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United Kingdom Education Government Privacy Security

Big Brother Is Coming To UK Universities (theguardian.com) 75

An anonymous reader writes: An upcoming report by the Higher Education Commission, a UK group of MPs, business and academic professionals, will paint a picture of a higher education system that, thanks to the increasing use of data, may undergo radical change, sometimes with painful ethical considerations. Among their visions: an Amazon-style recommendation service on courses and work experience based on individuals' backgrounds, and similar profiles. Or a system in which students at risk of failure can be identified from their first day so that they receive instant feedback and performance measuring. It is envisioned that the system will include knowing whether they are in lectures, at the gym or in the bar, and in an effort to boost their results, students may also want to share data on their fitness, sleeping patterns, and their academic and semi-academic interactions online.
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Big Brother Is Coming To UK Universities

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    > [...] students may also want to share data on their fitness, sleeping patterns, and their academic and semi-academic interactions online [...]

    Now we know how important sexual activity (especially at the typical student age) is. Why not also share data on their sexual life (preferences, frequency, duration, time-to-orgasm, etc.)?

    I'm sure they could find good industry partners to set a public-private partnership!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Attending lectures works for many. But some reads on their own and do just as well that way. Nothing wrong with attending the gym or the bar either - successful people are often enough both fit and social. Some drop-outs fail due to the bar perhaps, but some spend all their time reading and fail anyway - not having talent.

    So this excessive monitoring is silly - what they can measure has very little correlation to academic performance. Students at risk of failure can readily be identified through existing p

    • by Anonymous Coward

      So this excessive monitoring is silly - what they can measure has very little correlation to academic performance

      As a former uni prof, I wholeheartedly agree.

      Perhaps UK universities need to test their students a bit more often

      Ye Gads! This is the ENTIRE problem with modern education.

      The main reason I stopped teaching was because we spent more and more time testing and monitoring, less and less time teaching. Every test is another missed class, and more extra curricular work for the prof - do you you think we just create and mark them in 5 minutes over coffee? Lord - we have to do two or three rounds of exam design->critique by fuckwits in admin - before we get them OK'd, and this i

    • Attending lectures works for many. But some reads on their own and do just as well that way. Nothing wrong with attending the gym or the bar either

      All this is true the problem is getting the balance correct: you can't spend ever night in the bar, you must spend a reasonable amount of time reading etc. The problem students have getting this balance right is that the standards in secondary schools has dropped significantly over the past few years. Couple that with insane new initiatives at schools such as "no grade zeros" and retakes of exams if they don't do well enough the first time and you have incoming university students who don't expect to need

  • by korgitser ( 1809018 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @06:58AM (#51342685)

    "People who put up with this in the university, also went on to become amazon warehouse employees, and went on to fit in just fine."

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Tutorials identify the weak students pretty quickly. Specific gradings are uncertain, but likely failures are obvious.

    In general I think it is the responsibility of the student to sort themselves out as an adult, not the university's job to enforce sensible behaviour, especially by expensive and futile monitoring that will be easily circumvented. Failure *is* the punishment for drinking yourself stupid for three years. Personal responsibility damnit.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    An upcoming report by the Politicians Advisory Board will paint a picture of a political system that, thanks to the increasing use of data, may undergo radical change. Among their visions: an Amazon-style recommendation service on lobby contacts and media outlets based on individuals' backgrounds, and similar profiles. Or a system in which politicians at risk of falling into oblivion can be identified from their first day so that they receive instant feedback and performance measuring. It is envisioned that

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ....without constant supervision, then you are obviously not university-material. ...or rather: if all the dumb and stupid people are taking over our institutions of advanced eductation, then where do the *actual* smart people go?

    • You're confusing "motivated" with "smart".

      • You're confusing "motivated" with "smart".

        If you're at university doing something you're interested in you shouldn't need any more motivation. And if you're not interested you shouldn't be at university in the first place.

  • by Feral Nerd ( 3929873 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @07:28AM (#51342731)

    Among their visions: an Amazon-style recommendation service on courses...

