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Dr Simon Sneddon, Senior Lecturer in Law writes:

This time last year, I decided to take advantage of the fact I have built up a number of smaller Postgraduate qualifications over the years, and use the Accreditation of Prior Learning route to put myself in a position whereby completing a 15,000-word dissertation would give me an MA in Education. Naively, I assumed I could do this over the summer, but it ended up being a mad scramble to submit.[1]

The research was based on a project I had completed the previous year, using funding from the Institute of Learning and Teaching, but with the addition of a second iteration of the research, and a model I was trying out.

The research part was based on the delivery of sessions using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, piloted in 2016/17 and rolled out in full in 2017/18. The idea of the model started with a more or less throwaway line used in a keynote presentation at the ILT Conference in 2017, about making sure that when we use technology in teaching, we are not using it just for the sake of it. I borrowed a phrase from my environmental law teaching, and called it the “Best Available Technique) – it also allowed me to close the presentation with a version of the Batman symbol.

I looked at how we as educators use technology, and the results were quite interesting. Young[2] argues that smart classrooms are not the whole answer, and that without training teachers and students how to get the most from the technology, it is not effective. Students, he suggests, believe that a teacher using technology badly is worse than one who is not using it at all. This is backed up by Guess[3] who says that “good teachers are good with or without IT and … poor teachers are poor with or without IT.” IT therefore, and by extension TEL, can be regarded as a tool, an enabler, or a means to an end (the ‘end’ being better teaching and enhanced student experience) rather than the end itself. It is not a novel approach – Laurillard[4] posed the provocative question “what is the problem for which MOOCs are the solution” and concludes that for her purposes there is a problem (global lack of teachers in primary level education) and that “MOOCs could be part of the solution” (my emphasis).

Cuban[5] rather archly observed two unexpected outcomes of a study into e-learning in California in the early 21st century, namely that “the overwhelming majority of teachers employed the technology to sustain existing patterns of teaching rather than to innovate … [and] … only a tiny percentage of high school and university teachers used the new technologies to accelerate student-centred and project-based teaching practices.”

Having suggested that teaching will not be rescued by indiscriminate use of technology, I had to come up with a way of filtering things, so came up with this very early BAT in TEL model, to try and map the environmental law BAT standard to TEL.

Proposed BAT in TEL Model, with an explanation of each stage.

Definition (based on Directive 2010/75/EU) Explanation
BAT shall mean the most effective and advanced stage in the development of activities and their methods of operation which indicate the practical suitability of particular technologies for providing the basis for the enhancement of student experience and attainment. This means that innovation which is adopted for its own sake will never be BAT-compliant. However, innovation which is adopted as a pilot (to understand its pedagogic implications and applicability), could become the BAT of the future.
‘Techniques’ shall include both the technology used and the way in which the teaching space is designed, built, and operated This satisfies the points made by authors about appropriate use of smart classrooms, the IT provision and the ability to develop competency.
‘Appropriate’ techniques shall mean those developed on a scale which allows implementation in the relevant sector, under technically viable conditions, as long as they are accessible to the operator For large-scale adoption of an aspect of technology, and the way in which it is used, the approach would have to have a proven track history of pedagogic value. It would not include, for example, techniques that have not been previously applied in an L&T context, but would allow for innovations which have been used in one subject area, or for one particular task, to be used in a different subject area, or a different task. For example, taking an approach from the business sphere (block chain) and applying it to L&T would not qualify as BAT until it had been proven to have a positive impact. Taking a technological advance used in Geography, such as Geomapping, and applying it to specific aspects of Law could qualify, however (see BHRRC, OLM).
‘Best’ shall mean most effective in achieving a high general level of student enhancement As with the original (1996) BAT, and notwithstanding the grammatical problems, there can be more than one “best” in each sector, and across sectors.


What this table demonstrates is that mapping the pollution control BAT onto a TEL BAT is possible. In addition to the basic framework, which could be adopted at subject, faculty, institutional or sectoral level, further guidance could be provided by subject centres and AdvanceHE, in the form of BAT Reference Documents (BREF) as articulated by Article 11 of the 2010 Directive.

These would be a central depositary for research into the use and effectiveness of different technological interventions. Whether this is classed as “dwarves perched on the shoulders of giants” (Bernard of Chartres, Troyan[6]), or “sharing best practice” (McCarthy & Bagaeen[7]and others), “avoiding worst practice” (Felder & Brent[8]) is purely a matter of semantics. The important aspect is that such a database, which is already starting to emerge in a fragmentary way (e.g. the HEA / Paul Hamlyn Foundation / Action on Access “What Works” programme), would allow learning and teaching practitioners to assess the viability of different approaches to their own teaching, their own subject areas, their own expertise and their own students.

There would still be space for those at the cutting edge of technological learning and teaching research – as Sharma puts it “[w]hat is normal today will soon be obsolete, and what is innovative today will soon be normal. Adoption and keeping pace with new technology is not an option but is core.”[9]

This is an area in which I will continue to work, and I hope to develop a more nuanced model in the future. I would, of source, welcome any input.

[1] Thank you to my supervisor for being so understanding!

[2] Young, J. R., 2004. When Good Technology Means Bad Teaching, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 51 (12), A31 at

[3] Guess, A., 2007. Students ‘Evolving’ Use of Technology. Inside Higher Ed. at

[4] Laurillard, D., 2014, What is the problem for which MOOCs are the solution? IOE London Blog,

[5] Cuban, L. 2001. Oversold and underused: computers in the classroom. Cambridge, MA:

Harvard University Press, p134

[6] Troyan, S., 2004, Medieval Rhetoric, London: Routledge

[7] McCarthy, J., & Bagaeen, S.,2014, Sharing Good Practice in Planning Education, York: Higher Education Academy,

[8] Felder, R., & Brent, R., 2015, Teaching Blunders to Avoid: Ten Worst Teaching Mistakes, Iowa State University, Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching,

[9] Sharma, A., 2017, If you are not innovating today, you won’t be around tomorrow,

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Karen Lawson, Senior Lecturer in Law writes 

Recent high profile revelations about sexual harassment in the media have shed a spotlight on this issue for all workplaces. Senior lecturer in law Karen Lawson takes a look at the current legal position and whether the law goes far enough in protecting victims of sexual harassment at work.

