Weekly news roundup: Diversity dominates discussion in US and UK

By Nicole Wootton-Cane• Last updated: Oct 30, 2023
Weekly news roundup: Diversity dominates discussion in US and UK
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Diversity is leading the higher education conversation this week, with institutions in the US and the UK both making moves to help students from disadvantaged and underrepresented groups. 

However, there has been more confusion around university admissions in England, as education secretary Gavin Wiliamsom cancelled exams, but then said students may need to take external “mini exams”. 

And New Zealand announces its recovery plan for international education, which will see some international students allowed to return to the country. 

Here’s your weekly higher education news roundup. 

Cambridge aim to diversify student body with new pathway

The prestigious University of Cambridge have announced a new foundation year course that will be accessible for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The course, which is fully funded, will start in October 2022, and provides a pathway for those who have had complex journeys into higher education to gain a place at the university. 

Instead of the usual A*AA admissions grades, eligible students will need to receive three B grades to get admitted to the course. 

The move comes after fierce criticism of universities such as Oxford and Cambridge for not doing enough to help students from care backgrounds, who have health problems, or a number of other disadvantages, to be admitted. 

A number of UK universities have paused rent payments in university accommodation for students unable to return to their rooms due to the latest lockdown. 

Among those introducing the rebate is the University of Manchester, who were forced to cut rent costs last semester after a group of students occupied an accommodation block in protest. 

However, debate rages on over whether universities or the government should foot this bill, with vice-chancellors and unions calling on Downing Street to cover all costs incurred by students being refunded. 

Universities are also calling on the government to clarify details around changes to A levels, following the announcement that exams will not take place this summer. 

Grades will now be based on teacher predictions, but it remains unclear whether results day will stay the same, and how grades will be distributed. 

Last summer, universities were thrown into chaos after the government first used an algorithm to calculate A level grades, before going back on their decision. They are keen to avoid such confusion this year, but say they need more details from the government in order to prepare.

USA prepares for end of Trump administration 

As Trump becomes the first president ever to be impeached twice, his administration shows signs of crumbling.

Education secretary DeVos became one of many officials to resign from the cabinet last week following Trump’s incitement of a mob attack on the Capitol. 

And leaders of Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are calling on the Biden administration to give them research subsidies on the same level provided to white-majority institutions. 

The universities say that it is an essential move towards levelling the playing field and promoting diversity in the country’s higher education sector.

The Biden administration has already laid out funding HBCUs as one of its top HE priorities, and with Democrats now set to take over both the White House and Congress, the possibility looks increasingly likely. 

New Zealand to reopen borders for 1,000 international students

New Zealand has announced that it will begin to readmit international students into the country from April.

The country is currently COVID-19 free, but has kept its borders shut in an attempt to limit the possibility of reintroducing the virus into the population.

The new announcement will see 1,000 international students allowed to arrive throughout the year, starting with 300 in April. 

Priority will be given to students already enrolled in institutions, who are close to graduation. 

Chief executive of Education New Zealand Manapou ki te Ao Grant McPherson welcomed the announcement, which he said “not only signals the government’s commitment to the international education sector, but to international students affected by the pandemic, too”.

“We are very pleased to see the government progress the safe return of international students to New Zealand.”

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