Posted by & filed under Featured Lecturer.

Dr Simon Sneddon, Senior Lecturer in Law writes:

A couple of weeks ago, I was on holiday near the town of Gatehouse of Fleet, in the Scottish county of Dumfries and Galloway. It was lovely, thank you.

View from the Pod

We were staying on a farm, in a purpose-built pod (or shed, or unit, we never worked out what to call it), which was self-catering, with views across the hills (above). Having called in to Newcastle-upon-Tyne for a couple of nights on the way, we needed to restock in the Gatehouse Co-op.

Duly replenished, we went back to base, and set about some good relaxing. A bit of cooking, a modicum of wine, all good stuff.

The tricky thing came when working out what to do with the packaging that this produces. The notes that the owners had left made it clear that we didn’t need to separate out landfill and recycling waste, as the local council DID NOT RECYCLE.

This prompted a quick look at the council’s website (http://www.dumgal.gov.uk/householdwaste) as neither of us could believe that such a thing could happen. I’ve lived and stayed all over the country in the last couple of decades, and all did kerbside recycling to some extent.

Dumfries and Galloway not so much. Three of the four districts in the county (Annandale & Eskdale, Nithsdale and Stewartry) do not offer a kerbside recycling service, and the fourth (Wigtownshire) get food waste collected weekly and other recycling fortnightly.

There are thirteen household waste recycling centres in the county area, as well as many recycling points which “can be found in places such as supermarkets or village halls and might be a useful alternative to recycling centres.” (LINK)

The area is the home of the Galloway Forest Park, three National Scenic Areas (Nith estuary, East Stewartry coast and the Fleet Valley) and four RSPB nature reserves, and so this commitment to nature and the environment would seem at odds with the approach to recycling.

Loch Trool, Galloway Forest Park

In October 2014, the Scottish Daily Record reported that Dumfries and Galloway had the second-worst recycling rate in Scotland, at 23.9 per cent, outperforming only the Shetland Isles. A decade earlier, it had been “the worst recycling authority in Scotland at about 10%.” (Lets Recycle). A “new multi-million pound five-bin recycling scheme” was anticipated by the Council to “help to increase recycling performance by a further 19 per cent when fully implemented” which would be better, but still below the Scottish Government’s target of 50 per cent by 2013.

In September 2017, the BBC reported that the recycling scheme was still planned but that the council had spent £300,000 “renting storage space to store the thousands of unused bins and other recycling equipment.”

It would appear that the plans have still not been rolled out a year later.

So where does all the waste go? My fears that it was all just landfilled were thankfully allayed by the discovery that since 2007, a Shanks’ “Ecodeco” plant has been operating in Dumfries.

“Unsorted waste is delivered to the plant, shredded and has air passed through to dry it out – water represents about 30% of the weight of the material. It then passes through magnets and metals are removed. Final material is either composted or incinerated for energy recovery” (Lets Recycle)

Energy from Waste and composting are further down the Waste Hierarchy than recycling, so this is not the perfect solution by any means, but it is better than landfill.

The Waste Hierarchy (WRAP)

The best approach to waste is to minimise it – this can be done by industry and by us. Plastic waste has obviously been 2018’s high-profile waste type, but we should all try to reduce waste wherever we can. Think before you buy.

What did we do with our recycling? We took it home, and put it into the recycling bin.

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The University of Northampton’s new Waterside campus based in the town centre will welcome visitors to the first law conference to be held at the new site. The fourth annual Approaches to Inequalities Conference on the 19th September will focus on the issues of sexual harassment and sexual violence.

Keynote speakers include Vanessa Bettinson, a professor in criminal law and justice and co-founder of De Montfort University’s Sexual Violence and Domestic Violence Research Network, and Pragna Patel, a founding member of the Southall Black Sisters (SBS) and Women Against Fundamentalism. She has been centrally involved in some of SBS’ most important cases and campaigns around domestic violence, immigration and religious fundamentalism.

The conference will also host a separate breakfast seminar for local employers and HR professionals looking at the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace with a panel of speakers including employment law solicitor Graham Irons from Northampton based law firm Howes Percival and an Equality officer from Northamptonshire Rights and Equality Council (NREC), as well as University of Northampton lecturers in law and Human Resources. To book onto the seminar please email AIRGroup@northampton.ac.uk.

