Updated : Wed, 19 Jun 2013 12:27:20 GMT
Is the Co-op Bank at risk of losing its co-operative status or are external investments a viable solution to financial woe?
The relationship between co-ops and capital has never been straightforward. While in theory co-ops fund their capital needs from their members' own capital and from retained profits, in practice co-ops have frequently needed to bring in external capital. The current capital requirements of the Co-operative Bank bring the issue into stark prominence.
There is something of a challenge facing the worldwide cooperative movement over capital. At a time when a rejuvenated International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) is actively emphasising the size of the global co-op sector and stressing its ethical credentials, many large co-operatives are looking for new ways to fund their businesses through conventional capital markets. One traditional route (the path that the Co-op Bank has now decided to follow) is to establish the trading business as a public limited company (plc) and to bring in external investors as minority shareholders. Some see this as a slippery slope, however, for there is always the prospect that further needs for capital can turn the co-operative's majority stake into a minority one. It was through this process that, 10 years ago, the innovative telecoms business Poptel, for example, lost its co-operative status.
But are there other solutions? The ICA's Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade, launched last year, identifies capital as a key priority to address. It sets the aim of creating financial mechanisms that provide a return without destroying co-operative identity. "It also means exploring wider options for access to capital outside traditional membership, but without compromising on member control," it asserts.
The alliance's challenge has been picked up immediately by the Cambridge University economist Mark Hayes, in a report which Co-ops UK is to publish next month. Hayes, once an investment manager with the venture capitalist agency 3i , then the founder and first chief executive of the fair trade co-operative Shared Interest, tackles the issue of external capital head-on. His radical suggestions include creating a secondary market for transferable co-operative shares, a sort of co-operative stock exchange, and the overhaul of the way co-operative dividends and interest are taxed.
He suggests that larger co-operative societies, in particular, should be prepared to engage as necessary with institutional investors and the city, an approach which he accepts raises questions as to the way that investors' role in the co-op is to be acknowledged: "What exactly is the contract between a co-operative society and an external investor? What is reasonable for investors to expect, and what is reasonable for the society?" he asks.
His preferred solution goes back to core co-operative principles. Investors need rewarding for the risks they run, Hayes says, but these rewards should be tied to the size of the original investment with terms agreed at the start, not linked to profits.
"Even quite a high rate of return would not transgress co-operative principles, provided it was firmly related to the investment," he says. He suggests that more creative ways can be found to achieve this than just a fixed interest rate. He also floats the idea of indexation of the nominal value of co-operative shares so that their value rises with the cost of living.
"I would suggest that there is probably the case for mobilising permanent equity for the sector," he adds. His report focuses particular attention on the concept of the transferable co-operative share, a financial instrument close to traditional share equity which is available under co-operative legislation, which can be held by external investors and which should not negate democratic member control. But investors would need access to an exit route, he points out. Pending the creation of a viable secondary market for shares to be bought and sold, he floats the idea of creating a new co-operative society to hold transferable shares in other cooperatives.
Hayes points out that, because of differences in the allowances for capital gains tax and income tax, individuals face a significant tax bias against investing in co-operatives rather than companies. He suggests a tax reform to take co-operative share interest out of tax altogether, so that it became neither deductible by co-ops for corporation tax or chargeable for income tax from individuals. Such a reform would be revenue-neutral for the Treasury but could help stimulate the co-operative economy, he argues.
Hayes's report, entitled The Capital Finance of Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies, also makes proposals for the better protection of investors in community share issues, such as those being launched for village shops and renewable energy schemes. He suggests tighter oversight of community share issues by Co-ops UK and the creation of a co-operative ombudsman to investigate disputes.
The report will soon be available from Co-ops UK.
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Publ.Date : Wed, 19 Jun 2013 10:09:39 GMT
Forget devices, the future of education technology is all about the cloud and anywhere access. In the future, teaching and learning is going to be social, says Matt Britland
A couple of weeks ago I was asked what I thought the future of technology in education was. It is a really interesting question and one that I am required to think about all the time. By its very nature, technology changes at a fast pace and making it accessible to pupils, teachers and other stakeholders is an ongoing challenge.
So what is the future? Is it the iPad?
No, I don't think it is. For me, the future is not about one specific device. Don't get me wrong, I love the iPad. In fact, I have just finished a trial to see if using them really does support teaching and learning ‚Äď and they have proved effective. I've written about the trial in more detail on my blog.
iPads and other mobile technology are the 'now'. Although, they will play a part in the future, four years ago the iPad didn't even exist. We don't know what will be the current technology in another four. Perhaps it will be wearable devices such as Google Glass, although I suspect that tablets will still be used in education.
The future is about access, anywhere learning and collaboration, both locally and globally. Teaching and learning is going to be social. Schools of the future could have a traditional cohort of students, as well as online only students who live across the country or even the world. Things are already starting to move this way with the emergence of massive open online courses (MOOCs).
