Director Answers Tough Questions about LSE’s Brexit Fallout and the Charlottesville Protestor
On Monday 15 October, LSE Director Dame Minouche Shafik set out her ‘New Strategy’, addressing growing concerns over plummeting student satisfaction, complaints over the quality of teaching, and outdated assessment practices.
In the first 15 minutes, the Director outlined ambitious plans to modernise the school, facilitate debate and ensure that the LSE had “the largest global impact”.
Brexit fallout, and controversy over the school’s recent admission of a former white-nationalist dominated the hour of questions that followed. Notably, there was a significant increase in student turnout in comparison to previous years: approximately 70 were present.
The new Pro-Director for Education, Professor Dilly Fung, outlined a strategy to modernise education and improve student engagement.
The Embedding Research Practice‘ strategy is an attempt to get undergraduate students more involved in academic research as part of their education; it was argued that research skills were transferable and appealing to many employers.
There was concern that doubling down on research failed to solve the issue of bad teaching. Minouche promised that salary increases for staff who engaged more with students would address this issue.
The Empowering All Students and Engaging Communities strategies both outlined changes to assessment practices. Focusing on part-time internships, getting-rid of essays in favour of podcasts, research papers, and videos, will give students a ‘showcase portfolio’ for future employers.
Modernising the University
The Director outlined a plan to convert the recently purchased Lincoln’s Inn Field Building into an ‘International Conference Centre’ to offer an alternative against “post-truth, fact free debate”.
Also stated was a focus on “sustained, ongoing learning”. Stackable credentials, ‘Executive Education’ and increasing funding for the Summer-School program were all outlined as ways the LSE would become centred-around ‘lifetime’ education, with alumni coming back to LSE later on in their careers.
Minouche was optimistic about the LSE’s ability to weather the Brexit fallout, boasting that there was a 7% increase in European students applying to study, compared to a national 6% average drop. It was also announced that the partnership program with overseas universities would be expanded.
Significantly, no clear answer was given on the question of price-hikes in fees for EU students, but the Director reassured worried students that fees were unlikely to change in the next few years.
For non-EU students, higher fees were defended as necessary, however a scholarship fund of £150 million was promised.
The Cvjetanovic question
Tensions mounted over questions regarding the admission of a former white nationalist, who participated in the notorious Charlottesville Rally.
The Director was candid, stating that the LSE was ‘a place of learning’ with strong ethics codes and student codes of conduct and that political screening was both “impossible and illegal”. She went on to clarify that the student had made a statement renouncing his former views, and emphasised that the school should give all the opportunity to learn.