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?

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Amazon on campus

Amazon sets up shop at Purdue

purduelogo

 

According to @insidehighered Purdue University is to become the next “Amazon Campus”, which will allow access to Amazon offered products through the Purdue Student Store.

 

Coming to a campus near you

Coming to a campus near you

Beyond Amazon’s impact on campus bookstores’ bottom lines, the company’s presence in higher education has mostly been felt in the post office, as students opt to order rental or used books online. With the expansion of its Amazon Campus program, the company is aiming for more visibility on college campuses.The co-branded program at Purdue is the second of its kind. The University of California at Davis announced a pilot with Amazon last November, and the company has expansion plans in the works, a spokeswoman said in an email.In addition to offering priority shipping options, Amazon will staff locations on campus where students can pick up their orders and drop off rented textbooks when they are due.
ucdavis_logo
UC-Davis, in comparison, uses Amazon’s bright yellow automated lockers. Both benefits are expected to roll out during the next year at Purdue, according to a press release. As part of its deal with Amazon, UC-Davis collects “a little more than 2 percent of most purchases” from the university-branded store. In the first two academic quarters since the launch of the pilot, the partnership has netted the university $139,000, much of which has gone toward funding short-term financial aid and textbook scholarships.

So it sounds like it might be a pretty good deal for universities and for their students. And it might ensure that campus bookshops, which have slowly been disappearing, might have a future after all. But it also means of course that Amazon’s dominance will continue to grow. Presumably they could also extend into wider provision of goods and services to universities from laboratory supplies to stationery. So is the future Amazon for everything?

Urgent: save those emails

Do we need to preserve Vice-Chancellors’ emails?

A diverting essay in Inside Higher Ed has a call for the preservation of presidential email:
256px-Email_Shiny_Icon.svg

…boards of trustees should act – with a sense of urgency. They might begin by appointing a task force, composed of professional historians, lawyers, board members, and administrators, to recommend procedures for an independent review of the correspondence of presidents and provosts. Although a mandate that all communications should reside in library archives might have a chilling effect on email exchanges and boost the telephone bills of academic leaders, it should be considered as well. Equally important, boards of trustees should set aside funds for the review – and for cataloging presidential and provostial papers having just completed a history of Cornell from 1940 to the present, co-authored with my colleague Isaac Kramnick, I can attest to the massive challenges posed by uncataloged collections, which contain millions of documents.

In addition to making possible more accurate institutional histories, complete and accessible presidential “papers” might well help sitting presidents facing tough decisions, by allowing them to understand what their predecessors considered, said and did in similar situations.

So should universities do this? And is it really as urgent as this essay suggests? I don’t think so. There is a strong case to be made for better records retention in universities but to focus exclusively on vice-chancellors’ or presidents’ emails would seem to me to be too narrow a take. And surely they get as much nonsense and spam as everyone else?

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.

Singalonga Higher Ed

Lyrical challenges at the University of Utah

 

Inside Higher Ed has a diverting piece on the changes being made to the University of Utah’s ‘fight song’ to address some of the lyrical challenges of the original:

The line “our coeds are the fairest” will be replaced with “our students are the finest” and the line “no other gang of college men” will now be “no rival band of college fans.” A further complication is that the song has been called “A Utah Man.” From now on it will be called “A Utah Man/Fan.

 

The Official Athletic Site of the University of Utah has the original lyrics in full:

 

VERSE
I am a Utah man, sir, and I live across the green.
Our gang, it is the jolliest that you have ever seen.
Our coeds are the fairest and each one’s a shining star.
Our yell, you hear it ringing through the mountains near and far.

utah-logoCHORUS
Who am I, sir? A Utah man am I A Utah man, sir, and will be till I die; Ki!Yi!
We’re up to snuff; we never bluff,
We’re game for any fuss,
No other gang of college men
dare meet us in the muss.
So fill your lungs and sing it out and
shout it to the sky,
We’ll fight for dear old Crimson,
for a Utah man am I.

VERSE
And when we prom the avenue, all lined up in a row,
And arm in arm and step in time as down the street we go.
No matter if a freshman green, or in a senior’s gown,
The people all admit we are the warmest gang in town.

CHORUS

VERSE
We may not live forever on this jolly good old sphere,
But while we do we’ll live a life of merriment and cheer,
And when our college days are o’er and night is drawing nigh,
With parting breath we’ll sing that song:
“A Utah Man Am I”.

