‘Rogue’ Private Landlords Must Stop Exploiting Students

Universities Minister Chris Skidmore has warned that landlords who fail to meet standards for student accommodation must face justice under new regulations

Chris Skidmore MP

Chris Skidmore MP

Rogue private landlords providing poor and substandard living conditions for students will be warned over exploiting learners by the Universities Minister today (25 March), as new regulations now in force give tenants the power to make them face justice in court.

Speaking to students today, the Minister will hit out at private landlords who do not fulfil their responsibilities, resulting in some students encountering poor conditions such as a lack of heating or hot water. Some figures have even suggested that one in five students live in ‘squalor’ and reported mice, slugs, and other vermin infesting their accommodation.

New regulations came into force last week empowering students and renters across the country, giving them the right to take landlords to court where they fail to address serious defects in homes such as mould, damp and safety hazards.

The Minister will describe the regulations as a ‘milestone’ for student renters, helping to raise standards in student accommodation and hold landlords more accountable for their actions and responsibilities.

Universities Minister Chris Skidmore said:

Students’ time at university should be some of the best days of their lives and yet I have heard appalling stories of students living in terrible conditions, which can affect their studies and even their mental health.

While there are many landlords who do take their responsibilities seriously, for too long rogue private landlords have been exploiting vulnerable students by failing to provide even basic standards of living.

Now the time is up for these landlords making a profit from shoddy accommodation. These new regulations make landlords more accountable, helping to improve standards, and students should use their powers to make sure landlords face justice where they’re not fulfilling their responsibilities.

Minister for Housing Heather Wheeler MP said:

For the last year, we have worked tirelessly to ensure all tenants, including students, have access to a fairer private rented market across the country.

From cracking down on unnecessary costs through our Tenant Fees Act, extending HMO regulations to offer protections to more tenants than ever before and giving councils the funding they need to tackle rogue landlords, we are determined to make renting of the standard it should be.

Now, these changes are set to have a real impact. Students must use these powers to crackdown on poor quality accommodation and opportunistic landlords profiting from tenants’ misery.

survey by NUS and UniPol found that in 2018, 40 per cent of UK students who rented privately lived with damp and mould on their walls. The same survey found that over a third of students said poor living conditions made them feel anxious or depressed (36%).

To make sure that students receive adequate accommodation when renting privately, Unipol and Universities UK have created codes to set standards for practice and conduct, which landlords can sign up to, to make sure standards are met.

The Universities Minister is calling on all private landlords renting properties to students to sign up to these codes to help to ensure they act responsibly, meet standards of practice and have a clear complaints process.

Mr Skidmore will also encourage all universities to consider the social value of contracting out services, such as accommodation, to help make sure the wider community benefits from these decisions.

He is working with the University of Northampton to look at ways in which universities can ensure they are embedding social values in their procurement practices.

UK-Taiwan Celebrate Successful Science And Research Co-Operation

The Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) and British Office Taipei today hosted an event to recognise the first successful year of the UK-Taiwan Innovative Industries Programme (UKTW I2P)

Innovation is GREAT

Innovation is GREAT

UKTW I2P is the first UK government-funded programme of this kind, aiming to strengthen UK-Taiwan collaboration in key areas such as biotechnology, AI, robotics, clean energy, and autonomous vehicles. It was launched in March 2018 to promote UK-Taiwan science and research bilateral co-operation activities. In the first year, the majority of the funding – £200,000 (NT $8 million) – was allocated to support Taiwanese researchers to conduct research at UK universities and R&D institutes, with additional funding for sector analysis and bilateral visits.

Administrated by ITRI, the programme for the first year has successfully attracted a total of 11 Taiwanese researchers, 6 of them from universities and 5 from the R&D institutes, including National Cheng Kung University, National Central University, National Chiayi University, National Sun Yat-sen University, National Yunlin University of Science & Technology, and ITRI.

Catherine Nettleton, representative of British Office Taipei said:

Over the last year the UK-Taiwan Innovative Industries Programme has created a step-change in the collaboration between British and Taiwanese researchers. Eleven talented Taiwanese researchers undertook joint research at British institutions. The projects they initiated have significant potential across a wide range of areas, from medical devices to digital economy & advanced manufacturing. We expect these projects to benefit innovation in both the UK and Taiwan, and to create links that will last for many years to come. We are very grateful to ITRI for their professional and enthusiastic support in the delivery of this programme.

As a key delivery partner of UKTW I2P, ITRI has been working closely with the British Office Taipei to foster a deeper science and research connection between Taiwan and the UK. Dr. Pei-Zen Chang, ITRI’s Executive Vice President, stated that UKTW I2P provided a great opportunity to enhance UK-Taiwan scientific partnerships, and that many potentially beneficial research topics had already been identified since the launch of the programme. In the future, he said, ITRI would devote even more efforts to paving the way for new topics and cultivating further the existing collaborative projects.

ITRI researcher Jih-Yang Chang, who participated in UKTW I2P, shared his experience of conducting research and work exchange in the UK. He said:

Through this project, I collaborated with the British AIE Rotor Engine Company to integrate a rotary engine into the hybrid electric power system of an ITRI-developed UAV to reduce weight and improve fuel efficiency. The end result of this joint effort was phenomenal, and we were able to achieve the project’s goal successfully!

