The result you were after?

Another year, another A-level results day, another set of the usual stories in the media. This one caught my eye, though, about Labour’s plans to change the university application process timeline, removing the need for predicted grades.

A-level results: a minority of students achieve predicted marks, so yes the system should be reformed
It’s generally accepted that going to university plays a significant part in shaping lives, and the skills gained there help to sustain a thriving society. So it seems odd that at the heart of this process is guesswork – with the bulk of university offers based on predicted grades.

Indeed, Labour has announced plans to replace offers based on predicted grades with a new “fairer” system of post-qualification admissions. Under Labour’s plans, students would apply for their higher education place after receiving their results instead of the current system of predicted grades – which the party says penalises disadvantaged students and those from minority backgrounds.

My first reaction with these kinds of plans is to almost faint at the thought of the upheaval everyone would have to go through. Hundreds of universities, thousands of schools, millions of students. Would there have to be a pilot implementation with just a few schools? Or just a few universities? How would that work? Would that create a two-tier system? Could it really all be turned around in such a short timeframe? What if it all went wrong?

But then, if other countries can do it, why can’t we?

All of which makes Labour’s most recent suggestions of reforming the system a step in the right direction. Indeed, a 2019 report from The University and College Union revealed that post-qualification admissions were the global norm, and that countries the UK often benchmarks against – such as Germany, Singapore, Australia and the US – all use this system.

The OECD’s top five countries with the highest performing graduates also use post-qualification admissions – so it’s possible that students in those countries are being better matched to institutions and thriving accordingly.

Don’t move!

So today marks the start of National Stationery Week.

National Stationery Week
People of the world rejoice and wave your favourite pen in the air! National Stationery Week is the perfect time to celebrate your stationery pot, a colourful pencil case or your favourite pen.

dont-move

Yes, it could be seen as a glorified advert for office supplies, but it raises some interesting questions too about the changing nature of communication and expression.

Does writing by hand still matter in the digital age?
The decline of writing by hand – particularly among young people and children – has been in the news. Last month, paediatric doctors warned that children were finding it difficult to hold pencils due to excessive use of technology. Letters to Santa are increasingly sent by email, and Cambridge University is piloting the use of laptops instead of pen and paper for selected exams after requests from students. Some academics have noted the “downward trend” in students’ handwriting.

But what of the role that handwriting plays in learning and development? And with technology changing how we live and work, what place does handwriting have in the modern classroom? These were the questions put to the teachers, academics and specialists in education and technology at the Guardian’s roundtable event on 27 February.

I sit opposite computer screens all day at work, but am happy to stick with my pen and scraps of paper when making notes.

Reducing burden, or just moving it about a bit?

desk

Something that’s not going to affect many people out there in the real world, but still, a step in the right direction:

Trac burden cut after Hefce review
Universities are to benefit from a reduced administrative burden in supplying information about their costs, but government pressure to give more of such data to students has met with a cool response.

Having said that, for me that administrative burden is coming from a different direction. For instance this, thankfully not from my place…

Thousands of Winchester students lose out on loan money
Nearly 2,000 Winchester students have each lost out on ÂŁ400 of student loan funding due to an admin blunder.

Scale and recognition

This article from Times Higher threw me a little at first. It’s about a report from the QAA on the state of UK universities’ overseas provision and the difficulties faced in getting such courses officially recognised. But what caught my eye were the numbers involved:

Around 285,000 students are currently registered on the BSc in Applied Accounting offered via distance learning at Oxford Brookes University – almost half of the nearly 571,000 students studying for a UK degree overseas, according to the latest figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

285,000 students on one course, at one university? So it would seem.

The course is run in partnership with the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, with students automatically enrolled with Oxford Brookes when signing up for Acca’s professional qualification. Students must pass nine “fundamentals” papers and a self-assessed professional ethics module to receive the Acca qualification, but must produce in addition a 6,500-word research project to receive the BSc qualification.

Administering distance-learning courses can be difficult enough, and adding in an overseas dimension makes it more so, but I can’t begin to imagine what an impact those numbers would make on their admin processes, cash cow notwithstanding.

Their VC is very proud of the scheme though.

FE and HE bureaucracy and data

Red tape costs FE colleges ÂŁ180 million a year
Further education colleges could make “substantial” savings by cutting the costs of bureaucracy, according to the National Audit Office. The body said today that colleges spend around ÂŁ180 million a year on administrating funding, qualification and assurance systems. This amounts to ÂŁ150 per student.

Adventures in Student Development
A while back I explained how I set up the system, and after nearly 2 years of use I can say that it’s still working.

HESA Press release 168 – What is a Course?
HESA, working with representatives from the sector, is pleased to publish a brief report that considers the variety of interpretations and models that exist across the sector. The report analyses how the concept of a course is represented in various sector-level information systems and specifications and how the definition of course changes across the Higher Education lifecycle.

Criminal records checks

The new coalition government are to press pause on the rollout of the new CRB/ISA arrangements (and then scrap it altogether?)
The vetting scheme for nine million people working with children and vulnerable adults in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is to be halted. Home Secretary Theresa May is to announce that registration, due to begin next month, is to be put on hold. There will be a review of the entire vetting and barring scheme, with a “scaling back” likely to follow.

