Category Archives: #Society

In the Media

The Institute picks interesting stories and news items every week from the worlds of art, culture and social study and presents them in the blog. This week the story has been chosen by Hanna Heiskanen.

The case for an independent London

The debate around devolution in the UK did not end with Scotland voting for staying in the union earlier this autumn. In his article for the Financial Times (“London should break free from Little England”), associate editor

Philip Stephens argues that London should acquire independence from the rest of the country and become a mini-state of its own – if one can call a state with an economy about the size of Sweden and with nearly three times as many inhabitants as in Finland small.

Stephens’ case is a strong one, at least when it comes to the figures. In addition to generating a large amount of money, thanks to its financial sector and but also the endless number of tourists flocking in every year, it benefits from much lower unemployment rates and a younger demographic than the rest of the country. Situated by its natural lifeline, the Thames, and surrounded by the orbital M25 motorway, London has natural borders against the home counties. It has modern infrastructure, an entrepreneurial spirit, and boroughs that would ensure local democracy. All in all, London would, most likely, make it on its own.

However, as Stephens points out, London is also different from the rest of the country in the way that capitals often are – through its inhabitants, their values, and their political inclinations. While surrounded by UKIP strongholds, London itself thrives on immigration. Although places such as Windsor and Cambridge are only an hour’s drive from London, spiritually they couldn’t be farther away. And isn’t some sort of sense of shared values and identity considered one of the most crucial building blocks of nationality?

If London were to break away from the UK, what would its new capital be? Manchester would be a strong contender for the role as the next-largest city with its nearly three million inhabitants and an impressive industrial history, and would undoubtedly bring a fresh new focus to North West England. Or, perhaps the country could take an even more revolutionary approach and decentralise its institutions into multiple locations. It would almost certainly help distribute national wealth more evenly and generate a stronger feeling of social cohesion. Surely a win-win situation for all.

“Jobs for the Boys” – addressing men’s wellbeing

Head of Society Programme Antti Halonen blogs about the Institute’s new education project.

After co-organising the highly successful Oppi learning festival earlier this year and a  precedent series of education seminars, the Finnish Institute’s education programme is taking a slightly new direction.  

According to latest education outcome surveys, such as OECD’s biannual PISA survey, girls in Finland outperform boys in almost every core skill. Similarly, the gender gap in university enrolment has continued to widen in favour of female applicants. Male students are outnumbered by females in almost every subject, including traditionally male-dominated subjects, such as mathematics and medical studies. Subsequently, boys lack crucial skills and confidence when applying to higher education and when starting their working careers. A recent study, in fact, found out that for the first time in Britain women in the age group of 22-39 enjoyed higher average per hour salary than men.

Swedish scholar, Svend Dahl, argues in a recently published report that in Sweden school has simply let boys down. There is a huge difference in learning outcomes and boys struggle especially in reading and social skills, but also increasingly in mathematics and science. Furthermore, according to Dahl, society’s sketchy attitude towards boys’ problems is a growing cause for alarm. Boys’ catastrophic learning outcomes have not gathered enough interest and this negligence is now pointing towards a society where a growing number of men are increasingly excluded.

Simultaneously, we need to bear in mind that men are still disproportionately overrepresented in executive-level jobs, such as CEOs and board members of publicly traded companies and also in other key positions in society. Overall, the pay gap is still in favour of men and needs to be diminished. However, in terms of fairness and equality, it is important to engage both female and male voices in discussing equality and to address problems faced by all genders. A project focusing on men’s well-being does not mean belittling the efforts of improving women’s equal rights.

Men’s well-being touches a number of areas in society, not only in Sweden but similarly in the UK, Ireland and Finland. The problems of men are visible for instance in education, health care, mental health services, the job market and crime prevention. Improving the conditions of young men is crucially important for the sake of society’s overall well-being.

The issue has gradually started to gain space in the British media, with observations from highly respected commentators from right and left alike, such as Telegraph’s Fraser Nelson and Guardian’s Owen Jones. Furthermore, Dr Pasi Sahlberg, the author of award-winning book Finnish Lessons: What Can The World Learn From the Educational Change in Finland, has copiously argued in favour of renewing the Finnish education system whilst Finland is still on top of the global PISA rankings. He has identified the lack of motivation and passion for learning and increasingly differential learning outcomes between girls and boys as some of the key challenges facing the Finnish education system. Communication and social skills, in particular, are amongst the skills boys have lacked so far.