Dean of the Faculty of Business and Law, Mairi Watson, said “We are delighted to be hosting the Approaches to Inequalities conference and welcoming local businesses and organisations, as well as highly regarded academics, to our fantastic new town centre campus”.

You can find out more information, and book tickets for the conference by visiting the event page.

https://www.northampton.ac.uk/events/call-for-papers-the-4th-approaches-to-inequalities-conference-shades-of-grey/

 

Posted by & filed under Featured Lecturer.

Dr Simon Sneddon, Senior Lecturer in Law writes:

Last week, I wrote about the threats to the three species of Orangutan posed by our love of palm oil. This week, I will tackle the other large (and linked) threat to the species, which is illegal hunting and the illegal pet trade.

Orangs are hunted as part of the bushmeat industry. They are not specifically targeted as a delicacy (unlike the pangolin, for example), but are often seen as an easy target. They are also shot by some local people in Borneo and Sumatra, who may regard them as a threat to their farming interests. This is one of the many examples of a human/animal interface area where the interaction ends badly for the animal, either through disease or deliberate attempts at eradication (elephants, tigers, leopards or hen harriers).

Killing adult orangutans for these reasons occasionally has an unintended benefit for poachers. It is also the raison d’être of others who kill the animals. Baby orangutans are cute and fuzzy (which they are), and thus make adorable pets. (They don’t, they really, truly don’t. An adult male Orangutan has the strength of about seven humans, is highly intelligent, and as the Center for Great apes points out, will not react positively to suddenly being put into a cage)

 

The image above, which was in a review of the Channel 4 series “Orangutan Jungle School” in the Daily Mail is, on the surface, adorably cute. The darker side of it is that all eight of the baby orangutans in the wheelbarrow are orphans, and in most cases their mothers were deliberately killed.

The three species of Orangutan are all on the IUCN Critically Endangered Species list, and two of the species (Pongo pygmaeus and P. abelii) are listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International trade in endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The third species (P. tapanuliensis) does not feature on the Appendix because it was only recognised as a separate species last year, and the Appendix will not be updated until next year’s Conference of the Parties in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Being on Appendix I means that all international trade in Orangutans (and any derivatives of them, e.g bones, fur) is banned into or out of all of the countries which are CITES members. Since both Malaysia ands Indonesia (the only countries where Orangutans live) have been signatories of CITES since the late 1970s, that effectively means that no baby orangutan can be legally bought or sold, anywhere.

The population of Borneo Orangutans is estimated to have dropped by “150,000 in the last 16 years” (Guardian, 2018) and if the rate of decline continues, the 104,000 individuals remaining will be killed in the next 11 years. The Orangutan Project estimates that Sumatran Orangutans will become extinct within the next decade (their estimate predates the separation of P. tapanuliensis but this does not alter the prediction).

Orangutans are what is known as a “keystone” or “indicator species” or “barometers of the well-bring of the forest. Declining orangutan populations are a sign that the forest and all that live in it are in trouble” (Thiessen, 2014, p46).

I am under no illusion that those involved with the illegal killing of orangutans are going to read this, but what can we in the UK do about it?

Most of the advice online is about helping to stop deforestation by not buying palm oil, and I covered this last week.

Since the trade it illegal, nationally and internationally, there is no recourse to the “there should be a law against it” rallying cry loved by many. Having a law and enforcing a law are two very different things.

There is the option of supporting charities which are trying to combat the trade. Last year, the Guardian reported that International Animal Rescue helped to rescue two baby orangutans who were being sold in Borneo via social media. Some estimates put it that six to eight Orangutans die for every one that makes it to sale, so these two babies represented a loss of around 20 animals from the wild. This example shows that the law is enforced on occasion.

You could write to the Departments of Food and Rural Affairs and for International development (Defra and DFID) – the Orangutan is at much more imminent risk of extinction than the elephant, for example, but the Government’s July 2018 Press Release trumpeting (sorry) their “£31.5 million boost for anti-wildlife trafficking projects around the world” mentions ivory 13 times, and does not mention orangutans once.

This is not a game of extinction Top Trumps though. I would be reluctant to promote cutting efforts in one area of wildlife crime prevention to move it to another, but an overall increase in funding would be no bad thing.

