Loneliness Across the Life Course – highlighting the need for community-led action

‘Old? What is old? I don’t feel old! Old is nearly dead. Look at me, do I look nearly dead to you?!’

“Skype is a wonderful invention! I was one of those people who said I don’t understand computers, I don’t want to stare at a screen; but it’s marvellous – you feel so connected!”

These are two extracts from ‘ALONELY’, a powerful and emotive set of monologues, developed by community researchers and based on real-life experiences, and one of the research projects tackling the subject of loneliness. Continue reading

The EU wants to avoid a ‘no deal’ Brexit – here’s how it could achieve that

Tusk and Juncker: nearly there. Image: Oliver Hoslet / EPA

Nieves Perez-Solorzano, University of Bristol

Before the Brexit negotiations had officially started, back in June 2017, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told journalists what he needed on the other side of the table:

A head of the British delegation that is stable, accountable and that has a mandate.

Less than a year before Brexit day, scheduled for March 29, 2019, Barnier may feel he is still waiting for those conditions to be met, especially as the EU now finds itself with a new head of the British delegation, Dominic Raab. Raab’s negotiating position for the next round of talks, starting on July 16, results from Theresa May’s attempt to hold her cabinet and the Conservative Party together at a meeting at Chequers. In doing so, the prime minister provoked yet another domestic Brexit crisis with a spate of resignations, including those of the Brexit secretary, David Davis – who Raab has replaced – and foreign secretary, Boris Johnson.

In the face of such uncertainty, the reaction of the 27 remaining EU member states (EU27) to the UK’s new vision for a future UK-EU relationship has been cautious but unenthusiastic. European leaders from Barnier to German chancellor Angela Merkel, and from Irish premier Leo Varadkar to Sebastian Kurz, the Austrian chancellor whose country holds the EU Council presidency, have spoken with one voice. They have all welcomed the British government’s attempt to define a negotiating position on the framework for the future UK-EU relationship, but have asked for further detail.

Read more:
The Brexit plan that could bring down the British government – explained#

As one EU diplomat recently put it: “We will try to receive it as well as possible but from what we understand it is still a carve-out of the single market.” The diplomat added that May’s proposed single market for goods is, “A lot of fudge with a cherry on top.”

The final stretch

European leaders are also concerned that time is running out for a deal to be finalised – even as Barnier indicated: “After 12 months of negotiations we have agreed on 80% of the negotiations.” This may be read as a reminder to the UK government not to divert too much from what has been achieved at the negotiating table so far – and an expectation of more clarity, soon.

Some have seen a recent tweet from Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, in the wake of the UK cabinet resignations, as an opportunity to reverse Brexit altogether.

The EU’s reaction to the detail of the British position will be shaped by the challenge of having to negotiate with an increasingly unstable British government while trying to avoid a “no deal” scenario. Even though European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, has confirmed that the EU has started preparations for this eventuality, the EU is committed to an orderly British withdrawal that avoids uncertainty and protects citizens and businesses.

On a frenetic day at Westminster, May found time to meet Austrian chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, at Downing Street. Rick Findler/EPA

And while the EU27 will not do this at any price, it’s in this commitment to a final Withdrawal Agreement that the member states may find the political will to work constructively with the UK’s current vision for a future relationship even if there are fears that May’s government could fall at any point.

Extend the Article 50 deadline

So how might the EU do this? First, it can agree to extend the Brexit negotiation process. This might not have been a preferred outcome at the start of the negotiations, but if extending the negotiation period ensures that there is an agreed solution that avoids a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and thus UK agreement on the Withdrawal Agreement, the EU27 are perfectly justified in drawing on this flexibility tool. The terms of Article 50, which govern the procedural requirements for a member state to be able to exercise its right to leave the EU, allow for the deadline to be extended beyond the initial two years.

Read more:
What is Article 50 – the law that governs exiting the EU – and how does it work?

The UK and all EU member states must agree to the extension. Given its internal crisis, the UK government might welcome a softening of the ticking Brexit clock pressure. Even though Brexit day is enshrined in the EU Withdrawal Act, ministers can change it if necessary. May confirmed that this would only happen in “exceptional circumstances” and “for the shortest possible time”.

