Coronavirus (Covid-19): Latest updates and information
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Jisc is delighted to announce the appointment of Victoria Moody as director of research and innovation strategy.

Victoria's appointment follows her secondment as research sector strategy lead during which, she developed Jisc's new research sector strategy 2021-2023

Victoria Moody

Acting for and with our members, Victoria will provide strategic direction by embedding Jisc's research and innovation sector strategy in the development of products and services that will support Jisc members to enhance their research technology and data.  

Commenting on her appointment, Victoria says:

"I'm delighted to take Jisc's research and innovation strategy forward.  Now, more than ever, it's evident that research and innovation are crucial for the advancement of science and its continued benefit to society. This means that we can continue to support research, but also innovation and enterprise, especially as we look at post pandemic environments." 

Victoria brings expertise in research management and impact, research data, developing open data resources and information access rights in the public sector, and also public and voluntary sector strategy development. 

Victoria will continue her position as co-investigator and deputy director of the UK Data Service, leading Jisc's participation in the service. In that role, she supports the use of a wide range of data resources to facilitate high quality social and economic research, education and impact. 

The appointment follows the confirmation that Rachel Bruce, Jisc's former director open science and research lifecycle, will be moving permanently to UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) as its new head of open research.  

Victoria adds:

"I'm looking forward to continuing to work with Rachel in her role ensuring, through close collaboration, that Jisc's contribution to the UK research and innovation sector continues to grow." 

Professional support and guidance is vital as students and graduates re-evaluate their careers due to the pandemic, reports Prospects at Jisc.

Prospects surveyed more than 6,500 students and graduates to find out how COVID-19 is impacting their career decisions and experiences.

More than a quarter of respondents have changed their career plans due to the pandemic and 37% are still uncertain about what they will do.

Students and graduates cite a variety of reasons for switching plans. Many have been inspired by people who are actively involved in supporting the pandemic response, while others wanted to escape struggling industries such as travel and hospitality.

Some respondents are looking at apprenticeships as an alternative to study, so they can start to earn money. Three quarters of respondents have looked for an apprenticeship or training scheme in the last 12 months.

Training and development opportunities, career progression and work/life balance are the top three most important factors students and graduates cite when considering their career options.

Prospects also asked about the challenges being faced. Those at school say taking care of their mental health is their biggest challenge followed by studying at home. College and university students and graduates say that keeping motivated is their main challenge, followed by taking care of their mental health.

Nabilah Thagia, 17, from Bolton, is studying for her A-levels at college. She says:

"I set my sights on engineering in year 10, but had second thoughts because there were so many other options available that I enjoyed. 

"Reading about the amazing contributions engineers have been able to make during the pandemic, through manufacturing ventilators, PPE and statistically modelling the spread of COVID-19 definitely helped change my mind.

"I've decided to pursue engineering as a career, so will be undertaking a degree apprenticeship. This gives me the best of both worlds as I can gain valuable work experience and industry-recognised qualifications at the same time. The degree apprenticeship schemes in the UK are of a very high quality so I'm really excited." 

Charlie Ball, head of higher education intelligence for Prospects at Jisc, says:

"The developments and research in health and social care and other industries are making people see those careers with a fresh perspective. These careers can be both challenging and rewarding, and they will have certain requirements, so it's vital to seek professional advice and guidance. 

"The expert support available from university and college careers services will help those feeling lost or uncertain of what to do next.

"With challenging job prospects and students off campus, many young people are naturally feeling vulnerable and isolated. It's vital that we find more ways to deliver career advice and support to young people, particularly those in under-represented groups who are at most risk of disadvantage.

"We must remember that although students and graduates have shown remarkable resilience and adaptability during the last year, the job and career prospects of the young have been hit disproportionately hard by this pandemic and they deserve the best support we can offer." 

Prospects is expanding its Future You programme in 2021 with more events, content, videos and podcasts as well as more virtual opportunities to bring students and graduates together with employers and careers advisors.

As further education (FE) providers gear up to welcome learners back to campus on 8 March, they are encouraged to make use of an award-winning COVID-19 data modelling app.

Developed in 2020 by Petroc College, in partnership with the University of Exeter's institute for data science and artificial intelligence, the tool means colleges can be proactive, rather than reactive, around COVID-19 outbreaks and changes in infection rates.

Unique to FE, the app was launched in early November 2020 with the support of the Association of Colleges, and City and Guilds. It has also just earned a 'highly commended' accolade in the Beacon Award category for best use of technology, sponsored by Jisc.

The app's concept is simple: colleges enter information about their local community infection rates using figures obtained from the Office for National Statistics, and choices they could make about bubble sizes, social distancing measures, attendance rates on different days and timetabling over a set period of time.

The tool, available for free to all UK colleges, then shows likely infection and staff and learner self-isolation rates for each scenario.

More than 100 FE provides are already set up to use the app, and those wanting to sign up can do so by contacting Tammi Jahan (tammi.jahan@aoc.co.uk) at the AoC.