For me the future of technology in education is the cloud.
Technology can often be a barrier to teaching and learning. I think the cloud will go a long way to removing this barrier. Why? By removing the number of things that can go wrong.
Schools, will only need one major thing to be prepared for the future. They will not need software installed, servers or local file storage. Schools will need a fast robust internet connection. Infrastructure is paramount to the the future of technology in education.
We don't know what the new 'in' device will be in the future. What we do know, is that it will need the cloud. Schools and other educational institutions will need to futureproof their infrastructure the best they can.
This should be happening now. If you want to start to use mobile technology in your school, whether it is an iPad program or a bring your own device (BYOD) program your connectivity must be fast and reliable. Student and teacher buy in, is so important. If the network is slow and things are not working properly students and teachers will not want to use the devices. Make the sure the infrastructure is there before the devices.
Teachers can use the cloud to set, collect and grade work online. Students will have instant access to grades, comments and work via a computer, smartphone or tablet. Many schools are already doing this. Plus, services such as the educational social network Edmodo offer this for free.
This is where devices come in. All devices, not matter which ones we will use in the future will need to access the cloud. Each student will have their own. Either a device specified by the school or one they have chosen to bring in themselves.
School classrooms are going to change. Thanks to the cloud and mobile devices, technology will be integrated into every part of school. In fact, it won't just be the classrooms that will change. Games fields, gyms and school trips will all change. Whether offsite or on site the school, teachers, students and support staff will all be connected. In my ideal world, all classrooms will be paperless.
With the cloud, the world will be our classroom. E-learning will change teaching and learning. Students can learn from anywhere and teachers can teach from anywhere.
The cloud can also encourage independent learning. Teachers could adopt a flipped classroom approach more often. Students will take ownership of their own learning. Teachers can put resources for students online for students to use. These could be videos, documents, audio podcasts or interactive images. All of these resources can be accessed via a student's computer, smartphone or tablet. As long as they have an internet connection either via Wifi, 3G or 4G they are good to go.
Rather than being 'taught' students can learn independently and in their own way. There is also a massive amount of resources online that students can find and use themselves, without the help of the teacher.
This of course means the role of the teacher will change.
Shared applications and documents on the cloud, such as Google Apps will allow for more social lessons. How often do students get an opportunity to collaborate productively using technology in the classroom? It isn't always easy. However, students working on documents together using Google Apps is easy. They could be in the same room or in different countries. These are all good skills for students to have. Of course, these collaborative tools are also very useful for teachers. I for one have worked on several projects where these tools have lets me work with people across the country. Some of which I have never met.
What we must remember is that when schools adopt new technology and services, they must be evaluated. This way, as a school, you know if they are successful and what improvements are needed. Staff will also need training, you can't expect staff to use new technology if it they are not confident users or creators. Any initiative is doomed to failure without well trained, confident staff who can see how technology can support and benefit teaching and learning.
Plenty of schools have already embraced this, but there's still a way to go to ensure all schools are ready for the future of technology. It is time for all schools to embrace the cloud.
Matt is head of ICT at Kingston Grammar School and the director of education consultancy Realise Learning. He blogs here and you can follow him on Twitter: @mattbritland.
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Publ.Date : Wed, 19 Jun 2013 06:00:00 GMT
Even in the 21st century, if you're young and not white it's unlikely you feature in much teen fiction, but times are changing
Where are the UK's stories about teenagers of colour? That is what the British author Tanya Byrne wants to know. Meanwhile the Clinton Global Initiative America launches First Book, aimed at addressing what it calls the "real and pernicious" lack of diversity in US children's literature.
Byrne, who is half-Guyanese, said that growing up, it was impossible to find children's books featuring non-white characters. "I'm so used to reading a book and the people not looking like me, it's just something you live with ‚Äď you are made to feel you are so different you would never appear," she says. "Go into the teen section of your local bookshop and you're more likely to find a book about a zombie than one about a black girl. About anyone who isn't white, actually."
Statistics from America back her up: a study by the Cooperative Children's Book Center of 3,600 books published in the US in 2012 found that only 3.3% were about African-Americans, 2.1% were about Asian-Pacific Americans, 1.5% were about Latinos and 0.6% were about American Indians.
Byrne's first novel Heart-Shaped Bruise was shortlisted for a CWA Dagger in 2012; her second, the young adult thriller Follow Me Down, was published this May, and follows the story of Adamma Okomma, a wealthy Nigerian teenager who is forced to leave New York for an English boarding school.
Byrne says she "wasn't trying to make a point" by making Adamma Nigerian ‚Äď she wanted her to be new to the school, and it made sense that she wasn't from England ‚Äď but is conscious that as an author she has "a voice, and can do something to redress the balance".