 

The Finnish Institute will start searching for solutions to men’s problems in Finland, Britain and Ireland using the means of social sciences, art and communications. The “Jobs for the Boys” project started in September 2014 with a brainstorming session, in which the project plan was outlined and different means of influencing men’s well-being were discussed. Based on ideas stemming from the session the following action plans were formed:
Being a Boy/Man Today – video campaign about the challenges of everyday life faced by boys and men
  • a series of video interviews to be shared on Twitter in which Finnish, British and Irish boys and men tell about their perceptions on men’s challenges
  • possible topics: social pressures, challenges of manhood, education, mental health issues

Exercise in participatory budgeting for Finnish and British boys:

  • a Finnish-British collaborative project in which the boys are given the power to decide how to use a predetermined amount of money to improve their own well-being
  • participatory budgeting has had positive results in past and it is vitally important that young people get to experience direct influence in matters concerning themselves
Structural changes and young men’s employment:
  • a discussion or seminar organised in Britain with topics such as adapting to structural change, creating new jobs or supporting entrepreneurship
Study: new ways of supporting boys’ learning and employment:
  • a survey of how boys’ learning and employment issues are being tackled in Britain
  • the objective of the research is to produce new information on how boys’ challenges in learning and employment has so far been addressed and to produce tangible suggestions of policy ideas
  • a discussion event on boys’ learning

It is crucial that men are not left alone with their problems. There needs to be a culture change in regard to perception of manliness and men’s role in the society. With these project ideas in mind we start to bring together a various group of societal actors: individuals, universities, charities and NGOs with a goal of raising awareness of boys’ and men’s challenges. Should you wish to take part or should you have an project idea you’d like to discuss with us, please don’t hesitate to contact us at antti.halonen(at)finnish-institute.org.uk.

In the Media

The Institute picks interesting stories and news items every week from the worlds of art, culture and social study and presents them in the blog. This week the stories have been chosen by Taina Cooke.

A fairer year of 2015 – the new transparency law for oil, gas and mining companies

A miracle has happened! All the UK oil, gas and mining companies woke up on Monday with a newfound social conscience and thought that maybe they should exploit the developing countries a bit less. As a New Year’s resolution they have decided to end the shadiness of global trade and start publishing details of the payments they make to different governments across the world for access to natural resources. The 1st of January 2015 will mark the beginning of an era characterised by more trust, more transparency and less corruption!
Okay, the UK government might have helped them a bit. Or a lot, to be more precise. The Parliament, you see, passed a historic transparency law for oil, gas and mining companies which helps to fight poverty and corruption in resource-rich but poor countries. The new law brings hundreds of billions of pounds worth of taxes, licence fees and royalties available to public scrutiny making it more difficult for companies and governments to make shady deals behind closed doors. Companies failing to report truthfully and accurately could face criminal prosecution.

UK is the first EU member state to fulfill the requirements of the EU Accounting Directive by passing the transparency law. All 28 EU countries are required to implement the directive by July 2015 and Finland, alongside five other countries, has publicly committed to early adoption. Passage of the law in Europe sends a strong signal to the US and Canada too encouraging them to join the fight against corruption and the “resource curse”. Fingers crossed, in 2015 an increasing number of governments will help the oil, gas and mining companies to wake up their sleeping consciences and start acting in a more open, more honest and more responsible way.  

Labour’s plan to strip private schools’ tax privileges causes mayhem

The class war is back on. The Labour party and Tories are fiercely fighting over private schools’ tax privileges and the troublemaker at the frontline seems to be Labour’s Shadow Secretary of Education, Tristram Hunt. Or this is the picture painted for us by newspapers such as The Telegraph. In reality, Mr Hunt has acted on a concern raised by many: why do private schools receive tax reliefs based on their charity status when so many of them do so little to earn it?

Mr Hunt has announced that a Labour government would remove business rates relief worth £165m a year from private schools that were not doing enough to help neighbouring state schools. According to Mr Hunt, in order to justify their charitable status private schools should, for example, run more summer schools, sponsor academies and support teacher training. Several advocates of the current tax relief system, however, suggest that removing the reliefs would result in increased fees or severe cut backs on some areas.

