds from financial markets and use the money raised from bond issuances as a facility for postgraduate students to access.
  • The tax treatment of large donations to universities should be made simpler to incentivise giving and help institutions increase their endowment capacity.
  • Universities should link a proportion of their endowment funding to a postgraduate scholarship programme targeted at students from low income backgrounds.
  • Successful collaboration between universities and business should be actively promoted by the sector.
  • As a matter of urgency, universities must review their flexible learning arrangements to ensure they can cater for students who do not wish to commit to full-time postgraduate study.
Full text (PDF 57pp)

Narrating unfinished business: adult learners using credit transfer to re-engage with higher education

an article by Ann Pegg and Terry Di Paolo (The Centre for Inclusion and Curriculum, The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK) published in Studies in Continuing Education Volume 35 Issue 2 (July 2013)


This paper seeks to advance our understanding of the credit transfer phenomenon in the UK, specifically how students draw on a credit as a form of institutional cultural capital.

Drawing on interviews with 26 part-time mature learners, this paper examines the progressive and retrospective orientations to study that surfaced in students’ accounts of credit transfer and their lifelong learning journeys. A common theme of ‘unfinished business’ appeared to dominate these accounts and a narrative-oriented analysis of the findings revealed the role of credit transfer in enabling students to complete varied personal projects or forms of ‘unfinished business’.

The findings of this work suggest that in an increasingly complex higher education market, there is a need to understand students’ strategic use of the credit they accumulate. In particular, this paper explores how credit transfer features in the narratives of students’ successful learning journeys.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Why investing more in the capital can lead to less growth

an article by Lewis Dijkstra (Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy, European Commission, Brussels, Belgium) published in Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society Volume 6 Number 2 (July 2013)


This article argues that investing in a wide range of city sizes, or a portfolio of places, can be more conducive to growth than primarily investing in the largest city. A range of cities allows each firm to find its optimal city. This reduces the needed size of cities and thus congestion costs.

Less-developed European Union Member States have large and growing productivity gaps between their capitals compared with the rest of the country.

More-developed Member States have much smaller productivity gaps. Therefore, growth in the second-tier cities in less-developed Member States is likely to outpace growth in the capital in the medium term, yet public investment may be too focused on the capital city.

JEL classifications: O18, R12

Still in the Ghetto? Experiences of Secretarial Work in the 21st Century

an article by Catherine Truss (University of Kent, Kent Business School, Chatham Maritime, UK) and Kerstin Alfes, Amanda Shantz and Amanda Rosewarne (affiliation(s) not provided) published in Gender, Work & Organization Volume 20 Issue 4 (July 2013)


Secretarial work has been described as one of the most persistently gendered of all occupations.

Historically, it has been characterised as a ghetto occupation with three key features:
  • low status and poor pay,
  • narrow and feminised job content and
  • poor promotion prospects.
Twenty years ago, when a major study last took place in the UK, it was thought that new office technologies might transform the role, leading to a newly defined occupation equally appealing to both men and women.

In this article, we report on the findings of a questionnaire survey involving 1,011 secretaries. We found evidence of continuity and change. Secretaries are now better qualified and generally well-paid. A minority is undertaking complex managerial tasks. However, most secretaries continue to perform traditional tasks and career prospects for all remain bleak.

We conclude that processes of role gender-typing are deeply entrenched and that secretarial work remains largely a ghetto occupation.

Dead media: Obsolescence and redundancy in media history

an article by Tara Brabazon (Charles Sturt University, Australia) published in First Monday Volume 18 Number 7 (July 2013)


Adjectives attend the new: fresh, clean, exciting, dynamic, innovative and productive.

Oppositional binaries cling to the old: tired, worn, redundant, sick, slow and useless.

While anti–discrimination policies can address these connotations when applied to people, the consequences of such ideologies on ‘old media’ are under–researched. While media and cultural studies departments teach ‘New Media’ courses, ‘Old Media’ courses remain invisible and unpopular.

This paper extends these adjectives and narratives by following a challenge Bruce Sterling posed to researchers: to understand ‘Dead Media.’

I explore the origins of this term and how and why an interest in Dead Media has — in itself — died.

Full text (HTML)


Thank you, readers.

I know it is only numbers but you nearly made it to 300 posts read yesterday. Only another four to go so maybe next Monday you will really make my day between you.

Onwards and upwards.

And if there’s anything in particular that you think I’m not covering then do please let me know.

Public attitudes towards social mobility and in-work poverty

a report published by the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission (June 2013)

Introduction - background and methodology

The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission is an advisory non-departmental public body (NDPB) of the Department for Education, the Department for Work & Pensions and the Cabinet Office.

The Commission was established with a remit to:
  • publish an annual report setting out progress made in improving social mobility and reducing child poverty in Great Britain;
  • provide published advice to ministers at their request on social mobility and child poverty; and
  • act as an advocate for social mobility beyond government by challenging employers, the professions and universities amongst others to play their part in improving life chances.
This research was undertaken to explore current attitudes to factors related to social mobility and in-work poverty among the general public.