There's nothing wrong with stories about zombies, Byrne says, but "where are the stories about teenagers of colour as well? Not the funny Asian best friend, but stories told by teenagers of colour with teenagers of colour on the cover? Stories that are just about falling in love, not about how hard it is to be in a mixed race relationship? And yeah, being a person of colour is hard sometimes. It can be unsettling. You can be made to feel strange, like you don't fit in, but the funny thing is, if anyone is going to get how that feels, it's a teenager."
Byrne is concerned, she says, that authors "are put off" writing about non-white characters "because they think the books won't sell, or that publishers won't be interested, and that worries me ‚Ä¶ I don't think it's any coincidence that publishing is predominantly white ‚Äď I'm frequently the only non-white person in the room."
New children's laureate Malorie Blackman, appointed earlier this month, has raised similar concerns, telling the Guardian: "I remember going into a bookshop and the only book I saw with a black child on the cover was A Thief in the Village by James Berry and I thought, is this still the state of publishing? Then I thought either I can whinge about it or try to do something about it. So that was a major reason for me wanting to write books for children, because I wanted to write all the books I'd missed as a child."
Her own bestselling Noughts and Crosses series presents an alternative version of society, divided between the governing black Crosses and the underclass of white Noughts. "We need more books that are specifically about the BME [black and minority ethnic] British experience, and that's why I bang the drum for getting more diverse books out there, and for getting rid of the idea that if a book contains pictures of a black or Asian child, it's going to have a limited market," Blackman told the Guardian.
In the US, meanwhile, First Book says the lack of diversity in children's literature "affects all children, especially children from low-income families, who rarely see themselves, their families or their communities in the stories they read".
"We've heard time and again from the educators we work with that one of the biggest challenges to helping kids become strong readers is the desperate lack of books that are culturally relevant to these kids' lives," said Kyle Zimmer, president of First Book. "One of the best ways to turn children into readers is to give them stories with heroes and experiences they can relate to."
Over the next two years, First Book's The Stories for All project will work to develop culturally relevant collections of books for children, as well as work with thousands more classrooms and community programmes.
"By aggregating the voice and purchasing power of thousands of educators and programme leaders who serve families at the bottom third of the economic pyramid, First Book is showing the publishing industry that there is a strong, viable and vibrant market for diverse content," Zimmer said. "This isn't only about more African-American books for African-American children or more Latino books for Latino kids, it's about more varied content so that all children can experience the richness of everyone's stories."
Publ.Date : Wed, 19 Jun 2013 09:28:49 GMT
Collaborations with international universities have created courses with dual degrees and the chance to study abroad
It sounds like the academic version of a supermarket promotion ‚Äď two or even three masters degrees for the price of one.
In fact, it is one of the fastest growing trends in postgraduate education as universities in the UK join with others across the world to provide joint masters courses.
The downside is that the programmes tend to be more expensive and less suited to people with family commitments. The upside is the chance to have qualifications from more than one country, a broader perspective and the international experience that employers say they value.
King's College London has joined with the Georgetown University in Washington DC to offer an MA in global, international and comparative history, for which students spend a year on both campuses. The course allows King's to offer something extra by combining its world-class expertise in British, European and imperial history with Georgetown's strong reputation for Middle Eastern, Eastern European, south-east Asian and American history, says Christopher Payne, the head of King's US office.
Likewise, the international dual masters in brain and mind sciences offered by University College, London and two prestigious centres in Paris - the √Čcole Normale Sup√©rieure and the Universit√© Pierre et Marie Curie ‚Äď combines the strengths of all three institutions.
Scotland's University of Dundee was one of the first to offer joint masters in law, linking with two French universities.
"Students get a broader perspective of how the law works," says Peter McEleavy, professor of international family law. "From Dundee they get the common law approach; from France they get the civil law approach. If you are in Africa or South America trading with continental Europe and the UK, it helps to have an understanding of both."
The LLM in international commercial law is offered with Universit√© de Cergy Pontoise near Paris and its LLM in Comparative and European private international law with the Universit√© de Toulouse. Students spend time in the UK and France and the courses are taught in English, though the French universities provide French language courses.
An innovative European MA in human rights and genocide has been devised by Kingston University in south-west London with institutions in three other European countries. Possibly unique in the world, the programme was conceived by professor Philip Spencer, the director of research in politics and international relations.
"We set this up as a European course because it is such an international issue it requires international collaboration and perspectives," he says.
Students spend the first semester of the 18-month long course in Kingston, the second at the Universit√† degli Studi di Siena, Italy and the third at the Collegium Civitas in Warsaw, Poland. They can also choose to spend one of the semesters at the fourth partner, Europa-Universit√§t Viadrina in Frankfurt, Germany. The last six months is spent on an internship, working in the field of human rights and genocide prevention at a choice of organisations across the world. And once they have completed the course, students receive qualifications from not just two but three universities.