Sadly, I think the time has run out for Pongo. The vested interests and financial rewards involved with the palm oil trade mean than any efforts to save the species are likely not to succeed.

 

Palm-Oil Related Activity Impact on Orangutans
Roads built Habitat reduction, accidental death due to increased traffic levels
Forest cleared. Logs sold off to the timber market (legal and illegal) Habitat reduction, accidental death due to operational activity
Palms planted and grown Straying individuals shot and sold as bush meat
Palms mature Palm fruit attractive to Orangs – straying individuals shot and sold as bush meat, straying mothers may be shot to “harvest” babies

 

Posted by & filed under Featured Lecturer.

Dr Simon Sneddon, Senior Lecturer in Law writes:

Within the law team at the University Northampton, we have for many years had a small toy orangutan (Orang Pengukara, the person of the law) as an unofficial mascot. I don’t know where it came from, but it was here when I started, 18 years ago.

Last week, Channel 4 started to air “Orangutan Jungle School” a docu-drama about a facility run by the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation which takes in orphaned Orangs and tries to teach them what is needed to survive in the wild.

There are three species of Orangutan and all are listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List:

The Bornean Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) lives in several different areas in Borneo, and is the most numerous of the three species with around 104,000 individuals in the wild. The IUCN reports that in 1973, 253,000km2 of the forest in Borneo was suitable habitat for Orangs, but by2010 this had dropped to 155,000km2 – a drop of 48 per cent in less than 40 years. The pace of deforestation is increasing, as more and more is cleared for the production of palm oil – an additional 57,000km2 are expected to be cleared by 2025.

The Sumatran Organutan (Pongo abelii) lives in the northern part of Sumatra. It is rarer than its Bornean cousin, with only 13,000 to 14,000 individuals left. Forest clearance is a large threat for this species, both in terms of clearance for palm oil plantations, and the illegal logging trade. As part of the preparation for clearance, animals are shot, and any offspring that survive are sold illegally as pets. In 2016, only 20,000km2 of forest remained, and Wich et al predict that land use reforms in the Aceh Province will see a steep decline in liveable frost, and Orang numbers.

The third, and newest, species of Orang is the Tapanuli Orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis) which was only shown to be a separate species to P. abelii in 2017 (so any population estimates pre-2017 would have merged the two species). As well as being the newest species, P. tapanuliensis has the unwelcome distinction of being the rarest, with only 800 individuals, all living in a 1,000km2 patch around Lake Toba in the middle of Sumatra. As the IUCN say:

“Significant areas of the Tapanuli Orangutan’s range are seriously threatened by habitat conversion for small-scale agriculture, mining exploration and exploitation, a large-scale hydroelectric scheme, geothermal development, and agricultural plantations.”

 

L-R: Adult Male Bornean, Sumatran and Tapanuli Organutan

 

This is the first of two blog posts about the plight of the Orangutan, a species with which we share 97 per cent of our DNA. This one focuses on the need for legislative measures to be imposed limiting the use of palm oil. The second post focuses on the other major threat to the species, which is the killing of mother animals so that their infants can be sold into the illegal wildlife trade.

What is palm oil?

Palm oil is an edible oil derived from the fruit of a number of species of palm trees. It has many uses:

  • Cooking, both domestically and in the commercial production of pizza dough, instant noodles, ice cream, margarine, chocolate, cookies and pre-packed bread;
  • Cosmetics and cleaning products, particularly lipstick, soap and detergent; and
  • Production of biofuels (WWF, 2018)

It is cheap to produce, and the most efficient source of vegetable oil, and is “in about half of all packaged products sold in the supermarket” (WWF).

So far, so good. On the face of it, palm oil looks to be all things to all people. The massive problem with it is that one of the places the palms grow very successfully is in the rain forests on SE Asia. This has prompted the wholesale clearance of rainforest habitat so that palms can be planted. Some of the clearance and planting is legal, and has the backing of the relevant government, but much is illegal.

As well as destroying the habitat of Orangutans, this forest clearance is affecting tigers, elephants and rhinoceros.

There have been moves to create a labelling system for sustainably produced palm oil, and these are supported by organisations like WWF. This is where I differ from WWF in approach.

