‘Digital Intelligence’ for Higher Education

Is this the future? Or just a passing trend?

keyboard

A recent post discussed the possible benefits of learner analytics for delivering a more personalised education. Now we have a broader view as The Chronicle of Higher Education provides an update on Educause, the huge US Education Tech Trade Show in which it is observed that everyone is talking about digital intelligence or education analytics:

More than 7,000 college officials gathered here this week for what is probably the largest higher-education-technology trade show in the United States, the annual meeting of Educause. Walking the trade floor, where some 270 companies mounted colorful booths, serves as a reminder of how much of college life today happens in the digital realm, and how much colleges are betting on technology to help alleviate the many challenges they face. The biggest emerging trend this year is data analytics. Company after company here promises to sell systems that provide “data dashboards” to give professors or administrators at-a-glance reports on student activity in the name of improving retention or meeting other institutional goals.

Diana Oblinger, president of Educause, described it as giving colleges “digital intelligence.” What kinds of things have colleges learned from their newfound digital intelligence? One university discovered that a scholarship program it runs to bring in high-achieving students was attracting students who were the most likely to leave—to trade up and transfer to another institution after a year or two. A professor teaching an anatomy course learned that students took longer to finish the homework she assigned than expected, and that many seemed stuck on the same point. A library at one state university learned that tenure-track male professors were not using the library as much as tenured male professors were.

The potential of digital intelligence is undoubtedly huge. And it certainly isn’t a passing fad. However, getting the data inputs right in the first place is a far from straightforward task and then making sure it is used for best effect does need to be considered carefully – how are you going to deal with that data about professorial use of the library? Digital intelligence indeed.

Graduate Programme for University Leadership Now Recruiting

An outstanding programme for graduates looking to develop careers in university management.

Recruitment for this year’s round of Ambitious Futures, the Graduate Programme for University Leadership, has recently gone live:

The university sector is one of the most innovative, vibrant and exciting environments in which to build your future career. If you’re looking for a graduate programme that leads to a highly successful and dynamic career in an entrepreneurial, global business, The Graduate Programme for University Leadership is it.

Are you ready for a career in a world of discovery?

This cutting-edge programme will show you how the challenging and stimulating business of a university operates. You’ll meet some of the most talented people in the country, if not the world, and gain an inside view into the sector’s management and business processes. A key aspect of your training will see you working alongside a diverse range of partners, from students and employers to funding bodies and commercial organisations.

It’s the opportunity to contribute to a life you have already experienced and enjoyed, and make a difference to the learning of future generations of students. What’s more, you’ll be working at the heart of fast-paced and world-leading commercial organisations that, rather unusually, are not primarily motivated by profit-making.

The University of Nottingham has run a similar programme for number of years (and indeed has played an active role in the development of this national scheme). You can find details of the Nottingham offer here.

It’s a fantastic scheme and one I’m really pleased that the University of Nottingham is part of. The sector really does need to train and develop many more professional service leaders and this programme will be a major contributor to that as it continues to grow.

Also good to see the recent book on Managing your Career in HE Administration refer positively to the value of Ambitious Futures too.

Knowing Your History

Know your history.

Given the current running of The Changing University: Inside Nottingham NOOC I thought I would reflect on university histories. Given their nature it’s often struck me as rather surprising that universities and their staff tend not to have a well developed sense of institutional history.

Research matters to universities but they tend not to prioritise maintaining their own records for future researchers. It’s possibly that universities are generally not brilliant at comprehensive record keeping because of their devolved nature and more recently because of the shift from paper to digital but nevertheless there are core records around, for example see Nottingham’s institutional collection. Plus there is enough oral history available from longer established staff to last a lifetime if you ask for it.

Anyway, my contention is that staff at every level of the University need to know more about their institution’s past.

Testing times

To make this point, a while ago I imposed a quiz on some of my colleagues about the University as it was 60 years previously. The questions included the following (and I’ve added the answers here to avoid any distress):

  • In 1950, on 11 July, we had “degree day”. How many ceremonies did we have in July this year in the UK? (Answer – 16 in the summer – but note there were more ceremonies at the Malaysia and China campuses as well as winter ceremonies)
  • How many Senate meetings were there in 1949-50? (There were seven. We now have three per annum.)
  • How many Council meetings? (There were nine. We now have six a year.)
  • In 1949-50, Council had how many members? (37. We now have 25.)
  • Senate membership? (A mere 35 members. We now have over 100.)
  • Fee for a full-time BA? (It was £31,10s, equivalent in 2013 would be £943.06.)
  • Resit fee? (10/6)

Not surprisingly they didn’t do terribly well. Even though these were the easy questions.

