Thursday, August 20, 2015
Tsipras quits, calls for early Greek polls; Robots pull off major kidney transplant; It's a degree, not a ticket to a job
1 Tsipras quits, calls for early Greek polls (Chris Buckler on BBC) Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has announced he is resigning and has called an early election. Tsipras, who was only elected in January, said he had a moral duty to go to the polls now a third bailout had been secured with European creditors. The election date is yet to be set but earlier reports suggested 20 September.
Mr Tsipras will lead his leftist Syriza party into the polls, but he has faced a rebellion by some members angry at the bailout's austerity measures. He had to agree to painful state sector cuts, including far-reaching pension reforms, in exchange for the bailout - and keeping Greece in the eurozone.
Greece received the first €13bn ($14.5bn) tranche of the bailout on Thursday after it was approved by relevant European parliaments. It allowed Greece to repay a €3.2bn debt to the European Central Bank and avoid a messy default. The overall bailout package is worth about €86bn over three years.
In January, Alexis Tsipras went to the polls as a man who would stand against austerity. What a difference seven months makes. Now he is calling elections to ask the Greek public to support the way he is trying to lead this country out of its financial crisis. That means spending cuts, tax rises and, of course, that third bailout that's already been agreed.
Mr Tsipras will argue this election is about bringing certainty to Greece's future. In the short-term at least, though, it will create political uncertainty. And that's becoming a pretty familiar feeling in Athens.
Some 43 of Syriza's 149 MPs had either opposed the bailout or abstained in last Friday's Greek parliamentary vote that approved the deal. The rebellion meant Mr Tsipras had effectively lost his parliamentary majority. Mr Tsipras had won power on a manifesto of opposing the stringent austerity conditions that he has now accepted.
2 Robots pull off major kidney transplant (Johannesburg Times) A sister-to-sister kidney transplant in France this week is the first to combine robotics, vaginal access and the donated organ's implantation immediately after its removal. The procedure, at the University Hospital Centre in Toulouse, was completed "in a single go, exclusively with robots," lead surgeon Frederico Sallustro said.
The kidney was both removed and transplanted through the vagina and not by way of incisions, the standard method. Valerie Perez, 44, gave one of her kidneys to her 43-year-old sister, Beatrice, on July 9, with both of them in the operating theatre at the same time. "The two sisters are doing well," said Sallustro, who was assisted in the operation by medical robotics expert Nicolas Doumerc.
About 100 people - most of them in India, the US and France - had benefited from robotic kidney transplants in the past couple of years, the hospital said. Sallustro and Doumerc first combined this hi-tech method with a transplant to the recipient through the vagina in May.
The donor in that case, however, was a man. With the sisters, the surgical team decided to add a further innovation by completing both parts of the procedure - removal and insertion - immediately after each other. "I've been dreaming of doing this operation for the past three years," Sallustro said, describing it as a "major step forward."
3 It’s a degree, not a ticket to a job (Kehinde Andrews in The Guardian) The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has released a report showing that almost 60% of graduates are in “non-graduate” jobs. This, it argues, should be seen as a wake-up call about the role of the university degree and the “waste” of talent the “conveyor belt of graduates” represents.
The report, however, misses the point about the system of schooling in Britain, and what education should be for. The school system is set up to hand out credentials so that students can fulfil their role in society. A university degree is no different in that sense. And, as the CIPD report explains, it is becoming necessary to hold a degree for jobs that previously did not need them.
The purpose of credentials is to weed people out. So whether or not you need the skills from your degree is irrelevant: you need a degree to be considered for the job in the first place, and that is the value of the qualification. The CIPD report actually shows that the degree is fulfilling its purpose. There is a wider problem with the report, in that it assumes that education should be directly linked to employment. In the Robbins Report of 1962, which led to the expansion of university, this idea was directly rejected.
The aim for the government is that graduates get into the best-paid jobs possible and can pay back their fees. Therefore, the system of ranking university relies heavily on measures of employment after a particular course. I can attest to the pressure that is being put on lecturers to embed “employability” skills into the course and to create links with industry.
Education should be about far more than employment. Particularly at degree level it is an opportunity to study a subject in depth and in doing so pick up a range of transferable skills. Graduates should leave university, among other things, being able to critically engage with problems and issues; have the skills to research a topic and present their work; and to study both independently and in groups.
It is the range of transferable skills that make graduates attractive to employers, yet the drivers from marketisation actually make student less likely to develop them. Reading weeks as replaced with “employability” ones; lecturers are encouraged to wrap students in cotton wool; and dissertations are made optional so that students can pick a range of modules to fit their career paths.
The best advice for any prospective student is to pick a degree that interests you – one that will challenge and extend you. The greatest benefit of education is not to the economy: it is about spreading critical thought and ideas throughout society.