While welcoming moves to introduce a system of labelling, so that consumers are able to tell whether the palm oil in the products they are buying is sustainable or not (knowledge is power, and all that), there are issues with this system. In an unscientific survey of my colleagues, none were aware of what the two logos above represented (I blanked out the writing when I circulated them)

We also know from experience that if there is a labelling system, it will be exploited. The money which is involved for large organisations who own the palm oil plantations is so great that the financial incentive for those who are unscrupulous is inescapable.

Far better is to avoid palm oil entirely. There are alternatives to all of the products which contain palm oil – we did, after all, survive quite happily before its use exploded. There is a directory (https://www.shoppalmoilfree.co.uk/directory) which lists a number of producers of palm oil free products. There are other examples which are not in the directory - Ecover has been producing palm oil free fabric softener since 2017, Lurpak spreadable has been palm oil free for a while, and of course there is still a massive range of things which have never contained palm oil.

In the wake of the Blue Planet plastic-in-the-seas moment, we are slowly becoming wiser consumers. Sure, it needed legislation to curb our enthusiasm for plastic straws and single use coffee cups, but the momentum was already starting.

If we stop buying palm oil, we will help to reduce the demand. A reduction in demand will reduce the economic incentive to produce palm oil, and and slow the destruction of the rainforests. This, in turn, will slow the rush to extinction of our large, hairy, orange cousins. That’s got to be a good thing, hasn’t it?

 

Sources:

Ancrenaz, M., Gumal, M., Marshall, A.J., Meijaard, E., Wich , S.A. & Husson, S. 2016. Pongo pygmaeus (errata version published in 2018). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T17975A123809220. Downloaded on 24 August 2018.

Nowak, M.G., Rianti, P., Wich , S.A., Meijaard, E. & Fredriksson, G. 2017. Pongo tapanuliensis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T120588639A120588662. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-3.RLTS.T120588639A120588662.en. Downloaded on 24 August 2018.

Singleton, I., Wich , S.A., Nowak, M., Usher, G. & Utami-Atmoko, S.S. 2017. Pongo abelii (errata version published in 2018). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T121097935A123797627. Downloaded on 24 August 2018.

 

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Dr Simon Sneddon, Senior Lecture in Law writes:

On Monday this week, the Director of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) said that people were being “sold a lie” if they believed that plans announced by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to build 460,000 new houses on green belt land would mean more affordable homes.

Building houses is a contentious issue. There are those who see the countryside as sacrosanct, and portray developers as greedy, uncaring addicts to concrete, and those who see the countryside as a wasted potential for development and complainers as backwards-looking dreamers.

It is an area rife with acronyms, some more well-known than others:

  • NIMBY – Not In My Back Yard. These people approve development in theory, as long as it does not impinge on their own lives.
  • NODAM – No Development after Mine. These tend to be people who move 9or move back) to a rural location in a new development, either a single property or as part of a larger development. The hypocrisy is that they believe their development was unproblematic, but that anything new would spoil the nature of the location. Wealthy people who work in London and buy holiday homes in Cornish villages (and try to block the extension of the harbour), fall into this category.
  • BANANA – Build Absolutely Nothing, Anywhere, Near Anything. These tend to be more hardline individuals who do not believe that any development is acceptable.
  • CAVE – Citizens Against Virtually Everything (thanks to Ric Stephens for this one).

The UK is a densely populated country. In 2017, according to Statista, the average UK population density for 2017 was 272 people per km2, with a range from 70/km2 for Scotland to 427/km2 for England. The density is, of course not uniform across each country either. The ONS says London, for example has a population density of 5,590/km2 and Northamptonshire is only 313/km2.

World Atlas lists the UK as the 10th most densely populated country in Europe, and the 3rd most densely populated of the larger countries (my own designation, over 30,000 km2).

Long story short, there are lots of us, crammed into a relatively small space.

“Green Belts” were invented after the Second world war, under the Town and Country Planning Act 1947. From 1919 onwards, the CPRE, along with the London Society Magazine, was one of the main proponents of the introduction of green belts, so their reaction to the plans to build on them was understandable.

My interest in building on green belts is an academic one. Northampton is not one of the areas which has a green belt, so these specific plans will not directly affect me. In the interests of disclosure, I do live in a village, though in a house that has not been thought of as a new build since the early 20th century.