Tristram Hunt, as you might have guessed already, comes from a wealthy background and is privately educated himself. He’s been criticised for threatening private schools and effectively trying to deny children the same privilege he enjoyed. On the other hand, having in-depth knowledge about the system in practise hardly invalidates the criticism made of it. Also, if Labour’s suggestion about the relief removal being equivalent to just over 2 per cent of the private school’s fee income is correct, there certainly is room for some well grounded cuts.  

In the Media

The Institute picks interesting stories and news items every week from the worlds of art, culture and social study and presents them in the blog. This week the stories have been chosen by Taina Cooke.
 
 
The universal language of money – Express visa service for big spenders to be expanded
 
Immigration and its effects get a lot of coverage in the news. Generally it is the cons that dominate the headlines: immigrants are without a doubt too many, they are too foreign, too criminal and way too unemployed. The numerous pros introduced by foreign nationals are often dismissed when politicians concentrate on making it more and more difficult for people to enter the country. Outsider swarming into the UK is bad, is the message – unless, of course, there is a flow of cash involved.

David Cameron wants to expand the speedy visa service for wealthy visitors, according to last week’s Financial Times. The prime minister seeks to make the UK more attractive to big spenders from overseas by extending the 24-hour visa service to seven more countries. Currently the visa service, which ensures a decision on application within just one day, is available in China and India and costs a mere £600 per application – that is in addition to the standard visa fee, of course. If and when the plan is brought about, rich people coming also from Turkey, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Thailand and visa processing centres in New York and Paris are welcomed with open arms.
 
 
It is somewhat peculiar how a big enough pile of money can fade out the otherwise often  overly highlighted borders of different countries. Unlike people, money clearly isn’t discriminated based on its birthplace or origins. Money talks loudly and the heavier the wallet, the easier and less time-consuming the bureaucratic process clearly becomes. The message to outsiders is clear: you are welcome in as long as you spend money, spend it like it’s seriously going out of style.
 
A look into your fridge can reveal your political orientation – YouGov launched a profiling app
 
We at the Finnish Institute have for long been interested in the many possibilities of open knowledge and Big Data. There are numerous ways in which the freedom of information can benefit our lives and make us more aware of matters, facts and figures surrounding us. Open data can be utilised in many ways and one of the freshest examples has been offered by the market research company YouGov.
 
YouGov collected data from its 200,000 active panellists and created a website that allows anyone to access profiles of people showing their different likes and personal preferences. According to Guardian, the site is intended mainly for commercial purposes and it is broken down by demographics based on age, political preferences, earning and multiple niche interests and hobbies. You can type in one of the 30,000 search terms and compare, for example, what Justin Bieber fans have in common. The results can prove to be somewhat amusing.
 
The profile tool tells us, for example, that Miliband’s fans enjoy mushroom stroganoff and admire Pete Seeger. Nick Clegg’s followers are fans of the Eurovision song contest whereas Cameron’s fans listen to Dolly Parton, watch Les Miserables and have a pet fish. The more rightwing you are the more you like sweetcorn and musicians such as Cliff Richard. On the other hand, if you are fond of Kate Bush the chances are you’re also a Guardian-reading male over the age of 40 and work in IT.
 
As you might suspect, the profile tool is not exactly the all-knowing crystal ball with its relatively small and statistically biased sample size. One can, however, easily spend a considerably long period of time typing in different search words just for his/hers own amusement. While doing that one spots, for example, that those British people who have special interest in Finland (307 people) often also play some instrument and have a cat. Those interested in Finland are likely to be females between the ages of 25 and 39 who live in central Scotland and value ethically produced goods and organic food. Those panellists who have a soft spot for Finland also tend to bank with Co-op and spend less than one hour a week watching TV. All this sounds rather fascinating and even if the profile tool can’t be described as statistically sound, it for sure is entertaining.

In the Media

The Institute picks interesting stories and news items every week from the worlds of art, culture and social study and presents them in the blog. This week the stories have been chosen by Taina Cooke.

Dangerously ignorant citizens – what are the real numbers behind the news?
Two wise sociologists famously noted a while ago that if people define situations as real, they are real in their consequences. This idea, which later came to be known as the Thomas Theorem, is extremely valid today as well when considering people’s views on social topics. A recent study highlights the differences between what you think happens in your country and what is actually taking place – and as last week’s Guardian bluntly put it, how you are probably wrong about almost everything.

