Speak to someone about Higher Education – or just look at a website ?

Getting advice about Higher Education is an important thing, but who makes sure the advice students get is impartial and independent?  Lots of people have opinions and thoughts about HE, but how helpful is it with the people giving the advice being trained?  Some people do relevant training via their professional organisation, or by attending university events.  However in Somerset we are putting 10 of our advisers through the new Higher Education Advisers Certificate run and validated by London South Bank University. This is a Masters level programme and builds on the skills and experience of our staff that between them have many years of working at this level.  Indeed we do have staff who already give HE advice to undergraduates and graduates, (via other contracts), but have never been able to have this aptitude certified.  Such an award will be in addition to the specific careers advisory qualifications they already need to be a Careers and Skills Adviser.  At Connexions Somerset we feel it is important to build on the skills of our staff and develop our ability to help people make positive HE choices. As we know Higher Education can be expensive, involve commitment of time, and also applied academic effort, which means that good advice on this option is important to ensure that students can benefit from the opportunity. There was an interesting related article in the Guardian about this whole issue of speaking to someone who is able to offer professional advice and guidance on this area, compared to just looking at some websites and deciding in isolation.  I’m sure all tutors and staff in tertiary institutions would recognise the work entailed in this area.  On a personal level for prospective students I am quite happy for them to look at various web resources, log-on to assorted social networking sites and explore the various message boards that they might find useful, but would always encourage them to speak to someone who can give impartial and unbiased advice as well. In full disclosure Andy Gardner (pictured in this report), Heads up the ICG HE Adviser Community…not that I’m biased of course !  http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2010/jan/05/higher-education-careers-advice-professional

Feedback welcomed from the HEAdviser community – Comment by Colin, a Careers Adviser in the South East

A student asked me a question the other day which I would welcome the thoughts of other members of the Community on. She wanted to attend an Open Day at Swansea University, but was worried about the cost : she lives with her mum, who is on benefits. She asked me if there was any way the College could help her with the cost of this trip. 
Now, we encourage students to go to as many Open Days as they can, don’t we ? Some schools and Colleges organise group visits. This student was “pushing her luck” a bit by asking for financial assistance for her mum to go with her ( ! ) but leaving that aside, she has a point. Is there not a danger that with rail fares as steep as they now are, some students from less – well – off homes will be at a disadvantage.

I did ask this student if she had a Young Persons Railcard, and she claimed to have no knowledge of such a thing (after all, how many young people would travel by train on a regular basis ? )  although it would have saved her quite a bit of money. I also know, from my sisters accounts of driving her daughter to several Open Days and interviews, just how expensive it can be – and my sister, the widow of a Merchant Banker, is not short of a bob or two. I remember when I was invited to interview at Cardiff back in the 1960’s, my mothers comment was “well, you can’t go, can you?” In the end, I did some extra paper rounds to raise the fare.
I do not think FE Colleges or Schools should be distributing largesse, but I would welcome colleagues comments on their experiences of supporting students who would like to go to Open Days but would genuinely have difficulty finding the money. No – one at my College appeared to have even considered the issue, and everyone I spoke to thought it should be somebody else’s problem.
Any useful observations welcome
Regards
COLIN 

Brief summary and links to Higher Ambitions – Future HE plan for UK

HIGHER AMBITIONS – The future of universities in a knowledge economy

A Brief Summary

Britain still has too few people who have the ability actually going to University. More able but educationally disadvantaged pupils should have recognized fair access routes into University

UK participation rate in HE has gone from 7th in the OECD to 15th since 1998. 75% of UK 2020 workforce have already left school. A percentage of the 6 million UK workers who have Level 3 qualifications but no HE experience should be engaged in Higher Education to raise skill levels.

Increase diversity of HE students through range of access methods to study. More part-time study; vocationally-based foundation degrees; work-based study and more study whilst living at home must be made available.

Clearer routes from apprenticeships to advanced apprenticeships and new technician qualifications into foundation degrees and other vocational higher education programmes should be made.

Growth in HE cannot be met by more 3 year full-time courses and we cannot continue growth of public funding of Universities as we have done

To ensure that all those who have the ability to benefit can get access to higher education there are 4 Key Changes to achieve this:-

1)    We will improve the advice and encouragement that students receive earlier in their education with respect to setting their sights on university.

2)    New university admissions procedures to assess the aptitude and potential to succeed of those from poor backgrounds.