Equal before the law

Given the current outpouring of allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace, a person would be forgiven for thinking that the law simply did not deal with this issue.

However, there are detailed provisions prohibiting sexual harassment at work in the Equality Act 2010.  Under section 26 three types of harassment based on sex are prohibited:

  1. Harassment related to sex;
  2. Sexual harassment; and
  3. Less favourable treatment because an employee rejects or submits to harassment.

The first – harassment related to sex – is the type of harassment which is not sexual in nature but is based on a person’s gender. This covers such conduct  such as male work colleagues placing tools on a high shelf which makes it hard for female workers to reach or telling sexist jokes which are not directed to one particular person.[1]

The second – sexual harassment – consists of a wide range of conduct which is of a sexual nature. The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (‘EHRC’) guidance on sexual harassment and the law gives the following examples:

- displaying sexually graphic pictures, posters or photos

- suggestive looks, staring or leering

- propositions and sexual advances

- sexual gestures

- intrusive questions about a person’s private or sex life, and discussing your own sex life

- sexual posts or contact on social media

- spreading sexual rumours about a person

- sending sexually explicit emails or text messages

- unwelcome touching, hugging, massaging or kissing[2]

The third type relates to where an employee rejects sexual harassment or sexual advances from a colleague or manager and then is treated less favourably as a result, such as being denied a promotion.

In order for the conduct itself is considered to be ‘harassment’ it must be:

(i)    ‘unwanted’; and

(ii)   have the ‘purpose or effect’ of either violating the victim’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.

For this purpose the definition of ‘unwanted’ means ‘unwelcome’ or ‘uninvited’ (Insitu Cleaning Co Ltd v Heads[3]). In addition, it can include conduct which occurs only on one occasion (Insitu) and conduct  which is ‘inherently unwanted’ (Driskel v Peninsula Business Services Ltd[4]) meaning that the employee is not expected to make it clear in advance what type of conduct they find to be ‘unwanted’ or that sexual harassment only applies to a series of incidents.

If the unwanted conduct is intended to have the result stated above in (ii), then this is enough in itself to amount to harassment.

However, even if an employee did not intend for their unwanted conduct to have the result stated in (ii) above, it can still be harassment if the effect of that conduct is to make their victim feel that their dignity has been violated or it creates an intimidating, hostile etc environment for them. Whether or not the unwanted conduct is considered to have that effect, depends on the perception of the victim; the other circumstances of the case and whether it is reasonable for that conduct to have that effect.

Law vs Practice

Despite the legal position on sexual harassment being clear, the practice still exists in workplaces. Recent research undertaken by the Trades Union Congress (‘TUC’) and the Everyday Sexism Project suggests half of all working women – and two-thirds of young women – have been sexually harassed at work[5].

So why does sexual harassment persist in UK workplaces?

Between December 2017 and February 2018, the EHRC gathered evidence from around 1,000 individuals and employers on the issue of sexual harassment at work and found that for many employees the workplace consisted of “corrosive cultures which silence individuals and normalise harassment”.[6]

The EHRC identified a number of key issues which result in sexual harassment persisting in the workplace:

  • the existence of a power imbalance between the perpetrator of the sexual harassment and the person being harassed.[7]

Many victims of sexual harassment are often harassed by someone more senior to them. This means the victim fears that they will be victimised if they complain or that their employer will not deal with their complaint because of the senior position held by the harasser and around half of those surveyed by the EHRC had not reported their harassment to their employer.  For those victims who had complained, many reported that the harasser was not challenged by their employer due to their senior position and was ‘untouchable’.[8]


  • Employer inaction and/or poor response.

The EHRC noted that “In around half of the cases where individuals did report the incident, respondents said that employers took no action as a result. Many other respondents described instances where their employers’ response to a report of sexual harassment was to try to minimise their complaint or silence them”.[9]

Many victims of harassment felt they were viewed by their employer as a ‘troublemaker’, or in some way to blame for ‘encouraging’ the harassment or it was laughed off by the employer as ‘boys being boys’.[10]


  • Lack of support to report harassment and lack of training.

Although many employers trained line managers on sexual harassment, only half of employers surveyed trained other staff and only two in five employers included information on what behaviour is considered to be harassment and how to report it in their induction programmes.[11]


Beyond #MeToo

In its report the EHRC made a number of recommendations which it wants the government to implement, including a mandatory duty on employers to take reasonable steps to protect workers from harassment and victimisation in the workplace and  a statutory code of practice on sexual harassment and harassment at work, specifying the steps that employers should take to prevent and respond to sexual harassment.[12]

The House of Commons women and equalities select committee have  launched their own inquiry into harassment, which will include harassment at work and in particular the use  by employers of non-disclosure agreements in sexual harassment cases.[13]

The significance of campaigns like #MeToo and the Everyday Sexism Project is that it has revealed the extent of sexual harassment at work and that the existing law is failing to protect employees. The reasons for this include society’s attitudes to what is acceptable behaviour and what constitutes ‘harassment’, as well as a culture in some workplaces that actively discourages reporting incidents of harassment or fails to take those reports seriously. There are also flaws in the legal system, such as preventing Employment Tribunals which have found that an employee has been sexually harassed from being able to make recommendations which could change the wider workplace culture.  A statutory code of practice as recommended by the EHRC would provide clarity for employers on their obligations towards employees who report incidents of sexual harassment and bolster the existing legal framework.