The research used a TNS/BMRB omnibus survey with a representative sample of 2,272 adults (aged 16+) across England, Scotland and Wales.

Respondents were interviewed face-to-face in their own homes using Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) devices between 15th and 31st March 2013.

Respondents in Wales and Scotland were over sampled to allow for more detailed analysis of responses in these countries, however survey weights have been applied to ensure the overall results are representative of the adult population of Great Britain.

Full text (PDF 21pp)

Monday, 15 July 2013

What can wages and employment tell us about the UK’s productivity puzzle?

a research paper by Richard Blundell (University College London and Institute for Fiscal Studies) and Claire Crawford and Wenchao Jin (Institute for Fiscal Studies) published by IFS (June 2013)


This paper uses individual data on employment and wages to shed light on the UK’s productivity puzzle. It finds that workforce composition cannot explain the reduction in wages and hence productivity that we observe; instead, real wages have fallen significantly within jobs.


One possibility we investigate is higher labour supply in this recession than in the past. Another is lower trade union membership. Alternatively, it might be driven by a fall in productivity as a result of a lower capital-labour ratio.

We cannot tell whether productivity is driving wages or vice versa, but understanding why wages have fallen within jobs is at the heart of the UK’s productivity puzzle.

JEL classifications: J01, J21

Full text (PDF 32pp)

A model of re-evaluating international partnerships in universities: a UK example

an article by Rami M. Ayoubi (Damascus University and Ministry of Higher Education, Damascus, Syria) published in European Journal of Higher Education Volume 3 Issue 2 (June 2013)


International cooperation and partnerships became as an important asset for UK universities, where in order to facilitate such international cooperation, selecting partners and arranging partnerships are considered as major organisational steps towards the success of the partnership itself.

This study aims at investigating the organisational process of international strategy in UK universities through institutional partnerships. Focusing on the ‘mechanisms’ of international partnerships, the study results are based on data collected in earlier work by the author with senior and very senior university managers from four UK civil universities.

The results indicate that the mechanisms of international institutional partnerships for each university of the four universities in this study are grouped into the process of partner selecting and the process of arranging partnerships. The study ends up with a model of organisation of international partnerships in universities. When evaluating international partnerships with other universities worldwide, managers can rely on this model as a monitoring model.

Researchers in the field are encouraged to test the viability of the study results.

Second Career Labour Markets: Assessing Challenges – Advancing Policies

a research paper from Bertelsmann Stiftung (Germany) and European Policy Centre (Brussels) Laura Naegele, Eric Thode and Claire Dhéret named as responsible

Executive summary (introduction)

Europe’s population is ageing and its workforce is continuously shrinking. At the same time people live longer and they are healthier and fitter which allows them to participate in society and the labour market far beyond their 60’s. In order to secure growth prospects and innovation within the EU, labour market integration of older workers is imperative and recent years have shown that more and more retirees keep engaged in the labour market. Although all-over conditions seem to be favourable, existing barriers and disincentives still hamper employment prospects of older workers often resulting in premature withdrawal from the labour force.

While the assessment of the situation appears to be quite clear, a considerable number of questions still exist when it comes to encouraging older workers to stay in the labour market, on the one hand, and to adjusting European labour markets in order to facilitate longer decent working lives, on the other:

How should labour market institutions be reshaped in order to provide easier access to employment?

How can enterprises and social partners contribute to enhancing employment opportunities for older workers?

And how can workers themselves take more initiative to maintain and improve their employability?

This study addresses these questions by assessing the current challenges faced by older workers and putting forward policy recommendations on four distinct levels comprising government, social partners, enterprises as well as individuals. Building upon the most recent research findings and the expertise of a task force of renowned experts this research does not claim to offer a “one-size-fits-all” strategy for all EU Member States. Complemented by a series of best practice case studies the assessments and proposals found herein are rather to be taken as general principles policy makers across Europe should take into consideration when adapting to the predominant challenges presented to older workers in their respective Member States.

Full text (PDF 64pp) with lots of very clear graphs and charts which made it, for me, very easy to understand!

Quicker growth in agreed pay in 2012 eroded by price hikes

Development in collectively agreed pay, annual update, July 2013

EIRO’s annual analysis of collectively agreed pay for 2012 finds that although average nominal agreed increases were slightly greater than in 2011 in many countries, the rise in prices diminished people’s purchasing power. In real terms, only a handful of countries had positive collective pay increases on average – and, if so, then very modest. In 2012, these were Sweden (+1.7%), Austria (+0.8%), Germany (+0.6%), France (+0.4%) and Belgium (+0.4%, already including indexation). In the case of Austria, this was a return to positive figures after two years of real decline on average. In countries where some form of pay indexation mechanisms are in place, the increases set via these mechanisms did – by and large (with the exception of Italy) – compensate for the rise in prices in 2012, while they had failed to do so in 2011. The report also examines collectively agreed pay increases in three selected sectors (metal, banking and local government) and developments in statutory minimum wages.

