What to do with helicopter parents?

I’ve worked in a number of universities and know that it’s not easy being a university student; lots to worry about. And I know it’s not easy being the parent of a university student; lots to worry about. I’ve been the former, and in a year’s time, if all goes well, I’ll be the latter.

In this article for WonkHE, Alan Sutherland from Surrey SU considers the problems universities and parents have with each other’s expectations, and a possible way forward.

Parents are at the sharp end of marketisation
The 2019 UCAS application cycle is almost complete, and at the time of writing almost half a million undergraduates will be starting at a UK university in a few weeks time.

What part, however, are parents allowed and expected to play in the next few years? After a harrowing experience with a gaggle of angry parents, I thought it wise to take a closer look at the parental experience.

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.

Lancaster University’s student data stolen

University application processes are in full swing, but here is some reputationally damaging news from Lancaster University.

Lancaster University hit by cyber attack, hundreds of students’ personal data stolen
The full scale of the cyber attack was revealed yesterday (July 22), when university chiefs confirmed that hackers had breached IT systems and accessed student records … It said it regretted that the breach has led to fraudulent invoices being sent to some undergraduate applicants demanding large sums of money.

Two days later, and the police have arrested someone for it.

Man arrested over UK’s Lancaster University data breach hack allegations
Names, addresses, email addresses and phone numbers were among the categories of data visible to the hackers. Fraudulent invoices were sent to some, the university admitted. With overseas applicants (of which Lancaster had 575 last year from non-EU countries and 375 from other EU countries) paying fees measured in the tens of thousands of pounds per year, the potential for high returns is great.

Our sources added that around half a dozen students had paid these fraudulent invoices. The highest undergraduate fees for overseas (non-EU) students is Lancaster’s Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) course at £31,540.

It’s more than a little embarrassing, as Lancaster University is one of a number of universities offering degrees in cyber security

Cyber Security MSc – Lancaster University
In addition to the taught modules, you will also work on an individual research project, supervised by two academics from two of the four departments. Through this project, you will obtain an in-depth understanding of the theoretical and practical aspects of cyber security and technology. You will put the skills and knowledge you have developed throughout the year into practice and gain experience of tackling real-world cyber security issues.

Well, there’s a ‘real-world cyber security issue’ for you.

Exam stress

It’s that time of year again.

Top performing Leeds school makes exam blunder leaving pupils clueless on rogue question
Year 11 students at Prince Henry’s Grammar School in Otley were dumbfounded on Monday, May 20, when a question appeared on their GCSE paper in Religious Studies asking about a topic they had not been taught. …

Headteacher Janet Sheriff confirmed the school has launched an immediate investigation and called on the exam board to apply ‘special consideration’ – although pupils and parents will only find out if the appeal has been successful when they open the envelope containing their results in August.

A few weeks ago, The Guardian ran this story.

Sajid Javid urged to act in immigration scandal ‘bigger than Windrush’
The drive to find and deport potential cheats began during Theresa May’s tenure as home secretary, when she promised to create a “hostile environment” for migrants deemed to be in the country illegally.

Thousands of students who have remained in the UK to fight to clear their reputations have spent the past five years attempting to prove that they are not guilty of cheating, but most have struggled because the Home Office has told them they have no right of appeal in the UK and must leave the country.

But then today we have this.

English test students may have been wrongly accused, says watchdog
About 2,500 students have been forcibly removed from the UK after being accused of cheating in the exam and a further 7,200 left the country after being warned that they faced detention and removal if they stayed. Many have protested their innocence; 12,500 appeals have been heard in UK courts, and so far 3,600 people have won their appeals.

Still far from clear(ing)

Andrew Fisher goes over the latest UCAS data; things are still far from clear

Consider the case of the applicant who just misses the AAB threshold. Prestigious institutions which have had many of their AABs hijacked by even more prestigious ones (maybe SOAS) and would therefore like to have this person, may not be able to accept such students at Confirmation or in Clearing, because they will be constrained by the  SNC; so there may well be a population of applicants too proud to accept the institutions able to accept them.  Even students well short of AAB may not be willing to go to certain institutions in Clearing. Once London Metropolitan is full at £6k or less, will applicants be willing to pay £9k to go to UEL or will they decide that at that price it is better to miss out on HE? We don’t know.

Read the rest and check out the charts. As he says, “the proof of the pudding will be in the Clearing.”

Productivity, charts, students

The Done Manifesto Lays Out 13 Ground Rules for Getting to Done
The Done Manifesto is a set of working rules based on a sense of urgency. No time for careful deliberation, move on.

Liking Rule 4 a lot:

4: Pretending you know what you’re doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you’re doing even if you don’t and do it.

Preventing Cancer – Chart Porn
The key is a bit complicated at first, but there’s lots of interesting information here.

Why ‘students as customers’ is bad for policymaking
Are students becoming more like customers? Do they consider themselves consumers? In the abstract, it is a philosophical question, except that it is so emotive in the higher education context that it is rarely approached with philosophical objectivity.

Overseas students, FOI, productivity

Colleges lose licences in immigration crackdown
More than 470 UK colleges have been barred in the last six months from accepting new foreign students from outside Europe, the Home Office says. They either had licences revoked or did not sign up to a new inspection system – part of government efforts to curb abuse of the immigration system. It estimates the colleges could have brought in 11,000 students.