Karen Lawson


If you are interested in exploring the issues raised in this article further, the University of Northampton is holding an Equality Conference on the 19th September which will have papers on all aspects of sexual harassment and a seminar on workplace sexual harassment. For more information please contact



[1] Practical Law practice note ‘Sex discrimination’ at pages 18 and 19

[2] EHRC ‘Sexual harassment and the law guidance for employers’ at page 2

[3] [1995] IRLR 4, EAT

[4] [2000] IRLR 151, EAT:

[5] Alexandra Topping, ‘MPs launch inquiry to consider tougher laws on sexual harassment’, The Guardian, published 15th January 2018 available at

[6] EHRC ‘Turning the tables ending sexual harassment at work’ at page 2

[7] EHRC ‘Turning the tables ending sexual harassment at work’ at page 5

[8] EHRC ‘Turning the tables ending sexual harassment at work’ at page 5

[9] EHRC ‘Turning the tables ending sexual harassment at work’ at page 6

[10] EHRC ‘Turning the tables ending sexual harassment at work’ at page 6

[11] EHRC ‘Turning the tables ending sexual harassment at work’ at page 10

[12] EHRC ‘Turning the tables ending sexual harassment at work’ at pages 13 &14

[13] Alexandra Topping, ‘MPs launch inquiry to consider tougher laws on sexual harassment’, The Guardian, published 15th January 2018 available at

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Dr Simon Sneddon, Senior Lecturer in Law writes:

This week I had a new floor laid on top of the original floor boards in my house. The carpet, a dark green monstrosity with gold flecks, had lurked on the floor since we moved in, looking more and more decrepit, until we decided to rip it out and get some nice solid oak floor.

“It’ll be cold” my mother said.

The advantage (though some might say downside) of living as we do is that we have amassed in excess of 2,000 books in the house, some work related, most not, and these all needed to be moved out of the rooms which were destined to be re-floored required emptying. 2,000 books, and the shelving required to hold them, take a lot of dismantling, and storing, so for a number of weeks we lived in a state of semi-chaotic cardboard box storage.

The floor itself had an interesting journey. Bought locally, ordered from a supplier in the Netherlands, and accidentally delivered to Guernsey. The order was rectified and a new set couriered from Den Haag overnight. I did not know this, but real wood flooring is best if it acclimatises to the house for a couple of days before fitting, so that took a couple of days extra.

The floor is now fitted and the shelving and contents are replaced (we redecorated the room in the most of it, since it was empty!), minus the three large bags of books which went to the charity shops. Another thing I didn’t know is that some charity shops no longer accept donations of books, as apparently they don’t sell well. As a bibliophile, this is bad news, and not the thing I wanted to hear. I went to Oxford to check on this, and was very pleased to discover that Blackwells was as rammed as ever. Great old bookshop (other retailers are available) and I could happily lose a day or two rummaging through their stock.

After a frantic and chaotic couple of weeks of dismantling and remantling the room, we had a free afternoon on Sunday, and sat in the sun (interspersed with periods in the shade, it was very hot!) with a glass or two of prosecco, a good book, and a proper chill out.

My thoughts turned to the issue of prevarication, equivocation, vacillation, or the delightful tergiversation (thanks Oxford English Living Dictionaries!). I am bad for this, but placate myself with the knowledge that I “work best under pressure.” I probably don’t, but I have never got myself organised enough to not have to work under pressure, that’s a resolution for 2019 perhaps.

I am doing it here, spending lots of the post on setting the scene.

We live very busy lives. I know that some of you reading this from outside the academic life will sniff at this and make some comment about teachers and long summer holidays, but I promise if those halcyon days ever existed, they don’t now. There are barely two weeks in a row without meetings, teaching, graduation or the ever-increasing administrative load.

The problem with being busy is that we don’t get time to stop and do nothing. Doing nothing is brilliant. As a kid, I remember days on end of doing nothing, and I loved it.

The same is true now. I don’t get many good ideas, but those I do get come when I am being idle. Philip Stanhope, the 4th Earl of Chesterfield said in the 18th century that “idleness is only the refuge of weak minds” (Letters to his Son 1746-1747). I align myself with the Danish philosopher Kierkegaard who said “far from idleness being the root of all evil, it is rather the only true good.”[1] His argument was that rather than idleness, boredom was the root of all evil, and that bring constantly busy puts us “in a class with the brutes, whose instincts impel them always to be on the move”. More so, “every human being who lacks a sense if idleness proves that his consciousness has not yet been elevated to the level of the humane.”

Our students are more or less finished got the academic year, and will soon disperse. I would encourage them all to spend some of the summer being idle. Embrace your humanity, enjoy yourselves, relax, refresh, recharge.

Don’t get bored.



(Oh, and by the way, the floor isn’t cold.)

[1] Poole, R and Stangerup, H., eds. 1989, The Laughter is on my side: An imaginative introduction to Kierkegaard, Princeton University Press, p41

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Kate Exall, Senior Lecturer in Law writes: 

There was an irony in the fact that 50 years to the day after the start of the Dagenham pay strike, the Institute of Fiscal Studies published a report on graduate future earnings which showed that 5 years after graduation men earned 15% more than women.   In the legal field, these figures equate to £31, 504 for men and £27,844 for women.[1]  With the gender pay gap in April 2017 running at 9.1% there

is still work to be done.  This half century fight is far from over. In fact, the Fawcett Society estimates that it will take another 100 years to close the gender pay gap at the current rate[2].  Surely this is not what the women of Dagenham were fighting for and not what the equal pay legislation was designed to do?

The current crop of statistics makes for sobering reading.  All firms employing over 250 people were required to publish their average difference between male and female employees by April this year.  Of those who had posted by the deadline, the figures showed that over 75% of companies pay their male employees more than their female colleagues[3].  Analysis carried out by the Financial Times shows that in a female dominated industry such as education, only 9% of employers pay women more or the same as men.   This research also noted that whilst 1 in 3 women in a company are in the lowest paid quartile only 1 in 5 women are in the highest paid quarter. The figures are effectively reversed for men.[4]

The reason given is that there are more men in top roles than women.  So why do the men get the top jobs or get the promotion opportunities?

There are of course a number of factors here but the one I will focus on in this article is what employers can do to encourage women to apply for the job in the first place.  Iris Bohnet, a visiting professor at Harvard Business School, says that “Many women won’t apply for a job unless they meet almost all of the listed requirements” and “Men tend to have a lower threshold for applying.”[5].  She recommended reviewing the wording of job descriptions as this may put women off applying for promotion.