The annual update was compiled on the basis of individual national reports submitted by the EIRO correspondents. The text of each of these national reports is available below. The national reports have not been subject to Eurofound’s standard editorial process. The national reports were drawn up in response to a questionnaire and should be read in conjunction with it.

Full text (HTML in sections)

New Questions for E-Government: Efficiency but not (yet?) Democracy

an article by Alexandru V. Roman and Hugh T. Miller (Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, USA) published in International Journal of Electronic Government Research Volume 9 Issue 1 (2013)


E-government’s rise to prominence in the early 1990s was met with great enthusiasm amidst the promise that information communication technologies (ICTs) might fulfill the demands and expectations for improved democratic governance. Since then, significant progress has been made in terms of information provision and delivery of public services; yet, dialogue, a core dimension of democratic governance, remains largely unrealised within the digital context.

This study employs content analysis within the frame of a check-off research protocol to determine if the population of state websites has the capacity to support digital democratic dialogue. The key question is whether there is an emphasis within the milieu of state websites to support e-dialogue outside the provision of information and e-services.

The analysis suggests that efficiency rather than dialogue is the primary focus in the design of the state websites.

Is, therefore, e-government a new development in the historical effort to enforce efficiency as a core value of governance?

Hazel’s comment:
Efficient for the government maybe but trying to administrate your systems in an online environment increases the digital divide, provides little or no flexibility, and is largely undemocratic.

Objective but not detached: Partisanship in industrial relations research

an article by Ralph Darlington (University of Salford, UK) and John Dobson (Riga International School of Economics and Business Administration, Latvia) published in Capital & Class Volume 37 Number 2 (June 2013)


This article considers whether industrial relations (IR) research is objective, impartial or value-free, and argues that many IR academics in Britain have tended to start from a social-democratic premise which makes them relatively more sympathetic to the interests and objectives of workers and their trade unions than to the business needs of employers and managers.

Focusing attention on the partisanship of those who have made a distinctive ‘radical/critical’ contribution to IR scholarship, it advances the argument that IR can, at one and the same time, be both partisan and objective.

Acknowledging the real potential dangers of bias in adopting a methodological approach that states, in the words of C. Wright Mills, ‘I have tried to be objective, but I do not claim to be detached’, it provides a defence of the potential merits of partisanship, provided it is underpinned by rigorous scholarly research.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Perceptions of work as a route away from crime

an article by Sam King (Based in the Department of Criminology, University of Leicester, UK) published in Safer Communities Volume 12 Issue 3 (2013)


The purpose of this paper is to examine the perceptions of work as a means of desisting from crime among a group of male probationers.

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with male probationers to ascertain their views on desistance from crime and the factors which would enable or constrain them in their endeavours.

The research found that individuals regard employment as a key conduit to maintaining desistance from crime, but that several barriers exist to achieving this. Crucially, the research found that individuals identified various difficulties associated with external agencies to whom they had been referred for assistance in obtaining employment. This poses questions of the current government’s approach towards expanding public-private partnerships in probation.

Research limitations/implications
The research is based on a small sample of 20 male probationers. However, the findings suggest that further research should be conducted in this area.

Social implications
The research raises questions about recent government policy in this area, and about the effectiveness of some approaches designed to reduce reoffending.

The research examines an area of desistance which has previously received little attention. The findings are of concern for academics and practitioners concerned with desistance and recidivism.

Hazel’s comment:
And also of concern, I would have thought, for practitioners trying to help ex-offenders find and retain suitable employment.

The determinants of student mobility in Europe: the quality dimension

an article by Linda Van Bouwel and Reinhilde Veugelers (KU Leuven, Belgium) published in European Journal of Higher Education Volume 3 Issue 2 (June 2013)


The Bologna Process in Europe aims to increase student mobility, with the purpose of increasing average university quality through fiercer competition for students in a larger, more unified market. However, this beneficial effect of increased student mobility will only occur if student mobility is guided by quality considerations.

We examine whether the quality of a country’s higher education system helps explain macro-flows of foreign tertiary students in Europe. Using various measures for the quality of a country’s higher education system in an extended gravity model, we find that quality has a positive and significant effect on the size and direction of flows of students exchanged between 31 European countries.

At the graduate level, however, the driving force for student mobility appears to be the lack of educational opportunities in the home country.

Muslims, benefits and teenage pregnancies: the perils of perception

The scale of our collective error is startling, as a new survey by Ipsos MORI shows.

People are wildly wrong when we ask them about many aspects of life in Britain. It’s perfectly understandable that we don’t having a precise image of who lives here and the extent of key social issues - but the scale of our collective error is startling, as highlighted in a new survey by Ipsos MORI for the Royal Statistical Society and King’s College London.

Just to pick out three: on average, we think 24% of the population are Muslims – when the real figure is around 5%; we think 31% are immigrants – when the official figure is 13%; and we think 36% are aged 65+ - when in fact only 16% are.

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