Universities learning from cities

More alike than you think?

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a diverting piece on what cities can teach Higher Education. Essentially the argument is that there are many similarities and that a long term view is necessary to deliver success:

Cities and colleges are more alike than people think. Both are considered economic engines that also offer rites of passage and an escape from parochialism. Both host sports teams and their own police forces. Recently the overwhelming debts run up by cities and by students have forced themselves on the public’s attention. Yet despite the significant woes of Detroit and the impending bankruptcies of other American cities, no one is expecting urban living to disappear or be radically transformed. Higher education, however, is not so lucky. Some doomsayers predict the rise of a completely online educational system, spurred by the spread of massive open online courses.

 

Universities really don't want to be like Detroit

Universities really don’t want to be like Detroit

But perhaps one of the most interesting elements is made in relation to the student facilities “arms race”. The piece quotes a recent report which found that there are nearly 160 leisure-and-recreation projects under way on US campuses, representing an investment of some $1.7-billion:

Should we blame students for the party atmosphere on many campuses? That might be tempting, but it ignores the “Club Ed” ambitions of some presidents. Dorms, in many cases, have become full-scale resorts. What is a student to think when seeing, for instance, Texas Tech University’s leisure pool and “lazy river”?

See this recent post on this topic for more on campus facilities. But the real issue here is about looking at the big picture and not being distracted by short term issues:

Cities have also invested in projects that were meant to attract people yet do nothing to encourage the social drama that is the real attraction of cities. We must remember, however, that successful cities are not always the most efficient—that is, efficient in a hasty way. New York has, along with London, some of the most expensive real estate in the world tied up in parkland. Should Central Park be sold off to pay the city’s debts? No, there is more to a city than balancing a budget and more to balancing a budget than balancing it in one year. Whatever gains might be achieved by the quick sale of parkland would be offset by the long-term erosion in quality of life.

Just so with higher education. Philosophy and art may have no direct relation to a job qualification, but an education without them is as soulless and inhumane as the housing projects that were inflicted on generations of the poor.

Much to learn then perhaps.

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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.

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!

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.)

Dialogue through technology

Dorm Room Diplomacy

 

Intrigued to learn about the activities of an organisation called Dorm Room Diplomacy which gets groups of students together from around the world, via videoconferencing, to engage in dialogue aimed at promoting greater international understanding:

croppedimage960300-DRD-Red-Group-Communities-Map

Founded by students at the University of Pennsylvania in 2009, Dorm Room Diplomacy fosters intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding among an international group of university students. Dorm Room Diplomacy employs videoconference technology to facilitate virtual exchanges that help students to see the individuals behind reductionist cultural stereotypes.The videoconference program occurs each academic semester, and the same set of 8 students join in a virtual dialogue with a trained facilitator each week. Dorm Room Diplomacy is entirely student-run, encouraging students to take ownership over the dialogue process, establish campus chapters, and empower themselves and their peers. As a non-partisan organization, Dorm Room Diplomacy does not engage in political activities or advocacy, other than the promotion of intercultural dialogue.

Whilst the number of institutions involved is modest nevertheless it does seem like a valuable initiative. There are many other ways to engage in such dialogue both on campus and through international exchanges but this looks like a useful additional option.

Will Dorm Room Diplomacy take off? Time will tell.

True Crime on Campus §37: long hot summer

Even More True Crime on Campus

It may be summer but our always vigilant Security staff are still on duty to ensure that every unlikely situation is dealt with:

08:05 Security reported an altercation between a driver and a cyclist at the end of the road leading up to the West Entrance Gatehouse on University Park Campus. Security witnessed the driver of the vehicle give the cyclist a hard push, knocking the cyclist off his feet. The Security Officer at the Gatehouse then witnessed both parties coming to an agreement as they shook hands. The cyclist rode off from Campus and the driver came onto the Campus. Details of the vehicle registration were noted.

1526 Report of a person sleeping in Pope Building. Security attended and woke the person up. On speaking to the person they confirmed that they were a student and were tired.