A new history

Recently, the University commissioned a new history primarily to cover last the 20 years or so of institutional activity and capture some of the most major changes at Nottingham, including in particular the establishment of the international campuses in Malaysia and China. We were also keen to ensure we recorded a lot of learning and information in a more comprehensive archive than would be publishable (also recognising that the pace of change and move from hard copy to electronic has made record keeping more problematic) but which would be a valuable resource for future historians.

The previous history (in two large volumes) by Dr B H Tolley covered mainly the period 1948, the year the institution received its Royal Charter, through to 1988, with plenty of material too from the earlier period of the operation of University College Nottingham since its inception in 1881.

The last history. Not very portable.

The last history. Not very portable.

Whilst Tolley’s magnum opus offered comprehensiveness it lacked a certain degree of readability. I believe there are still copies available through Amazon (although not at bargain prices).

Beyond this though there are other accounts of the University of Nottingham, its Vice-Chancellors and the estate. A previous post commented on the souvenir brochure from this event which included more details of the Trent Building design.

More books

More books

My favourite is the 1928 book (unnamed) which dates from the opening of Trent Building by King George V. A brief silent film records the event:

Nottingham’s New University

Jesse Boot, in his foreword to this 1928 publication, commented:

At the moment of the opening by His Majesty the King, when the stones of the coming University are still unweathered by time, it is difficult to appreciate the full significance of this educational development. Thousands of students yet unborn will pass along the corridors and learn in the lecture rooms, and wrest the secrets from nature in the laboratories. Their work will link still more closely industry with science, add to the honour of the City and help to increase the well-being of our nation.

The significance of this is that there is a common thread running from Boot’s original vision for the new University College through the Royal Charter to the current strategy of the University.

More landmarks

There are other important milestones in the University’s history. For example, knowing that Gandhi spoke to a packed Great Hall back in 1931 gives additional depth to our international strategy.

A good turnout

A good turnout

The visit of Einstein who, as this video recounts, delivered a spectacularly unsuccessful lecture to a mixed audience of Germanists who understood no physics and physicists who knew no German (but he did leave some interesting formulae on a blackboard):

Remembering that students campaigned very hard to secure Senate representation over a number of years in the late 1960s and that in 1968 John Dunford, President-elect of the Students’ Union (and recently awarded an Honorary Degree by the University), was the first student to address the Senate.

And of course the cultural landmark that was the first public performance by Paul McCartney and Wings back in 1972.

All of these provide context and a reminder that the success any institution enjoys today is built on the hard work, commitment and brilliance of previous generations of academics and professional services staff. It is clear from the 1928 book referring to the very early days of the University College that there were many challenges during its development:

It must not, however, be thought that the road was smooth, for the obstacles were many. Many of the prosperous bourgeois of the city were inclined to scorn the College because it appeared too democratic, while others openly scoffed at spending money on such subjects as Classics or Philosophy. But it met local needs, and students who were not confined to any special class came from the whole district.

…at the beginning of the twentieth century, the Treasury Inspectors, who had to visit the College to see whether it was entitled to a Government grant wrote that: “We think that the College exhibits the nearest approach of all Colleges which we have visited to a People’s University.”

Decisions taken by staff at all levels of our universities today are not context free. We can all learn from what went before so that we build on our history and are not trapped by it. But we do have to know it first.

Legacy

As importantly is the knowledge that part of all our jobs is about stewardship – about ensuring that the generations of students and staff who follow us are able to achieve even more by building on what we leave behind. As Alderman E Huntsman, Mayor of the City of Nottingham and Chair of the Council of Nottingham University College, noted (again in the 1928 book):

We of today owe more than we can express to our forefathers…The Council and Senate of the University College are not unmindful of their responsibilities, and assure all those into whose hands this book may pass, that they are resolved that the great ideals of Sir Jesse for a University with the complete right of self-government, and the power to shape its courses to meet the special needs of local industries and conditions, shall be accomplished to the full. The gifts recorded in this book and offered to the People’s University will assuredly bear fruit for all time.