For their part, the EU27 need to unanimously agree to the extension. The experience of other highly politicised negotiations such as the accession of new countries, has shown that the member states are able to leave aside their egoistic national preferences to pursue the collective EU interest – namely avoiding a disorderly Brexit.

Softening red lines

Second, the EU may decide to soften some of its red lines for the purpose of finalising a Withdrawal Agreement. Barnier hinted at this in a speech on July 6, stating “I am ready to adapt our offer should the UK red lines change”, but making it clear that the integrity of the single market had to be protected.

If the forthcoming white paper can offer sufficient detail and some realistic substance for the EU negotiating team to work with, and if the UK and EU can find sufficient common ground on such detail, this might afford some leeway to get the negotiations over the hurdle of completing a Withdrawal Agreement. As Franklin Dehousse, a former judge at the EU General Court has put it:

There are no serious legal reasons to exclude a Brexit deal with single market on goods and partial free movement of people (but with the proper institutional guarantees). Obstacles are political, and if people want to create them, they should justify them as such.

The Brexit challenge is no longer an existential threat to the EU but rather to the Conservative government. However, the future of the EU depends on the success of the Brexit process and this requires a degree of ingenuity and political will that allows it to consider Brexit scenarios that protect the integrity of the bloc and its member states, without marginalising the UK.

Nieves Perez-Solorzano, Senior Lecturer in European Politics, University of Bristol

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Policy & Politics authors call for a moratorium on the use of management consultants in the NHS until effective governance is established

Ian Kirkpatrick, Andrew Sturdy, and Gianluca Veronesi

A recent study on the impact of management consultants on public service efficiency, published in Policy & Politics, prompted this letter from the authors calling for a moratorium on their use until effective governance is established.

Open letter to the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

2nd July, 2018

Dear Mr Hunt,

Re Calling for a moratorium on the use of external management consultants in the NHS until effective governance is established

We recently conducted independent research on the use of external management consultants in the NHS in England. This was subjected to peer review to establish the rigour of its analysis and published in an academic journal (Policy & Politics). Since then, it was mentioned in a parliamentary debate (23rd April, 2018, Hansard Volume 639) and widely reported in the media (21st February, 2018), including in The Times, which has also seen this letter. Continue reading

Shut down business schools? Two professors debate

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Martin Parker, University of Bristol and Ken Starkey, University of Nottingham

After 20 years of working in UK business schools, Martin Parker, professor of organisation studies at Bristol University, calls for them to be shut down in a new book. His views have caused some lively debate and here, he makes his case. Ken Starkey, professor of management at Nottingham University, disagrees. He offers an alternative.

Martin Parker:

One of the features of today’s universities is just how much money they now spend on marketing. Websites are slick and use contemporary typefaces, billboards show laughing diverse customers, and strap lines promise success. “Achieve your dreams!” “Find the real you!” “The knowledge to succeed!” Apart from the word “university”, it’s hard to tell whether they are selling mobile phones, a yoga retreat, or a degree.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the publicity for business schools – perhaps the most marketised part of the contemporary university and now teaching one in seven higher education students in the UK. The prospective customer is addressed as someone who is wide-eyed and grasping for the stars, is sold high salaries, brand name employers and images of people walking with determination.

As any marketing professional would tell you, you want to get the punters imagining who they will be if they have your product. It’s a lifestyle thing.

The problem is that the lifestyle being sold by most universities, much of the time, is a fiction. There are too many graduates chasing too few graduate jobs, and plenty of Deliveroo cyclists with master’s degrees. But then universities don’t want to advertise graduates stuck in damp flats paying off debt, always imagining that they could have been somebody. Realism isn’t what we are after here because that won’t pay the university’s bills.

The kind of picture you’d get in a business school brochure.

As if these promises weren’t bad enough, the marketing of the business school has some even more damaging consequences. It sells thrilling careers in high finance, global logistics and marketing. Lots of jumping on planes and making customers happy, computer screens showing shares on the rise and smiling people sitting in front of laptops.

See anything wrong with this picture? There is virtually no consideration of the damage that business is doing to us and the planet.

