Friday, 26 August 2011

Impact of the social sciences

Podcasts of the sessions and panel discussions from the Investigating Academic Impact conference on 13th June 2011 are now available to download for free.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

national curriculum for universities

A report by the 'liberal' think tank CentreForum, claims that Russell Group universities should focus on research whilst the ‘regular’ universities should focus on teaching at an affordable price. The report, Degrees of quality: how to deliver the courses we need at prices we can afford, argues that to maintain quality ‘a set of standardised courses and exams would be designed by ‘research’ institutions and other expert bodies – to be delivered through a ‘collegiate’ type arrangement in teaching based institutions’
'It warns that government plans to introduce a market in higher education may have undesirable consequences, with more providers making quality and value less easy to determine. It is suggested that moving to common standards and independent marking will be an effective quality control measure, similar to A-levels.'

What do you think about an national curriculum for universities?Are the Russell group the best people to design this or should teaching universities have a say also? What makes a research intensive group qualified to design a teaching curriculum? I think it would be more fair to have representatives from all the university groups in a common steering group that led change in this area. As is frequently pointed out the non research intensive universities may not be top in research but are very good at teaching so they should have input into a university curriculum.

Do we even need a national curriculum for universities? How does this help ensure quality? and would this mean that it doesn't matter which university you go to as they will all be exactly the same or will there still be a prevalent elitist attitude? The current national curriculum for schools is under review as has been called 'substandard' by the current government and has created increasing amounts of paperwork for teachers who can spare little time to really enable students to learn. Do we want such a broken system in our universities or will we be able to come up with something better?

Thursday, 18 August 2011

the pressures of student satisfaction

The guardian has posed the question below, with a survey yes or no?

"Are pressures on HE professionals to deliver student satisfaction too high?"

With the new fees regime and NSS results just out (student satifaction up overall to 83%) is student satisfaction putting too much pressure on academics to conform or perform to what the students feel is a good experience?
Do students know what to expect when they come to univesity or will they be expecting too much with the massive hike in fees?
Is Student satisfaction a fair assessment of the quality of a university experience? or should we find a different way that takes onboard the quality not quantity of contact hours and support? Are students the right people to be measuring the quality of an educational establishment or are they just part of the overall picture? Do the staff views of the quality of provison count? or should there be a 'mystery shopper' who looks at many different establishments who provide the same course?
Student and staff expectations can be very different and there is no easy way to measure the overall student satisfaction as students are individuals and will expect and need different things from their university education, and some subjects will outperform others and some courses will have more dedicated staff. If the lecturing staff care about their subject and about their teaching it shows. We have produced short books in a series called Impact which details how much the staff care about their work and the innovations in their teaching. Hopefully this will help students make an infomed decison and show who in their subject is dedicated enough to make a real difference to the student experience.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Shameful self-promotion vs. Meritocracy

Speculative Diction: Shameful self-promotion vs. Meritocracy:
"I'm not particularly keen on the idea of having to be a competitive, "marketable" academic, or that we should be forced to participate in phoney promotional activities (I don't think they work anyway) or in the kinds of performance assessments that measure "impact" with a variety of suspect statistics. But as with so many issues, there are elements of self-promotion that relate positively to doing a good job as an academic, rather than buying in to neo-liberal market-oriented self-reformation."

Plagiarism, what can we do about it?

Top tips to tackle plagiarism from Prof Rob Jenkins

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

It's not how much you've got but what you do with it!

In higher education, it's not how much time you spend with students, but what you do with it that should count. the ongoing contact time debate! One size does not and should not fit all!

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Less money more control?

Plans for Hefce hegemony spark sector fears
"Plans to hand greater power and responsibility to the English funding council HEFCE are a "death warrant" for the self-regulation of higher education and could persuade universities to opt out of the state-funded system."

Universities are taking less money from the government since teaching funding was drastically cut, and yet the government wants to exert even more control! The most worrying part of this story is "The ability to fine universities that fail students" which is going to lead to worthless degrees as some institutions short cut quality and support and just pass everyone! Buying a degree without doing any work is fast becoming a scary reality!

The contact time debate !

Instead of sermonising about the need for more contact hours, ministers should stop infantilising students and listen to what they actually want, argues Paul Ramsden

Achieving high quality demands a single-minded concentration on learning, coupled with extraordinary expectations of learners and the capacity to learn from mistakes. The challenge is to engineer teaching systems that focus on student learning, connecting participants with every aspect of the process.

"There is no evidence to suggest that, taken alone, contact hours offer a meaningful way in which to measure quality." Instead, quality is about "providing an environment that creates the potential for students to succeed in their studies".

Friday, 5 August 2011

The gov playing with the academy again!

In a THE article the gov comments on how it would make changes to the peer review process. Not surprisingly the 'Impact'of an potential paper is explored!
Research intelligence - It's peerless, but it could be better still

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Joint statement on Impact by HEFCE, RCUK and UUK

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), Research Councils UK (RCUK) and Universities UK (UUK) have a shared commitment to support and promote a dynamic and internationally competitive research and innovation base that makes an increased and sustainable contribution, both nationally and globally, to economic growth, wellbeing, and the expansion and dissemination of knowledge.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Education for life, or for work?

The higher education white paper proposes that universities should train students for their future jobs. But not all academics are keen. Professor John Brennan, director of the Centre for Higher Education Research and Information at the Open University, has studied graduate employability for the past 20 years and sees real danger in "training for work" displacing "education for life" in the student experience.