Anyway, I’m now really excited by the prospect of the publication next year of a new history of the University of Nottingham. It’s being prepared by very wonderful and diligent Professor John Beckett of the School of Humanities and will bring things up to date as well covering some of the earlier history in outline. It will I hope also have the advantage of being highly readable, and including much more material about students and the student experience (largely neglected in previous publications) and, rather marvellously, will have pictures too.

The Trent Building

The Trent Building

But let’s leave the last word to Jesse Boot who in the 1928 book in commenting on the future history of University College Nottingham says that the final chapter is as yet unwritten but

will tell in due season how the University College won its Charter, and thus Nottingham became the seat of a great people’s University, which in each succeeding age will spread the light of learning and knowledge, and will bind science and industry in the unity that is so essential for the prosperity of the nation and the welfare of our fellow citizens.

Powerful stuff.

So, know your history.

New Global Universities Ranking: Shock Results

US dominates new global ranking

Exciting news that US News is producing a new global universities ranking. In an extraordinary related development another league table, the “World Series Ranking”, seeks to trump this and has published a top 20 which bears a remarkable similarity to the US national top 20:

1 Princeton University

2 Harvard University

3 Yale University

4 Columbia University

5 Stanford University

6 University of Chicago

7 Massachusetts Institute of Technology

8 Duke University

mortar boards

9 University of Pennsylvania

10 California Institute of Technology

11 Dartmouth College

12 Johns Hopkins University

13 Northwestern University

14 Washington University, St Louis

15 Cornell University

16Tie Brown University

17 University of Notre Dame

18 Vanderbilt University

19 Rice University

20 University of California Berkeley

1614Not only are there no UK or other European universities in the top 20, the top 200 universities comprises exclusively US institutions. A spokesperson for the rankings commented that this was “completely different” from the baseball World Series and the fact that every university in the ranking was from the USA merely demonstrated the robustness of the methodology and was in no way connected to yet another drubbing of the US by Europe in the Ryder Cup.

Spokespeople from THE, QS and ARWU were all speechless.

True Crime on Campus §38: back to school

Autumn brings even more True Crime on Campus

As autumn arrives and students return to campus our outstanding Security staff are ready for any eventuality:

2315 Patrol Security Officers spoke to a member of the Public who had fallen off his bike while cycling on a footpath adjacent to the Orchard Hotel. The male stated that he was a bit drunk and had hurt his leg and hip. Security Officers took the male to Hospital.

drain

It’s down there somewhere

1010 Report that an Open Day visitor had dropped their Mobile phone down a drain. Estates Staff contacted the see if they could recover the phone.

1135 Report of a wasp nest in King’s Meadow Gatehouse toilet. Mitie were called out. Mitie refused to attend – this is to be followed up by Estates.

1025 An articulated lorry entered Science Site via East Entrance and could not get under the bridge between L2 and Coates Building. Security attended and the Police were called to assist with getting the lorry back onto the ring road.

1310 Report of sheep escaped from a field adjacent to Sutton Bonington Campus. Security attended the Farm Manager was contacted. The Sheep do not belong to the University – the owner was contacted and informed.

An easy mistake to make

An easy mistake to make

1938 Report of loud noise coming from Hugh Stewart Hall. Security attended, the noise was found to be a children’s party which was finishing.

1636 Report of a stray dog adjacent to Lincoln Hall. Security attended. The dog was caught by officers and returned to its owner.

10:50 Security received a report that first aid was required at Hall for a student. On arrival Security met the paramedics who checked the student over and said that the student was suffering from dehydration due to being intoxicated the night before. No further action required. Details to Hall Warden.

11:20 Security reported an unpleasant smell coming from the male toilets located in the Arts Centre, University Park Campus. Details to Helpdesk.

06:20 Security whilst on patrol noticed ‘Jack Wills’ pink stickers attached to a number of signs in various locations on the University Park Campus. Security removed all stickers and Head of Security has informed the company that they will be invoiced for the cost of removing any more stickers that are put up.

fire

2045 Report of people starting fires on Charnock Avenue. Security attended and the Camp fires were found to have been started by the local Scout Group.

