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Education Forum founder Dennis Hayes has written an essay for a new Higher Education Policy Institute report, What is the student voice? Thirteen essays on how to listen to students and how to act on what they say

…Often people argue that the university should be a safe space for discussion. But that is not what “safe space” means today. It means a place where ideas that are deemed unacceptable by the emotionally offended can be excluded. But that is not a university. … Students should leave their safe spaces, managerial committees and destressing programmes and get back to raising their traditional voice. This may seem nothing like a return to the student radicalism of the 1960s but in contemporary therapy culture it would be equally radical...

Read the full essay here.

A national ‘great debate’ in England would be more effective than imposing free speech champions and threatening fines, writes Dennis Hayes for Times Higher Education…

You might be tempted to say that today’s announcements from the Department for Education (DfE) indicate that academics in England have lost the war for free speech and academic freedom. It is certainly startling that the government has felt the need to resort to threatening universities and students’ unions with fines if they don’t actively promote free speech. But the truth is that universities never even fought a skirmish in defence of free speech, never mind a war.

Instead, with the exception of some notable individuals, academics passively watched free speech and academic freedom disappear though institutional indifference and fear of challenging the political consensus on campus.

Institutional indifference begins at the most senior levels. This is not an attack on vice-chancellors. Many express strong support for free speech and academic freedom, both personally and in public. What they must ask themselves, however, is whether they know enough about what is happening at lower levels in their institutions to ensure that free speech and academic freedom are upheld…

Read the whole article at Times Higher Education. (Free registration required).

Reflecting on the shift to online learning during the pandemic, Education Forum founder Dennis Hayes argues that important arguments around online learning, face-to-face teaching, and the importance of education itself have still to be won.

If someone had said back in 2019 that most university teaching could go online within a few months, no one would have believed it. They would have been told that it would take years for academics and universities to prepare.

The pandemic of 2020 showed that it was possible to move teaching online fast. A pragmatic decision made necessary by a government lockdown changed university teaching almost overnight.

Some excellent university technicians facilitated huge technical changes to teaching. This was very impressive, but it was merely a technical shift that had no basis in professional or curricula development. The argument for online learning had not been won.

A few universities went ‘online only’, but others went for a blended approach. The blended universities recognised that students wanted face-to-face teaching. But this was another pragmatic decision aimed at keeping students and avoiding the conflicts that erupted over fees and accommodation costs at the online-only universities.

The blended approach worked, even if it meant only three hours on campus each week and ended only when the government imposed further lockdowns, but it had no basis in professional or curricula approaches. The argument for face-to-face teaching had not been won

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