Editorial: Societies at Kent, Boris Johnson and Contextualised Offers

Image: InQuire Photography | Aslan Ntumba

Go on and join a society at Kent

Fresher’s might mean strolling down Woodys for a pint, getting lost around Eliot or awkwardly tiptoeing around your kitchen. But before you step foot in the Templeman to find heads buried in books, there is a mass of activities right here on campus. With societies from sports to debating, stressing over assignments might not be the only way to live a successful uni life. Societies are the crux of building a social life around a degree. These student-led groups build social skills, as well having something to stick on your CV. You may not end up as the president of Belly Dancing (although you could if you want to) but you may actually find yourself building your employability. With almost 20,000 students at UKC and 78% of those students having successful graduate prospects, the fight for jobs becomes more tense. Societies offer an easy way to put your foot in the door – all whilst having fun with groups ran by, and for students. Make sure you do not stay at home during Welcome Fair. If nothing takes your fancy, at least you might get some free pizza.

Boris premiership will revive political engagement This is the first InQuire with Boris Johnson as PM. Thanks to the backing of Tory MPs and members, Mr Johnson has taken the helm with the task of honouring the will of 17.4 million Brexiteers. Bojo, as with every incomer that has addressed the dispatch box, has been met with appraisal and despondency, particularly among students; his approval ratings among millennials lies at 24%, three-quarters of 18-24 oppose Leave (which Boris was a key architect of with Vote Leave), and his outspoken views on Islam are portrayed as an antithesis to the progressive values many maintain. This is a disorienting change in leadership. Given the fact that we have had three PMs since the referendum, voters like ourselves are beginning to feel the fatigue. We can go on and talk about Boris for hours, but given the exceptional circumstances we are in, we wish to tell you, the reader, that now is the time to start getting more politically engaged. For anyone, it is crucial to stay up-to-date about what is going on. In this age of digitalisation, it is easier than ever to read the news. We live in a democracy where we are able to exercise our freedom of speech, allowing us to have civilised discussion to rationalise our arguments. As cynicism grows, there has been an upsurge of protest movements such as the ‘Brexit Betrayal’ march (joined by Union President Sasha Langeveldt). Even our local MP, Rosie Duffield, has said she has been inundated with letters from both sides of the divide calling for her to take matters into her own hands. It is great to see the trend is popular among us, a befitting sentiment with the introduction of our new motto: “Your campus, your voice.” Have something you want to say, Boris et al, why not go out there and be heard?

Contextualised offers are far from being clear

On the 26 July 2019, Kent Union President Sasha Langeveldt spoke on BBC Radio Kent about contextualised admissions in the university admission process. This process means that an applicant’s background and personal circumstances are considered in their application. Its aim? To ‘narrow the gap’ for disadvantaged students. The interview, although not noted, accompanies the University of Kent’s adoption of a ‘trial cycle’ for contextualised admissions for 2019. Students who meet the eligibility standards, based upon OFS’ POLAR and the Government’s key stage data, will be offered “one grade below the published typical offer level”. Although the changes are being driven forward, national student support of Langeveldt’s anti-elitist agenda remain mixed. A Higher Education Policy Institute study of 1,000 participants showed that 73% of students believe it is harder for students from poorer areas to get good grades. However, when asked if universities should offer lower grades for disadvantaged students, 47% were supportive, the remaining 53% (45% opposed, 8% impartial) did not. One criticism is the breadth of eligibility. The Sutton Trust has endorsed greater “individual-level contextual indicators”, such as free-school meals, in the decision-making process and their argument is applicable for Kent’s admissions policy. Although the data can create a broad image of an individual’s circumstance, the actual circumstances can be overlooked within the data. Those in the bottom 40% schools, or who live in a low participation quintile area, may be overlooked because of their grouping. Does Kent do more to disseminate these students from their disadvantaged peers? If they do, it has not been mentioned on their admissions page. This, again, aligns with a Sutton Trust endorsement that universities should publish all circumstances. Although Kent has published a detailed selection, including listings of all eligible schools, detail surrounding how people become eligible remains unclear. More information should be disclosed on how disadvantaged students will be admitted. How will these students be supported at UKC? Will they have the same burdens as the advantaged? These are yet to be made clear within Union and University plans.

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