Universities UK response to Home Office update on student visa changes
Beyond the substance of these arrangements, it is essential that the government considers the way in which the rules are communicated externally. It’s important that the UK appears ‘open for business’ to those individuals who are genuinely committed to coming to the UK to study at one of our highly-regarded universities. We must also be conscious of the impact that cutting down on pre-degree courses is having on our universities. Many universities operate pathway programmes with a range of providers. It is estimated that more than 40 per cent of all international students arrive through this means.

Tweets could now be considered valid FOI requests
According to recent guidance published by the ICO, tweets addressed to an institution may constitute valid Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.

What kind of worrier are you?
And this list actually made me feel better because, while I checked off the majority of them, I realized I still have plenty of things to worry about that I hadn’t even thought of! Score!

Productivity Future Vision
In 5-10 years, how will people get things done at work, at home, and on the go. Watch the concept video to get a glimpse of the future of productivity, then explore the stories and technology in more detail.

Take a more realistic approach to your to-do list with the 3 + 2 rule
At the morning you think you can do a, b, c, d, e. But then something goes wrong with b and you spend much more time on it than you anticipated. Subsequently you can’t finish c and d and you feel like you haven’t done enough. Let it be. Instead of having unrealistic expectations, just acknowledge that you can do only 3 big things and 2 small things. Do them and call it a day!

Google, student IT use

Google takes buzz saw to Buzz, other appendages
And, as announced in July, Google Labs is shutting down – the site’s last day is Friday. So long, Buzz, Code Search, Jaiku, Google Labs, and the University Research Program for Google Search – and thanks for all the fish. ®

College students limit technology use during crunch time
But while students pare down to essential technology at crunch time, some were inventive in the way they had used it earlier. Two thirds said they had used social media for coursework during the term. In post-interview discussions, students mentioned Facebook for coordinating meetings with classmates, and to a lesser extent, YouTube tutorials to understand material not clear in either textbooks or classroom instruction.

Student satisfaction

Online Evaluations Show Same Results, Lower Response Rate
Students give the same responses on paper as on online course evaluations but are less likely to respond to online surveys, according to a recent study. … The only meaningful difference between student ratings completed online and on paper was that students who took online surveys gave their professors higher ratings for using educational technology to promote learning.

Feedback

Rosie Waterhouse: Save us from the tyranny of student surveys
Over the next three months, final-year undergraduates at British universities will be encouraged to take part in the National Student Survey commissioned by the Higher Education Funding Council. The NSS is just one of an ever-increasing number of surveys and forums by which students are invited to give “feedback” on their university experience.

Privacy, iPads, art student satisfaction

What day is it? It’s Data Privacy Day!
Take a moment and think about what Google knows about you. Correspondence and contacts via email, schedule via calendar, interest via feed reader, purchases via Checkout, and most importantly your day-to-day via search. How do you feel about a single company knowing that much about you? Don’t you want to know how they use all that data and more importantly, how they protect it?

Diagnosing the tablet fever in higher education
Tablet-style computers could be game-changers for colleges, bringing in a new era of classroom collaboration and pushing the adoption of electronic textbooks over a tipping point. Today’s announcement by Apple Inc. of the iPad tablet has education watchers predicting a wave of student purchases, major textbook publishers rejoicing, and at least one college saying it will consider giving them to all incoming students. But wait — it might be time to take a deep breath to let the excitement of the sales pitch fade.

Academics in art and design have drawn up a plan to tackle stubbornly low scores for student satisfaction in the National Student Survey
[D]espite efforts to improve the ratings, art and design still does not perform well in comparison with other subject areas, according to a forthcoming report, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Better: The Paradox of NSS Scores for Art and Design. […] The widely held view was that the pedagogy of art and design subjects, where students are encouraged to explore and navigate their own way through projects with support, was poorly served by NSS questions, which were felt to relate more to subjects with a highly timetabled, often lecture-based, structure.

Twitter tips

100 great Twitter tips, tools & tutorials for serious students
Some social media networks are known as major time drainers for procrastinating students, but Twitter can also be used for school work, valuable networking, job searches and project management. Here are 100 great Twitter tips, tools and tutorials for serious college students who want to turn their Internet time into something valuable.

Grauniad’s live blog of the A-level results day

Just came across the Guardian’s Mortarboard’s A-level results live blog. “Join us for a day of trends, tears and triumphs in our special results day blog”. As well as the expected stories around standards there was this gem:

1.30pm:

The prize for most self-assured student 2009 goes to…

Ibrahim Khan, 18, who had the audacity to send us his own press release letting us know about his 8 A-levels.

The student from Macmillan Academy in Middlesbrough got 6 As in Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Physics, History, Critical Thinking, and Urdu, and Bs in Arabic and Religious Studies.

The teenager has big plans for his forthcoming gap year, aiming to “get the first book of his WW3 trilogy published, do investigative journalism across the Middle East and Indian subcontinent, learn three languages, and start a business,” he informs us.

“The quality of A levels has gone down, so I decided to stand out with the quantity,” he said.

“Being from Middlesbrough, of Pakistani origin, and a Muslim, statistically three of the worst performing groups in education, I think my success shows that if you keep your aspirations high, you can achieve anything, whatever your background,” he added.

We cannot give out Khan’s email address in full, but suffice to say it includes the phrase “the best”. And who are we to disagree.

I love that idea of quantity making up for a perceived lack in quality. Read the rest here.