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Oxford first for research funds

first_imgOxford has secured £118.9m of government money in the latest assessment from the Higher Education Funding Council. The sum will be the largest given to any university this year.The success comes after the university performed well in the latest Research Assessment Exercise, which judges the quality of academic research. The exercise found that 70% of Oxford’s research could be classified as “world class.”Dr John Hood, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, expressed his delight. “This is testament to the brilliance and commitment of our academics, and reflects both the breadth and depth of Oxford’s research activity.”Oxford’s success comes despite several other universities, including Cambridge, gaining a higher average rating for their research in the RAE. A University spokeswoman said that while the proportion of Cambridge’s research rated internationally significant was higher, “in terms of absolute numbers we simply had more research rated 4* and 3* – ie, we have more world-class research. That’s reflected in the funding.”Although Oxford and other traditionally research-intensive universities continue to dominate funding, they have lost ground in the latest round of assessments to newer universities, including Oxford Brookes. The trend is a result of the new methodology adopted by the research assessment exercise in 2008, which sought to reward “islands of excellence” in a much wider range of institutions.Sir Roy Anderson, the rector of Imperial College London, told the Times Higher Education supplement, “the Russell group, which represents the major UK research-intensive universities, has collectively suffered a reduction in its share of the sector allocation of these funds.”LSE has been hit particularly hard by the reforms, which have also seen a shift of emphasis in favour of natural science research. The college has announced that it faces a 13% reduction in research funding.While Oxford’s RAE performance remained strong, university administrators here have shown signs that they are not immune to the concerns expressed by other Russell Group Universities. Dr John Hood was keen to qualify his joy at the funding, saying “the increase in this funding on last year does not keep pace with the increase in our activity or our costs. We will not stop urging our friends and alumni to support our world-leading research and teaching. That is more crucial in the current economic climate than ever.”Spokesmen for the new universities, meanwhile, said their successes reflected strengths in specialist areas which had been overlooked by the old assessment method.last_img read more

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News story: Modular versus linear GCSEs: does the structure of exams matter?

first_imgTeachers and education leaders will discuss the findings at an event in London today that will further understanding of the effect of assessment structure and policy on students in England. The research will be published shortly after today’s event has concluded.Dr Michelle Meadows, Executive Director for Strategy, Research and Risk, Ofqual, said: Our findings have been really surprising in a number of ways. We might have expected to see that modular examinations were easier, or at least easier for some of the groups we investigated, but we found no such differences. The comparable outcomes approach to setting standards has played a key role in this. Professor Jo-Anne Baird, Professor of Educational Assessment, University of Oxford, said: Overall, the literature review points to claims that linear exams favour longer-term retention of information and deep learning, whereas modular exams allow regular feedback on performance which can be motivating for some students. However, reflecting a number of caveats, the quantitative evidence suggests that modular and linear GCSEs lead to similar outcomes overall. The research did not support claims that modular or linear exams tend to favour male or female students, or affect the outcomes of low and high socio-economic status students differently. During interviews conducted between April and November 2015, and again in May 2017 following the introduction of the first reformed GCSEs, many teachers reflected positively that student performance could be assessed with greater fairness and validity through linear GCSEs. Teachers had mixed views on the subject of stress. Some expressed concerns about the potential impact of linearity on the wellbeing of those students who require additional support, others noted that the elimination of the continual testing associated with modular GCSEs may reduce stress for some students.center_img Teachers were concerned about the change to linear GCSEs when we spoke to them before the recent reforms. How they adapted during the period of this research has been impressive. We have been able to look at the effects of the changes on teachers’ practices and many can see benefits to the introduction of linear examinations. They also report that they would now like a period of stability. Ofqual and Oxford University’s Centre for Educational Assessment are today (Monday 29 April) publishing the findings of a 3-year joint research project on the impact of modular and linear exam structures at GCSE.Academics and researchers from both organisations collaborated on the project, Examination Reform: The Impact of Linear and Modular Examinations at GCSE. The research considers whether change in the structure of GCSE exams has affected standards, fairness, teaching and learning practices, cost, and students themselves. The project included a systematic review of existing literature on the advantages and disadvantages of modular and linear structures; extensive analysis of GCSE outcomes between 2007 and 2014, focusing on English, maths and science; and research into teachers’ views.The research is part of Ofqual’s ongoing work to ensure that exam reforms are operating well for the young people who take them. In summary, we conclude from the range of evidence gathered, that in the current educational context, linear exams are more suitable at GCSE than modular exams. In particular:last_img read more