Do we need new houses?

The FT explained in 2016 that there were “were 28 million dwellings in the UK, but only a predicted 27.7 million households in 2016” and this January the Guardian cited  director of consulting at Oxford Economics, Ian Mulheirn as saying that London’s number of dwellings grew faster than the number of households between 2001 and 2015. DCLG figures suggest that this may not be the case for much longer though, and Sajid Javid spoke of the need to build 3200,00 new houses a year for the next decade.

So, if we potentially have more houses than households, what is the problem?

Are they in the wrong place?

The first map is from Civitas, and shows Net housing supply, 2015/16, as a percentage of projected annual household formation 2014-2039 (by local authority) suggests that this may be the case. The second map is by Helleric, and is available on Wikipedia, and shows the existing green Belt areas in England.

As with everything else, the gap between supply and demand is greater in London and the South East. Large swathes of the north of England have almost twice as much supply as demand.

Nothing has changed. The areas where green belts were introduced are those which were felt to be under the greatest pressure from development, and those areas are still under pressure decades later.

Is building on the green belt the answer?

Perhaps, but not the only, or the best answer.

I am writing this blog post in a new build University campus. By my reckoning I am sitting roughly where an old power station used to be. A derelict, contaminated, brownfield site, close to the shops, amenities and the A45. The old Park Campus, also a brownfield site, is going to be developed into a large number of houses, satiating some of the demand for new housing in Northampton. The CPRE has identified a sufficient quantity of brownfield sites to build at least a million new house, and finds that “Many of these sites are in areas with a high need for housing.” That means that 5 years’ worth of Sajid Javid’s target can be met by this stock of land. In fact, let’s be honest, as the MHCLG graph below shows, the reality is that it will take 22 years at the current rate to build a million new houses.

Part of the housing crisis is cause by the cost of new homes. There is a simple rule of supply and demand in operation here – if the demand for properties of a particular type in a particular area is greater than the supply, the price goes up.

It would be nice to blame someone for this. Who can carry the can for reducing the stock of available homes? Pick your favourite:

  • Second (and third) home owners;
  • Property speculators.
  • Buy-to-let people;
  • Those older people who don’t want to downsize;

The rules relating to all of these groups can be tightened by, for example:

  • A property speculation tax exists in Germany and elsewhere. In the German version, the tax is applied to the profit made on selling the property but is tapered as the time between buying and selling property gets longer. The Smith Institute considers it “a fiscal tool worth further consideration and debate.”
  • Rises in Stamp Duty for second properties. It is currently 3 per cent above the standard Stamp Duty (HMRC), but could be increased to 5 per cent, generating additional revenue which could be ploughed into building more affordable homes.

The green belt is there for a reason. We should only build on it as a last resort.

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Dr Simon Sneddon, Senior Lecturer in Law writes:

Today is my last day working at Park Campus. My first day working here was 1st October 2000, and although I have occasionally taught at Avenue, I have been at Park ever since. First Cottesbrooke with the School of Accountancy, Information Systems and Law and then Northampton Business School, then Fawsley and the MX mobiles with the School of Social Sciences, and finally Naseby, with the Social Sciences and then the Faculty of Business and Law.

6,504 days.

929 Monday mornings.

928 Friday evenings.

I was young when I started.

A lot has changed on this campus since I started. The Student Centre was not here, the renovations of Sulgrave and Fawsley, the building of Yelvertoft, the putting up and subsequent knocking down of the ratty old mobiles, but a lot more is about to change, for us and for the campus.

Last week I set foot on the new Waterside campus for the first time, as part of the July 14th Open Day. Before then, I had looked at the Campus building site once from Beckett’s Park and once from a coach doing a 97-point turn after accidentally coming across the road bridge before it was open. I had been a little underwhelmed, and even the drone footage didn’t help that much. It all looked, unsurprisingly, like a massive building site.

Now I have been, I can see what all the fuss is about. Even though we only had access to the ground floor level of the buildings, and even though it was still a partly incomplete site, it was fabulous. The Senate Building, which is where we were housed for the Open Day, is a modern, spacious and well-appointed building. The Learning Hub, which is where the law team will be based, is genuinely breath-taking. The space inside it colossal, and reminds me a little bit of some film footage I saw of the inside of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. The teaching rooms on the ground floor level were really impressive. For some reason I forgot to take a photo of the Learning Hub, but below are my photos of the Senate Building and the Creative Hub.