The recorded webinar runs through a 'how-to' demonstration, followed by a question-and-answer session. There's also a link showing how colleges can register to use the app.

Petroc College's principal, Sean Mackney, says the app is easy to use:

"The app's beauty lies in its simplicity and flexibility – you don't need a degree in data modelling to be able to use it. Once you're used to it, it takes about 10 mins to input the data for a scenario, and we use the results to respond quickly and change the college set up, if we need to.

"That could mean, for example, that if we know the number in self-isolation is likely to increase significantly, then we can invest more time, money and energy into improving and expanding our digital learning offer.

"The modelling enables us to strike the right balance between keeping our learners learning and the teachers teaching on campus and keeping them all safe."

Colleges can find out more about the app and how to access it by contacting Tammi Jahan (tammi.jahan@aoc.co.uk) at the AoC.

What has the pandemic taught universities about leadership? Three members of the Digifest steering panel discuss the evolving role of digital technologies, the changing needs of students, and the future role of higher education

In conversation:

  • Cameron Mirza, chief of party of USAID, pre-service teacher education in Jordan
  • Debbie Holley, professor of learning innovation, faculty of health and social sciences at Bournemouth University
  • Sarah Jones, deputy dean, faculty of computing, engineering and media, De Montfort University

Visions of the future

Debbie Holley

Debbie:

"If we're going to have a greater digital agenda, we need to do some business process re-engineering within our institutions, really focusing on good teaching, learning and assessment, and really thinking about the student experience."

Sarah Jones

Sarah:

"We have a great opportunity right now. We can't wait and then look back retrospectively at our experiences through the pandemic. We need to seize this opportunity to really question, what is a university? Surely, it's about transformation."

Cameron Mirza

Cameron:

"What we need now is a sector that has imagination and empathy to build a new vision. Those answers come from talking to our key stakeholders; our students, our faculty, our communities - and listening. In that way, I think we can build a more high-quality and inclusive sector."

 

Digital leadership will be explored in-depth in the sessions, debates and workshops of Jisc's four-day digital event, Digifest 2021, which takes place 8-11 March. 

Digifest is free to Jisc members - registration closes Friday 26 February 2021.

February is LGBT+ History Month - an annual month-long observance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history and celebrated by Lancaster University

Since its inception in 1994, LGBT+ History Month has raised awareness of gay rights, their history, lives and experiences. Shockingly, libraries have only been allowed to stock literature or films with gay or lesbian themes since 1988, and it has taken university libraries some time to really embrace the new freedom and reach out to the LGBTQ community.  

Caroline Gibson, faculty librarian for Lancaster University says:

"It started with 'Decolonising Lancaster' - an initiative led by academics in our faculty of arts and social sciences - and the student-led campaign, 'Why is my curriculum white?' The library became active in supporting these initiatives in early 2019 and momentum has grown since". 

Readdressing history 

As part of 'Decolonising Lancaster' the library established a dedicated fund and has encouraged recommendations for purchase from staff and students to help readdress historical bias in the collections and work towards making them more diverse. Although initial endeavours in this respect focused on decolonising the library, a broader ambition of diversifying the library collections and services became the overall aim and with that came a review of internal practices and processes to help ensure that under-represented groups are recognised and feel included.

Supporting LGBT+ students and staff is part of Lancaster's work, reaching out to marginalised communities. Faculty librarian at Lancaster University Paul Newnham says:

"It's really interesting to see how natural groups within the library or within a department can drive rapid transformation like the fast decolonisation of the curriculum in our Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. You don't have to be a manager to talk about this and it doesn't need to come from top down. I'm very keen to support these initiatives and enable anyone who likes to take these issues forward."

Caroline Gibson adds:

"There's still much work to do, especially in relation to acquiring and organising our collections. We have to start with the decolonising our minds before we can think about decolonising our practice".

What's on

To support LGBT+ month, Lancaster University has organised a programme of activities in partnership with the staff and student LGBT+ networks.

One of these was book giveaway and author event with Damian Barr, who read excerpts from his novel 'You will be safe here' in which he describes twin narratives of internment during the second Boer war and the experience of a teenager forced to attend a fascist boot camp.

Part of the network at Lancaster University is student Bethany Frost, who is a mature students inclusion representative:

"I'm bi, so I have personal investment in improving LGBT awareness and inclusion across the university and I just really want to be a part supporting different liberation spaces."

Other universities are also reaching out to the LGBT community during February. The University of Wolverhampton presents 'Pronouns – 5 Top Tips'; while De Montford University in Leicester discusses trans athletes' participation in sport.

"For so long LGBT issues have been left out of the mainstream history and have been left uncovered. It's really important that we actively raise these issues. By having events and displays you really send a signal to make sure that you're visible and educate as many people as possible."

For inspiring talks and debates on an inclusive future for education, attend Jisc's immersive virtual event, Digifest 2021, 8-11 March 2021.