Categorising international students

The Guardian has a report on an exciting new piece of market research.

In what is undoubtedly a totally altruistic piece of work for the benefit of UKHE and not at all any kind of attempt to get free publicity and drum up loads of new business, a particular firm has:

gone for an anthropological take on a poll it has conducted of 25,000 international students, 80% of whom are at British universities. It asked the students what it was that made them choose their university and country of study. Then it organised them into tribes according to their answers.

It is so mindbogglingly simple and clever, it is difficult to believe it has not been done before in order to enhance international intakes. So, those “tribes” then – each of these students apparently fits into one of the following categories:

  • “seeker” (does what parents dictate)
  • “gekko” (greed is good)
  • “bono” (egotist saving the world through the medium of music)
  • “kid” (lacks focus, life entirely governed by league tables)
  • “surfer” (fun loving slacker)

International recruitment issues solved? Does this really help us understand our students or our markets better?

Now it’s “music that makes you dumb”

Follow up to post about books that achieve this end.

This site does the correlation with music and SAT scores.

Looking at Facebook for University of Nottingham today it seems the following represent our top 10:

1 Muse
2 The Killers
3 Oasis
4 Jack Johnson
5 Snow Patrol
6 Coldplay
7 Bloc Party
8 Radiohead
9 The Kooks
10 Razorlight

Which, in US terms, would definitely mean mid-table obscurity.

How disappointing.

Outsourcing Student Services

Interesting and slightly scary blog post in the Chronicle on the opportunities for outsourcing student services in US higher education. As one person interviewed puts it: “It’s almost taking the people out of it”.

Some of the wonderful products on offer include:

  • Rave Wireless lets students set cellphone timers that alert campus police if they do not arrive at their destinations. “We call it putting a blue-light telephone in everyone’s pocket,” said Robert Jones, Rave’s director of marketing.
  • University Parent produces printed guides, Web sites, and electronic newsletters for college parents.
  • Lifetopia tells colleges it will help them “put people in their place” — with a Web site where students can create profiles and select their own roommates.
  • CourseScheduler offers software to help students choose classes at hours they can handle. Otherwise “they’re just going to slap something together” — at the risk of burning out if their schedules are unmanageable, said Michael Smyers, a recent graduate of Kansas State University who founded the company.

And this is the best:

  • With Snoozester, students can request wakeup and reminder calls, such as to start studying for a test a week in advance. This product particularly frustrated some administrators. “People have just stormed away,” said Neville Mehra, the company’s chief executive. But most absences from class, he said, are a result of oversleeping.

Just what we’ve all been waiting for.

Newcastle goes Medical in Malaysia

Report here of signing of an agreement by the University of Newcastle with the Government of Malaysia to establish a medical programme in Johor:

The new international branch campus in Johor, Malaysia will be named Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia (NUMed) and will deliver and award the University’s degrees in medicine and biomedical science.

Interesting that the affordability of medical education is described as a key issue in the development which is intended to open in 2011.

Books “that make you dumb”

Interesting piece of work – a website which shows the correlation between favourite books on Facebook and average SAT scores for particular US institutions.


The five highest-scoring books (and Average SAT scores):

1. Lolita (1317)
2. 100 Years of Solitude (1308)
3. Crime and Punishment (1307)
4. Freakonomics (1275)
5. Catch-22 (1233)

Someone, with more time on their hands than is good for them, could do the same in the UK using average tariff scores – we need a new league table.


It is possible to mount some form of defence of the companies supplying (at a price) essays to students who, for whatever reason, would rather not write them themselves. It’s a pretty lousy argument though (simply meeting a market demand just doesn’t seem good enough) and there is really nothing about this sordid business that reflects well on those involved in it. The exploitation of international students is particularly unsavoury.

And it is particularly disappointing that the BBC website is responding so positively to their PR.

A new vision for HE?

A wide-ranging speech by the Minister, John Denham, seems to have been received in a rather low key way in the UK.

It does get some coverage in the Guardian and the Chronicle is on the case.

Denham looked to be indicating a fairly wide ranging review prior to the fees review next year:

We need to decide what a world-class HE system of the future should look like, what it should seek to achieve, and establish the current barriers to its development. As I have said previously, I want to do this before we initiate the review of undergraduate variable fees next year. But let me suggest what, at the end of the process, the prize should be. Universities have told me two things about their success. Firstly, that success depends on our, the government’s, respect for your leadership and autonomy. But, secondly, that you exercise that autonomy within the framework of aspiration, incentives and support set by government and the Funding Council. We have to get both right – respect for your autonomy, and the framework within which we expect you to work. And we have to get it right for the long-term.

So, at the end of this process, we should aim to produce together a 10 to 15 year framework for the expansion and development of higher education. One that sets out what universities should aspire to achieve. And one that is clear about the role of government.

* A framework to help us ensure that Higher Education in this country meets the growing demands upon it for research, teaching, international cooperation, economic development and cultural influence in the 21st century.
* A framework that provides a reference point for future policy decisions, including decisions about funding and other priorities.
* And a framework that enables progress to be measured in an objective and transparent way.

As part of this process I am inviting a number of individuals and organisations to make contributions. Not to write government policy but to help inform it and – equally important – to stimulate debate and discussion in the sector. I will be announcing several work streams today; others in the coming weeks.

The first areas of work seem to involve IP and the economy (involving a VC), student experience and how universities are responding to changing student expectations (for some reason, not at all clear to me why, being led by the HE Academy) and internationalisation (led by Drummond Bone from Liverpool). Other areas and individuals are identified too.

These are all important and valuable areas for further work. And, overall, it is a really positive speech about the quality of UK HE. However, it is not entirely clear to me from the speech what the new framework is into which they are intended to fit. Is this a major new development or is it just a toe in the water? Guess we will find out as other elements are launched in the next few weeks.