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Please Trespass: Private Property the Future of Conservation

first_imgPhoto: Courtesy: Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy/Bearwallow Mountain There’s a 50-mile trail system in the works for the Hickory Nut Gorge, a dramatic canyon on the edge of the Southern Appalachians 30 miles east of Asheville. The giant loop of singletrack will connect high elevation balds, rocky outcroppings with views of the Smoky and Black Mountains, swimming holes and trout streams, backcountry campsites, even a fire tower. It will be the thread that ties together the gorge, a chasm known for its dramatic rock features and world-class rock climbing. And it’s being built almost entirely on private property.The Hickory Nut Gorge Trail Network (HNGT) is the brainchild of Peter Barr, trails coordinator for the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC), a non-profit that preserves land with private funding, then typically opens that land to the public, often building new trails with sweat equity donated by the Carolina Mountain Club. For the HNGT, the conservancy is looking beyond their own properties and buying public right-of-ways from private landowners throughout the gorge. The right-of-ways allow the conservancy to build a trail on private land while ensuring public access to the trail corridor forever, regardless of who owns the land.“Getting this massive project off the ground is complicated, but it’s doable,” Barr says. “It starts with a few landowners who see their land as something so meaningful, they want to share it with others.”While the 50-mile loop will take decades to complete, the first piece of singletrack is already on the ground, ascending Bearwallow Mountain. A 12-mile Upper Gorge loop that connects Bearwallow with nearby Forest Nature Preserve is currently in the works as well. The HNGT might be one of the most ambitious trail projects to be undertaken on private land in our region, but it’s certainly not the only instance of private conservations opening gates to hikers. As federal and state funding for public land continues to diminish, private land conservancies are shouldering the conservation and recreation responsibility more and more. And as many conservationists have learned over the years, the best way to garner public support and funds for a conservation project is to grant public access.“If I can get someone to the top of Bearwallow Mountain, they’ll see why land conservancy is important,” Barr says. “Giving the public access makes the land relevant.”Here are four private preserves in the Southern Appalachians that are ripe for some friendly trespassing.Lula LakeLookout Mountain, Ga.Just south of Chattanooga, the Lula Lake Land Trust preserves 4,400 acres of primo terrain on the edge of rocky Lookout Mountain. The core 500-acre property is packed with rocky outcroppings, a plunge pool with its own 30-foot cascade, a separate 85-foot waterfall, and six miles of doubletrack, all encased inside an impressive Cumberland Plateau escarpment. Lula Lake is only open on the first and last Saturdays of each month, but the property is worth the wait. Mountain bikers and trail runners should also check out Lula Lake’s other property on Lookout Mountain, which houses a piece of the Cloudland Canyon Connector Trail, a new 26-mile trail system open to fat tires that will eventually connect to Cloudland Canyon State Park, also on Lookout Mountain. lulalake.orgBearwallow MountainHickory Nut Gorge, N.C.Bearwallow is the CMLC’s flagship trail project in the Hickory Nut Gorge and serves as the public right-of-way model as the group moves forward with the ambitious 50-mile network. Hike the mile-long trail up Bearwallow, a 4,232-foot high bald that sits on the Eastern Continental Divide, and you’ll understand the potential of the project. Bearwallow is still a family-owned property where cattle graze seasonally. From the top, you can see the Smokies, the Blacks, and into South Carolina. There’s also a firetower that Barr is trying to restore, which will offer views into the belly of Hickory Nut Gorge, taking in Chimney Rock and Lake Lure.The Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy is so adamant about getting the public on their properties that they’ve created a hiking challenge, where hikers can earn gear and a patch just by treading through a series of trails on CMLC lands. carolinamountain.orgPendergrass Murray Recreational PreserveRed River Gorge, Ky.This 750-acre tract of land in the southern end of the Red River Gorge is packed with quality sandstone cliffs and climbing routes. The Red River Gorge Climbers Coalition purchased the land in 2004 and is poised to make the last payment on the property this summer. Since acquiring the land, the group has developed a system of hiking and biking trails as well as almost 500 climbing routes that range from 5.6 to 5.14. Sign a waiver and make a donation (not mandatory, but it’s good karma) and the cliffs are yours to scale. For easier sport and a few trad routes, head to The Crossroads crag. If you want to see the best sport climbers in the country tackle some of the hardest routes in the Red, go directly to the Bob Marley crag, an amphitheater with very tall, very steep rock. rrgcc.orgBottom Creek GorgeRoanoke River, Va.Owned by The Nature Conservancy, the Bottom Creek Gorge tract covers 1,650-acres of land at the headwaters of the Roanoke River. You’ll find virgin forests, wildflowers galore in the spring, and the second tallest waterfall in the state, the 200-foot Bent Mountain Falls. Roughly five miles of trail traverse the gorge. Seeing the falls is a must, but also take time to explore the remote virgin hemlock forest, as well as the half-acre shale barren which supports the rare chestnut lipfern, a plant that only lives in isolated patches in southwestern Virginia and eastern West Virginia. read more