Archive for BrExit

University News

Posted in Education, Politics with tags , , , , , , on April 28, 2019 by telescoper

As we stagger towards Week 11 of this twice-interrupted Semester I’m back in the office preparing stuff for another set of lectures. This term seems to have gone on forever, largely because of the two breaks (one at half-term around St Patrick’s Day, and other other for Easter). Now, though, the end is in sight. Or at least the examination period is: there are just two more weeks of lectures, ending on 10th May then a short break, then examinations start (on 17th May). Then, of course, there is marking, checking, conflating exam grades with coursework marks, examination boards, and all the other stuff that go on behind the scenes.

I noticed that this weekend’s edition of the Irish Times included a hard copy of a report called Delivering for Ireland: The Impact of Irish Universities which was produced by the Irish Universities Association. In fact the thing given away with the paper is just a summary report (you can download it in PDF format here). The full report (all 86 pages of it) can be downloaded here.

The report is full of interesting information, including this (which I didn’t know before):

The report was produced with the aim of making the case for further investment in Ireland’s universities. It remains to be seen whether the current Irish government will be persuaded. I’m not holding my breath. right-wing governments never seem to be interested in investing in the future. I think the best we can hope for is that Ireland does not continue its policy of slavishly copying English Higher Education policy, especially with the introduction of student loans and high tuition fees.

And talking of the idiocies of the English University system, there is a story going around that the UK Government is planning to make EU students pay full `Overseas’ fees after Brexit. Actually, Higher Education policy is a devolved matter so this can only be directly enforced on English universities. It will, however, be hard for Scottish Welsh and Northern Irish institutions to resist the consequences.

In fact I’ve long felt that the existing system – in which Home and EU students have to be treated the same way as a matter of law but non-EU students can be charged different (i.e. higher) fees is completely immoral. Once at university students are all taught the same way so why should some be charged more than others because they happen to come from China? What would you think of a shop that tried to charge people different prices for the same goods depending on the nationality of the customer?

This decision is of course an inevitable consequence of Theresa May’s interpretation of the EU referendum result as a mandate for policies of extreme xenophobia, as is the withdrawal from Erasmus. It is just another symptom of the UK’s descent into narrow-minded insularity. The message this decision sends out is that Britain hates foreigners but it likes their money so the rich ones who can pay extortionate fees will be graciously allowed to come here to get fleeced. Does the government really think that EU citizens are daft enough to come to a country that identifies itself in such a way? I don’t think they are. They’ll just find somewhere else to go, and the consequence for UK universities will be severe. I am confident this will push more than one UK higher education institution into bankruptcy.

Anyway, even if the the Irish university continues to be under-resourced, it will at least continue to welcome students from the EU on the same basis as before. So if you’re a European student who was thinking about studying in England, why not come to Ireland instead? It’s far cheaper, and we even have the same weather…

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Der Englische Patient

Posted in Politics with tags , , on April 7, 2019 by telescoper

I couldn’t resist sharing this brilliant cartoon by Jürgen Tomicek

A Change of Units

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on March 29, 2019 by telescoper

To round off a very strange week I’ve just been to an interesting talk by Dr Bajram Zeqiri of the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington (UK) about imminent changes to the International System of Units (usually known as SI units). In a nutshell, what is to happen is that the current seven base units are to be redefined in terms of fundamental constants. In effect this means that the these constants will fix the standard units rather than the other way round. For more details, see here. The change is due to come into effect on 20th May 2019.

Our speaker Dr Zeqiri is nearing the end of a short tour of Ireland speaking about these changes. Before giving the third talk on this subject talk today, 29th March 2019, thought to be the date on which the United Kingdom would leave the European Union, he wondered whether he might be able to claim political asylum in Ireland. Fortunately, today is not Brexit Day and following today’s events in Westminster it is by no means certain when that might be or indeed whether Brexit will even happen at all…

Brexit: What’s the Indicative Mood?

Posted in Pedantry, Politics with tags , , , , , on March 27, 2019 by telescoper

If you are confused about today’s `Indicative Votes’ in Parliament on Brexit let me provide some helpful information about the indicative mood, and how it relates to Brexit.

The English word “exit” is derived from the third person singular of the present tense in the indicative mood in the active voice of the Latin verb “exire” (“to go out”) i.e. it means “he/she/it leaves”, though the noun form it usually has in English derives from the supine form “exitus”. I feel it is important that we all get used to the grammar of Brexit, so here is a fairly complete list of the parts of the verb `Brexire’ in the active voice of the indicative mood, some or all of which may be relevant in the forthcoming debates, complete with accents to assist punctuation. At least these may prove useful in following any contributions from Jacob Rees-Mogg.

First let’s start with the basics:

Infinitive: Brexīre
Present participle: Brexiēns; Brexiéntis
Future participle: Brexītúrus
Gerund: Brexeúndum
Gerundive: Brexeúndus

And now here are representative examples of the conjugation of the verb Brexire in various tenses of the Indicative Mood in the order: first, second and third person singular followed by first, second and third person plural:

Present:

Brexeō,
Brexīs
Brexit
Brexīmus
Brexītis
Brexeunt

Past Imperfect

Brexībam
Brexībās
Brexībat
Brexībāmus
Brexībātis
Brexībant

Past Perfect

Brexiī
Brexīstī
Brexiit
Brexíimus
Brexīstis
Brexiḗrunt

Pluperfect

Brexíeram
Brexierās
Brexíerat
Brexierāmus
Brexierātis
Brexierant

Future Simple

Brexībō
Brexībis
Brexībit
Brexībimus
Brexībitis
Brexībunt

Future Perfect

Brexíerō
Brexíeris
Brexíerit
Brexiérimus
Brexieritis
Brexierint

The last tense here is not really relevant, but I’ve included it anyway.