The words used in the job descriptions can, often unconsciously, use gender biased language which are likely to encourage one gender or the other to apply.  In research carried out by Total jobs, they analysed over 70,000 adverts over a 6 week period to establish the scale of the problem.[6] They found that the most commonly used male – gendered words in UK job descriptions were “lead”, “analyse”, “competitive”, “active” and “confident” and the most commonly used female – gendered words were “support”, “responsible”, “understanding”, “dependable” and “committed”.

They also discovered that the split across industries is quite stark, so that social care jobs had 87% more female words in them, with cleaning at 72% and sales at 35%.  Linking this to research from the Office of National Statistics, it will come as no surprise to learn that the women in the lowest paid group made up of caring, leisure and other service occupations make up 78% of the full-time employees.[7]

The Totaljobs research also noted that senior level positions tend to be skewed towards male applicants so that in 55% of director jobs the language was more masculine for example. This correlates to the ONS research in 2017 which showed that in the highest paid occupations eg chief executives and senior officials 72% of those posts were held by men and that there was a 25% gender pay gap in this area[8]

Some simple things may therefore help to encourage women to apply for promotions or senior posts such as changing job descriptions by putting them through an online gender bias checkers and looking carefully at the requirements and expectations of a particular job.

However, this is a very small step in the struggle for equal pay and female representation at higher levels with organisations.   There is still continuing gender pay inequality in the UK which has a multitude of causes, many of which are deep rooted in society and often link to expectations of men and women in the workplace.  The research on the wording of job applications does nothing to dispel that view.





[1] Institute of Fiscal Studies: “The relative labour market returns to different degrees” 2017 available at


[3]  Aleksandra Wisniewska, Billy Ehrenberg Shannon and Sarah Gordon; “How women are short changed in the UK” 2018 Financial Times available at


[4] Aleksandra Wisniewska, Billy Ehrenberg Shannon and Sarah Gordon; “How women are short changed in the UK” 2018 Financial Times available at


[5]Carmen Nobel “How to take gender bias out of your job ads” 2016 available at

[6] Stephen Warnham “Total Jobs study reveals that UK Job adverts carry unconscious gender bias” 2017 available at

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Dr Simon Sneddon, Deputy Lead for the Centre for the Reduction of Firearms Crime, Trafficking and Terrorism writes:

At the tail end of last year, the Home Office published a consultation on whether the law on antique firearms should be amended. The consultation closed in December, and as of May 2018, the results are still awaited.

The consultation followed on from a 2015 Law Commission Report, “Firearms Law – Reforms to Address Pressing Problems”, Chapter 4 of which looked into issues around antique firearms.

Currently, s58(2) of the Firearms Act 1968 states that “nothing in this Act relating to firearms shall apply to an antique firearm which is sold, transferred, purchased or acquired or possessed as a curiosity or oddity.”

The term “antique” is not defined anywhere in the Act, and neither is “curiosity or oddity” and it is left to Home Office guidance to specify though guidance as to what fits within these categories. The most recent Home Office “Guide to Firearms Licensing Law” was published in 2016, and steers clear of giving a precise definition, leaving the final decision “for the chief officer of police and for the courts to consider each case on its merits” (p53, para     8.3).

Further in the same paragraph, the Guidance document sets out that:

“The Home Office has always taken the view that ‘antique’ should be taken to cover those firearms of a vintage and design such that their free possession does not pose a realistic danger to public safety” (p53, para 8.3).

The fundamental problem with the Guidance Documents, as the Law Commission identify in para 4.6 of their report, “is that the Guide is not the law” (p22, para 4.3)

They continue that:

“Anecdotal evidence from stakeholders suggests that the extent to which judges permit reliance on the Guide in court is minimal. It is therefore not a substitute for a legal definition of “antique firearm” contained in statute” (p22, para 4.3)

The Law Commission’s recommendation is that “the term “antique firearm” should be defined in legislation by reference to functionality, understood as a firearm that does not pose a realistic danger to the public either because of the type of ammunition it fires or because of its ignition system.” (p23).

In terms of the functionality, the Law Commission goes on to recommend that the term

“be defined as:

(1) a firearm employing an ignition system included on an amendable statutory list of obsolete ignition systems and is possessed as a curiosity or ornament; or

(2) a firearm that is chambered for a cartridge type included on an amendable statutory list of cartridge types that are no longer readily available and is possessed as a curiosity or ornament” (p 29, para 4.40))

This is a reasonably specific definition and, if adopted in any draft legislation which emanates from the Home Office consultation will help to close the loophole which has been identified by those with a criminal bent.

The National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NABIS) records the number of obsolete calibre firearms recovered, and notes in their 2017 Annual Report that “One of the trends which emerged over recent years is offenders increasingly using obsolete calibre or ‘antique’ firearms, which are easier to get hold of” (p6).


The graph demonstrates the rise in seizures of antique weapons. A version of this graph with different figures appears on p2 of the government consultation document.

Is there anything that can be learned from outside the realm of firearms use and misuse? There is a caveat, of course, that firearms pose a risk to society that sculpture, furniture and paintings do not, but the Art world may be able to give some guidance as to antiquity.

Mallams, the Auction House, maintains that “Technically, an antique item is 100 years or older; a vintage item is 20 years or older; a retro item is something designed to look like it’s from an older era.” They do not specify where the “technically” comes from, however.

The United States Endangered Species Act states in §10(h) that certain rules on importation and exportation of endangered species do not apply to “Certain Antique Articles” which it defines in §10(h)(A) as “not less than 100 years old.”

We seem to be moving towards a consensus for artwork that a century is sufficient to make something antique. What about other types of weapon?

The Criminal Justice Act 1988 (Offensive Weapons) Order 1988 says in the Schedule that “a weapon is an antique if it was manufactured more than 100 years before the date of any offence alleged to have been committed in respect of that weapon under subsection (1) of the said section 141 or section 50(2) or (3) of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979(1) (improper importation).”

We can see, therefore that for almost every type of old product, the 100-year rule would seem to hold sway.

Should firearms be any different?

It is now 2018, so if we have a quick look at three different firearms that were being manufactured in 1918, we should be able to make a judgement.