0815 Report of a body lying in the flower gardens adjacent to North Entrance. Security attended. On arrival Officers discovered a male who has no connection to the University asleep. Officers woke the male who was still suffering from the effects of alcohol. The male made his way off Campus.

Happy days!

Norway Doesn’t Like University Rankings

The Norwegian Government Gives a Big Thumbs Down to Global University Rankings

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a piece on an analysis commissioned by the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research of Norwegian universities’ performance in international university rankings. The report concluded that the “top rankings are so based on subjective weightings of factors and on dubious data that they are useless as a basis for information if the goal is to improve higher education.”

But, as the story notes, there still remains some ambivalence in the universities themselves:

Norway and other Scandinavian countries: a bit cross

Norway and other Scandinavian countries: a bit cross

 

The NIFU report was presented at a seminar in Oslo recently, capturing much attention. “Can we trust university rankings?” NIFU wrote on its website. “University rankings criticised,” declared the Ministry of Education and Research in a press release.“A Kiss of Death for university rankings,” said University of Oslo Rector Ole Petter Ottersen in his blog, stating:“This report should be made available for everyone working within the higher education sector in Norway. Not the least, it should be available on the news desk of Norwegian newspapers.”Among the many comments, the University of Bergen announced that it was ranked 56 on the indicator for citations per academic. “This confirms Norwegian universities’ love-hate relationship with university rankings,” wrote former Bergen rector Professor Kirsti Koch Christensen on Facebook.

Love-hate relationship with league tables? I suspect they are not alone.

Ghana gets tough on Honoraries

In Ghana, the Accreditation Board is “mad” at honorary degree awards

Ghana News reports that the country’s Accreditation Board is “mad” at honorary degree awards by unqualified institutions:

The conferment of honorary degrees is the prerogative of degree awarding institutions so mandated. Therefore accredited private tertiary institutions operating under the mentorship of chartered, degree-awarding universities are not qualified by themselves to confer honorary degrees. Any such institutions that do so are in contravention of Regulation 19 1 of Legislative Instrument 1984 which states that: An accredited institution shall not issue certificates or award its own degrees, diplomas or honorary degree without a Charter grated to it for that purpose by the President.

National_Accreditation_Board,_Ghana_(NAB)_logoThere are also instances where some foreign institutions confer such honorary degrees, particularly doctorate degrees on prominent personalities with intent to legitimize and popularize the operations of the institutions in Ghana, and thereby seek to attract unsuspecting students to enroll in them. The national Accreditation Board wishes to caution the general public and advise that distinguished personalities invited for such awards should verify the accreditation status and degree-awarding powers of the institutions that seek accreditation status and degree-awarding powers of the institutions that seek to confer on them honorary degrees to avoid any embarrassing fallouts.

I posed here recently about a spate of Honorary Degree revocations but the concern in Ghana seems to be more about unaccredited institutions securing undeserved credibility by inviting the great and the good to accept an Honorary.

Ghana Web’s editorial takes an even stronger position:

The quest for the enhancement of mankind’s creature comforts has driven many to crazy heights such as preceding their names with high flaunting titles. The number of those ad hoc institutions and individuals ready to assist them achieve these objectives, their quality notwithstanding, has increased exponentially.

Exploiting our penchant for such high flaunting appellations, which these institutions hardly heard of in their own countries, have constantly bestowed the useless and worthless titles to people who can pay for the service directly and indirectly.

It is lamentable that the near-fraudulent practice has gone on almost indefinitely, until recently when the National Accreditation Board (NAB) woke up from a worrying Rip Van Winkle slumber to read the riot act about the dubious conferment.

 

And as Ghana Soccernet reported:

Ex-Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah found his honorary degree wasn't worth much after all

Ex-Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah found his honorary degree wasn’t worth much after all

The National Accreditation Board has discredited the honorary doctorate degree conferred on ex-Ghana coach Kwesi Appiah by the Day Spring Christian University of Mississippi. But the board says the university alongside three others- Pan African Clergy Council and Bible College, Global Centre for Transformational Leadership and the World Council for Evangelical Clergy- is uncertified to honour prominent individuals.

So, bad news for Kwesi and others who have picked up awards from unaccredited universities. In the UK though, it doesn’t seem terribly likely that iffy institutions not on the HEFCE list of registered providers will be looking to draw attention to themselves in this way. And no-one could accuse UK agencies of a ‘Rip Van Winkle slumber’.