Chang also visited Sheffield University and Imperial College London to make some great connections with their network of high payload and high duration commercial drone technology. He indicated that during his stay in the UK, he was impressed with the professionalism of the British research teams and glad to exchange valuable ideas with each other.

Another researcher Shih-Chun Lin, who is from the Department of Nursing at National Cheng Kung University, also shared her experience with the programme:

UKTW I2P provided me with a meaningful platform to examine pediatric palliative care from different cultural perspectives and health care policies. Through my visits to ten British pediatric care organizations and talking with various specialists, I was able to share my views with the British pediatric hospice care professionals on the culturally-sensitive end-of-life care for families with Chinese-ethnic background while gaining valuable insights to input more international standpoints on Taiwan’s pediatric hospice research and education.

For more information, please visit UK-Taiwan Innovative Industries Programme.

African Tech Talent Touches Down In London To Participate In Go Global Africa Programme

Twenty of Africa's innovative and exciting tech startups have arrived in London to take part in the first Go Global Africa programme

Department for Culture, Media & Sport

Department for Culture, Media & Sport

  • Innovative tech startups from Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa arrive in London today for two-week programme to help take their business to the next level
  • Aim is to create a mutually beneficial partnership with Africa which helps develop new tech to solve local and global issues and pave the way for future trade
  • Programme is part of the ambitious new UK-Africa Innovation Partnerships announced by Prime Minister Theresa May in August 2018

Twenty of the most innovative and exciting development-focused startups from Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa arrived in London today to take part in the first Go Global Africa programme.

Go Global is a hugely successful innovation scheme which supports startups to improve their business skills and capability, build links with the UK’s thriving tech sector and work with UK expertise to take their firms to the next level.

The programme was started by the UK Israel Tech Hub and over the last four years it has helped develop new UK-Israel collaborations in the digital economy. According to the most recent report on its impact, the UK Israel Tech Hub has led 175 tech partnerships in deals worth £85 million.

Not only does the scheme help firms in the host country but it also plays a vital part in making links for UK startups in these new markets. And with young populations, five of the world’s fastest growing economies and a thirst for innovation, Africa is a continent alive with opportunity.

Digital Minister Margot James said:

It is fantastic to welcome these talented entrepreneurs to the UK. Africa is a vibrant and dynamic continent, with huge potential for growth, and the firms chosen for the first Go Global Africa programme see tech as a force for good in society.

I’ve no doubt they have the talent to play a transformative role in their country’s growth while also building connections for UK startups in new markets and highlighting Britain as the place to develop new technology.

The startups, selected from more than 400 applicants, are developing cutting-edge products and services in industries including fintech, healthcare, agritech and water management.

They will receive coaching from pitching experts Enterprise Academy, a public speaking masterclass, and advice on scaling up from PriceWaterHouseCoopers dedicated startup team and the Natwest Fintech Accelerator.

Bethnal Green Ventures, Europe’s first tech for good accelerator, will provide the startups with insights on how to launch and scale tech for good ventures and Carlos Espinal from Seedcamp will provide guidance on fundraising.

Following the programme the startups will receive ongoing support from the UK’s International Tech Hub Network, which now spans three continents and has seven hubs. They will act as Go Global champions and share the skills they have learned to mentor other firms in their countries. This will help spread digital skills, capability and entrepreneurial spirit to create jobs and prosperity.

RAF Aircraft To Fly Vital UK Aid Relief To Mozambique

An A400M Atlas aircraft will deliver up to 20 tonnes of UK aid supplies to those affected by the devastating cyclone

 

An A400M Atlas aircraft was used to distribute aid as part of the UK's response to the earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia last year

An A400M Atlas aircraft was used to distribute aid as part of the UK’s response to the earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia last year

A RAF aircraft will help deliver up to 20 tonnes of UK aid supplies to those affected by the devastating cyclone that has struck Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, the Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson announced today (Sunday, 24 March 2019).

 

The A400M Atlas aircraft will help provide critical humanitarian aid from the Department for International Development (DFID) for survivors of Cyclone Idai in Mozambique.

The Government of Mozambique has declared a national emergency in the aftermath of the cyclone and the arrival of the aircraft next week will ensure UK aid can be used to meet immediate needs on the ground. The A400M Atlas previously delivered 17.5 tonnes of UK aid relief to those affected by the earthquake and tsunami that struck Indonesia last year.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

The UK stands united with those affected by the devastation of Cyclone Idai at this incredibly difficult time. Our partners across the globe can count on our Armed Forces to lend a helping hand in times of need, which is why are sending an RAF aircraft to assist with the aid relief.

The deadly cyclone and torrential rains may have left more than a thousand people dead in Mozambique alone and it is one of the biggest humanitarian disasters the region has ever faced. It is estimated by the UN that 350,000 people are still at risk due to rising water levels in urban and rural areas.