10:45 Security received a complaint from the driver of the Jubilee Hopper bus to advise that the line painters had refused to move from the bus layby on Spine Road. The painting contractors advised that the bus driver hadn’t asked them to move and they couldn’t just stop working due to the equipment that they were using. The bus driver went up the kerb on an alternative route.

1030 Report of youths at the rear of the ETB throwing stones. Security attended – the area was checked the youths could not be located.

1125 Report that a Bus had struck one of the bridges connecting the L buildings with Coates Building. Security attended. The bridge was checked and found to be undamaged.

Fortunately, this didn't happen on this occasion

Fortunately, this didn’t happen on this occasion

0815, 1240 Report that a new wooden bench was on fire in Diamond Wood Sutton Bonington. Security attended and put the fire out. There are signs that the area had been used as a camp site the previous evening.

00:10 Security received a report from a resident at Hugh Stewart Hall that stones were being thrown at the windows. Security attended Hugh Stewart Hall and found two youths crouching near the windows facing the Main Visitor’s car park. No damage to windows recorded. Both youths informed Security that they were from the Summer School and staying at Lincoln Hall. Security escorted the youths back to Lincoln Hall and informed the Summer School Tutors of what had happened. Security to follow up.

00:10 Security discovered two green directional signs one “West Entrance” and the other “Trent Building” in the bushes at Hugh Stewart Hall. These signs were located in the same place as the youths throwing stones at the windows. Security to follow up and Helpdesk informed.

14:20 Security attended the Aspire building on Triumph Road Jubilee Campus after a report that a group of children were breaking the lights which illuminated the Aspire. On arrival it was confirmed that the light which is set into the ground had been broken. A group of teenagers were near the broken light and all denied being involved with the incident. Security have spoken to a witness of the incident and were informed that the male responsible for the damage had left the scene. Helpdesk informed. Police updated. Security to follow up.

1010 Report of a fault with a Kitchen extractor fan in Derby Hall Kitchens. Lilley’s called out. They stated that they would not attend as this is specialist equipment. The Estates Help Desk to be informed.

1531 Report of a male sawing the lock off a Pedal Cycle adjacent to Hallward Library. Uniformed and Covert Security Officers attended the male was stopped and spoken to. The male, a Student, had in fact been using a pump to blow up his tyres and not, as had been reported, sawing the lock off.

sign-44157_640

0250 Report that a deer had been seen on Beeston Lane. Security attended, the area was checked but the animal could not be located. Police were informed in case of traffic issues.

1740 Report of Conference Delegates at Jubilee Campus causing a nuisance to a Resident on Horston Drive. Security attended and caught a group of delegates from the Italian children’s conference causing a nuisance. Officers contacted the conference organiser who dealt with the children concerned.

1715 Report that a hot water tap would not turn off in the Play Centre. Security attended and turned off the water to the tap. Estates Help Desk to be informed.

2348 Report of mini insects in a room in Hall. The resident asked for Security to attend. On arrival Officers suggested that the student close the window.

Very good at hiding

Very good at hiding

2215 Report of a pigeon hiding behind a sofa in the Amenities Building Jubilee Campus. Security attended and the pigeon was removed from the Building.

And finally, one in which I have to declare a personal interest. Following an exciting weekend of den-building, my youngest daughter decided to involve her friends at the University play scheme in similar activity. Unfortunately, the results were misinterpreted:

19:00 Security reported 4 shelters that have been built using branches from a fallen tree in the wooded area at the front of Lenton Fields. It does not appear that the shelters have been used for anybody to sleep in. Security checked the area overnight. Helpdesk informed to make Grounds staff aware.