THE World University Rankings 2014-15

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings are out

The waiting is over and the final ranking of the season is now available from THE.

All the details of the methodology and regional and subject variations are available on the THE rankings site. The claim is that they are “the most comprehensive and balanced comparisons available, which are trusted by students, academics, university leaders, industry and governments”. In addition they “employ 13 carefully calibrated performance indicators to provide the most comprehensive and balanced comparisons available”.

Must be good then. Interestingly, the main theme in the commentary seems to be stability:

Overall, this year’s rankings are characterised by their stability, especially towards the top of the table: no university in the top 20, for example, has moved by more than two places. The California Institute of Technology remains number one (the fourth year in a row it has worn the crown), with Harvard University in second place.

As was the case last year, the top 10 includes seven US universities. The other three places are occupied by UK institutions: the University of Oxford moves from joint second last year to third, while its ancient rival, the University of Cambridge, rises two places to fifth. Imperial College London moves up one place to joint ninth.

Perhaps the most striking development at the summit is the fact that Yale University makes the top 10 for the first time under the current methodology. The Ivy League stalwart pushes the University of Chicago into 11th position.

So, this means there really isn’t a lot of movement:

 The world top 20 is as follows:

 

1 California Institute of Technology (Caltech) United States
2 Harvard University United States
3 University of Oxford United Kingdom
4 Stanford University United States
5 University of Cambridge United Kingdom
6 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) United States
7 Princeton University United States
8 University of California, Berkeley United States
9 Imperial College London United Kingdom
9 Yale University United States
11 University of Chicago United States
12 University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) United States
13 ETH Zürich – Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich Switzerland
14 Columbia University United States
15 Johns Hopkins University United States
16 University of Pennsylvania United States
17 University of Michigan United States
18 Duke University United States
19 Cornell University United States
20 University of Toronto Canada

the-wur-logo-world-rankings

And the UK rankings:

3 University of Oxford United Kingdom
5 University of Cambridge United Kingdom
9 Imperial College London United Kingdom
22 University College London United Kingdom
34 London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) United Kingdom
36 University of Edinburgh United Kingdom
40 King’s College London United Kingdom
52 University of Manchester United Kingdom
74 University of Bristol United Kingdom
83 Durham University United Kingdom
94 University of Glasgow United Kingdom
103 University of Warwick United Kingdom
107 Queen Mary University of London United Kingdom
111 University of St Andrews United Kingdom
111 University of Sussex United Kingdom
113 University of York United Kingdom
118 Royal Holloway, University of London United Kingdom
121 University of Sheffield United Kingdom
131 Lancaster University United Kingdom
132 University of Southampton United Kingdom
146 University of Leeds United Kingdom
148 University of Birmingham United Kingdom
154 University of Exeter United Kingdom
157 University of Liverpool United Kingdom
171 University of Nottingham United Kingdom
178 University of Aberdeen United Kingdom
196 St George’s, University of London United Kingdom
198 University of East Anglia United Kingdom
199 University of Leicester

29 universities from the UK in the Top 200 doesn’t look too bad and second only to the US.

All of this is Copyright Times Higher Education. Full details can be found here:  http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/world-university-rankings/

A campus facilities arms race?

It’s all about the aquatics apparently

I’ve posted before about the growth of luxury student accommodation in the US. Now the Education Advisory Board has a report on what it says amounts to a recreation facilities arms race on US campuses:

A paw shaped hot tub you say? Essential.

A paw shaped hot tub you say? Essential.

Auburn University has a 45-person paw-print shaped hot tub, Pensacola Christian College has a $1 million wave rider, Missouri State University has a zip-line over the pool and a lazy river. Ten schools have AquaClimb pool-side rock walls, 35 more are in the works. According to a 2013 NIRSA study, 92 schools reported a combined $1.7 billion in capital projects.”Aquatics are a huge growth area,” says Jack Patton, leader of RDG Planning and Design’s sports facilities group. They are also the most expensive part of a recreation center to run per square foot.

Officials hope that the amenities will help them stand out in prospective students’ minds.It works. Resort-style facilities boost student enrollment, particularly at less-elite schools, according to a 2013 study from the National Bureau of Economic Research.At the University of Missouri, each tour stops by the “indoor beach club’s” palm trees, lazy river, waterfall, and grotto modeled after the Playboy Mansion’s.