The 1915 Beretta semi-automatic pistol, produced from 1915 to 1945, used both 7.65mm and 9mm ammunition. They are relatively scarce, but can still be purchased on the open market in the United States.

The Smith & Wesson Model 1917 Revolver used .45 ammunition, and around 300,000 were produced between 1917 and 1920.

The Colt M1911A1 semi-automatic pistol, also using .45 ammunition. Production began in 1911, and a version of the M1911 is still produced today. According to the website, “it is noteworthy that the M1911 has still been seen in combat zones like Afghanistan and Iraq”

There three handguns represent a more-or-less random sample of the firearms that were in military and civilian use in 1918. All remain potentially available to purchase outside the UK, and all retain their lethality. What this demonstrates is that a rolling 100-year timeframe for an “antique” (and therefore licence exempt) firearm is not an acceptable standard. Dealers in, and legitimate collectors of, antique firearms will have to accept that the standard which is used for other antiques should not be used for firearms, and that restrictions should be commensurate with potential risk.

The hope is that the Home Office will listen to those who are concerned about firearms safety, and tighten the legislation, so that the current loopholes that are being used by criminals are closed.

We will wait and see…


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Kate Exall, Senior Lecturer in Law writes:

The Law team recently spent some time exploring our use of technology to support Active Blended Learning and discussing how to effectively blend face to face and online contact to enhance the student learning experience.  Some of us have been using Discussion Boards on both undergraduate and postgraduate modules in the last academic year and were able to feed back our experiences.

A key aspect was felt to be preparing the ground by explaining the ground rules as the start.  Be clear about expectations in relation to Discussion Boards so that the students know how much to write (whether in terms of length or number of words) and how much time it should take them.  This again is supported by the research[1] and is something that I didn’t do this year.  I spent time showing them how to use Discussion Boards but not about my expectations.

Tutors have used Discussion Boards for use by students working both individually and as part of a group, which is a useful device for larger cohorts, or for modules taught concurrently through different modes of delivery.

We felt that Discussion Boards have tended to become a posting site rather than one that stimulated genuine discussion between students.  This mirrored my own research as I have been using Discussion Boards which, whilst the students would post to them, rarely attracted any online discussion of those posts.   There was a feeling that we as tutors need to be more actively involved in these posts to encourage students to build up a discussion that we could develop in the face to face workshops.  I had not done this because the research showed that this stopped student discussions[2], but given that my lack of intervention did not encourage discussion, I will try tactical interventions to see if that works better.

We also discussed having synchronous Discussion Boards where the tutor is visible for say an hour to reply to posts during that time.  This might work with a timetabled online session as students can then get immediate feedback which is one of the problems with asynchronous use of Discussion Boards.  This came up in the evaluation carried with my students who said they preferred face to face workshops as they could immediate feedback on their ideas.

We discussed the types of activities that could be covered by Discussion Boards from simple Question and Answers for assignments through to more complicated topics and felt that variety was key to avoid students doing the same thing each time.  This could be done through more co-ordinated use across modules and year groups for example.

Giving feedback on Discussion Board posts was felt to be key to encouraging participation so that students can see if they are on the right lines and feel that it is worth posting to the site.  Tutors are doing this in a variety of ways including individual personalised feedback or group feedback picking up on points made by individuals, as well as developing the issues in the face to face workshops.  However, it does not answer the immediacy point above.

One situation where they have worked particularly well is where a module is delivered both on campus and through Distance Learning.  Using Discussion Boards has enabled the students based off campus to participate more fully in the module and the tutors feel better able to support them through regular personalised feedback.  This may help to stop the isolation that many Distance Learning students feel and may help to encourage engagement and successful completion

For next year, I will use Discussion Boards more sparingly and may take up advice to use the Blog tool in NILE instead where I want to build up discussion to develop in the workshops.  I will also consider using a timetabled hour for completion of the Discussion Board, particularly where it follows a Collaborate workshop so that I can respond immediately and hopefully stimulate discussion between the students.

[1] Covelli 2017 Online Discussion Boards: The practice of Building Community For Adult Learners Journal of Continuing Higher Education 65: 139 – 145 2017 (at page 143)

[2] Kath Holden and Steve Poole Exploring staff and student engagement with discussion boards in the post graduate history programme at UWE, Bristol (2010),

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Karen Lawson, Senior Lecturer in Law writes:

Private and voluntary sector employers with over 250 employees were required to publish a gender pay gap report about their workforce by the 4th April 2018. This article examines what those reports revealed, the reasons behind the gender pay gap and whether the reporting requirements will make a difference.

 Gender pay gap vs equal pay

The gender pay gap is different to ‘equal pay’ and it’s a common misconception to think that the ‘gender pay gap’ has something to do with paying women the same as men.

Equal pay has been unlawful since 1970 and is based on men and women in the same employment being paid the same for doing the same or similar work. In contrast, the gender pay gap is the difference in the average hourly wage of all men and women across an organisation and is expressed as a percentage of men’s earnings. [1]

As one report explained “If you line up all the men and women working at a company in two separate lines in order of salary, the median pay gap will be the difference in salary between the woman in the middle of her line and the man in the middle of his”.[2]

Employers have to split their results into 4 equal salary quartiles which identify where women are concentrated  – these are the  lower pay band ( i.e. the bottom 25% of earners); lower middle (25-50%); upper middle (50-75%) and upper ( 75-100%).[3]

The power of governments to force employers to report their gender pay gap is contained in section 78 of the Equality Act 2010. However this section was not brought into force when the coalition government came into power in 2010 who instead decided to introduce a voluntary gender pay gap reporting scheme instead, called  ‘Think, Act, Report’[4]. After only 7 companies voluntarily published their gender pay gap data, the government brought section 78 into force in August 2016.[5] The Gender Pay Gap Information Regulations 2017 came into force on the 6th April 2017.

What do the gender pay gap reports reveal?