Video game scholarships

League of Legends becomes a varsity sport

League_of_legends_logo_transparent

Inside Higher Ed has a story about an Illinois university which has decided to make ‘League of Legends’ a varsity sport and award a number of scholarships to boot:

In the latest blow to the nerd-jock distinction, an Illinois university has added video games to its varsity sports lineup.Robert Morris University-Illinois, a 7,000-student private institution with its main campus in Chicago, announced this month that it would incorporate eSports – organized video-game competitions – into its athletic program. Starting in September, League of Legends players will join hockey goalies, quarterbacks and point guards as varsity athletes at the Chicago campus. The university is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.League of Legends is an online multiplayer battle-arena video game. More than 27 million people play it each day, according to Riot Games, which developed the game.The Chicago-based university, which has no affiliation with Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, is the first institution in the country to assign varsity status to a video game.The university plans to offer between 45 and 50 athletic scholarships to incoming gamers, said Kurt Melcher, the university’s associate athletic director. The scholarships will pay for 50 percent of tuition and 50 percent of room and board for members of the League of Legends team.

I must admit I’m not familiar with this particular game but it does seem rather exciting:

whatislol-intro

League of Legends is a fast-paced, competitive online game that blends the speed and intensity of an RTS with RPG elements. Two teams of powerful champions, each with a unique design and playstyle, battle head-to-head across multiple battlefields and game modes. With an ever-expanding roster of champions, frequent updates and a thriving tournament scene, League of Legends offers endless replayability for players of every skill level.

Still not sure that this quite fits with university sports environment or that video games count as sport. Or indeed that the university will find any other university to play against.

Signs of the Times

Is university signage important for academic achievement?

No. And I fear that this story rather overstates the significance of signage on university campuses.

This piece was pointed out to me by Simon @GlobalHE (to whom many thanks) and covers the importance of signage in education. Whilst I really do want to take it seriously and I do recognise that with a big and diverse campus we do need effective signage for students, staff and visitors, it all seems a bit over the top:

This way and that

Too much information?

Educational buildings are used by a range of demographic groups, from small children to mature students, with a variety of needs and requirements.

A good signage strategy is the starting point to make sure that all staff, students and visitors can move around the school or campus in an efficient, clear and secure way.

“Educational wayfinding signage needs to be clear, concise, accurate, durable and stylish,” said Lindsay Burnham, marketing manager for Astley, an established sign provider in the education sector.She continued: “Not only does the information need to be correct and visible, it also has to meet all health and safety regulations to maintain the wellbeing of the individuals.

”Signage can also play a part in a student’s academic achievements, as Burnham explained: “Attending a new a school or university is daunting for any student and being able to work their way round the campus, to be in the right place at the right time, is a key factor as to whether they feel settled in their new place of study and ultimately that they perform well and are successful.”

So, whilst sign providers will, of course, recommend a carefully planned signage strategy from the early stages of a new build project, it probably isn’t business critical. Or perhaps I’m underestimating the importance of all this.

The luxury gap

Dormitories v apartments

I wrote some time ago here about the advent of extremely luxurious student accommodation in the US. This was linked to anxieties about students having it all just too easy. Certainly the trend in the UK has been away from shared rooms and bathrooms and towards individual en suite rooms and studio apartments in new complexes with gyms and social spaces.

Now @insidehighered has an essay which argues that colleges are better with old-style dormitories than apartment-like facilities:
LoyolaMD_Dorm

Apartment-style dorm rooms are the Hot New Thing at some colleges nowadays. Single rooms instead of doubles or even quads, exterior doors instead of crowded hallways, private bathrooms instead of gang showers and those icky shared toilets, even mini-kitchens instead of the noisy dining hall – all have an undeniable appeal for incoming freshmen looking to maximize the more adult features of undergraduate life.Many contemporary students grew up with their own bedrooms, and perhaps even their own bathrooms, and may recoil from sharing their personal spaces with that mysterious stranger, the roommate or hallmate. So colleges and universities, particularly sensitive to the preferences of full-pay students, are starting to move away from traditional long-hallway dorms to more individualized rooms, some with generous amenities. Prospective students seem to love the idea.

But, the argument runs, essentially this is not good for the students or their personal and academic development. The shared experience of this kind of residential life makes making friends a lot easier and provides students with a supportive environment when they most need it, at the start of their university life.