 
It’s rather quaint in a way but probably needs to be retired rather than edited in this way. I must admit though to being intrigued by the idea of a university having a ‘fight song’. I can understand football teams having songs (see for example this classic which is in a similar vein to the Utah song) but universities?

Anyway, it seems this kind of thing is not as unusual as I had thought as Mike Ratcliffe (@mike_rat) kindly pointed out with this wonderful extract from the Leeds University Song Book from 1922:

Leeds song

 

More recently we have the following, a song produced a few years ago about ‘The student learning experience at Nottingham University’. Not a fight song but certainly offensive in parts:

Any other university songs?

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.

Breakfasts of champions?

Academics and their breakfasts

Greatly amused by this story in Inside Higher Ed about a new website which encourages academics to photograph and consider their breakfasts:

What you eat for breakfast may not merit space on your C.V, but a new website called Academic Breakfast is based on the idea that how professors start their days matters.The website invites academics to post a photograph of their breakfast, and to answer six quick questions: where they live, their institution, their job, their research in five words, their breakfast in five words, and their food philosophy in 10 words. Many of the philosophies mix the importance of doing the right thing in terms of nutrition and the environment, but also enjoying food.

Not sure this is going to catch on as a breakfast idea

Among the food philosophies shared are “eat healthily but indulge your honest cravings without any guilt” from a McGill University graduate student and “Treat the planet and all beings well; have pleasure” from a California State University at San Marcos sociologist and performance artist.While there are plenty of healthy foods visible, one can also spot breakfast items — Diet Coke, cold pizza — that might not appear on nutritionists’ recommendations for the morning. Several people included shots of their morning pills. And while most of the photographs depict the food before anyone started eating, there are also shots that were taken mid-meal.

The full glory of the Academic Breakfast Tumblr is here and it certainly proves that everyone has different approaches, academic or otherwise, to the first meal of the day. It’s a bold and innovative idea. But whatever next? No doubt someone is already working on Deans and their Doughnuts, Provosts who love Pancakes and Vegetables which look like Vice-Chancellors.

Up on the Higher Ed Catwalk

More Higher Ed excitement in the world of fashion

I’ve written before here about higher education fashion developments in London in the form of the Condé Nast college as reported in the Evening Standard a couple of years ago:

MOVE over AC Grayling, there’s a new college in town. Magazine publisher Condé Nast is launching a private college for fashion and design next year, which will be a potent rival to the London College of Fashion, Central St Martins and Chelsea, all part of the University of the Arts London.

The Condé Nast College of Fashion & Design is now fully up and running:

Based in Central London, the Condé Nast College of Fashion & Design operates from the heart of one of the world’s most exciting fashion capitals. The Condé Nast College is an important starting point for those who want to be tomorrow’s stars of the fashion industry. With outstanding resources, leading-edge facilities and access to experts from the worlds of fashion, style and luxury, the College prepares its students to work in all areas of this exciting and innovative industry. We currently offer three courses, the four-week Vogue Intensive Summer Course, the ten-week Vogue Fashion Certificate and the year-long Vogue Fashion Foundation Diploma. We are now accepting applications and look forward to welcoming you to the Condé Nast family.

Recruitment challenges?

 

Now Inside Higher Ed has a story about Conde Nast in the US teaming up with a venture fund to create new higher education courses:

Under the project, Condé Nast publications will team up with universities to create a set of accredited certificate programs and eventually master’s-degree programs with the colleges and universities, not the magazines, as the “institution.” Condé Nast writers and editors will contribute subject matter expertise and the publisher will provide some financial backing to the partnerships.The institutions and new academic programs which will include both interactive online content and in-person elements have not yet been identified, but discussions with universities are under way with the goal of launching the first programs in fall 2015.

Waiting for accreditation

Waiting for accreditation

 

The aforementioned magazines are likely to be involved in the first programs to get off the ground, but other Condé Nast publications which include The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Allure and Golf Digest could also participate. The initiative is the latest backed by University Ventures, a New York-based fund that since 2012 has sought to drive innovation in traditional higher education not by “disrupting” it from the outside but by encouraging it from within.”We’re not the barbarians at the gate,” says Daniel Pianko, a managing director at University Ventures. “A lot of the pure disrupters out there don’t seem to understand the importance of 1,000 years of history. Our approach is, how do you work within the construct that has that history and immense consumer acceptance, and innovate within that.”