The new report found that most people are not only wrong, but completely all at sea with some of the key facts about their home nation. Misconceptions are typical when it comes to estimating, for example, the proportion of immigrants, Muslims, teenage pregnancies and unemployment. According to the survey by Ipsos MORI, Britons thought that the percentage of Muslims in the UK was 21% when the actual number is 5%. Also, people estimated that only 39% of the British population was Christian when the correct figure is as high as 59%.  Furthermore, when asked how many people out of 100 are immigrants to this country, the average guess was 24 – which makes up about twice the actual proportion.

British people taking part in the questionnaire seem to have turned a blind eye on the news concerning the positive effects of migration. An example of such news reporting was featured in Wednesday’s Financial Times: EU migrants pay £20bn more in tax than they receive. The new study by academics at University College London showed that European immigrants have paid significantly more in taxes than they received in benefits in the UK over the last decade. Results of the research hopefully forces some of the laymen – as well as politicians – to rethink their critical attitudes towards the freedom of movement principle within the EU.

Britons are, however, by no means unique in their ignorance. Out of 14 countries surveyed Britain is actually the fifth least ignorant while Swedes were the best informed and Italians the most out of it. The phenomenon is alarming as it promotes misconceptions and influences political actions. The politicians, you see, most often aim to focus on voter perceptions, not on the factual data. It probably comes as a no surprise either that trust in politics goes hand in hand with being informed as Swedes seem to have a lot more faith in their country’s politics than Italians do (based on voter turnout at least).

People creating, and effectively also living in, these alternative realities is problematic. But it is when the politicians also enter these bubbles and start to feed the misconceptions that it becomes a real issue. Redefining the current misinformed situation rather than reinforcing it means we wouldn’t need to live with the possibly very ugly consequences.

The Science Museum’s new exhibition opened in a (t)witty way

A historical episode took place two weeks ago when the Queen sent her first ever tweet while opening the Science Museum’s Information Age gallery. The royal tweet draw a lot of attention on a gallery dedicated to the history of information and communications technology. The new permanent exhibition covers the “six networks that changed our world” by displaying the changes in the cable, the telephone exchange, broadcast, the constellation, the cell and the web.

Accompanying the opening of the new gallery a conference titled “Interpreting the Information Age: new avenues for research and display” was held on 3–5 November at the Science Museum. A well-organized conference featured speakers from multiple universities and organizations from all over the nation and abroad. Themes such the appearance of pioneering information technologies, the security state and computing as well as time travelling were dealt with. Also the vast socio-cultural effects following the big technological changes were discussed about as were the museums’ challenges of collecting the material culture of intangible information. The participants were also taken on a tour around the new gallery, which definitely proved to be worth seeing. No wonder this was the venue of choice for the Queen to get her tweet wet in the social media scene.

 

In the Media

The Institute picks interesting stories and news items every week from the worlds of art, culture and social study and presents them in the blog. This week the stories have been chosen by Taina Cooke.
‘Mowing the lawn’ – What it means to you and what it means to a politician
Sometimes it’s difficult to talk about serious things. For politicians, it seems, talking about anything is often seriously difficult. In this week’s Guardian George Monbiot writes about the peculiarity of political rhetoric and how governments talk about human beings. According to Monbiot politicians don’t, for example, speak about ‘people’ or ‘killing’ because it would make it too difficult to do their job. Monbiot has made interesting observations about how the people in power use dehumanising language in order to detach themselves from the issues they are dealing with.
A recent example of a dehumanising euphemism was offered by Lord Freud, a minister in the UK’s Department of Work and Pensions. He was in the headlines for saying that disabled people are “not worth the full wage” and to make things even worse, according to the official parliamentary record he spoke of them as a “bulge of, effectively, stock”. Also, according to the British government, people who claim benefits live in ‘benefit units’ rather than ordinary families.
Another graphic example comes from the States where Obama’s counter-terrorism adviser Bruce Riedel used somewhat cryptic language when justifying the drone war in Pakistan. Riedel voiced: “you’ve got to mow the lawn all the time. The minute you stop mowing, the grass is going to grow back.” The director of the CIA, on the other hand, chose a different approach and instead of gardening went with medical terms when claiming that with “surgical precision” his drones “eliminate the cancerous tumour called an al-Qaida terrorist while limiting damage to the tissue around it”. Those operating the drones considered their victims, in turn, as ‘bug splats’.
In addition to human beings, the surrounding living world is discussed in similar terms. Nature is ‘natural capital’ or ‘green infrastructure’ whereas wildlife and habitats are ‘asset classes’ in an ‘ecosystems market’. A Norwegian health trust combined the two, people and nature, in a delightful manner when it described the patients on its waiting list as ‘biomass’. Yes, biomass, which is more commonly known as “biological material derived from living, or recently living organisms, most often referring to plants or plant-based materials”.
In Finland the language used by politicians is unfortunately not that different. Earlier this month Merja Niilola wrote an article in Yle Uutiset about the complexity of political rhetoric. She interviewed a language expert Vesa Heikkinen, who raised concerns about jargon’s effect on democracy. Heikkinen was worried about the possibility that a vague and unclear language might result in overall confusion about what is actually going on in society.On the other hand, Heikkinen warns about the risk of taking rhetorics too far in the opposite direction. The rising populist movement has introduced us to a new kind of political language, that of pseudo frankness and honesty. As intriguing and fresh as this type of expression might at first seem, in reality it often oversimplifies complex issues.

