Zahid Raja

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Welsh Labour break pledge to keep University campuses open

Here is Welsh Labour’s former minister for Universities outlining Welsh Labour’s pledge to keep campuses open:

BxUbzddIIAAR5PbWelsh Labour’s pledge on keeping University campuses open looks as hollow as Tony Blair’s ‘Education, Education, Education’ this morning as the South Wales Argus leads with the front page story: ‘University to hold talks with staff as speculation grows over future of Caerleon campus’.

The iconic 100-year-old former Monmouthshire Training College which formed part of the former University of Wales, Newport is part of the Caerleon campus which is set to be closed down by the new University of South Wales.

Students and opposition politicians have hit out at the plans. Angela Burns AM, Shadow Minister for Education, said:

“New students may well have been attracted to the University of South Wales due to the appeal of the facilities and courses available at Caerleon and to announce the closure of the campus now will leave those students feeling misled.

“Labour’s aggressive forced university merger policy was pushed through with the cast-iron guarantee that no campuses would be closed and to u-turn now shows that merger was struck in bad faith. “It is fortunate for students and staff at Cardiff Metropolitan University that Labour Ministers failed to bully that institution into the merger, which may have had similar consequences.

“The next time they visit the ballot box, students, parents and university staff will remember that Labour election pledges are not worth the paper they’re written on.” You can read the full statement from the Welsh Conservatives here.

Here is the reaction from students and alumni:   

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Do voters expect MPs to be on Twitter?

“MPs aren’t in touch with people!” “They don’t talk to you unless there’s an election coming!” “They think they’re above everyone else.”

The quotes above are just some of the nice things that people say when they’re having a moan about politicians in Britain.

Blair’s ‘Education Education Education’ is out and authenticity is in. People don’t want sound bites; they want to know that the image a politician projects is actually them. Then comes whether or not they can relate to what they’re saying about the big issues of the day. The popularity of Nigel Farage shows us that people prefer politicians to be people rather than ‘whiter than white’.


How do you get in touch with an MP? If I went to see them, would it be a bit awkward? When is it ok to go and chat to an MP? Do the people who come to your door to ask you for your vote *really* take back anything you’ve said (other than who you’re voting for)? There is not only an engagement problem in British politics, but there is also a perception problem.

Emails and letters can be a huge barrier for a lot of people, as can be the prospect of attending a surgery. They’re also a barrier because some people don’t have the confidence in their own abilities to write / engage with politicians in the fear of looking silly or breaking some imagined social protocol. Social media, when used correctly, is a great way to break through these barriers and develop authentic relationships with people on their own terms.

UK Parliament on twitter

Click on image to enlarge

Westminster PA recently published their research exploring how much MPs have been using twitter over the past year (2013-14). To help people digest this information, I designed an infographic which summarises their work. The research shows us that MP’s have collectively spent 115 days on twitter which is equivalent to 2774 hours. There has also been a huge increase in the number of MPs now using the social media website.

Why the increase in use?

MPs who use Twitter properly to engage with people will have seen huge rewards including reaching new constituents. The real benefit however is that social media platforms like Twitter makes it easier for politicians to allow their personalities to shine. Politicians can comment on world events as they happen and even though constituents may not agree politically, they can see a human context to their decision making.

Don’t get me wrong, some MPs don’t use it correctly – they use it as an automated megaphone rather than a means to engage. Occasionally tweeting a photo opportunity or a press release. These MPs use Twitter because they feel like they need to, rather than want to – projecting their poor real-world engagement practices online.

Also, as more and more consumer organisations, charities, and political pressure groups ask their supporters to communicate messages to politicians through social media, it mainstreams the idea that you can communicate as a constituent to your representative via social media leading many to expect their representative to be accessible via social media.

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Higher Education Academy BME learning and teaching summit


Last year, NUS released a report highlighting deep institutional barriers for Black and Minority Ethnic students in Further and Higher Education. Findings in ‘Race for Equality’ show that 1 in 6 BME students have experienced racism in their current institution, one third do not trust their institution to properly handle complaints, and one third feel their educational environment leaves them unable to bring their perspective as BME students to lectures and tutorial meetings.
The findings show that a simple explanation for the attainment and satisfaction gap of BME students does not exist; it is a complex issue with a range of causal factors. Although the BME student population is a highly heterogeneous group, the research identifies and highlights common concerns among BME students, which are clearly linked to their attainment and overall satisfaction yet often overlooked by institutions.
The exclusion of BME students extended beyond explicit experiences of racism: 17% of respondents felt their teaching and learning environment isolated them, 23% felt it was cliquey, and 8% felt it was hostile. Many interviewees also highlighted a Euro-centric curriculum and the lack of BME role models within their institution as further challenges. (source: NUS)
Over Thursday and Friday
, I will be contributing to the Higher Education Academy (HEA) Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) students learning and teaching summit at the Midland Hotel, Manchester.
The summit will look at the impact of the curriculum (in the broadest sense) to BME student retention and success in higher education, and the implications for policy, practice and further research.
The summit will be attended by around 40 people, consisting of senior university managers and national experts. Myself and Malia Bouattia will be representing the National Union of Students.

Evidence will be collected and presented at the summit and future actions and priorities will be agreed. A final report of the evidence and recommendations will be prepared for use by the higher education (HE) sector and the Higher Education Academy.
Throughout the event, I plan to draw attention to six areas I feel impact on BME student retention and success; the impact of previous educational barriers, BME student voice in teaching and learning, the effect of a negative institutional environment, the impact of the attainment gap, BME student experience and BME experiences in moving into further learning and/or the labour market.

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