"The floating lounge chairs, couches, mellow music and plenty of sun help provide a perfect relaxing environment for hard-working students who need a respite from their studies or a change of scenery."

“The floating lounge chairs, couches, mellow music and plenty of sun help provide a perfect relaxing environment for hard-working students who need a respite from their studies or a change of scenery.”

The arms race metaphor is a good one. Is all of this necessary to deliver a good student experience? No, but it does seem to help with recruitment. More palm trees anyone?

Chemical Reaction

Fire! Reflections on a major incident

In the evening of Friday September 12 I received a call from our Deputy Head of Security to alert me to a major fire at the University’s Jubilee Campus. The building ablaze was the unfinished GlaxoSmithKline Carbon Neutral Laboratory for Sustainable Chemistry and, during the hours that followed, it was completely destroyed. Fortunately no-one was injured and, thanks to the extraordinary efforts of the Nottinghamshire Fire Service, supported by their colleagues from Derbyshire, no other buildings were damaged.

What it would have looked like

What it would have looked like

From this point on we were in incident response mode and the first thing to work out was how this might affect our Open Day the following day when upwards of 12,000 visitors – prospective students and their parents – were due to visit the University. In discussion with colleagues in student recruitment we determined that the Open Day would go ahead and that if we did need to relocate activities from Jubilee Campus to University Park then we would find a way to do it:

Open day tweetTwitter proved to be just about the best way to get the message out and counter the erroneous ‘whole university burns down’ message from some overzealous commentators.

As it turned out, the only effect on the rest of Jubilee Campus beyond the loss of the building was the closure of Triumph Road, one of the routes into Jubilee and easily worked around.

A team of University staff met early the following morning to work on our approach. Without going into too much detail, we sought to ensure that we broadcast a message that we were grateful for all of the assistance we had received and to reassure everyone that it was business as usual, that we would rebuild and that outstanding green chemistry research would continue at the University of Nottingham. It was also important to stress that this would not affect teaching as it was largely intended as a research building.
The full statement issued later that day and subsequently amended a little:

The University of Nottingham’s Registrar Dr Paul Greatrix said: “We are terribly saddened by the major fire at our Jubilee Campus on the evening of Friday September 12, which completely destroyed our new GlaxoSmithKline Carbon Neutral Laboratory for Sustainable Chemistry which was still under construction.
“We are incredibly grateful to our staff and students for their fantastic response in dealing with this major incident and would like to express our gratitude to both Notts Fire Service and Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service. It was the quick action of their fire crews which prevented this incident from being much more serious. We have also been extremely touched by the messages and best wishes from our close neighbours out in the community.
“We would like to thank the wider higher education community across the UK for its support – we have had many offers of help from other universities around the country, for which we are extremely grateful.
“To put this loss into perspective, we need to remember that this was one building, that thankfully no one was injured and that the fire was prevented from spreading further on to campus.
“We want to stress that it is business as usual at The University of Nottingham. We were able to ensure that Open Day 2014, went ahead as planned and was unaffected by the incident — we welcomed thousands of prospective students and their families to our campuses to enjoy a packed programme of talks and activities demonstrating our high-quality teaching and facilities.
The new building wasn’t due to be opened until next year and, as such, our chemistry department, while understandably disappointed by this loss, won’t be affected either from a teaching or research perspective in the immediate future.
This is a setback for us but one from which we have no doubt we will recover. The University of Nottingham has an international reputation for scientific excellence, underpinned by the world-leading expertise of our academics. It is upon those strong foundations that we will rebuild and renew for the future.
The GlaxoSmithKline Carbon Neutral Laboratory for Sustainable Chemistry is a landmark building which is the embodiment of the University’s commitment to sustainability in all its forms, particularly in the area of green chemistry and we will be working closely with our partners at GSK, and the contractors Morgan Sindall, to develop a positive plan of action for rebuilding.
At this stage, we have no idea what caused the fire and may not know for some time until the Fire Service has been able to fully investigate the incident. The building was designed to meet stringent fire regulation requirements.”