Yet again, the key seems to be finding the famous middle ground. Using the correct terms when talking about human beings, nature, warfare and killing is crucial not only in order for the public to know what is going on but also for the politicians’ themselves. No citizen wants to be represented by an MP who escapes moral responsibility by denying the existence of living things. Also, oversimplifying is effectively undervaluing the public’s own intellectual capability and hence, shouldn’t be favoured. Let’s not talk about bad elite and good poor but please, please let’s not talk about biomass or mowing the lawn either.

The risky life of a two-wheeler

Bike thieves have it too easy. Hundreds and hundreds of unguarded bicycle racks offer an all-you-can-eat buffet for these nasty, bike-hungry criminals. Luckily, however, there is a new and simple way to track stolen bikes and control the skunks’ appetite.

On Check That Bike website you can in many cases make sure that a second-hand bike you’re planning to buy is not of stolen origin. The site has a vast database of stolen bicycle frame numbers which allows the victims and potential buyers to cross check their data. When more and more data on bicycle crimes is open the theft hopefully decreases as criminals will find it more difficult to sell on the stolen bikes. The site depends heavily on open data and freedom of information request.
Making it more difficult for bike thieves to steal our two-wheeled friends is very much necessary, especially if you happen to live in Oxford, Cambridge or South East London where the bike theft rates are the highest in the country. According to The Telegraph these somewhat surprising locations are the biggest black holes for our green means of transportation. Checking ‘your’ new bike’s origin might lead to a happy reunion of two old friends and an unhappy end for the thief. Well worth it, I’d say.
P.S. On a positive note, it seems that London’s famous Boris bikes do not attract criminals. Since the scheme launched about four years ago, just 27 bikes out of a total of 11,000 have been reported stolen. That is an extremely low number, especially if you compare it to the annual 1,200 thefts of public Vélib’ bikes in Paris.

In the Media

 
The Institute picks interesting stories and news items every week from the worlds of art, culture and social study and presents them in the blog. This week the stories have been chosen by Taina Cooke.

