Monday, 31 March 2014

Career Building for Sociology and Criminology Students

Earlier this month a group of alumni in Sociology and Criminology returned to Keele for an event in Keele Hall and KUSU, to provide career-building advice and support to more than 30 current undergraduates.

Students in all years of Sociology or Criminology benefited from a full day of career planning, including sessions to build their networking skills, which they later put into action with our alumni visitors.  A wide range of routes were represented by our alumni group, who work in housing, charity PR, project management, community safety, crime prevention and probation, policing and in executive coaching.

Students were extremely grateful for the opportunity to build networks and work on their own employability, advised by those who know exactly what it is like to be an undergraduate at Keele.  Students came away from the day with a wider range of career options, and direct experience of professional networking and with offers of further career support from alumni.

Visiting alumni commented on how fresh and committed they found our students, and how much they enjoyed the opportunity to be invited back to Keele. In addition to a nostalgic visit to KUSU, they also enjoyed a tour of the revamped central campus from a Student Ambassador.

The Alumni Career networking event was the second such event organised by Dr Rebecca Leach, School of Sociology & Criminology, supported by the Alumni and Careers offices, and has provided a model for employability and alumni engagement that is being taken up by other Schools.

(Picture - Dave Barnett, Sociology & Music Technology graduate, now Finance Lead in the Cabinet Office, at the event).

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

The saga of TV Licence evasion: are we finally ready to decriminalise?

By Adam Snow, PhD student in Criminology

Proposals have been put forward for TV licence fee evasion to be decriminalised. Originally the proposal was to completely decriminalise the system, now amendments have been accepted that give the power to Ministers to decriminalise at a date in the future should they see fit.

The first thing to say about this change is that in all likelihood decriminalisation will be unlikely for a significant period.  The BBC itself welcomed the changes from outright immediate decriminalisation and stressed the need to take into account the BBC's review of charter which takes place every 10 years.  The next review is due before 2016.  Thus nothing will likely happen before then.  The current bill proposal states that a review of decriminalisation must take place within 3 months of the act becoming law, and the review must be completed within 12 months from that date.  Anyone familiar with the issue of decriminalisation of the licence fee will no doubt be sceptical that any changes will take place in the foreseeable future.  The Auld report in 2001 recommended partial decriminalisation by way of a fixed penalty notice, but even this modest proposal (still maintaining the criminal law) was not taken forward; indeed the Communications Act 2003 reaffirmed the criminal nature of licence fee evasion.

Any magistrates reading this and hoping for a swift removal of these "boring and monotonous" cases from the courts is, I think, in for a shock.  I suspect that decriminalisation is unlikely to happen at all or at least in the next few years, if anything it is more likely that the Auld recommendations will taken forward as a compromise (A fixed penalty notice with the option of going criminal proceedings).  The BBC seems to be quite an effective lobbyist on this issue.  If a full scale judicial inquiry into the criminal justice system cannot bring about this change, there is little chance now I'm afraid.  But what strikes me as particularly interesting and, quite frankly, bizarre, is the idea that by retaining the criminal law in TV licence evasion it somehow impacts on people’s behaviour.  Here the dispute is more to do with the idea of deterrence and the possibility that the use of the criminal justice system can deter people from avoiding the licence fee.  Overwhelmingly the evidence for the efficacy of deterrence in criminal justice is that it is weak means of gaining compliance.  The best evidence for deterrence is that in situations where the likelihood of being captured is increased then there is some deterrent effect.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Governing the International Family

by Ala Sirriyeh, Lecturer in Sociology

A few days after Valentines Day, I stood in the supermarket queue contemplating who might be so confident as to buy a reduced priced Valentine's Day card from the display for next year. Coming straight after Christmas and New Year, some people find themselves faced with a gauntlet of public celebrations that centre heavily on the themes of family and love. Even if they share my sentiments on such over-commercialised, over-sentimentalised events, it must be difficult for those who have to endure these days while living apart from their partner or family. While a number of people do, to some extent, choose to engage in living-apart-together (LAT) relationships, for others separation is of a more enforced nature. This is currently the situation facing a number of British citizens and residents who are in a relationship with a partner from a non-EEA country (European Economic Area).