An interesting development. One can only imagine all the potential academic programme tie-ins with the impressive stable of publications. But, whilst the funders are protesting (perhaps a little too much?) that they’re not really like all the “pure disruptors”, they still don’t seem to have any university partners on board. It’s early days no doubt.

Skills not swimming

Alternatives to physical education tests


A previous post reported on the reduction in the number of swimming tests
or other physical education assessments which formed part of graduation requirements at US universities.

Now Inside Higher Ed has a report on another university, Notre Dame, “a sports juggernaut”, which is making the shift too:

The university announced last week that freshmen will soon have to take two graded, one-credit courses on topics like wellness, academic strategies and spirituality instead of having to complete a year of physical education courses – for which there are a range of options – and pass a swim test.

An end to all this?

An end to all this?

The new first-year program, in place by fall 2015, will try to fill gaps in “student socialization,” “cultural competency” and independent learning with 250-student lecture courses and smaller breakout sessions in residence halls, according a report from the committee that recommended the change this month.

As a result of the shift, the department of physical education and wellness instruction – which includes about 13 non-tenure-track faculty – will close. The provost’s office will “work closely with those impacted to explore other opportunities for on-campus employment and to develop appropriate transitional strategies,” according to the report.

The report also refers to a recent study on the decline in required physical education at US universities from almost all having it as a graduation requirement down to just 39%. To those of us in the UK, where to the best of my knowledge no university has such a requirement, this still seems like remarkably large proportion. I have to say though I do think the alternative being introduced by Notre Dame sounds very interesting indeed.

A stimulating new degree course

A Degree in Coffee?

Inside Higher Ed has an entertaining piece on the advent of a new degree in the critical area of coffee:

 

A_small_cup_of_coffee

Many students and faculty members consider coffee to be essential to their daily existence. The University of California at Davis could be moving toward offering a major in coffee, The Sacramento Bee reported. The university, already known for its research and teaching on wine, has created the Coffee Center. Faculty members will conduct research on such topics as as the genetics of coffee and sensory perception of coffee drinkers. A long-term goal is establishing a major in coffee.

 

About time too.

Earlier posts have covered similar educational innovations, including the following degrees:

  • Viticulture & Enology: Grape Growing and Winemaking
  • Packaging
  • Puppeteering
  • Comic Art
  • Bowling Industry Management and Technology
  • Bagpipes

A previous post on the provision of bonkers degrees and earlier items covered similar ground including a zombie course at the University of Baltimore and a course covering Lady Gaga together with a study of Beyonce. Also we previously looked here at the launch of an MA in Beatles Studies and the offer of a degree in Northern Studies as well as offering a podcast on “bonkers or niche” degrees and an MA in horror and transgression at Derby.

But this coffee development seems particularly well-timed.

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.

24 hour study people

Food: all day and all of the night

It’s perhaps not that novel but Inside Higher Ed has a story about a small US college, Lynn University, which has introduced all-night dining to help, among other things, with more flexible class scheduling:

Lynn made the adjustment in dining hours for a pretty simple and obvious reason: administrators worried that students weren’t eating when they needed to. Athletes, working students and international students, many of whom tend to eat later, would regularly miss meals when the kitchen was only open for a few three-hour periods throughout the day.

A typical cafeteria at some other university

A typical cafeteria at some other university


Sure enough, with all-day access, students started coming in to eat later, sometimes using the cafeteria to study or socialize for hours at a time. But officials hadn’t exactly planned on what happened next: Instead of scheduling classes around when students can and can’t eat, they thought, why not get flexible?

So a two-hour 5 p.m. class that would have been unthinkable before is suddenly an option. And a popular one, at that. As the college experiments with course offerings throughout the day, it has quickly become clear that students much prefer that evening option to the early morning one.

This seems like a good idea to me and one which recognises that students may have many different preferences about when they study and eat. I suspect that more universities will offer this kind of provision, at least at exam time. However, rescheduling classes to accommodate the preferences of some for evening teaching rather than morning may not suit everyone and I suspect that not all academic staff would be wildly enthusiastic about such timetabling.

Restricting Free Speech?

Is there really a freedom of speech problem in US universities?

 

Freespeechcover

Inside Higher Ed has a report on a new publication on free speech on US campuses.

Nearly 59 percent of campuses have policies that “clearly and substantially” restrict students’ protected speech, according to an annual report from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and another 36 percent have policies that “overregulate” speech on campus. Private colleges, which are not legally bound by the First Amendment, fare slightly worse in the report; about 62 percent of those campuses substantially restrict student speech, compared to 58 percent of public campuses. However, the percentage of campuses seriously restricting speech is down 17 percent from six years ago, the report says.

