By Eloise Tan
In January of this year I started in my position as Educational Developer for the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning. The Forum was established by Ireland’s Minister for Education and Skills with the mission to enhance teaching and learning in the higher education sector, inclusive of universities, institutes of technologies, and private colleges. Ireland’s National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 (often referred to as the Hunt Report) identified teaching and learning as a core mission for higher education and made concrete recommendations for enhancing teaching in the sector.
Starting a new role is always an adventure, but it’s not often that one gets the opportunity to start in a new role in a relatively new organisation. Continue reading →
By Marcia Devlin
The Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank or ATAR, a numerical, relative ranking derived from senior high school performance, is a source of angst for many Australian school leavers hoping to become university students. Many assume, understandably but incorrectly, that the higher the ATAR needed to get into a course of study, the ‘better’ the quality of the course. There is no independent evidence to support this assumption.
However, there is evidence that just under half of the university places offered in Australia this year were made to students who do not have an ATAR. Almost fifty percent of new university students in Australia are mature age, international, vocationally qualified or will have come to university through a myriad of alternative entry schemes. None of these students have the magic number that automatically makes the course ‘better’ quality. It makes one begin to wonder about the point of the ATAR. Continue reading →
By Alison Le Cornu
Is flexible learning going to be more of a key feature in the future than it has been in the past? It depends on how you define it, of course, and depends too on what the perceived drivers are behind it. For some, the change in the fee structure in UK HE means that increasing numbers of students will need to earn while they learn, and hence require the flexibility to combine work and study, quite possibly also with family life. For others, the wider global context coupled with technological advances mean that HE is not the only sector that will see greater flexibility: employers too will be looking for flexible employees, which in turn will impact family and leisure time. In the not-too-distant future we will be living in a ‘flexi world’ and HE will have to adjust.
Whether we embrace this vision or eschew it, flexible learning is gaining increasing prominence throughout the sector. Key to its practical outworking is the notion of offering students choice in how, what, where and at what pace they learn: the flexibility of pace, place and mode that the HEA uses to focus its work in this area. Certain features underpin its practice. Flexible learning is largely contingent on learners studying part-time. It is both dependent on and enhanced by rapid technological advances that allow innovative pedagogical approaches. It facilitates cooperation between higher education providers and employers which has led to a strong culture of work-based learning, and requires a determination on the part of institutions to adapt their structures and systems so that the student experience is effective and of high quality. Credit transfer, still in a state of flux, remains one of the key players of the future. Continue reading →
By Paul Temple
The quality of the management or, if you wish, leadership of university academic departments has been a cause for concern – from both ends of the hierarchy – for as long as anyone in the system can remember. In my usual guide to finding out what people were thinking the day before yesterday about university operations – Lockwood and Davies’s 1985 Universities: The Management Challenge – John Davies remarks that heads of academic departments are “middlemen [sic] in a complicated communications network…[with] enormous intellectual, emotional and physical demands in this difficult position… the role is a target for others’ frustrations” (74). I think this nicely sums up what we still find today.
It’s fairly clear that these difficulties arise in large measure because academics in these roles find themselves doing mid-career management jobs with, at best, limited prior experience. Up until that point in their careers, they have concentrated on being good historians, physicists or whatever; whereas their equivalents in most other organisations will have done several more junior management jobs and will perhaps have worked closely with people at or near the top of their organisation, in the process learning tacitly what good management looks and feels like. (Obviously, it doesn’t always work out like that, the world not being perfect.) Continue reading →
By Vicky Gunn
There has been a flurry of activity around Learning Analytics in Scotland’s higher education sector this past year. Responding no doubt to the seemingly unlimited promises of being able to study our students, we are excitedly wondering just how best to use what the technology has to offer. At Edinburgh University, a professorial level post has been advertised; at my own institution we are pulling together the various people who run our student experience surveys (who have hitherto been distributed across the institution) into a central unit in Planning so that we can triangulate surveys, evaluations and other contextual data-sets; elsewhere systems which enable ‘early warning signals’ with regards to student drop-out have been implemented with gusto.
I am one of the worst of the learning analytics’ offenders. My curiosity to observe and understand the patterns in activity, behaviour, and perception of the students is just too intellectually compelling. The possibility that we could crunch all of the data about our students into one big stew-pot and then extract answers to meaning-of-student-life questions is a temptation I find too hard to resist (especially when someone puts what is called a ‘dashboard’ in front of me and says, ‘look what happens if we interrogate the data this way’). Continue reading →
By Camille Kandiko Howson
Higher education recruitment has become a political issue. Stricter visa regimes for foreign students were implemented in April 2012. International students have fewer opportunities to work in the UK after they finish their degree, and it has become more challenging for partners of students to work and study. The House of Lords issued a report criticising the government’s immigration policy, to decrease immigration overall whilst also increasing international student numbers, and its effect on student recruitment. With the government’s stance on immigration, Britain does not seem a welcoming place for many international students. Taking a tough stance on immigration for the domestic market also sends signals abroad.
There is a complicated web of “push and pull” factors with international student recruitment. Changes in domestic economic markets, the development of high quality institutions at home and opportunities for on-line study can keep formerly mobile students at home. However, large scale scholarship schemes can encourage students to study abroad, such as Brazil’s Scientific Mobility Program, which aims to facilitate sending over 100,000 students abroad. Continue reading →