Universities and Web 2.0 – everywhere but Swansea?

Swansea University doing things the good old fashioned way:

But not every student recruiter is buying into the hype. Some warn that dabbling in new media can prove expensive and time-consuming. It can create more work for admissions staff without eliminating any of their old tasks, like answering enquiries and sending out prospectuses.

“I feel that potential students, being very media-savvy, would see universities’ use of social networking and text messaging as intrusion into what they use as a recreational space,” says Barrie Clark, Swansea University’s UK recruitment manager, who has over two decades of experience in the business. “I don’t see this trend as likely at Swansea University in the near future. I’d counsel caution here.”

(see the Grauniad for the full story)

Actually, he really does have a point – avoiding the ’embarrassing uncle at the wedding disco’ effect is important. However, the solution is surely investment and doing it properly rather than waiting and watching the world go by…

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Are league tables undermining academic standards?

Or, put another way, is it likely that universities will seek to award more firsts to boost league table rankings?

Geoffrey Alderman thinks so:

The more firsts and upper seconds a university awards, the higher its ranking is likely to be. So each university looks closely at the grading criteria used by its league-table near rivals, and if they are found to be using more lenient grading schemes, the argument is put about that “peer” institutions must do the same. The upholding of academic standards is thus replaced by a grotesque “bidding” game, in which standards are inevitably sacrificed on the alter of public image – as reflected in newspaper rankings.

See Guardian for the full story…

Actually I think this is one of the few things that most institutions would be extremely unlikely to do – it’s just too difficult and would be counter-productive. I would be surprised if there is any solid evidence to support it happening anywhere.

However, the argument about the problems caused by modularity and the impact on standards is a more compelling one here (although again hard evidence is difficult to find).

But, as always, academic standards are always under threat or dropping like a stone etc etc – it’s not like it was in the good old days when a first really was a first, eh?

More virtual universities needed

There seem to be some rather mixed messages here:

In a speech to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) on Wednesday, Education Secretary Alan Johnson said the country needed its world class higher education system more than ever. “England’s universities have always played a vital role in shaping our country’s role in the world,” he said. But England’s historic eminence in higher education did not come with a life-time guarantee and hard work was needed to ensure the universities remained world class.

So, we all need to work harder…

“If we don’t, our economy will suffer and we will lose our share of the growing market of 100 million overseas students worldwide,” he said.

…and recruit more international students…

It was vital to press ahead with efforts to encourage children from poorer backgrounds to go to university and this had to start at a young age.

…and do more to widen participation…

Mr Johnson also said efforts should also continue to develop new ways of delivering higher education, with more virtual institutions.

But best of all we have to have MORE virtual universities. I must admit to being slightly unsure about how many we currently have. I’m sure it’s a really good idea though given the resounding success of the UK e-university project.

See link from BBC for full details

Uni Reality TV: no dumbing down here!

Excellent news in the ever competitive international student recruitment market (according to BBC News):

TV show offers university places

Thousands of Indian students are set to compete for scholarships at some of Britain’s top universities in a TV reality show. The top 400 candidates will be whittled down to a shortlist of 20 who will compete against each other in a series of tests, tasks and quizzes. The prizes in Scholar Hunt: destination UK, are scholarships worth up to £80,000, not 15 minutes of fame. The would-be students will be competing for five scholarships in various subjects at the universities of Leeds, Sheffield, Warwick, Cardiff or Middlesex which would pay their fees and living costs.

I suppose it is a more valuable prize than just cash or working for Alan Sugar but still. And at least one of those institutions taking part is stretching the definition of “top” university more than a little.

But before they can enter, all the contestants will be screened to ensure they meet the universities’ strict academic requirements. And the tests, quizzes and competitive tasks they will be shown completing are being devised by university academics.

So that’s alright then.