The reports published demonstrate a wide ranging and deep structural inequality in the UK’s workplaces. In particular they show that:

  • Women are concentrated in the lowest paid jobs
  • Men are concentrated in the highest paid jobs
  • The gender pay gap for bonuses is especially wide

Looking at just a sample of the results published demonstrates the above problems:

  • At Barclays, 81% of  the best paid employees are men and 63% of the worst paid are women[6]
  • At Tui 95% of the best paid employees are men and 79% of the worst paid are women[7]
  • Ryanair has a pay gap of 71.8% and only 3% of women in higher paid jobs (only 8 of their 554 pilots are women)[8]
  • Bank JP Morgan has a gender pay gap of 54% and less than 1 in 10 of employees in their highest paid group are women[9]
  • The bonus pay gap for the University of Manchester is 87% and for the University of  Liverpool is 90%[10]
  • At law firm CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang women are paid 32.8% less than men per hour and the bonus pay gap is 30.4%[11]
  • When the ‘big four’ accountancy firms KPMG, PwC, EY and Deloitte revised their reports to incorporate partner’s earnings this increased the overall gender  pay gap from 13.7% at PwC to 43.8%; from 18.2% to 43.2% at Deloitte; from 19.7% at EY to 38.1% and from 22% to 42% at KPMG.[12]


Why does it exist?

Several different factors contribute to there being a gender pay gap.

Despite girls doing well at school and in education, once they leave women tend to be concentrated in the types of work that are paid less whereas men are disproportionately represented in many of the highest paid sectors of employment.[13]

In particular women are concentrated in the ‘five C’s’ of cleaning, catering, caring, cashiering and clerical work[14].  These occupations are “lower paid and lower valued than men’s.”[15]

However even when women do work in better paid areas of work, they are concentrated in the lower paid positions. Just 7 of the FTSE 100 companies have female CEO’s[16]  Despite women making up 47% of the workforce, they only comprise 35% of managers, directors and senior officials[17]. Anecdotally, older women with more experience report being passed over for promotion by younger men with less experience.

Another issue, and one which is related to women being concentrated in lower paid positions, is the lack of high paid part time work. 45% of working women in the UK work part time[18].  For many women it is “the only practical solution to the problem of combining parenthood with paid employment.[19] However, very few well paid jobs are part time with only 3% of UK job vacancies for part time roles earning £20,000 or more.[20]

There are also cultural issues at play here as the chief executive of the Fawcett Society says “Women are not 70% or 80% less productive than men; when women ask for bonuses they are seen as pushy”.[21] One female bank worker reports that “Whether you get along with your line manager influences the size of the bonus, and they’re all men.”[22]

Will the reporting obligations make a difference?

The idea behind gender pay gap reporting is that it by ‘naming and shaming’ employers they will be forced to doing something about it, as not only may  a large gender pay gap put off potential female recruits but it will be bad ‘PR’ for the company or organisation.

The ACAS Guidance on gender pay gap reporting does encourage employers to implement an ‘action plan’ which will aim to reduce their gender pay gap, but that is voluntary [23].

It may be that the bad publicity and outcry at the gender pay gaps being reported by some organisations will prompt them to act and at the very least it means they can no longer claim that the gender pay gap is not a  problem at their company or  organisation.

However there are no sanctions for any company or organisation that does reveal a large gender pay gap or where men dominate the highest paid positions, only for those that fail to comply with their reporting obligations.

There is a risk that with so many employers reporting gender pay gaps at the same time, that the size of the gap gets lost in the deluge of reports each March and April. The other risk is that the public and employees become apathetic about the results and start to just ‘accept’ the gaps as being ‘normal’.

There is a question mark over whether publishing the reports alone with drive the necessary structural changes needed to the way work is organised and rewarded in this country in order to really address the gender pay gap. The regulations do require the government to review within 5 years whether they have met the objectives of the policy to reduce the gender pay gap[24], but that review will probably be more focused on driving compliance with reporting obligations or crunching statistics about the results rather than  introducing legislation to address the structural inequalities in the workforce.

The big question is whether employers will really act voluntarily to implement the necessary changes.  One female bank worker summed up the conundrum:  “We try to get change, but men are holding the levers of power. We’re expecting our oppressors to change the system – it’s like asking turkey’s to vote for Christmas”.[25]


Karen Lawson


[1] EHRC What is the difference between the gender pay gap and equal pay, available from accessed on 25th April 2018

[2] Clara Guibourg, ‘Gender pay gap: six things we’ve learnt’, BBC news website, published 7th April 2018, available from accessed on 25th April 2018 at page 2 of 17

[3] Practical Law Employment, Gender pay gap reporting obligations, practice note pages 23-24,  available on accessed on 25th April 2018

[4] Practical Law Employment, Gender pay gap reporting obligations, practice note page 2,  available on accessed on 25th April 2018

[5] Practical Law Employment, Gender pay gap reporting obligations, practice note page 3,  available on accessed on 25th April 2018

[6] Amelia Gentleman, ‘why the great pay gap reveal is an explosive moment for gender equality’, The Guardian, published 28th February 2018, available from accessed on 25th April 2018 at page 2 of 5

[7] Amelia Gentleman, ‘why the great pay gap reveal is an explosive moment for gender equality’, The Guardian, published 28th February 2018, available from accessed on 25th April 2018 at page 3 of 5

[8] Clara Guibourg, ‘Gender pay gap: six things we’ve learnt’, BBC news website, published 7th April 2018, available from accessed on 25th April 2018 at page 5 of 17

[9] Clara Guibourg, ‘Gender pay gap: six things we’ve learnt’, BBC news website, published 7th April 2018, available from accessed on 25th April 2018 at page 5 of 17

[10] Clara Guibourg, ‘Gender pay gap: six things we’ve learnt’, BBC news website, published 7th April 2018, available from accessed on 25th April 2018 at page 5 of 17

[11] Monidipa Fouzder, ‘Handful of law firms among first batch to report gender pay gap’, The Law Society Gazette, published 8th January 2018

[12] Max Walters, ‘Firms begin to reveal partner pay gap- but stop short of full comparison’, The Law Soceity Gazette, published 21st March 2018

[13] EHRC What is the difference between the gender pay gap and equal pay, available from accessed on 25th April 2018