I think it’s a persuasive argument but a difficult sell to potential students. The line that it may be old, traditional and lower spec accommodation but it’s good for you is not necessarily the best pitch to applicants. Especially if this is the alternative:

Too much luxury?

Too much luxury?

But for many institutions (and students) there may not be much choice.

Celebrating Student Success

We really do have an outstanding Students’ Union

A nice new website publicising the University of Nottingham Students’ Union’s successes over the past year and its centenary celebrations:

For the last week of the semester, your officers decided it was time to celebrate the things we’d achieved. So, we launched our very first Celebration Week. Celebration Week is the perfect time to look back on the successes of the past year. What’s was the most memorable moment of 2013/14? What was your biggest success? What would you have done differently?Most importantly, we wanted to know how you were celebrating everything you’d been getting up to, while we held some celebrations of our own. Special events, such as the free 100 Heroes exhibition tours, Women in Leadership Tea Party and Mooch Big Brunch, were put together just for Celebration Week.Thanks to everyone for a brilliant year – and we’ll see you again at Welcome!

It’s all terrific stuff and serves to remind us of the essential role students’ unions play in the life of universities. Things have certainly moved on in the past 100 years:

Unions have moved on a little...

Unions have moved on a little…

The Varsity win was pretty good too.

So well done to all of this year’s officers and look forward to even more successes next year.

Big bucks for students with big ideas

A big prize for University of Pennsylvania graduates

The Philadelphia Enquirer has a good story about an initiative at the University of Pennsylvania for graduates who want to change the world:

Graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with a strong desire to change the world and an excellent plan for how to do it?A new Penn program may fund you.Penn president Amy Gutmann has created “engagement prizes” of up to $150,000 – $50,000 for living expenses and $100,000 for project execution – for students with the most promising plans to improve local, national, or global conditions in the year after their graduation.”We want to maximize the encouragement we can give our students who do well by doing good in the world,” Gutmann said Tuesday.

Money for something

Money for something

It’s perhaps not an entirely novel idea but the scale of it is impressive:

While other schools offer prizes, Penn’s effort appears to offer more money..”I don’t know of anything that’s even close to that big,” said Jeffrey Selingo, author of College Unbound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students and a contributing editor to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Gutmann said she wanted to create a prize on the order of the prestigious Rhodes or Marshall scholarships, and offer it in a way that gets an entire senior class from an elite university focused on civic engagement and innovative thinking. She said she knew of no other university that had created such a prize.”We want this to be something that isn’t their second or third choice, but their first choice,” Gutmann said. “I think this is going to create a cadre of students who are committed to civic engagement.”Colleges large and small increasingly are looking for ways to tie what students learn in the classroom to the real world, Selingo said. Davidson College in North Carolina, for example, offers paid “impact fellowships” to recent graduates who work with nonprofit organizations on critical health, education, and environmental issues.Penn’s new prize will pay for up to three projects per year; students can apply individually or in groups of up to three.

So, will we see UK universities trying something like this? Lots already offer small awards to current students to support good works or charitable endeavours but I’m not aware of anything on this scale. The award could be a game changer for Penn but will other students or unsuccessful competitors be resentful about the size of the pot? We’ll have to see but if they do make a real difference with the prize then we can expect that lots of others will be following suit.

True Crime on Campus §36: one in the eye

True Crime on Campus:

Once again our always vigilant Security staff are on hand to ensure that every unlikely situation is attended to:

2240 Report of a smell of gas in Humanities Building. Security attended. Officers could detect a faint smell of gas which dissipated during the night.

1325 Report of blocked toilets in DHL. Security attended. Lanes for Drains were asked to attend but stated that they could not attend until 1 June, East Midlands Drains were called out they also could not attend until 1 June, Lilley’s called out and attended.

1625 Report of a person with a dog which was out of control on Jubilee Campus. Officers attempted to speak to the owner but they had left by the time Officers attended.

Suspicious

Careful!

16:30 Security received a complaint from a student who had been walking on the footpath at the front of the Fitness Centre, when a van reversed towards the main doors nearly running them over. The van driver did not take responsibility for his actions, telling the student that it was their fault. Pictures were taken of the van by the student. Security to follow up.