Taking lessons back to Lagos
Ibironke Bolarinwa, 29, was working as a junior associate in a law firm in Nigeria when she spotted the dual LLM degree being offered by the University of Dundee. Since returning to Lagos she has been working in commercial law, handling corporate finance, mergers and acquisition and project finance.
"I was interested in moving into commercial law. Nigerian law is based on common law and the course finally gave me the chance to understand the civil law perspective and company structures of France and other European countries.
"I would say the masters has definitely helped my career. It makes my CV look more interesting. The module in E-commerce has proved very useful as E-commerce is fast developing in Nigeria. One of the biggest online retail stores is a client of the firm I work for and now they have engaged us full time."
Rich resources in two capitals
Wanting a well-rounded perspective of history Rose Hallett, 24, joined the global international comparative history programme taught in London and Washington DC. Now in the first year of the two-year joint history MA offered by King's College London and Georgetown University, she says access to resources at libraries and museums in both capital cities is a bonus.
"My ultimate goal is to work in a museum; my first degree was in French language and literature and I wanted to develop a better knowledge and understanding of history.
"I felt the programme offered me the flexibility I wanted to explore and develop interests and I also loved the idea of experiencing the history departments of two very strong universities. There are so many resources here in London and I feel so lucky to have access to them."
Publ.Date : Wed, 19 Jun 2013 08:00:00 GMT
We are concerned at the threatened closure of the northern "national" science museums: Manchester Museum of Science and Industry, the National Railway Museum, York, and the National Media Museum, Bradford (Report, 5 June). These are of enormous value to both scholarly and popular understanding of our industrial and scientific heritage, and represent one of the few areas where there has been a concerted attempt to develop national museums outside London. The news of the threatened closure of institutions which preserve our industrial and cultural heritage is particularly ironic, given that it follows shortly on the heels of the prime minister announcing his strong backing for the creation of a London-based Margaret Thatcher Museum and Library, at a cost of ¬£15m.
Peter Scott Professor of international business history, Henley Business School at the University of Reading
Etsuo ABE Meiji University in Tokyo
Alison Bancroft Queen Mary, University of London
Bernardo Batiz-Lazo Professor of business history and bank management, Bangor University
Mark Billings University of Exeter
Regina Lee Blaszczyk Professor of business history, University of Leeds
Alan Booth Professor of history, University of Exeter
David Boughey Associate professor & associate dean, University of Exeter Business School
Martin Campbell-Kelly University of Warwick
John Chartres Emeritus professor of social & economic history, University of Leeds
Martin Chick University of Edinburgh
D'Maris Coffman Director, Centre for Financial History, University of Cambridge
Bill Cooke Professor of management and society, Lancaster University Management School
Richard Coopey University of Aberystwyth
Stephanie Decker Aston Business School
Neil Forbes Professor of international history, Coventry University
David J Jeremy Emeritus professor of business history, Manchester Metropolitan University
John Killick University of Leeds
Katey Logan Business Archives Council
Peter Lyth Nottingham University Business School
Niall MacKenzie University of Strathclyde
Mairi Maclean Professor of International Management and Organisation Studies, University of Exeter Business School
Ian Martin Senior Lecturer in Business Information Technology, Leeds Metropolitan University
Rory Miller University of Liverpool Management School
Robert Millward Professor emeritus of economic history, University of Manchester
Peter Miskell Henley Business School at the University of Reading
Simon Mollan University of Liverpool Management School
Stephen L Morgan Professor of Chinese Economic History, University of Nottingham
Simon Mowatt Associate professor of management, AUT University, New Zealand
Lucy Newton Henley Business School at the University of Reading
Richard Noakes Senior lecturer in history, University of Exeter
Derek J Oddy Emeritus professor of economic and social history, University of Westminster
Brian O' Sullivan
David Paulson University of Cambridge
Andrew Perchard University of Strathclyde Business School
Andrew Popp University of Liverpool Management School
Michael Pritchard De Montfort University
Michael Rowlinson Professor of organization studies, Queen Mary, University of London
Philip Scranton Professor, hstory of technology and science, Rutgers University, USA
Kevin D Tennent University of York
Steven Tolliday (University of Leeds), past president, Business History Conference
Steven Toms Professor of accounting, joint editor, Business History, University of Leeds
David Walker Scottish Oral History Centre, University of Strathclyde
James Walker Professor, Henley Business School at the University of Reading
Maggie Walsh Emeritus professor of American economic & social history, University of Nottingham
Peter Wardley Head of history, University of the West of England
Deborah Woodman University of Salford & Huddersfield
Chris Wrigley Emeritus professor of modern British history, Nottingham University
Publ.Date : Tue, 18 Jun 2013 20:02:02 GMT