So much for educational devolution…………………?


University College London has overtaken Cambridge in research quality rankings
London universities are breaking up the traditional dominance of Oxford and Cambridge, according to official figures on research excellence.

The London School of Economics has the highest proportion of “world-leading” research among UK universities. In rankings based on research grades, University College London has overtaken Cambridge for the first time. The research ratings will determine the allocation of £2bn public funding for universities each year.

The findings are based on a massive funding-council project evaluating the quality of research at universities across the UK, with the last similar exercise having been published in 2008. The Research Excellence Framework measured the quality of research from more than 52,000 academics in 154 universities. It revealed the rise of London institutions, catching up and overtaking Oxford and Cambridge and the decline of big universities in the north of England.

William Cullerne Bown, of Research Fortnight, which analyses research and funding, said “London looks unstoppable” and universities in the capital “could now eclipse Oxbridge”. He said this process would be further accelerated by major plans for expansion at University College London (UCL) and Imperial College. “The biggest losers are Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Birmingham and Leeds. The North is taking a hammering,” he added. “The government is indeed rebalancing the economy – but towards London instead of away from it. Outside the elite in the South East, almost all the other leading universities in England now face relentless decline.”

Highest proportion of world-leading research
London School of Economics             49.9%
Oxford                                                     48.1%
Cambridge                                              46.8%
Imperial College London                     46.4%
University College London                 42.6%
Cardiff                                                     40.5%
King’s College London                         40.2%
Edinburgh                                              37.6%
Warwick                                                 36.9%
Bristol                                                     36%

The growing concentration of higher education resources and excellence in London follows a wider trend in education, which has seen schools in the capital outstripping the rest of England. International rankings have also shown UCL and Imperial matching or overtaking the traditional Oxbridge duopoly.

The figures from the higher education funding councils for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland show that 30% of the research submitted was “world leading” and 46% was “internationally excellent”.

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said that unless there was an increase in overall budgets, funding would increasingly be concentrated in fewer places, such as the so-called “golden triangle” of London, Oxford and Cambridge. He warned that this “could have some dramatic regional effects” for other universities.

UCL’s provost, Michael Arthur, said: “There is clearly a London factor at work in today’s outcome. This is a global city, which makes attracting world class researchers that bit easier for our universities. Our popularity with students worldwide has also helped to drive funding and expansion.”

There are no official rankings produced by the funding councils, but Research Fortnight has produced its own league table showing how the “market share” of research funding could be distributed – weighted to take into account that bigger research teams are likely to get more. This puts the University of Oxford in top place, but University College London has now taken second place ahead of Cambridge.

The vice-chancellor of Oxford, Andrew Hamilton, welcomed the recognition for research across a “huge range of subjects and of the real impact they have on health, prosperity, policy formation and culture around the world”.

Imperial College is one of the most highly rated research universities and is also able to claim to have the best results from the evaluation, with the highest combined level of “world leading” and “internationally excellent” research – with 91% of its submitted work falling into one of these top categories.

There are also ratings by individual subject areas. These are based on the work submitted for evaluation – so some universities are assessed on hundreds of academics while others are measured on the work of a handful.

Most world leading research by subject area
London School of Economics
King’s College London

Madeleine Atkins, chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, said the exercise showed that “UK universities are in the top rank of an internationally-competitive research community”. Universities Minister Greg Clark said: “Britain’s outstanding reputation in research is founded on excellence. A rigorous and unflinching review by fellow experts assures that excellence, this is why the REF is such a crucial driver of quality.”

Source BBConline

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My Favourite Photographs of 2014

I have spent a good deal of time in the last year out and about photographing the countryside and various events. The Yorkshire Sculpture Park is a never-ending delight and I have spent many a happy hour wandering along the Huddersfield Narrow Canal between Wellhouse and Slaithwaite photographing different aspects of the canal.

Three "young tykes" get excited as the riders approach...........

Three “young tykes” get excited as the riders approach………..

I was doing a review of the photographs I have taken in the lat year to try to decide which was my favourite. Of course shots of the “white cathedral” in Vilnius, Lithuania were in there along with the “three crosses” in the same city.

Keep pedalling dad, the peloton is catching up..........

Keep pedalling dad, the peloton is catching up……….

The event of the year for me was the Tour de France coming to Yorkshire. Blessed with glorious weather for the two days the tour showed Yorkshire at its finest, and who will ever forget the riders ascending Buttertubs Pass and Holme Moss surrounded by thousands of cheering spectators.