16:20 Security received a report of a male exiting campus through West Gate carrying a bicycle frame. On arrival Security identified the male as a student.

Wasp0040 Report of a buzzing noise in Hall Security attended the noise was thought to be Wasps. Mitie Pest Control to be informed in the morning.

 

1600 Report of a vehicle with a broken windscreen at Sutton Bonington Sports Centre. The owner of the vehicle claims it was broken by a football. Security Officers are to check the CCTV.

18:30Security received a report of a dead bird in the lake on Jubilee Campus. Helpdesk informed to remove the dead bird.

1610 Report of a student with a head injury in Hall. Security attended the student stated that they had banged their head on a locker door while at the Swimming Pool. The student’s head was examined and they were given advice by Officers.

2338 Patrol Security Officers spoke to the occupants of two vehicles which were parked in the car park adjacent to Law and Social Science. The occupants stated that they had parked there to watch the Helicopters. As there are no Helicopter flights during the hours of darkness the occupants were told to leave Campus.

Best seen in daylight

Best seen in daylight

23:55 Security received a report from the porter at Hall about a number of students running around the Hall having a water fight. Security stopped all students involved and took their details. Students were made to clear up the mess by Security. Details to Hall Manager. Security to follow up.

23:05 Security received a report of a student taking a book from the Hallward Library without authorisation. Security to follow up.

14:10 Security were informed by a member of the public that the bin located at the entrance to Melton Hall was on fire and smoking profusely. Security extinguished the fire with water.

1345 Report of a member of staff with peppermint in their eye on the Science Site. Security attended. The member of Staff washed their eye out and felt better.

0500 Report of a student urinating outside Hall. Security attended and the student was spoken to and will be reported to the Compliance and Investigations Manager.

 

 

True Crime on Campus §35: Funny hats

True Crime on Campus: More funny business

Once again our ever-dependable Security staff are faced with more challenges trying to keep campus safe for all:

2305 Report that Students had blocked sinks in  Hall JCR causing a flood. Security attended Lanes for Drains and Quality 1st was called out. Two large concrete benches had also been put on top of a set of railings which Officers removed.

2250 Report that a Bus was stuck on Beeston Lane Security attended. The driver stated that he had attempted to turn around when he got the bus wedged between the curbs. Officers worked with Staff from the Bus Company and Estates Grounds Staff with Tractors to free the bus. The bus was not a University Hopper bus.

cut finger

2240 Report of a Student with a cut finger in Hall. Security attended and the Student was taken to Hospital by Security. The Student had cut his finger while washing up.

1405 Report of two dogs tied up outside Hallward Library. Security attended and Officers were able to locate the owner who took the animals home.

1740 Report of an altercation between two Students in Built Environment. Security attended and spoke to the Students concerned. There was a dispute over a group project where one Student had accused another of not working hard enough.

18:25 Security received a report of six young children causing a nuisance outside the Business School South Jubilee campus. Security asked the children to leave. Before leaving the campus via the Triumph Road Entrance, three of the six children jumped on the Triumph Road exit barrier knocking it to the ground. Security placed the barrier in Newark Hall for safe keeping. Security to follow up.

0335 Patrol Security Officers discovered a Student asleep on a grassed area adjacent to The Exchange Building Jubilee Campus. Officers woke the Student up and took him back to his Hall of Residence. The Hall Warden is to be informed.

1145 Report that a person had defecated on the carpet of a communal area in Hall. Security attended. The person responsible who is a friend of Student living in the Hall has since come forward and is being dealt with by the Hall Management team.

1518 Report of three males throwing stones at Wildlife on Jubilee Campus Security attended the males were spoken to by Officers and told to leave Campus.

Suspicious

Van men without hats

18:27 Security received a report of two males in a white transit van wearing funny hats and frightening female Med-Link students at Hall. On arrival there was no sign of the males. A further sighting of the van was seen at 19:08hrs outside the Coates Atrium. Security spoke to the occupants who are connected to Med-Link. They admitted that they did mean to scare people and they both apologised and took their hats off. Details to the Head of Security.