    I went to a university where they did this and it is a pretty double edged weapon because the students who spent their lecture time playing online games or posting on Facebook ended up giving courses and the lecturers bad reviews because they blamed the course/lecturer for their bad grades rather than their own procrastination. The knee-jerk reaction of lecturers was to ban laptops and mobile devices in lectures which had a detrimental effect on me and the others who actually used their laptops to take notes. I for one gave courses where I was not able to take electronic notes a lower grade than I otherwise would have even though I understood why the lecturer banned computer devices and even though I generally liked the course and the lecturer's performance because it forced me to spend double the time I normally would re-writing my paper-notes in electronic form. Basically I don't think applying this form of a product rating system to courses and lecturers is a good idea because it can give you a very skewed idea of the situation. I say let the procrastinators fail and let them piss and moan about it at home, don't give them a forum at school to do that. If they want to play games in class rather than take notes it's their own damn fault and if they want to waste of their own money that way that's their business. That way people who actually pay attention and use their computers for learning are not disadvantaged. Banning computers in lectures just forces the procrastinators to find new ways to procrastinate.

    • At least you got to give some visible feedback on your course.

      I remember very well when I went to university that while some of the lecturers were great, too many were clearly just phoning it in, with a level of presentation skills and lack of commitment that would have prompted immediate intervention by management in almost any other professional setting. Spending many hours in a lecture theatre as the bad lecturers droned on adding little insight with their commentary or even just literally writing their

      • by mikael ( 484 )

        For legal reasons, my university took a register of every student who attended a lecture. That way they had a legal defence if anyone claimed the course notes were hopeless. They actually had one student who actually turned his lecture notes into a book back home.

        • I'm curious: How would that give them any useful evidence in the event of legal action? Is the idea that if the student didn't slavishly turn up to the 28th lecture after the first 27 were rubbish, the university could claim the student didn't really try or something?

          • by mikael ( 484 )

            For the record, they had university lecture notes that were no different from any other university (undergraduate courses are usually taught from the textbooks that every other university uses). The theory was that if a student didn't attend lectures and get the handouts that were provided, they would fail that course, and then fail to get a pass to go to the next year. So if the university could prove that the student had attended the lecture and got the handouts, then if the student failed, then that was

    • The easy fix would be to only accept comments from people who passed the class. That probably weeds out the idiots who didn't even make an effort and would just complain. If someone still passed and thought it was a hard class or didn't like the instruction style, then as far as I'm concerned they probably have some valid criticism. Alternatively, you can also list the pass/fail rate for the class which should clue students in to the difficulty of the material.

      Besides, there are already plenty of other e
  • Count the visa numbers of the foreign students in and out. Make sure they attend real university courses and dont just drift into full time employment with a digital student ID on computer database thats a fake front for a university.
    When they have done with their course send them back home or offer them some rapid degree to work deal if they have great grades. No over staying or ability for the failed or mediocre to just to slip into the work force for many years.
    Ensure every student is at their tutori
  • by Big Hairy Ian ( 1155547 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @08:31AM (#51342897)
    After working on implementing new systems in a leading UK University all I can say is good luck trying to achieve this and can I be a fly on the wall for the first five years of "Go Live" being postponed because nobody can agree what colour the logo should be.

    Basically the chances of this being implemented are zero

  • by Coeurderoy ( 717228 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @08:41AM (#51342923)

    There are two models of education, either "society" invests in its future and education is free or close to free (including higher ed.)
    because educated people are the ones who are able to builds a long term sustainable economy and pay our retirements.
    Or education is an individual choice and you should pay for it, and society just invest to avoid loosing some of the outliers among people without the necessary means...

    In the first case it might be argued that "as society pays" they have "some right of supervision" ... although the kind of students who can be "properly supervised" are also the kind of students you do not want as future colleagues...
    In the second case, WTF how dare you define "how" I'm supposed to organize my time, ok I'm not allowed to do a strip tease in a restaurant just because I ordered food, but how much I eat, if I eat, and what exactly I choose are the privileges I BUY.

    Now our bright politicians supported by armies of idiots are doing their best to give us the worst of both models...

    You pay through the nose huge amounts of money, and you have very little say about what you really study, how, at what rythm and now they want to hover over students schoulders to make sure they act "as expected"....