[14] Trades Union Congress (TUC) from their written evidence submitted to Business, Innovation and Skills ( BIS) select committee dated October 2012 available from accessed on 26 July 2013 at page 17 of 26

[15] BIS Committee ‘Women in the Workplace’ First Report of Session 2013-14 Volume 1 published 20 June 2013 available from accessed on 11 October 2013 at page 8

[16] Anoosh Chakelian, ‘What to say when someone tries to mansplain away the gender pay gap’, The New Statesman, 4th April 2018 available at at page 2 of 4

[17] EHRC What is the difference between the gender pay gap and equal pay, available from accessed on 25th April 2018

[18] Government Equalities Office ‘Quality part time work: an evaluation of the Quality Part time Work Fund’ published November 2010 available from accessed on 5 July 2013 at page 7

[19] McColgan A Just wages for women (1997) at page 248

[20] Equal Opportunities Review ‘Few opportunities for senior part time workers’, issue 239 August 2013 at page 5

[21] Amelia Gentleman, ‘why the great pay gap reveal is an explosive moment for gender equality’, The Guardian, published 28th February 2018, available from accessed on 25th April 2018 at page 5 of 5

[22] Amelia Gentleman, ‘why the great pay gap reveal is an explosive moment for gender equality’, The Guardian, published 28th February 2018, available from accessed on 25th April 2018 at page 5 of 5

[23] Practical Law Employment, Gender pay gap reporting obligations, practice note page 27,  available on accessed on 25th April 2018

[24] Practical Law Employment, Gender pay gap reporting obligations, practice note page 30,  available on accessed on 25th April 2018

[25] Amelia Gentleman, ‘why the great pay gap reveal is an explosive moment for gender equality’, The Guardian, published 28th February 2018, available from accessed on 25th April 2018 at page 5 of 5

Posted by & filed under Featured Lecturer.

Dr Simon Sneddon, Senior Lecturer in Law writes:

Last week two things happened which, on the face of it, seemed unrelated, but which with reflection covered some common ground. The first was a session run by a representative of Advance HE (the new amalgam of the Higher Education Academy, the Equality Challenge Unit and the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education). In the session, a recurring theme was the importance of choice for students. In 2016, the Department for Business Information and Skills summarised the responses to an earlier consultation and said that “increased student information and choice was welcomed” (p. 5). They also concluded (p. 7) that “Respondents were supportive of the overall aims of the TEF and the focus on high quality teaching to drive up standards and improve student choice.” A couple of years earlier, an HEA project by Pedro de Senna found that both students and lecturers alike were concerned and interested in the level of student choice that was available.

That students are consumers of Higher Education is no longer much debated. There are still colleagues who lament the monetisation and commodification of education, but the reality is that this is what has happened, and that we cannot realistically go back to how things used to be. As a business, customer choice is said to be paramount – choice in the sense that the students can decide which institution (if any) to attend, which course to study (and whether to take a single honours or joint honours approach), and which modules to take within that course.

Is choice always good?

Iyengar and Lepper suggest that this may not always be the case.

“It is a common supposition in modern society that the more choices, the better—that the human ability to manage, and the human desire for, choice is infinite.  From classic economic theories of free enterprise, to mundane marketing practices that provide customers with entire aisles devoted to potato chips or soft drinks, to important life decisions in which people contemplate alternative career options or multiple investment opportunities, this belief pervades our institutions, norms, and customs” (p. 995).

Their experiments involved shelves of jam, and showed that customers purchased more jam where there was a narrower choice. Too much choice, it seems can be demotivating (hence the title of their paper).

The second thing which happened this week was a visit to an “all you can eat” restaurant, which offered different dishes from around the world, and allows customers to select the dishes in whatever combination they like.

Looking around the restaurant, there were many unfinished plates of roast beef, Thai green curry, chicken carbonara and chips, for example. The customers had chosen these because they liked each individual dish, and decided that a combination of all of them would therefore be what they wanted. The reality turned out to be an unappetising combination. Luckily, they were able to go and reselect a different combination of things they liked, so eventually they were sated and left content.

In HE, the ability of students to decide that they no longer like the choice they have made and would like to change it is limited, primarily by funding restrictions. After an initial bedding-in period, it is not possible for students to decide mid-year that they would prefer to study modules A, B and C, rather than X, Y and Z which they chose at the beginning of the year.

Of course, removing choice completely has its problems too, and could negatively impact on student experience and student satisfaction.

What is needed, and what we do well on the LLB programme, is limited, but well-informed choice. The choice is limited, because only a certain number of modules exist, and there is a framework which dictates how many modules must be taken from within a particular subject area. Giving the students as much information as possible about the modules from which they need to choose, from content, to ethos to assessment, gives the students the best possibility of making the choice that works best for them. They may choose poorly, or they may choose well, and our role as lecturers is not to prescribe a set of choices, but to offer a series of suggested combinations.

As it is a grey looking morning, my thoughts are turning to Bacon – Sir Frances said “knowledge is power” and I have the knowledge that a bacon roll is not the best choice for my healthy breakfast, and because I know that, I can make a well-informed choice (even if it is a bad choice). Now, where is the brown sauce…


Journal Source:

De Senna, Pedro, (2014), Student choice in the curriculum: An investigation into existing practices in theatre and drama

Iyengar, Sheena and Mark Lepper, (2001), When Choice is Demotivating: Can One Desire Too Much of a Good Thing? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 79(6):995-1006



Posted by & filed under Student Voice.

Dr Rachel Fitzgerald, Senior Lecturer in Business Studies writes:

This part of the ILT Project evaluated approaches to Capturing the Student Voice in relation a post graduate module that is delivered across most partnerships to ascertain how module and course leaders gain insight to the student voice and address concerns. The focus of this post is on results from the Student-Staff Liaison Committees and Student Module Evaluation exercises.


During the 2016/17 and 2017/18 period the University of Northampton course team report that there has been no engagement from student representatives from partner institutions at Staff Student Liaison Committees. Additionally no feedback has come to the University of Northampton course team from any partner institutions SSLCs.

Module Evaluation Data

While student engagement with module evaluations from partner institutions are limited, there is more engagement with this method of feedback than with the SSLCs. Summarised module evaluations data contains both qualitative and quantitative data and captures the student voice in relation to each module of study.

