Tag Archives: students

Pakistan Higher Education Commission Suppresses Free Thought

Critical thinking, the ability to think outside the box, the melting pot of ideas that see the status quo as up for grabs. A university degree is not just an education – it is an experience that will send you in the direction you want in life having forged you to think for yourself. With the ability to know the values you stand for and to argue them convincingly against anyone.

The Higher Education Commission (HEC) does not see Campus life this way. It has instructed the ideology of the nation be taught, promoting nationalism to bring unity to the nation. Discussions contrary to this, including criticising the government, bring about chaos and negativism.


This letter is an insult to academia, students and the purpose of universities: to educate and stimulate debate. Bright young minds are to be dimmed. Voices constrained to sing praise to the government. A Higher Education body that would meet the approval of North Korea is a betrayal of the children of Pakistan.

There are campaigns to challenge.


Via the link above do please support “Bytes For All” efforts on Twitter to hold HEC to account.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Canada: York University Gender Segregation Allows No Group Work

Professor Grayson has my every sympathy and support in denying a request from a student to be excused from group work so that he would not mix with female students, on non specified religious grounds. Both Islamic and Judaic scholars found no cause for this to be upheld:

The Judaic scholar found no problem
with an Orthodox Jew attending a co-ed group session. One of the
Islamic scholars, in turn, declared simply, “unless he is asked to
be physical with a female student, which I assume he isn’t, there
is absolutely no justification for not interacting with females in
public space.” [National Post]

Safe assumption that sociologists do not get physical with each other as part of university group work. The student concerned expressed their reasoning for choosing to do the course online:

“One of the main reasons that I have chosen
internet courses to complete my BA is due to my firm religious
beliefs, and part of that is the intermingling between men and
women,” he wrote, adding “it will not be possible for me to meet in
public with a group of women (the majority of my group) to complete
some of these tasks.” [ibidem]

When the student realised how indefatigable Professor Grayson was that allowing such dispensation would be a betrayal of women on the course, he withdrew his request and attended. However, despite his department and students on the course backing Grayson, the Dean ordered acquiescence on grounds that female students would be unaffected by the non presence of the
religious student.

Last night in twitter talking about the story – which actually happened earlier in the Autumn but has only just broken in the media – my concern was that dispensation from group work was given to online students that lived too far away. As such it could be considered a non compulsory requirement for all students taking the online course. The issue becomes whether such a request can be turned down based on minority religious grounds when other reasons would be considered valid for accommodation.

There is the rub for me as a secularist because I can deplore the reasoning of the student regarding women, calling it out for what it is. A request for special treatment of misogynistic attitudes on the fringes of religious faith in a secular  institution that regards men and women as equal. Yet the Dean has a point that the online course already made dispensations and so could accommodate a request (the reason immaterial) not to attend group work – and that a secular institution does not make a judgment on validity of religious claims. Which despite not knowing the religion of the student the Professor tried to by checking with religious scholars.

The Dean loses the argument finally by saying, well just do not tell female students about this so they do not get upset that we as a university consider valid sexist attitudes towards being in the company of women. The legal grounds in Canada are unclear whether the denial by the professor can be justified. Clearly a procedure needs to be in place at York University and I hope the student body is involved in setting. Though I get the feeling that procedure is the Dean deciding.

Hence this story going public, and the professor involving students and the department. It is a battle at a University which now is involved in the war of where claims of religious freedom should be trumped by gender equality as a civic virtue and human right. A secular institution needs to be loud and clear. The Dean needs to back down. My face saving suggestion would be a voluntary opt in or out of group work for online courses with no need to specify a
reason or make a core requirement to do group work to complete the
online course. [See first comment why no opt out if you attend University]

We cannot allow gender equality to be undermined by fringe sexist thinking – some accommodations are a surrender to what needs defending in society.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Filed under Culture, Philosophy, politics, Religion, secular

Student Revolution

The battle of ideas cannot be kettled, although for us observing we can be distracted. So while media comments on anti-semitic remarks on a student leader’s facebook page (Independent today – Julie Birchell) or YouTube clips of a wheel chair bound protester handled roughly by police – the principles and vision of civil society is clouded in the fog of a propaganda war.

The question is who pays and how should the goods of higher education be distributed? Is this a good which benefits society the more people consume or is it such a personal benefit that the person studying should pay – the means of financing being the issue?

Homo economicus has been absent for too long (I’m back!) so this is something to sink the teeth into because economics might let you think about the answer to these questions.

To the question of who pays may be impacted by whether higher education is adding to human capital or an indication of the labour market value of the student. If adding to human capital, increasing the value of the economy, would mean that society has an interest in optimal higher education being consumed. If all higher education does is signal the value of employing graduate labour (by degree studied or university attended) then society does not have the same vested interest whilst the student has a pecuniary one.

My economics lecturer said how students were aghast when he suggested the private benefit of higher education suggested a contribution would be in order by students – something he had done for the last 20 years. My class were less horrified because the New Labour government of 1997 had just announced a U turn on tuition fees. We were not affected and demonstrations were muted for those to come. Oh the times they are a changing now.

Yet education is a political social good. The citizen that is numerate, literate, articulate and has financial means beyond survival has the chance not just to be a part of civil society – but to shape it. A hand to mouth existence does not allow this freedom till the dirt of the poor is washed away by the blood of the oppressor, by the hand that had nothing in it to lose.

Yet that calls for the focus to be on primary and secondary schools – for when they fail students the prospect of higher education is as illusory as winning X Factor. If higher education is a means of entry to the political elite, or the good life, it becomes a matter of urgency that we need good schools (though not the only thing a key factor not least for women).

However even if we raise attainment levels, the odds of someone from a poor background going to University is about 2 times less than from a rich background with the same attainment. Debt aversion is cited as being a major disincentive, rather than seeing it as an investment in higher future earnings.

It might well be the perception of higher education needs changing to increase participation, and improving secondary and primary attainment, that need to be the focus of social justice. Stats that a richer student is 22 times more likely to go to Oxbridge then someone eating free school meals (today’s Independent) misses this crucial point of attitude and academic achievement prior to higher education. This is more then class war for want a be rebels.

The riots are the backdrop to some serious points on education and social justice – and a Conservative led government might explain why students are revolting now but not when Labour accepted the concept that students should directly contribute towards their education back in 1997.

So try and see past the visceral and decide what education system and society we need, an equitable way to pay for it, and the price we pay if we get it wrong. That really would be a revolution.

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