London – the most expensive and most attractive city in the world
London is expensive, that’s hardly any news. It has been made official though that London is not only expensive, but now also the most expensive city in the world. Oh, how we are honoured. This dubious recognition was based on a new study, which showed that London has overtaken Hong Kong as the world’s most expensive city to work and live in. Cities falling a little behind London included New York and Paris. London is nearly twice as pricey as Sydney, and four times more expensive than Rio de Janeiro.
One major cause in pushing London up to first place in the rankings is its skyrocketing property prices. Property values have risen by 18.4% in the past year only and office rents too have jumped significantly. Also, the pound’s strength against the dollar has had an effect for the worse, whereas a weakening currency contributed to Hong Kong’s ranking. Calculations in the ranking were made, however, from a business point of view and hence indicate the annual cost of an employee based in London for the employing company. This means that, for example, property expenses are still a lot higher for private people looking to buy in Hong Kong compared to the UK.
Despite the price tag that comes with settling down in London, UK’s capital appeals to many. Based on a recent survey by the Boston Consulting Group and totaljobs.com, London is where most people in the world want to work. Of the more than 200,000 people questioned, nearly one in six (16%) said they wanted to work specifically in London. Other popular places to work in included Sydney, Berlin, Toronto, Madrid, Barcelona, Singapore and Rome. Big drawcards of London are thought to be high salary prospects, cultural attractions, public health care and the multicultural atmosphere.
There truly must be something magical in London. Rated both as the most expensive and most attractive at the same time seems somewhat bizarre. Only in London can you see people paying 1,200 pounds a month for one-bedroom apartment, travel to work extremely slowly but yet expensively and still be having the time of their lives.  
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure – a restaurant utilizing food waste
Most of us don’t like wasting food. We see a food product that has gone past its use-by-date in our fridge, turn up our noses and throw it in the bin.  We feel pretty bad for a moment, but get over it extremely fast. Luckily, though, not everyone does.
A not-for-profit restaurant called Skipchen has opened its doors in Bristol. This small restaurant is quite different from traditional restaurants with its daily changing menus. Skipchen’s staff, you see, don’t order in their supplies but instead go and find them. Teams of volunteers either dive dumpsters or look for donations and then prepare eclectic dishes for customers. A lucky customer might get to choose from options such as: crab and prawn salad, kiln-roasted salmon, baked beans on toast and even lobster.
Even though it’s not legal to scavenge from supermarket skips in the UK, the team justifies it by arguing that it would be even a bigger crime to let it all go to waste. Nothing in Skipchen is discarded: customers are invited to pay what they want and if there’s any food left by the closing time, it’s all given away to passersby. People are delighted both with the food and the concept and there’s no shortage of customers.
What a success story! Hopefully the concept will spread wider and by the looks of things, the chances are it will. Last month in Finland an event called ‘Saa Syödä!’ was organized as a part of the food consciousness week ‘Hävikkiviikko’. 5000 portions of soup made of discarded vegetables were given to people and speeches fitting the theme were held. Taking into consideration the vast amount of food that is being thrown away annually, this is all very welcome and necessary. Maybe next time we think twice before opening that waste bin lid.

In the Media

The Institute picks interesting stories and news items every week from the worlds of art, culture and social study and presents them in the blog. This week the stories have been chosen by Taina Cooke.
 
 
Slow but steady devolution and the English question
Losing is never easy. Devoting years and years of your time to one endeavour and realising it didn’t pay off in the end can be soul crushing. Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland, learned this the hard way and appears to have done what all bad losers do: blame the game. After a well executed No campaign Salmond could’ve admitted the loss and even celebrated the gained result of a more autonomous future for Scotland, but instead he chose an alternative approach. Salmond decided the no-voters were ‘tricked’  and that Scotland could reach the inevitable, complete autonomy even without the silly referendum by simply unilaterally declaring independence after gaining enough powers. ‘Tricking’ the voters to tick the No box was apparently the result of a last-minute, dubious vow of more devolution by the Westminster leaders. According to Salmond, who is now stepping down as First Minister, the promises have already been dismissed.



Boris Johnson, the outspoken Mayor of London, responded to Salmond by saying “it would be bonkers to rewrite the constitution overnight”. Devolution will happen as promised, it just takes a little more time due to the obvious gravity of the matters at stake. The Mayor also reminded that as the devolution goes forward another, already earlier recognised issue of the so called West Lothian question finally needs addressing. This idea of “English votes for English laws” refers to the questionable right of Scottish (and also Welsh and Northern Irish) Members of Parliament to vote on matters that affect only England. According to many, as the English voice is less and less heard in issues concerning Scotland, it would be only fair to exclude Scottish MPs from the English debates.

In a grand scheme of things the West Lothian question is hardly as acute as putting the “devolution revolution” of Scotland into action. Taking into account that the British government effectively was the Scottish government from 1707 until 1999 it might be okay to let the Scots even the scores out for a little while longer and intervene in British business for now.


To end on a positive note: there has been some promising discussion on a broader, more participative way to start the new devolution and constitutional debate. The government and all of decision making processes should be more open, more transparent and, above all, more public engaging.

Ukip planning to increase tuition fees for EU students

The UK Independence party (Ukip) is currently having its annual party conference to shape and announce their vision for Britain’s future. This eurosceptic, right-wing populist party would be happy to increase the tuition fees for EU students so that they would match the charges of students coming from outside the EU. By doing this, it would allow British students to obtain a degree in for example medicine, science or maths free of charge.
If Ukip gains enough power in the next election and the proposal goes through, that would mean bad news for Finnish students studying in the UK too. At present, for example in the University College London an entry level fee for UK and EU students (undergraduate programmes) is at £9,000 per year whereas for overseas students the charge is at £15,200.
Ukip has gained more and more support within the last few years and its once largely ignored annual conferences are now receiving an increasing amount of media attention. However, according to the latest polls, Ukip’s support rate is less than 15 percent, which is not yet enough to rewrite any education policies.    