UK aid on board the aircraft will help towards providing vital relief for the 37,500 people in need of urgent shelter. Current reports indicate at least 17,400 homes have been completely destroyed by the cyclone and flooding and the RAF’s rapid deployment of the aircraft will help ensure the timely delivery of UK aid supplies.

RAF pilots will use their training and expertise to safely navigate through challenging flying conditions and deliver UK aid to those who need it most. Many villages and landmarks have been submerged by floodwater, stalling all land-based rescue missions and making the delivery of aid by air even more critical.

The content of the UK aid package on board is still to be determined, but is expected to include relief items such as solar lanterns, water purifiers and shelter kits.

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said:

The UK government was one of the first to respond to this crisis and is currently the biggest global donor to the response. It is doing all it can to provide life-saving help to the hundreds of thousands of people left homeless or without food by this devastating cyclone.

The UK aid on board this RAF plane due to fly into Mozambique contains essential supplies, which will made a real and immediate difference to the survivors.

This is undoubtedly one of the biggest natural disasters to hit the region, and our thoughts remain firmly with the victims.

A DFID flight containing over 7,500 emergency shelter kits and family tents arrived in Maputo, Mozambique’s capital on Wednesday last week. Another UK aid flight is due to leave Doncaster today carrying forklift trucks and other cargo handling equipment. This will speed up the time it takes to unload aid from planes, ensuring it reaches the survivors of the cyclone more quickly. DFID experts are already on the ground coordinating the response.

A UK aid chartered plane is also currently doing shuttle runs, carrying aid between Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, and Beira, a city in the area worst hit by the cyclone.

In addition to relief supplies prepositioned in Mozambique before the crisis, DFID has also supported the World Food Programme to deliver airdrops of high-energy biscuits to isolated pockets of people stranded by floodwaters in Beira.

The UK’s total support for the survivors of Cyclone Idai now stands at £22 million. This includes £4 million of aid match money for the Disasters Emergency Committee’s appeal.

Universities Told To End Grade Inflation

Education Secretary Damian Hinds is calling for universities to end grade inflation, by curbing unexplained increases in firsts and 2:1s awarded

Graduation

Graduation

Universities must end the steep-rise of ‘unjustifiable’ first class degrees to maintain the UK university sector’s world-class reputation, Education Secretary Damian Hinds has said today (24 March).

In the second in a series of interventions across higher education, Mr Hinds wants action taken across the sector to put a stop to artificial grade inflation starting from the next academic year – in a bid to reset the proportion of firsts and 2:1s awarded by universities.

Analysis published by the Office for Students (OfS) in December 2018 showed that 27% of students obtained a first-class honours degree in 2016/17, up from 16% in 2010/11. Of all university students, 78% now obtain an upper degree (first or 2:1), up from 67% in 2010/11. Analysis of these figures concluded that the scale of this rise cannot be attributed to the rise in pupils’ prior attainment or changes in student demographics alone.

The OfS data also revealed that 50.1% of students at the University of Surrey were awarded a first class degree in 2016-17, while at the University of Huddersfield 37.9% of students were awarded a first class degree in 2016-17.

Mr Hinds has today announced a clear expectation that the OfS should directly challenge institutions where they find clear evidence of artificial grade inflation occurring.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said:

Our universities are world-class and world leading, with four ranked among the top ten in the world, and attracting thousands of international students. At the heart of that global reputation is a trust in the quality and high standards of the education provided.

Unjustifiable, artificial grade inflation threatens that. It cannot be right that students in one year are awarded higher grades for the same level of achievement than those in previous years. We owe it to the hardworking students who have earned those top grades to stamp out this unfair practice.

I expect the Office for Students – when they have their full range of powers – to challenge those institutions that record an unjustifiable rise in the proportion of top degrees being awarded.

The OfS’ statutory powers are on course to be strengthened through new regulations due to be laid in Parliament later this year, which once agreed allow the OfS to levy fines of up to £500,000 or two per cent of a university’s income (whichever is higher).

Universities found to be damaging students’ interests could be subject to sanctions such as placing additional conditions on their registration, fines, or in the worst case scenario removing a university’s powers to award degrees.

The UK Standing Committee for Quality Assessment, is developing sector-recognised standards to ensure that all degree awards are consistent and fair – due to be completed this academic year.

Universities UK, GuildHE and QAA have been undertaking this work as members of the committee on behalf of the full committee and the sector.

Together, these measures will strengthen the regulator’s ability to challenge universities with unwarranted grade inflation and hold them to account.

Professor Dame Janet Beer, President of Universities UK, said:

Universities are determined to tackle unexplained grade inflation. The sector’s collective will to take ownership of this challenge is strong, as we recognise it is crucial that we keep the confidence of students, employers and the public, in the value of a university qualification.

It is important to draw a distinction between grade inflation and grade improvement, where increased investment in teaching and facilities, as well as students working harder than ever, are leading to legitimate increases in grades. Questions raised by this debate will not halt efforts to ensure every student has the opportunity to get the best outcome from their study – a priority shared by the government and the Office for Students.

We will shortly be publishing the results of a wide-ranging consultation, carried out with sector partners, which includes a statement of intent from universities on how to protect the value of qualifications across the UK.

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