Thursday, December 11, 2008

Improvements in Maths

The Guardian on Wednesday reported an improvement in the performance of pupils in maths and science in England.

In a test of puils from 59 countires, maths perfomance of 14 year olds has risen from 18th place to 7th, and from 7th to 5th for science

Does this mean that in a few years tiem we can look forward to first years with better developed numeracy and analytical skills?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The First Year Experience of Higher Education in the UK

The HEA has published an extensive report by Mantz Yorke (who has spoken at this Uni a few times) on the first year experience of students in the UK.

This makes interesting reading, especially in terms of identifying what we need to do, and indeed already do, in terms of student retention.

The report can be downloaded from

The conclusions from the report are:
  • the majority of students are positive about their first year
  • there has been little change over the years about the reasons for non-continuation of studies
Yorke highlights the following pointers as a result of the study:
  • poor choice making by students applying to courses - institutions need to be accurate in describing what is on offer
  • quality of teaching - this can be poor enough to be the reason for leaving, especially for older students. The implication is that a mode of teaching and learning is needed whereby students are quickly engaged in academic work and provided formative feedback at an early stage, so that they can gain an appreciation of expectations. Four things follow form this: allocation of resources has to reflect importance of the first year;teaching approach must be centred on student development; mechanisms are needed to enhance chances of students developing a supportive network of peers and those teaching first years must have a strong commitment to teaching and student learning.
  • social integration - possible issues with local students who do not have the benefit of living in communal halls
  • resources - for some this was an issue, but most students were happy with the level of resources provided
  • managing expectations - programme organisation is seen to be key, especially in communicating details of cancelled teaching sessions. Management of student expectations is increasingly important and students need to know what they can expect, what the limitations of provision are and that they will be treated with consideration.
Two possible trends are identified:
Although finance remains problematic for students, is maybe becoming less salient in the reaosns for students leaving. Secondly, there is a growing perception that the value for money students receive is dependent on the amount of staff engagement with them. This increasing consumer-like expectation on the part of students is a challenge for institutions on how to deal with "value for money".

Yorke concludes that institutions need to "bend the odds", in favour of student success, by reviewing policies and practice. "Students will not put up with what they perceive to be a poor quality experience when they are committing substantial amounts of money to their education."

NUS Survey - Student Experience

The NUS has just published the results of a major survey into the student experience. The report covers everything from choosing a course and university and accommodation and welfare services to student employment and bullying.

In the category of choosing a university and course, 31 per cent of students were motivated to choose their university because it was close to home; however, in the lowest socio-economic groups (D and E), this figure rose to 53 per cent.

For our Faculty, over 50% of undergraduate students in Stoke are from Staffordshire LEA, whereas the figure for the Stafford campus is about 20%.

In regards to coursework and feedback, however, 25 per cent of students had to wait more than five weeks for feedback on their coursework. Only 25 per cent of students received verbal feedback on their assessments. I think we all know our students' view fo feedback, based on results of Viewfinder and NSS!

The full report is available from