A whole bunch of media interviews followed throughout the day but not everyone was wholly convinced by our line:

Memo to self: NEVER read the comments under a Mail Online article. Glee would be to understate teh general response

Memo to self: NEVER read the comments under a Mail Online article. To suggest that there was widespread glee at the incident would be to understate the general tenor of responses.

On Monday, the media wanted to do it all over again (my family was mildly impressed) and the Vice-Chancellor published a blog post on his response to the fire. After that, things went pretty quiet and, given that we are still waiting to hear what caused the fire, I guess they will be for a while yet.

stream_imgA few other points of note:

The University’s Facebook post on the fire had a huge number of impressions, I think more than anything else we have ever posted and attracted hundreds of messages of support.

Professor Martyn Poliakoff of our School of Chemistry and Periodic Videos fame posted a video commentary on the fire:

On the day of the fire I and other colleagues who are involved in incident responses (and who were all gathered round the table on the day after the fire) spent the day in a simulation exercise to rehearse how we would deal with a major incident. The scenario chosen by our external facilitator was a fire on campus…

Overall, the fire was a desperately sad situation but the response of everyone from the Emergency Services to University staff and students and from the local community to colleagues around the sector was just amazing. Despite the loss I am left with an enormous sense of optimism about the future of Sustainable Chemistry at the University of Nottingham and confident that before long there will be a world-leading carbon neutral laboratory on our campus. And we also learned a lot about our incident response plans. (It will be some time before we agree to do another simulation.)

The Promise of Personalized Education

Is this the future of student support?

There has been a lot of talk of late about learner analytics and the potential benefits in terms of tracking student performance and identifying and intervening where they are at risk of dropping out. The Chronicle of Higher Education has a story on a number of companies who are offering different forms of help to institutions:
613Supplement-EDTECH

This year students at Colorado State University will have their progress toward degrees tracked by technology from a company called CollegeSource. The likelihood of their encountering academic difficulty will be flagged for academic advisers and resident advisers by an online product from a company called Campus Labs. And they will receive text alerts about unsatisfactory grades via a mobile app from yet another ed-tech company, Ellucian. Students in three majors will also be assessed on their chances of succeeding in a course, on the basis of an analysis of data from thousands of previous Colorado State students who had earned the same grades, thanks to technology from the Education Advisory Board. Meanwhile, intercollegiate athletes who skip too many classes will be notified through Facebook by a company called GradesFirst that they’ve been scheduled for tutoring. And all these arrangements don’t even reflect an experiment in evaluating student progress in courses, using an analytics tool sold by Blackboard. The university ditched the experiment in the spring after realizing that professors weren’t using the learning-management system uniformly for that purpose.

While there is something quite cold and clinical about all of this, it nevertheless does offer the prospect of enabling universities better to support their students and to ensure that those most at risk of dropping out are provided with the assistance they need before it is too late.

These developments do seem inevitable as everyone looks to make more use of the student data they have and companies look to provide new and better tools for analysing it. Ultimately though all of this really does seem to offer the prospect of a significant improvement in student support.

 

Applying to uni via video

Better than qualifications?

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an interesting story on the use of videos in university applications. Whilst some institutions have been encouraging students to submit videos as supporting information, it seems at least one has now gone further and is offering students the opportunity to provide them as the primary selection tool:

Ever since George Mason University started inviting prospective students to send in videos as part of their application materials, Matthew P. Boyce, the interim admissions director there, has seen applicants try to prove their mettle in some odd ways.One young man wrote and performed a rap about why he wanted to go to the university, featuring a cameo by his grandma. Mr. Boyce recently watched footage of another candidate biting into an Indian “ghost pepper,” one of the world’s spiciest varieties. The footage was presented as evidence of the applicant’s resiliency. “It was kind of goofy,” says the admissions director, though certainly memorable.

All you need to apply to university

All you need to apply to university

George Mason is one of a handful of universities that, several years ago, gave prospective students the option of submitting short “video essays” as part of their applications.The videos were meant only as supplements to the required materials, which include standardized-test scores, grade-point averages, and recommendation letters. “It’s never going to make or break their admission to Mason,” says Mr. Boyce of the videos. Last week Goucher College announced that it was taking video submissions to the next level. Prospective students will have the option of making two-minute videos the centerpiece of an application to Goucher. If they submit a video, plus two samples of academic work, then they will not be required to send in a transcript or letter of recommendation.