    So the only advice I have is : study things you are really interested in, or who are helping you learn things useful for some future goal, find the cheapest place possible to study, at least for the untergrad part (for graduation studies, if you have to pay for it, you probably aren't good enough, work harder ....)
    And do no try to study "for work"/"to be adapted to the industry/corporate/business world", what ever that world will be when you start to really look for a job, it has little to do with what your professors know now, and close to nothing to do with the world as it was when the courses where designed ...
    So "use" professors for what they might be good at, scientific knowledge and knowing how to learn...

    And for the rest, try to find an activity that you really like (well not this one, another additional one :)) and use it to mingle with interesting people, create your own "competing network" to build what "top universities and schools" are offering.

    Good luck

    • In the first case it might be argued that "as society pays" they have "some right of supervision" ... although the kind of students who can be "properly supervised" are also the kind of students you do not want as future colleagues...

      The students ARE society. THEY are paying too, in the form of debt — not just theirs, but the nation's.

      • It depends on the country, the US/UK model is "you pay through the node you lazy bastards" including things that they "really need to be the best scientist an thinker for the future" like 0.5 Giga $ for the UCB statium "renovation" ....
        Other countries still believe that it's saner if the whole society pays for the education of the next generations...

        So yes everybody is part of the society, but it does not mean that everybody has access to something paid by all, or not ...

  • WTF??? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Thursday January 21, 2016 @08:42AM (#51342925) Homepage

    It is envisioned that the system will include knowing whether they are in lectures, at the gym or in the bar, and in an effort to boost their results, students may also want to share data on their fitness, sleeping patterns, and their academic and semi-academic interactions online

    Why the hell would people want this shit?

    Is this just to get people used to living in a surveillance society?

    How about none of your fucking business? This constant sharing of every aspect of your life is idiotic.

    You're in school to learn, in part, who the hell you are. This shit is getting ridiculous.

    The world doesn't need analytics of every goddamned thing you do. And one of these days all these people who have plugged everything into their smart phone will realize just what they've really been giving away.

    Yeah, get off my damned lawn. I don't want any of your tracking doodads. This shit sounds like a terrible idea to me.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      This sort of data could be quite useful to the individual, if it were kept entirely private. Say it never left their phone, which of course is encrypted. I've used sleep monitors and fitness trackers to analyze my lifestyle and found the results helpful, but I never allowed that data to leave my phone/PC.

    • by KGIII ( 973947 )

      I'd already done four years in the Corps before I went to school. I returned and did four more years and then did another four years of college. I was the old man on campus. Errr... I honestly can't even begin to name, or count, the number of women I slept with. Sadly, I'm not kidding. :/

    • Since most young people these days (I know, get off my lawn) spend all their waking lives in constant phone/text/messenger/facebook communication with other people I shouldn't think the notion of surveillance bothers them in the slightest.
  • That one guy thought a dashboard for the college would be great. IT said, yeah, we can do that, and then when the guy left the meeting, they all looked at each other. If they pull this off, I'm going to request the feature be added where you can zoom in on someone's eyeball to see the reflection of what they were looking at. This will be so cool.

  • What's depressing about this is not so much that the data is available, but that important idiots will use the data to make significant decisions about students. You can bet they will do it even without any evidence that library time is an independent variable causally responsible for positive outcomes, and that A- students who go to bars are somehow worse employees/grad students/med students/interns than A- students who go to the library.

    There is a growing pressure in universities to reward students merely

    • by gweihir ( 88907 )

      It will kill higher education in the ultimate consequence. Not a problem though, because the UK has been in decline for a long time now. Empires die slowly. On can only strongly recommend to any smart UK students to get their education somewhere else.

  • Education above a certain level (and the western states are critically dependent on having a significant number of people getting education above that level) is a very individual process and vastly different for everybody. Hence this may work for producing dumb but somewhat educated public servants, but it will fail for anything above that level.

    Not really a problem though, the UK has massively overstayed their welcome as a member of the first world anyways. Their attempts to correct that are therefore a de

    • You need to make up your mind whether the UK is a second rate soon-to-be-third -world embittered ex-imperial power, or one of the architects of the New World Order trampling on the healthy non-fluoridated bodies of the Glorious American People in the attempt to impose capitalist-zionist-socialist-lizard-overlordism on an unsuspecting world.
      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        There are no other options in you world? My condolences to you for having a small mind...

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