Thursday, April 30, 2009

Yet Another League Table - The Indpendent

This time it's the turn of The Independent to publish a league table of universities in the UK.

No real surprises in the top ten! Staffordshire comes in at 80th overall, no change from last year, putting us above Manchester Met, Chester, Wolverhampton and Liverpool John Moores - all competitors.

In the regional ranking for the West Midlands we rate 6th out of 9, and are the second placed post-92 University.

On student satisfaction we rate as 62nd.

Methodology used for creating the tables is here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The End of the University as We Know It?

Op-ed piece from The New York Times by Mark C Taylor, Chair of the Department of Religion at Columbia University, published on 26th April, proposes a complete restructuring of higher education to make learning more agile, adaptive and imaginative.

Some of the language and ideas are obviously aimed at a US audience, and refers to HE in that country, but ideas 1 2 and 3 below are certainly interesting, particularly in the light of curriculum reviews we are beginning to undertake in this University. I'm not going to comment on 6!

He proposes 6 steps:
  1. Restructure the curriculum so that teaching and scholarship become cross disciplinary and cross cultural
  2. Abolish permanent departments and develop problem-focused programmes
  3. Increase collaboration between institutions
  4. Transform the traditional dissertation
  5. Expand the range of professional options for graduate students
  6. Impose mandatory retirement and abolish tenure
He concludes with repeating what he has said to students: “Do not do what I do; rather, take whatever I have to offer and do with it what I could never imagine doing and then come back and tell me about it.”

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Podcast on "bonkers degree courses"

This podcast was recorded by Paul Greatrix, registrar at University of Nottingham (who began his career in academia at Staffs), and in it he considers the development of awards with niche titles, and defends their legitimacy based on sound QA procedures and delivery by experienced academic staff. I love the idea of an award in Zombie Studies!

His concerns are more around degrees with less defensible academic origins, eg homeopathy, and refers to the Arthur Koestler chair of the paranormal at Edinburgh University - which reminds me of "The Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks" by Christopher Brookmyre.....

Video Marking

Interesting article from today's Guardian on use fo video for feedback on assessment - one step beyond our current work on using audio for feedback, although I am hearing good reports on that project.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The eduGuru Blog

I'm obviously spending too much time on Twitter and reading other peoples blogs, but there's an interesting article here (published a few months ago) on Social Media in Higher Education, written by Rachel Reuben of State University of New York at New Paltz. The paper is "geared towards high level administrators in higher education, such as Presidents and VPs who have heard about social media, but need a complete introduction to the concept and potential."

Not that dissimilar to meetings I have been to recently where the speaker (Dave Parkes) has introduced the range of tools to senior staff, and asked the audience "who used Facebook?" "who used Twitter?" "who has a blog?". I'm not telling you the answers - you can probably guess....

Anyway, the report attached to the eduGuru blog page is a good introduction to tools and techniques, and picks up some interesting concerns:

1. Loss of control
2. Time commitment
3. Information overload
4. Anyone can create an "official"account for you University

All the usual suspects - I've written before about the link between control and innovation (thanks to Mark Stiles), and have seen plenty of groups on Facebook "belonging" to either awards or groups of students, where the control of the group may be in the hands of the students or their course leaders, and the although not official may be the first place that students look for and gain information. That's not to say it's a bad thing, but will there always be enough time available to ensure that such groups and other fora are kept up to date and relevant?

Universities offer downturn help

From BBC News, HEFCE have announced a £27m fund aimed at helping people and businesses through the recession. More that 70 universities and colleges will share in this funding, and details of the funds released to successful bidders, can be seen on the spreadsheet at HEFCE - including the amount that Staffs has been awarded.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Edustir blog

Came across this blog Edustir this evening (by following a link in Twitter), and here's a guy (Ron Bronson) with some interesting thoughts on the use of social media tools by Universities.

For example in "debunking you have to go where the students are" Ron Bronson talks about why you shouldn't invest energies in developing a social media presence, by pointing out the downsides of using Facebook et al. He also points out what the benefits can be, and shows how these may highlight deficits in an institution's web strategy

In "Social Media is not a Must Have" he states: "The three keys to remember about social media deployment are:

1. Doing it wrong can hurt you, more than it can help you.

2. Learning and maximizing any new technology takes time and money. Without the personnel to effectively deploy and utilize these tools consistent with your messaging, you’ll found yourself floundering on another platform. With more work to do.

3. All of the social media in the world won’t revive a moribund institutional brand with no focus. You have to create a cohesive message and promulgate that in all your other areas of marketing, to extend your value into social media."

He goes on to say "There’s a great deal of value in these tools and it’s incumbent for institutions to start pushing the envelope; not just in how these tools are used, but how their teams are structured to maximize benefits, break down silos and create better information sharing within institutions.

But make no mistake, social media is not a low-investment, high-yield tool. It requires attention and dedication to achieve success."

Thought provoking stuff as many of us experiment with these technologies and look to see how we can best get an advantage out of them, at the same time ensuring that we send the right messages to current and future students.

And leaves me with the usual questions - the innovators, the leading edge users of these tools (I mean staff here, not students who are already often more switched on to these tools), how are their developments controlled by the institution? Should they be controlled? Will control limit innovation? Will lack of control potentially diminish the message or indeed mean the wrong message is sent?

Data FromThe Guardian University Tables

Oops, I must have missed this when it was first published.

On March 10th The Guardian made all the data available from its league tables for UK Universities A feature of the Guardian tables is that they go more deeply into subject areas than other newspaper university tables. You can find details of 46 subject areas from medicine to music, drama to dentistry, as well as an overall ranking of universities and another one for small specialist institutions.

Careers and Employability Service At Staffordshire University

Here's a link to the blog written by our Careers and Employability Service. It's updated regularly with items of careers-related news an dother items of interest to the HE community.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Vince Cable on the recession and the numbers of students going to University

Picked this up from the Guardian politics blog. It refers to interviews on Radio 4's Today programme, where Vince Cable said "Trying to reach Tony Blair's declared target of 50% of youngsters going to college is very expensive, and we won't be able to afford it as we pay the bill for rescuing the banks".

This is followed by lots of comments from Guardian readers - a surprising number of who think that the numbers in Universities should be reduced, that some degree subjects should not be studied. No doubt they are all middle aged graduates of older Universities.....

It is an interesting point though - do we as a country invest in raising participation in HE, on the understanding that a better skilled workforce can raise GDP, or do we look to making savings to pay for rescuing banks?

Working in an institution heavily committed to widening participation and on a journey to increase its numbers, some of these ideas come as a bit of an anathema!

Twitter friends on a map

Where are your Twitter friends?

Monday, April 6, 2009

From The Chronicle of Higher Education

Here's a short article on whether or not students should be using the web and specifically web2.0 tools to aid learning. Or should they be banned from using laptops in class, so that they can concentrate on what the lecturer is saying?

For those who do see the benefits, the Chronicle also identifies 10 higher education professionals who are using Twitter - obviously they are all US based, since it's a US website.

All of this and more can be read at the Wired Campus Blog.