So it was very difficult to choose a photograph but eventually I decided I had to choose two which epitomised my day at the race just outside of Skipton. They are not of the riders but shots of various spectators who created such an atmosphere that day…………

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The above photograph was taken at sunrise over Golcar in West Yorkshire whilst the one below was taken mid-morning from the outskirts of Bury looking across to manchester


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Grey, damp December mornings…………………..

Grey December morning.....

Grey December morning…..

Took this photo the other day on my way to the bakery…………grim morning but wonderful reflections from the canal…………..

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Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves……………….”sublime singing”

There are certain pieces of music that simply touch the soul and the “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves” form Verdi’s Nabucco is one of those. So if you wish to have your spirits raised, listen to the above excerpt from the New York Mets performance several years ago when the response from the audience was such that they immediately sang it again……….one of the very rare occasions that a chorus has done an encore.

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You can even buy an elephant here!

My adopted hometown of Huddersfield in West Yorkshire is a typical old northern industrial town that has had to regenerate, as many of the old industries have died out.

View of Huddersfield Market

View of Huddersfield Market

Huddersfield is near the confluence of the River Colne and the River Holme. Located within the historic county boundaries of the West Riding of Yorkshire, it is the largest urban area in the metropolitan borough of Kirklees and the administrative centre of the borough. The town is known for its role in the Industrial Revolution.

Fruit and veg..............

Fruit and veg…………..

One of the features of the town is the “open market” that takers place several days a week. There are a couple of fruit and vegetable stalls where produce can be bought at significantly cheaper prices than the supermarkets (one of which is less than 100 yards from the market). It is quite staggering the difference in price of many items of food and highlights how much the supermarkets are inflating prices to the consumer.

Fancy a CD or DVD?

Fancy a CD or DVD?

Moreover, fruit and veg on the market is not pre-packed, you can touch and feel the produce before buying and the traders will tell you if something is not quite ripe for eating.

It is noticeable that many of the customers are members of the various ethnic communities in Huddersfield and who have probably come from countries where open markets were the norm. There are also members of the student fraternity who have obviously sussed out that their money will go much farther by shopping on the market.

This is specially for MSG

This is specially for MSG

On various days there are “flea markets” and “open boot sales” where you can almost buy anything on this earth. I am sure that if you asked a stall holder “do you sell elephants?” they would respond with “would that be African or Indian you are looking for?”

I will just slip into something a little more casual...................

I will just slip into something a little more casual……………….

There are many stalls selling books from modern paperback to those of antiquarian age. I recently picked up “The Concise English Dictionary” dated 1915 (and presented to someone as a Sunday School prize) for the princely sum of 50 pence. I also bought a mint condition 5-volume set of Spike Milligan’s autobiography for £1.00. If you fancy wearing a “sari” then this is you chance to buy one cheap………..or possibly several bags of nails.

Bag of nails sir?

Bag of nails sir?


It is probably fair to say that whatever you need to buy, no matter how obscure or weird, there is a very good chance of finding it at the market. There is even a stall selling guitars, mandolins and ukeleles (just to let my friend and colleague know!)

Finally, I must mention the “characters” who run some of the stalls, whose witty banter provides untold entertainment at times.


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Women in Europe ‘better educated but paid less’ (no surprises there then!)


The gender pay gap in Europe ranges from about 100 euros (£79) to 700 euros per month, the ILO report suggested.

In the UK, women earn about 28% less than men on average, the UN body found. In all the countries studied around the world, a proportion of the pay gap is unexplained, implying discrimination, it said. “The actual gap varies from about 4% to 36% across all of the 38 countries we looked at,” ILO economist Kristen Sobeck told the BBC World Service.

In Europe in 2010, the bottom-earning 10% of women workers earned about 100 euros per month less than the bottom 10% of men. And the top 10% of high-earning women earned close to 700 euros per month less than the top 10% of men.

The ILO looked at education, experience, seniority, work sector, location and work intensity. It found that in about half of the countries studied around the world women had a stronger or better combination of those characteristics, yet were paid substantially less than men.

“For example, in the case of Sweden, what we see is that the overall gap is about 4%, but when you look at the characteristics of women and what they would be paid otherwise, the gap would turn the other way, and women would actually earn about 12% more than men,” Ms Sobeck said.

In the UK, about one-third of the pay gap can be explained by men having attributes such as more experience or more seniority, but there is still “a huge gap” that Ms Sobeck said could be due to discrimination.

The ILO recommended a number of ways to overcome the difference in pay between men and women, including wage policies and equality legislation.

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