‘The hidden curriculum of the business school remains any form of business that isn’t the capitalist corporation’

In the 1960s, sociologists of education used to talk about the idea of the “hidden curriculum”. Because schools didn’t teach about women, people of colour, working class experience, they effectively sent the message that it was only white middle-class men’s knowledge that really mattered. What they didn’t teach was a lesson too. That’s changed now, but the hidden curriculum of the business school remains any form of business that isn’t the capitalist corporation.

That’s why, in my new book Shut Down the Business School I suggest that business schools are teaching politics without admitting it. They rarely engage with the challenges of a low-carbon economy, of the shorter supply chains that we need to encourage localisation, and the need to address social justice and inclusion.

Business schools don’t teach about co-operatives, mutuals, local money, community shares or social enterprise. They don’t mention transition towns, intentional communities, recuperated factories, works councils or the social economy. Ideas about degrowth, the beauty of small, worker decision making and the circular economy are absent. It’s as if there is no alternative. And because of all this, we should recognise that their time has come.

Ken Starkey:

Let’s imagine a world without business schools. What would we do without the hundreds of thousands of MBAs who have graduated from business schools and gone to work on Wall Street, in the City, in management consulting, in business and in the public sector? Where would we be without the managerial knowledge they have absorbed based on cutting edge faculty research? Where would the world be without the two US presidents educated in the world’s leading business schools, George W Bush (Harvard) and Donald J Trump (Wharton)?

The Chartered Association of Business Schools would argue that business schools have had made significant contributions to local and national economies. Business schools produced many interesting impact case studies for the last REF review of university research, which support this point and many focused on policy issues.

‘Business and finance are crucial to a healthy economy and society’

Business schools also work at a local level to good effect. Their researchers work on the big social issues – environmental, social justice, social enterprise, eradicating slavery in supply chains, developing work opportunities for refugees – not as many as Martin and I would like perhaps, but more than he is making out.

Around 25% of postgraduates in UK universities are studying business and management. Where would be without all these budding entrepreneurs energised to create the companies of the future? Where would all those sociologists and geographers and refugees from other disciplines employed in business schools to teach business and management students find work?

Rather than recommending the demise of the business school we need to accept that business and finance are crucial to a healthy economy and society.

Ken Starkey: Business schools help foster a healthy economy.

I agree with Martin that there is a pressing need to consider alternatives to the current dominant business philosophy, a hangover from looking to the US as the fount of management knowledge and the power of US corporations. We desperately need new models of business, society and business schools.

The major barrier to change, though, in the UK at least, is the disingenuous (some would say cynical) use made of business schools by universities over the last 20 years. In response to the financial pressures on the system many universities have developed the knee-jerk reaction of turning to the business school for income. Too many business schools are little more than cash cows, with international students desperately recruited to fill funding gaps.

The problem with this strategy is that it is unlikely to be sustainable. In many business schools international students number more than 80% (even 90% in some cases) of postgraduate entry, with students from China making up the large majority of this number in a growing number of institutions.

While I agree with some of Martin’s criticisms, the answer is not to close business schools but for business school deans and university management to engage in a real dialogue about the kind of business schools the world needs. This requires an overhaul of both business school curricula and university recruitment policies.

Martin Parker:

I assume that Ken’s argument is, in part, ironic. The fact that business school graduates go to work in high finance, management consulting and become dubious US presidents is hardly grounds for celebration. Neither is that lots of students study business degrees, or that armies of staff are employed to teach them. The bloated nature of global business school education is no grounds for its continuation.

‘Business schools need to begin again, which justifies talk of bulldozers’

I have no problem with the assertion that business and finance matter, the question is just how they should be organised. Ken mentions the importance of “alternatives”, and I assume this means that he would also be keen on the development of teaching and research that addresses carbon emissions through localisation and degrowth, which addresses inequalities of income and wealth, and encourages democratic workplaces that treat employees with dignity.

Martin Parker: talk of bulldozers is justified.

Now, in order for this to happen, business schools need to stop teaching most of the standard curriculum. This isn’t minor tinkering, it’s a radical change in the way that they imagine themselves. It won’t be enough to introduce a business ethics course, or sign up for the UN Principles for Responsible Management Education. Business schools need to begin again, which seems to me to justify talk of bulldozers.