The following data has been extracted from module evaluations from partner institutions for the named module.

Tables 1 and 2 below denote the actual number of responses to module evaluation and what this  represents in % of students on the module.

Table 1: 2016-17 Module Evaluations across a range of partners

Response Representation
P1 N=27 28.1%
P2 N=1 14.3%
P5 N=1 6.7%
P6 N=33 39.2%
P7 N=10 12%

Table 2: 2017-18 Module Evaluations across a range of partners

Response Representation
P1 N=7 11.3%
P2 N=5 41.7%
P3 N=1 5%
P4 N=2 20%
P5 N=1 11.1%

The tables demonstrate that representative feedback from the module evaluations are low but often enough to accept as insight into the student voice. This is further demonstrated through an evaluation of a single category from the module evaluation survey. Category 5.1: Appropriate and sufficient opportunities to gain advice and support have been made available to me during this module

Reviewing the Student Voice in relation to Access to Advice and Support

A review of the advice and support category 5.1 of the module evaluation survey reveals that on a 1-5 scale that the general average of scores for this category sits close to centre (between 2.5 and 3) for all partnerships. This indicates that students are generally accepting of the advice and support available to them but do not think it excels. While achieving average is not flagged as an area for change – it does indicate more work is needed to improve student rating regarding this aspect of their module and that this is a consistent requirement across all partnership institutions.

Reviewing the Qualitative Feedback of the Module Evaluation Form

A review of qualitative feedback from the module evaluation form is revealing: In some partner institutions, students indicate that there are communication issues and that they don’t always understand the university requirements for assessments. This could be easily addressed with a discussion between the partner teaching team and the module teaching team. Students at other partner institutions indicate that they would like more support through virtual learning methods and would like to be able to access live and recorded lectures from the university. While some of these issues are specific to particular partnerships, collective data is also evident. For example, across a number of partner institutions, students indicate that assessment feedback is late and this could be followed up to ensure that the moderation process, for example is not the hold-up.

Addressing feedback from the Module Evaluation Survey

It is clear that comments on the module evaluation survey give insight into areas that could be improved by both the partner institution and the University. However, what has emerged from discussions with the university teaching team is that the module evaluation data is returned to the module leader and is not necessarily shared with the module teaching team at the partner institution or the university. There are no processes to ensure that issues are discussed and/or addressed at a module level so therefore there is no data to suggest that the student voice is heard where it needs to be heard or that we can identify how these issues have been addressed for future cohorts.


This enquiry into student feedback from partner institutions identified that there is little to no engagement from students with regard to SSLC channels for feedback. There is, however, qualitative and quantitative data from students at partner institutions available through module evaluation surveys. While module evaluation responses are limited, the data can provide rich insight into common issues and specific areas that could be addressed both at the partner institution and at the University. Unfortunately, at this time, there are no processes to monitor and address this feedback in a cohesive manner that ensures both university and partner institutions are acknowledging the feedback and assuring students that their voice is valued, and recognised as part of our service delivery. This lack of acknowledgement may also be a factor in the limited engagement with feedback processes. The difficulty may lie in the distributed nature of the module teams however with clear process this could be a straightforward area to address to enhance the student experience.

This is the fourth blog post in relation to this project. The first three can be found here, here and here.


Posted by & filed under Featured Lecturer, Student Voice.

Kate Exall, Senior Lecturer in Law writes:

Reviewing the Evidence from the Student Survey

This month’s blog focuses on the results of the survey completed by my students and the preliminary findings from it.

Data was collected from 12 students who attended a face to face workshop.  9 of them said that they has used the Discussion Board over half the time with 2 saying they have occasionally or never used it and 1 who had used it less than half the time.

Pulling out some of the findings, they fell broadly into 4 categories:

(a)    The perceived value of discussion boards

(b)    The problems with using them

(c)     What would encourage them to use Discussion Boards

(d)    How effective they found them in combination with the face to face workshops.


(a)    What the students liked about Discussion Boards

The students reported that they liked seeing other people’s opinions and answers which they could learn from.  It gave them a different perspective and the opportunity to consider other ideas.  They also liked the ability to share their own views and opinions and to express themselves.

They preferred being able to post ideas about a topic as they felt that this gave them more to talk about and being able to post their own ideas allowed them to be less academic.  Some students preferred identifying key points from a decision or a report as this sharpened up their analysis and evaluation skills but other students found this to be a difficult activity and preferred to go into detail on cases in the face to face workshops.


(b)    What stops them engaging with Discussion Boards?

The main comment was lack of time or understanding of the topic.  One student noted that it took longer to do than usual seminar preparation and another that it was more formal than preparing for a face to face seminar.  One student commented that the feedback was less effective than in a class room session where it was immediate.

In previous informal feedback the students had asked for anonymous posting and half of them repeated that message in the survey, with one person commenting that “the thought of everyone knowing it was you who had posted was daunting”.

The students generally liked the way that the Discussion Board answers were integrated into the face to face workshops and that they could build on the work that had been done.


(c)     What would encourage them to use Discussion Boards?

They would like these for assignment queries and would like the link to be clearer between the work they do on Discussion Boards and its use in class or for assignments.

They would like the ability to post by mobile phone or tablet.


(d)    The effectiveness of them

Many of the students questioned the need for them.  There were several comments along the lines of we could have done all of this just as effectively face to face. One student noted that they didn’t post their ideas on the Discussion Board as they preferred to save them for the workshop discussion; another said that they had better discussions face to face with more immediate feedback and there was an overall preference for face to face delivery.   Part of this may have been, as the students noted, that there wasn’t much interaction with the Discussion Board in that instead of being a tool for discussion they were simply a posting tool as people didn’t comment on each other’s posts.  One student stood up for Discussion Boards saying “even though it takes me some time, I must admit that my understanding of the topic is better”.


Some preliminary thoughts from this are that there is a place for Discussion Boards but thought needs to be given to the extent of their use; that students would value them more if they were used for discussions rather than simple posts and that they would like the option to post anonymously.