No doubt when the Indicative votes are over, the House of Commons will proceed to the Subjunctive Mood – or even directly to the Imperative – but I shall leave these to a future post.

A Very British March

Posted in Biographical, Politics with tags , , , , on March 24, 2019 by telescoper

I’m back in Maynooth now after yesterday’s wonderful demonstration in London. Sources are claiming that about 1.4M people attended. I met filk from all round the country, many of whom had never been on a march before. It’s also worth saying according to the Metropolitan Police that there was not a single incident that they had to deal with.

I’m not very good in big crowds (to say the least) so I stood for a while a little distance from the main body of the demonstration as it assembled in Park Lane. I was astonished to see how many people were joining. It was certainly larger than the previous one, last year.

I eventually joined in when it started moving (very slowly). The people were very friendly and despite the numbers I didn’t get at all panicky. It struck me as being a quintessentially British demonstration, in that it was basically just some very nice polite people waiting politely in a very long queue..

The march was due to start at 12 noon but i didn’t get going until well after 2pm. I had to leave at 4pm, by which I had only got halfway along Piccadilly. Instead of going all the way to Parliament Square I headed back to my hotel, picked up the bag I had left there and took a packed tube to Heathrow. I made it just in time. The plane began boarding just as I ckeated the security checks.

I didn’t take many pictures of the march, but here are a few:

Hyde Park, the Statue of Achilles

Philosopher A. C. Grayling and I..

Beards against Brexit!

It was a wonderful experience to be in the company of so many extremely nice people and I was sad I couldn’t make it all the way to the end!

P. S. The petition on revoking Article 50 has reached almost reached 5 million signatures.

Put it to the People!

Posted in Politics with tags , , , on March 23, 2019 by telescoper

Well, that was a very enjoyable and informative couple of days in London celebrating the 60th Birthday of Alan Heavens, but my trip to London is not yet over. Before going to Heathrow Airport for the flight back to Dublin this evening, I am taking part in a demonstration in Central London demanding a referendum as a last chance to avert the calamity of Brexit, halt Britain’s descent into nationalistic xenophobia, and prevent the social and economic harm being done by the ongoing madness. I have a feeling that Theresa May’s toxic speech on Wednesday evening in which she blamed everyone but herself for the mess that she has created will have galvanized many more than me into action.

I’m not sure whether this march – even if it is huge – will make much difference or even that it will be properly reported in the media, but one has to do something. Despite the short delay to the Brexit date agreed by the EU, I still think the most likely outcome of this shambles is that the UK leaves without a proper withdrawal agreement and thus begins a new life as a pariah state run by incompetent deadheads who know nothing other than the empty slogans that they regurgitate instead of answering real questions.

The only sensible response to the present impasse is to `Put it to the People’, but there is no time to organize a new referendum – a proper one, informed by facts as we now know them and without the wholesale unlawful behavior of the Leave campaign in the last one. I dismiss entirely any argument that a new referendum would be undemocratic in any way. Only those terminally gripped by Brexit insanity would argue that voting can be anti-democratic, especially since there is strong evidence from opinion polls that having seen the mess the Government has created a clear majority wishes to remain. If there isn’t time for a new referendum before the deadline – and further extensions by the EU are unlikely – then the best plan is to revoke the Article 50 notification to stop the clock.

I know I’m not alone in thinking this. An official petition demanding the Government revoke Article 50 has passed 4,000,000 signatures in just a few days. I’ve signed it and encourage you to do likewise, which you can do here.

And if you’re tempted to agree with the Prime Minister’s claim that people are just tired of Brexit and just want it to be over, then please bear in mind that the Withdrawal Agreement – which has taken two years to get nowhere – is only the start of the process. The UK is set for years of further negotiations on the terms of its future relationship not only with the European Union but also all the other agreements that will be terminated by the UK’s self-imposed isolation.

If Brexit does go ahead, which I’m afraid I think will be the case, then my participation in today’s march will not have been a waste – it seems a fitting way to say goodbye to the land of my birth, a country to which I no longer belong.

Anyway, I may be able to add a few pictures of the march in due course but, until then, here is an excerpt from Private Eye that made me laugh.

“No Erasmus please, we’re British..”

Posted in Education, Maynooth with tags , , , on February 28, 2019 by telescoper

As the ongoing Brexit fiasco systematically trashes Britain’s international reputation, the consequences for the UK University sector are becoming increasingly obvious. In particular, the realization that Britain now defines itself exclusively by its xenophobia has led to a decision by Spain to remove the UK from the list of potential destinations for students under the Erasmus scheme. I’m sure other nations will soon make the same decision.

The European Union has agreed to honour Erasmus grants this year to UK students wish to study at European universities under Erasmus regardless of whether there is a Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and EU, but this is unlikely to be anything other than a stop-gap. It’s very sad to think that British students will be denied access to the Erasmus scheme in future, along with losing all the other benefits of Freedom of Movement.

Every cloud has a silver lining, though. Irish universities are more than happy to accept Erasmus students, and the one I work in (Maynooth) has a very active involvement in the scheme. So if you’re a student based in the EU, and want to study at an English-speaking university, why not apply to study in Ireland?