1557 Report of a person choking in Life Science Café Security Officers attended. On arrival Officers assisted a Student who was choking on a Paperclip that had fallen into their drink unnoticed. The Student had then drunk the clip which lodged in their throat. Security Officers took the Student to the QMC for treatment.

1630 Patrol Security Officers spoke to a Student who was setting off Air Powered Rockets adjacent to Chemistry Building. The Student stated that he had been given approval however due to where the rockets were landing the Student was told to stop. Security are to follow up.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

2025 Report of a group of 50 Students stealing Microwaves, Ironing Boards and Toasters from Derby Hall. Security attended. The group was located on the Downs and a number of the group were stopped and their details taken. A number of this group were either dressed in their underwear or naked. The Compliance and Investigations Manager is to be informed.

1230 Report that a person had poured hot coffee over themselves in Coates Building Security attended and took the person to Cripps Health Centre.

mouse

1210 Report that a Resident had a mouse in the flat. They stated that they had caught the mouse and put it outside but it kept coming back in. Security attended. Estates Help Desk to be informed.

0315 Report of a group of Students causing a nuisance in the Hallward Library. On arrival Officers spoke to a number of Students who were making a lot of noise and were drinking from bottles of wine and spirits. The group had also let a non Student into the Library as well. Library Staff to be informed.

 

Still waiting for a decent new campus novel?

Fertile territory for Higher Ed fiction?

Previous posts on Higher Ed fiction have looked at the end of the campus novel and some flickers in the embers with a few more recent offerings including the Marriage Plot. More recently I also posted on satire in HE which covered, among other things, an unpromising series of British novels which didn’t seem to add greatly to the corpus.

Now Inside Higher Ed has a piece on a professor and a former university president (both in the US) who have both just published new academic novels. The synopses do not inspire confidence. The first, Academic Affairs, seems to hinge on an extraordinary set of circumstances:

As the book opens, Smithfield University graduate student Jim Hagedorn — who identifies as gay, and who is theoretically monogamous with his long-term partner, Kevin — discovers that he has accidentally impregnated his classmate and rival, Sally. Meanwhile, Jim’s thesis adviser, the successful but tormented sociologist Bill Massy, finds himself in the same boat with Smithfield’s provost, Esmeralda Marcos. Marcos has other problems, notably the outrageous request made of her and Smithfield’s president, Roger Turner, by Stanley Egbert, a would-be major donor who is willing to pony up $250 million in exchange if Marcos and Turner will adhere to his conditions. Turner would rather decline the offer, but he’s pressured to accept by Smithfield’s board chair, Peter Hagedorn — Jim’s brother. And that’s just the beginning. (Academic Affairs runs to more than 500 pages, and they’re densely packed.)

The new campus bonkbusters?

The new campus bonkbusters?

The other, Signature Affair, looks like a bit of wish-fulfillment:

Cochran had written a full draft of what would become Signature Affair — the story of Steve Schilling, the charismatic and successful president of Eastern Arkansas University, whose spiraling sex addiction threatens to destroy his marriage and career. Schilling loves his wife, Suzanne, but he can’t seem to stop falling in love with other women as well: an old girlfriend from graduate school; the widow of a major donor; a faculty member; a political contact; even the university’s mailroom supervisor. Indeed, Schilling’s affairs are so numerous that it becomes rather difficult for the reader to keep them straight; Schilling himself manages it only by giving them each a different color of stationary on which to pen him romantic missives, which all five of his paramours are apparently eager to do.

Cochran didn’t set out to write a novel about sex addiction, he said, but as he was in the midst of writing the book, golf superstar Tiger Woods’ now-notorious affairs began to make headlines. As Cochran read news coverage of the scandal, he started to notice parallels between Woods and his protagonist, and he found himself thinking, “This is the guy I wrote about!”

Indeed. It looks like we might have a bit longer to wait for a great new campus novel.