Ken Starkey:

While I accept that we need to radically reform the curriculum, I remain convinced that the business school has a key role to play in today’s university. Business schools are too often dismissed, except in financial terms, as little more than mass production teaching factories.

‘Business schools have a key role to play in today’s university’

The problem is that universities have used and abused business schools as an easy source of income, while collectively failing to articulate a convincing narrative of higher education for the 21st century. The rising pressure bearing down on universities is only likely to be exacerbated when for-profits, with the support of Ayn Rand admirers, enter the sector and target the lucrative business school “market”, competing on value-for-money with strong financial and possibly corporate backing.

The ConversationUniversity leaders need to articulate a more convincing narrative of what universities, including business schools, can offer. This must be based on more than a simplistic economic argument. It needs to reaffirm the core purpose and competence of a university: deep scholarship that allows us to understand better the complex social and economic challenges we face and to educate our students more effectively to resolve them.

Martin Parker, Professor of Organisation Studies, University of Bristol and Ken Starkey, Professor of Management and Organisational Learning, University of Nottingham

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

How to make people with learning disabilities feel more included in society

Thomas from St Roses School, Stroud, playing the Clarion, an instrument designed for people with learning disabilities. Laura Naylor, Author provided

Val Williams, University of Bristol

People with learning disabilities can often find themselves feeling excluded when it comes to making decisions about their lives. This can range from everything, from shopping to making music or even bringing up a baby. Sometimes this exclusion can be exacerbated by the kind of support that they receive from social services – but it can also be countered by sensitive personal assistance or support. Continue reading

Furthering Women’s Democracy in a Brexit Environment

Image credit: Jeff Djevdet

“We need a new gender contract for the UK.” Thus surmised Professor Yvonne Galligan Queens University Belfast at the end of the WIDEN symposium that took place in the University of Bristol in May 2018. With the 4 UK nations represented, the 3 sponsoring universities of Bristol, West of England and Bath, and 16 speakers from women’s and anti-discrimination organisations, universities, and trade unions, this was a day of knowledge sharing from practitioner, activist and interdisciplinary research perspectives. Continue reading

Setting the priorities for advanced heart failure research

by Dr Rachel Johnson
Clinical Research Fellow
Centre for Academic Primary Care

This week sees the launch of the James Lind Alliance Advanced Heart Failure Priority Setting Partnership Survey to gather research ideas from those living or working with advanced heart failure. Continue reading

Forced marriage convictions are welcome but for many victims stigma is still judge and jury

Forced marriage is still common in some cultures, but younger generations reject it.
Rahul Ramachandram/Shutterstock

Geetanjali Gangoli, University of Bristol

In the four years since a change in the law regarding forced marriages in England and Wales, there have been two cases where parents have been convicted of forcing their daughters to marry by taking them out of the country to their countries of origin.

One case, in Birmingham in May 2018, involved taking a daughter to Pakistan, the other – in Leeds, also in May 2018 – involved a couple luring their daughter to Bangladesh for a forced marriage. These were the first convictions of their kind in England. In 2015, a man was jailed for forced marriage (among other offences) after a Welsh court found he had raped and blackmailed a woman into marrying him. Continue reading

‘Land grab’ on hurricane-hit Barbuda could leave the island almost entirely owned by banks

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Bennylin / wiki, CC BY-SA

Tomaso Ferrando, University of Bristol

Hurricane Irma passed directly over the tiny Caribbean island of Barbuda in September 2017. Irma was the fifth strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic, and it reached peak intensity just before landfall, when 180mph winds damaged almost every structure on the island, flattening many of them. Continue reading

Autism not linked to eating fish during pregnancy – large new study


Caroline Taylor, University of Bristol

Eating fish while you’re pregnant does not increase the chance that your child will be autistic or have autistic traits, our latest study shows. In fact, our study suggests that fish may be beneficial for the development of a healthy nervous system.

A possible link between mercury exposure and autism has been the subject of much debate over the years. In pregnancy, mercury travels in the mother’s blood through the placenta and into the foetus, where it acts as a toxin, affecting the development of the foetal nervous system. Continue reading