The less attractive tourist attraction

In London one becomes very familiar with queues, early bird deals and booking tickets far ahead to see the different shows and sights. It is guaranteed that whatever attraction you decide to go and see, you will not be alone: hundreds if not thousand have made the exact same plan to come and see that specific building, landmark, piece of art or even a bare road sign on that same day. Gets a bit too crowded, doesn’t it? This is not the case for all tourist attractions, however. While nearly seven million people visited The British Museum last year, guess how many visitors found their way to East Anglia’s Beacon Hill Fort? The correct and rather depressing answer is six. That works out at just one visitor every nine weeks, making Beacon Hill Fort the least popular attraction out of 1,279 listed by VisitEngland. So, it certainly doesn’t get chock-full in Beacon Hill Fort, which is somewhat surprising considering the importance of the site as one of Britain’s key defences against a possible Nazi invasion and that it wasn’t even decommissioned until the fifties. Oh, and it costs a moderate one pound to enter.

The lack of visitors might not be completely the sight’s fault though: currently it only opens its doors on one Sunday a month from 2pm till 4pm. But still, only six visitors per year is about 79,994 less than the Pencil Museum in Keswick gets. That is a museum devoted to bits of wood wrapped around some graphite.

After all, Beacon Hill Fort has some unquestionable historical value and is surely worth seeing. If historical fortresses are not your cup of tea, you can always pencil in a trip to Keswick.

In the Media

The Institute picks interesting stories and news items every week from the worlds of art, culture and social study and presents them in the blog. This week the stories have been chosen by Taina Cooke.
The mystery of Britain’s lowering crime rate
Crime experts across the country are facing an unexpected, but positive dilemma: why is crime in the UK falling? Ian Cobain reports about the phenomenon in last week’s Guardian and attempts to get to the bottom of it. Indeed, unlike the common man might think, statistics show that the total crime rate in the UK is lowering. The reported crime rate is currently lower than it has been for decades and it is not only the public that failed to see this coming, but it is the experts as well. No one really knows why crime in the UK seems to be falling, but a number of different theories exist.
One theory claims that crime is not actually disappearing, it is just changing its forms. The supporters of this theory argue that traditional crime surveys do not ask the right questions and hence fail to ignore the most modern-day, often Internet based, forms of crime. Another explanation could be found in the fall in drug use. According to this theory the crimes committed by heroin and crack cocaine users accounted for a fair share of the total crime rate from the 80s until mid-2000s. The main reason for the current trend of lowering crime is in fact that by 2014 these drug users have either quit or died. A more optimistic theory, however, states that the explanation can be found in a general cultural shift towards greater civility and caring. Combining reduced crime opportunities and better policing with taking good care of our fellows is the greatest explanatory factor to falling crime according to this viewpoint.
In any case, rather than wasting a lot of resources in trying to find out why crime is falling how about just enjoying the outcome? And even if crime is not falling, at least we have a pretty set of statistics for the government officials to frame and hang on their walls.
P.S. If you want to take a look at the exact amount of crimes taking place in different parts of the UK visit www.police.uk and look up the open data utilizing ‘crime map’
Saving tip of the week: ‘Ginger discount card’
A red-haired Scottish man realised you don’t need to be a pretty lady to get free drinks: ginger does the trick too! Well maybe not for free, but at a discounted price anyway. Richard Macrae was given a homemade ‘Ginger discount card’ for his 30th birthday by a friend as a joke. For everyone’s surprise it seemed to work too and Mr Macrae estimates he has saved about a couple of hundreds pounds over the last 4 years. “People have always given me stick for my hair colour but now I’m going out three nights a week and saving a fortune. The joke’s on them,” says Mr Macrae on The Scotsman’s interview. He says when presenting the card in bars, restaurants and shops surprisingly often retailers get the joke and agree to take some money off his purchases. He has even built up quite a reputation over the years and is now known as the ‘ginger discount guy’ in his hometown Aberdeen.
 
Well isn’t that just a great example of creativity and initiative! Ginger discount card might not get a lot of use in Finland, but how about a ‘Too-shy-to-ask-for-discount’ discount card?
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