Obviously the legislative framework governing free speech in US universities is very different from the UK but this does seem to be an extremely pessimistic picture. You do suspect there is something of a political agenda here though. Indeed anything at all which limits total freedom of speech is characterised as a problem.

The damage caused by the athletics arms race

Uncontrolled expansion of athletics can cause real problems

Interesting piece in Inside Higher Ed on a paper which looks at the academic damage of an expanding independent athletics program with a particular focus on Berkeley:

calbearslogocos-1

When describing the approach that administrators at the University of California at Berkeley took to the university’s sports program, John Cummins consistently uses a somewhat unexpected term: ambivalent.

Unexpected, says Cummins, a former associate chancellor at the university, because Berkeley, like all other big-time football programs in the major athletic conferences, is in a “spending race” on facilities, coaching salaries and conference-related travel in order to lure – or, as the paper puts it, “in the hopes of luring” – the best recruits.

Because the university continues to admit underprepared students because of their athletic prowess, he says, despite football boasting the lowest graduation rate (44 percent) of athletes of any Division I program this year, and despite athletes consistently graduating at lower rates (especially black athletes) than non-athletes do.

And because administrators have allowed the athletics department to move further and further outside the institution and operate simply as a business, he argues, no matter what deficits, internal conflicts, scandals and National Collegiate Athletic Association violations ensue.

Given the general direction of things, that all sounds pretty purposeful, not evidence of ambivalence.

It’s a pretty scary piece overall but really does feel like a completely different world to the UK experience. Could it happen here? I don’t think so and certainly not at such scale. But it is conceivable that institutions may compromise on admissions standards in order to recruit sporting stars.

Retaining institutional knowledge

Memories…

Inside Higher Ed has an interesting article on avoiding the loss of valuable institutional knowledge which occurs when employees move on.

Previous An earlier post commented on the importance of institutional history but this is more about the efficient retention of business critical information. It’s an thought provoking commentary:

There are steps organizations can take to reduce the level of institutional knowledge that they lose with the loss of skilled employees. Specialized training, documentation of processes, and job sharing are a few of the ways to combat this loss. One of the more effective methods of lessening the loss of institutional knowledge is having the older and more experienced workers serve as mentors and trainers, allowing them to pass on their knowledge to others within the organization. In order to prepare for the loss of institutional knowledge and plan for knowledge transfer, organizations must develop strategies to ensure business continuity. This is something that many organizations, I believe, are not doing enough.

files pile

My 2012 survey of our Gen-X and millennial employees were asked a number of questions dealing with institutional knowledge. They were asked them about the value of their institutional knowledge and perception of the loss that the institution would suffer if they left. They were also asked about the business process and continuity, and other skills that they had acquired while working at the institution, and what outcomes (including gains or losses) would the institution realize, if they left. The results of the survey from these questions were not as surprising.

The majority of both generational groups believed that what they have learned at the institution was very important and had value. Furthermore, they maintained that this value, or institutional knowledge, would be a critical issue if not addressed by management. Both generational groups believed that their supervisors and managers would be hard-pressed to find replacement employees with similar skills or knowledge. The institution did not have either a tacit or explicit formal plan to transfer knowledge. Though the responses were not surprising and had a bit of humility tied into their responses, it did bring up the question of what we’re doing to retain, acquire, or transfer this knowledge before they leave.

card index

Additional research or studies may be necessary to really understand the importance of institutional knowledge and the methodologies by which to retain or acquire it. Aside from several articles on the subject, there’s not much published on this topic.

On a larger scale, I believe that if efforts aren’t made to address the retention of Gen. X and millennial employees, we could possibly see a large gap in the loss of institutional knowledge, continuity and history that the earlier generational groups had or made available. This knowledge may be difficult to replace. Hopefully, additional work on this subject will bring this issue to the forefront and lead to effective implementation of plans to preserve institutional knowledge.

I’m not sure that the target group of Generation X and millennial staff is the key grouping here but the general point about the need to develop plans to retain institutional knowledge is well made. Part of the solution is systemic, i.e. having the document management systems and processes which encourage and require knowledge retention, and the other element is cultural, everyone has to recognise the importance and value of preserving this kind of information in the long term interest of the institution. This does however require a really serious strategic focus on the issue and probably not insignificant investment of resource.