On the 9th of July 2012 the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition government's new family migration rules came into force. These new rules introduced a steep rise in the minimum income threshold for UK citizens and residents who are seeking to sponsor their (non-EEA national) partners and children to join them in the UK for family formation or family reunification. Until the new rules came into force British citizens and residents who were settled permanently in the UK and were sponsoring family members to join them were required to show that they had an income that was equivalent to the level of Income Support that a family of that size would receive in the UK. This would demonstrate that the sponsor could provide for these dependents who would not have recourse to public funds. Building on existing conditionalities for family formation and family reunification migration, the 2012 family migration rules impose further conditionalities including, in particular, a sharp increase in the minimum income threshold levels from the previous level of £5,500 per annum to a new minimum level of £18, 600 per annum. This threshold rises further according to the number of dependents being sponsored with an additional income of £3,800 for the first child and an additional £2,400 for each further child. This means that the UK now has one of the highest minimum income thresholds (second only to Norway). Unlike many other countries, in the UK this income must be gained from the employment of the sponsoring partner in the UK and cannot include benefits, property assets, the foreign partner's overseas income, subsidies from a third party or loans.

The new rules have attracted sustained criticism over the past year and a half from those families who have been affected by these changes and their supporters, and the rules have recently been the subject of an inquiry by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Migration. The APPG observed that in 2012 47 per cent of the UK's working population would not have qualified to sponsor a non-EEA partner to join them in the UK. Some minority ethnic populations, those living outside London, young people and women are disproportionately affected. Family migration and, in particular 'marriage migration' has long been a policy theme through which anxieties around ethnicity, identity and ‘integration’ are channelled. However, the new family migration rules indicate that class is now more explicitly weaved into the picture (although it has always to some extent been a significant factor in its intersections with ethnicity).  It is not simply the immigration of particular ethnic groups or nationalities that is restricted, controlled or discouraged. The changes introduced by the new family migration rules also throw into question the citizenship status and inclusion of some British nationals, including white British citizens as well as those minority ethnic citizen populations who have long been a focus of such debates. In addition to ethnicity and nationality, the hierarchical organisation of acceptable and less acceptable international partnerships and family reflects class-based inequalities and a connected moralising discourse about valued family life.

Friday, 31 January 2014

Keele Postgraduate Research Forum

by Andrew Henley, PhD candidate in Criminology

Next Tuesday (4th February) sees the launch of a new student-organised forum for postgraduate researchers across the social sciences at Keele University.  The forum provides an opportunity for PGR students to present, 'test out' and receive feedback on their work in an informal, supportive and stress-free environment. It will be held each Tuesday between 12 and 1pm in the Claus Moser building (CM1.24).

The following list of speakers has been confirmed up until the Easter break:

4th February – Kasper Larsen ‘Tracking positional change in the Bali Process: NGO cohesion on mitigation‘.

11th February - Adam Duell ‘Dramatis non-persona: Local Enterprise Partnerships, (in)visibility and urban governance’.

18th February – Allan Arturo Gonzalez Estrada ‘Intentionality and phenomenal experience: research in the philosophy of mind‘

25th February – Siti Ismail ‘Malaysia Party System 2004-13: Continuity and Change‘

4th March – Rob Emerton ‘Tiananmen: The Problem of Representation and the Event’

11th March – Maria Wain ‘The Internet Generation: Youth and Technology‘

18th March – Keely Hughes ‘Philosophical Praxis to Utilitarian Consumption: Sites for Creating an Education Utopia‘.

25th March – Ian Mahoney ‘Resisting Abjection:  Crime and deviance as a response to the abject politics of contemporary Britain‘ AND Andrew Henley ’Criminal stigma: the oil on the ‘revolving doors’ and the need for an ‘abolitionist doorstop’.

1st April – Giulia Mininni ‘Gender and energy issues in the Global South‘.

For abstracts on upcoming papers and information on participating, a new blog has been set up to accompany the forum.