Senate Building

Creative Hub

In Law, over the last 18 years, we have gone through several Periodic Subject Reviews, been one of the focus areas for the QAA review, revised the undergraduate and postgraduate programmes several times, but we have always kept true to our core values. As I was going through old files in preparation for moving, I came across an image which we developed as part of one of the reviews. It was never used, but is still pertinent to what we do today, and why we do it.

None of this will change on the new campus. There are those Cassandras who gleefully predict that a new campus will be the end of everything we cherish and hold dear. Those same voices were decrying the state of the estate on the old campus right up to the moment it was announced we would be moving. They are wrong. Almost everything we hold dear about academia will be the same. So will many of the pressures and things that annoy us, but that’s life.

We have been delivering sessions to students successfully using the Active Blended Learning model for a year or more already, so other than the inevitable tinkering which is a normal part of academic life, we will continue as before.

Some things will change. The buildings, the location, the proximity to the rail and bus stations, are all new. There will, of course, be things that do not work perfectly from Day 1. Again, nothing new – with an infrastructure as complex as a University campus, something will always go wrong, whether it is an existing campus or a freshly minted one. When I started writing this blog post (on the old campus) the wifi went down for a couple of hours.

Has the transition been handled flawlessly? No, of course not. I’m not a blind apologist for the change, I am as nervous and excited about it as everyone else. There are many things that could have been done better, and if any of us are involved in a campus build again, we can use our experiences to advise others.

The key to making it a success is the people. Staff and students, we are the lifeblood of the University. Without us, Waterside is a Spanish housing estate in the early 2000s: poised, ready, waiting but empty and lifeless.

With us, Waterside can achieve its full potential. We have award-winning buildings, innovative on-site power generation, a restored and modernised Engine shed (one of two in the country), high tech teaching and learning spaces – in short, a brand spanking new, designed for the purpose campus.

I can’t wait.

 

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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 http://www.chronicle.com/article/When-Good-Technology-Means-Bad/10922

[3] Guess, A., 2007. Students ‘Evolving’ Use of Technology. Inside Higher Ed. at http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2007/09/17/it.

[4] Laurillard, D., 2014, What is the problem for which MOOCs are the solution? IOE London Blog, https://ioelondonblog.wordpress.com/2014/05/14/what-is-the-problem-for-which-moocs-are-the-solution/

[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, https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/system/files/resources/sharing-good-practice-in-planning-education1.pdf

[8] Felder, R., & Brent, R., 2015, Teaching Blunders to Avoid: Ten Worst Teaching Mistakes, Iowa State University, Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, http://www.celt.iastate.edu/teaching/effective-teaching-practices/teaching-blunders-to-avoid-ten-worst-teaching-mistakes

[9] Sharma, A., 2017, If you are not innovating today, you won’t be around tomorrow, https://forge.autodesk.com/blog/if-you-are-not-innovating-today-you-wont-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 airgroup@northampton.ac.uk.

 

 


[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 https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/15/mps-launch-inquiry-to-consider-tougher-laws-on-sexual-harassment

[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 https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/jan/15/mps-launch-inquiry-to-consider-tougher-laws-on-sexual-harassment

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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 https://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/13035

 

[3]  Aleksandra Wisniewska, Billy Ehrenberg Shannon and Sarah Gordon; “How women are short changed in the UK” 2018 Financial Times available at https://ig.ft.com/gender-pay-gap-UK/

 

[4] Aleksandra Wisniewska, Billy Ehrenberg Shannon and Sarah Gordon; “How women are short changed in the UK” 2018 Financial Times available at https://ig.ft.com/gender-pay-gap-UK/

 

[5]Carmen Nobel “How to take gender bias out of your job ads” 2016 available at https://www.forbes.com/sites/hbsworkingknowledge/2016/12/14/how-to-take-gender-bias-out-of-your-job-ads/#1e0884bb1024

[6] Stephen Warnham “Total Jobs study reveals that UK Job adverts carry unconscious gender bias” 2017 available at https://blog.totaljobs.com/gender-bias