It was just a large undertaking, with 11 million people on it eventually, “one in four of the adult population”. Mad. And are we very confident that its replacement will be any better, any less DailyMailesque? We’ll see, I suppose.

HE bureaucracy

I really CAN’T STAND these types of articles. PLEASE STOP YOU’RE NOT HELPING.

The irresistible rise of academic bureaucracy
Grahame Lock, a fellow in the faculty of philosophy at Oxford University, says that a managerial “hyper-bureaucracy” has taken hold in higher education. “Imagine that managers are going to assess the quality of restaurant meals but they have no sense of taste,” he says. “They have no idea – everything tastes the same to them. So what are they going to do? They will undertake evaluations such as how many minutes did it take for the soup to arrive at your table? How many words of explanation did the waiter use? And so on. Everything is evaluated quantitatively, so the obvious thing for a manager to do is to increase the amount of information gathered…”

HE audits

Leader: Red tape: A form of distrust – As audit overloads academics, it also undermines their freedoms, impedes their work and damages their public standing
A scary new word to emerge in our cover story is “hyper-bureaucracy”, which describes “an out-of-control system” that emerges in the search for optimum efficiency and takes no account of the costs in time, energy and money that are needed to achieve it. It is a bureaucratic nightmare in which there is no end to the extra information that can be acquired. The monitoring of contact hours and how academics spend their time are examples of the type of bureaucracy that “eats up people and resources”, according to Andrew Oswald, professor of economics at the University of Warwick.

Audit overload – Bureaucracy is an inescapable fact of life in today’s academy. John Morgan unravels the true extent and consequences of red tape
There are those who argue that a “hyper-bureaucracy” has taken hold, tailoring universities to the needs of the labour market, coercing academics into following the rationale of business in their research choices and destroying notions of the intrinsic value of scholarship. But do academics direct their unhappiness at those who shape policy, or at blameless administrators who happen to be closest to hand? And isn’t bureaucracy necessary to make academics accountable and to ensure that public money going into universities is spent fairly and effectively?

Future shock, adhocracy

Future shock
Toffler argues that society is undergoing an enormous structural change, a revolution from an industrial society to a “super-industrial society”. This change will overwhelm people, the accelerated rate of technological and social change leaving them disconnected and suffering from “shattering stress and disorientation” – future shocked. Toffler stated that the majority of social problems were symptoms of the future shock. In his discussion of the components of such shock, he also coined the term information overload.

Adhocracy
[A]dhocracies will get more common and are likely to replace bureaucracy. … Downsides of adhocracies can include “half-baked actions”, personnel problems stemming from organization’s temporary nature, extremism in suggested or undertaken actions, and threats to democracy and legality rising from adhocracy’s often low-key profile. To address those problems, researches in adhocracy suggest a model merging adhocracy and bureaucracy, the bureau-adhocracy.

E-admin

e-Learning Focus – e-administration and enterprise resources
Resources in the area of e-administration.

E-Administration
e-Administration, or electronic administration, refers to any of a number of mechanisms which convert what in a traditional office are paper processes into electronic processes, with the goal being to create a paperless office. This is an ICT tool, with the goal being to improve productivity and performance.

e-Administration
e-Administration is ‘the effective management of the coordination and control of business processes and the electronic information they create’. It has two fundamental objectives: to increase the efficiency of administrative processes within institutions and to lessen the administrative burden faced by all staff during this process.

Twitter: The virtual loud hailer
I can’t help visualising Twitter as a loud hailer. And… it doesn’t necessarily matter how witty and apt your tweets might be if you’re stuck talking down the wrong end of it! As you tap your 140 characters into the Twitter dialogue box it is as if you are talking aloud to yourself, but with the added echoing effect of a loud hailer, broadcasting to all those – virtually – around you.

Twitter networks, HE finance, HE admin

Explore your Twitter network with Mentionmap
Asterisq just released Mentionmap, an exciting web app for exploring your Twitter network. Discover which people interact the most and what they’re talking about. It’s also a great way to find relevant people to follow.

Study reveals lack of awareness over university bursaries and scholarships
The scope and clarity of information provided by universities and colleges about bursaries leave a lot to be desired, says the study. Almost one-half of students (44 per cent) thought there was too little information about how to apply for a bursary, though higher education institutions think they provide enough. Many universities need to do more, says the study. Three-quarters of students and two-thirds of parents did not realise that universities and colleges must give a minimum bursary to students receiving the full state maintenance grant. And, almost half the students surveyed (47 per cent) thought bursaries were one-off payments given to students in their first year.

V-c: scholars should lighten the administrative burden
Answering a question on “blended roles”, which mix academic and administrative tasks, she said: “I would like to see young academics accepting that is part of their contracts. I would like to change this sort of attitude that all you really do is teach or research, or in most cases both, and that you don’t have a sort of common responsibility towards helping to run the institution.”

The academic v administrator debate rumbles on, and still doesn’t get anywhere…