Whilst the variety and opportunities for applicants may be seen as welcome it is difficult to imagine how it might be possible to ensure consistency and equity across a range of applications. Also it is not clear here what is being judged: originality, creativity, personality, film-making skills? All a bit tricky therefore and probably not something that is really going to take off.

Outsourcing student recruitment

Australian colleges trust to agents

Very surprised by this piece in @insidehighered which notes that agents have expanded their reach into domestic higher education recruitment in Australia:

When the Australian Skills Quality Authority examined 400 college websites during last year’s marketing audit, as many as 70 turned out to belong to brokerage firms rather than training providers.“It’s certainly quite a phenomenon now,” said Chris Robinson, the agency’s chief commissioner.

prolearn

A consultant, Claire Field, said marketing agents were particularly active in Queensland, mostly selling vocational diplomas. “With the higher education reforms, there’s no doubt we’ll see more activity,” she said.This is already happening, with high-flying Acquire Learning marketing degrees in ­accounting, arts, business, community services and information technology from Federation University and more than a dozen private colleges. Melbourne-based ProLearn recruits students for Victoria University’s graduate certificate in management.

 
While this does appear to be focused mainly on colleges and vocational qualifications there is some evidence of universities using such services too. Many UK institutions use agents for international recruitment but how long can it be before universities and colleges start using this kind of service for domestic student recruitment too?

Times and Sunday Times 2015 University League Table Top Placings

The Times and Sunday Times League Table 2015

A quick look at the top 25 in the all new Times/Sunday Times Good University Guide ranking for 2015. Full details can be found on the Sunday Times website (£). (Last year’s position in brackets.)

1= (1) Cambridge
1= (2) Oxford
3 (4) St Andrews
4 (5) Imperial
5 (3) LSE
6 (6) Durham
7 (8) Exeterrankings
8 (10) Warwick
9 (9) UCL
10 (7) Bath
11 (12=) Surrey
12 (12=) Lancaster
13 (21) Loughborough
14 (17) UEA
15 (16) Birmingham
16 (11) York
17 (29) Leeds
18 (20) Southampton
19 (15) Bristol
20 (14) Leicester
21 (18) Sheffield
22= (23) Nottingham
22= (18) Newcastle
22= (22) Edinburgh
25 (32) Sussex

This may be the first time there has been a tie for first place and it would, of course, be Oxford and Cambridge inseparable at the top of the table.

Warwick is the ‘University of the Year’.

Full details of the table including subject rankings were published in the Sunday Times on 21 September.

Tooled up campus security

Guns and Grenades for University Security

Earlier this year I posted on the acquisition of an armoured truck by security at Ohio State University. The Chronicle of Higher Education has since discovered that other US universities have also taken advantage of the opportunity to buy surplus army kit including grenade launchers, M-16s, and armoured vehicles:

Should the campus police at the University of Central Florida ever need a modified grenade launcher, one sits waiting in the department’s armory. Retooled to fire tear-gas canisters, the weapon was used several years ago for training purposes, according to Richard Beary, the university’s chief of police. It hasn’t left storage since.At Central Florida, which has an enrollment of nearly 60,000 and a Division I football team, the device was acquired, a police spokeswoman said, for “security and crowd control.” But the university’s police force isn’t the only one to have come upon a grenade launcher. Hinds Community College—located in western Mississippi, with a student population of 11,000—had one too. Campus police officers at Hinds declined to comment. A woman who worked for the department but declined to identify herself said that the launcher had been repurposed to shoot flares but that the college no longer possessed it. Both institutions received their launchers from the same source: the Department of Defense.

Necessary for campus security?

Necessary for campus security?

At least 117 colleges have acquired equipment from the department through a federal program, known as the 1033 program, that transfers military surplus to law-enforcement agencies across the country, according to records The Chronicle received after filing Freedom of Information requests with state governments. Campus police departments have used the program to obtain military equipment as mundane as men’s trousers (Yale University) and as serious as a mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle (Ohio State University). Along with the grenade launcher, Central Florida acquired 23 M-16 assault rifles from the Department of Defense.

This just seems extraordinary. The full table of purchases can be found here and, whilst it does include some fairly mundane items, you have to ask what on earth campus security services think they are going to need all this kit for. What kind of student protests are going to require guns and grenade launchers to keep crowds under control?