3)    Consider action that could be taken to widen access to highly selective universities for those from under privileged backgrounds.

4)    expand new types of higher education programmes that widen opportunities for flexible study for young people and adults and reflect the reality of the modern working lives.

The Government is committed to the enhancement of locally accessible higher education, through innovative partnerships between universities and further education colleges, and by support for new local higher education centres under the New University Challenge initiative. This could be good news for the Somerset University partnership !

To support universities in making an even bigger contribution to economic recovery and future growth there are 4 Key Changes to achieve this:-

 

5)    Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) to devise new funding incentives to develop HE programmes that deliver the higher level skills needed’

6)    Universities, employers, HEFCE and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) to join and identify and tackle specific areas where university supply is not meeting demand for key skills. All universities expected to describe how they enhance students’ employability (This information should help students choose courses that offer the greatest returns in terms of graduate opportunity.)

7)    Business expected to be engaged, active partners with universities, not passive customers.

8)    A review into the future of postgraduate provision to be concluded

Need to strengthen the research capacity of our universities, and its translation into economic impact via 3 Key Proposals:

9)    Tighter fiscal constraints and increased competition from other countries will require a greater focus on world-class research and greater recognition of the potential benefits of research concentration in key areas.

10) Establishing strong new incentives to increase the economic and social impact of research.

11) Support stronger long term relationships between business and universities.

 

To promote excellent teaching for all students in HE, with universities competing to attract students on the basis of the excellent service they provide via 2 Key Changes in this area:

 

12) All universities should publish a standard set of information setting out what students can expect in terms of the nature and quality of their programme. (Via unistats as mentioned here: https://headviser.wordpress.com/2009/07/27/which-is-the-best-university-to-study-history-in/)

13) support universities’ work to strengthen the role of the external examiner

To further strengthen the role of universities at the heart of our communities and shared intellectual life, and as one of the key ways in which we engage with the wider world via 3 Proposals

14) Build on the contribution that universities have made, in partnership with Regional Development Agencies and local business, to regional economic development

15) Champion the international standing of our universities (Currently there are 340,000 foreign students in the UK from 239 different countries; the UK is second only to the USA as a destination for such students.)

16) our universities to be world leaders in the growing market in transnational education based on e-learning. (UK higher education to remain a world leader in online learning, and grow its market share by 2015 via university-private sector partnerships)

 

To ensure that our universities continue to maintain excellence, even under tighter public financial constraints

We need to nurture an HE system, responsive to the demands of both undergraduate and postgraduate training, embedded and integrated in a wider education and skills framework and capable of equipping all students with the capabilities and confidence to prosper.

Growth based so heavily on state funding cannot continue, that is why the development of a diverse set of funding streams is important if the quality of higher education is to be maintained and improved. Universities will need to seek out other sources of funding, from overseas sources as well as domestic ones.

Our world class universities are unique national assets, and must be recognised as such. Along with this recognition come reciprocal responsibilities. We need to treat these world class institutions for what they are, and the institutions themselves need to recognise their own obligations to UK undergraduates, in terms of excellent teaching and fair access on merit and potential, regardless of family background.

In future the burden of financing higher education’s diversity of excellence will need to be more equitably shared between employers, the taxpayer, and individuals.

17) A review of the fees structure in English universities will be launched, as promised at the time of the establishment of variable fees for full time undergraduate students in 2004.  The focus of the review will be the objectives of sustaining genuinely world-class institutions and fair access to universities, while ensuring value for money for the taxpayer.

A strong university system is essential to a country’s economic success and the vibrancy and depth of its intellectual and cultural life. Universities embody both our values and our aspirations. They play a huge role in our communities through the provision of cultural and sporting amenities and in passing on and preserving a set of

shared societal values, including tolerance, freedom of expression and civic engagement. They shape how we engage with the rest of Europe and the wider world.

Link to Full report below:

http://www.bis.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/publications/Higher-Ambitions.pdf

 

Link to Summary report below:

http://www.bis.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/publications/Higher-Ambitions-Summary.pdf

International Career Resources – from London Met

Following on from my comments previously about the increasing internationalisation of the student body in HE, (and indeed FE), I thought it would be useful to share this site from London Met Uni. Quite nice summary of info and, when used in conjunction with other resources on the net, such as careers europe, gives a good start to this field on international careers guidance particularly for those students returning to their own country. If there are othe resources you are aware of and would like to share please do let me know and we’ll include it on our site. https://intranet.londonmet.ac.uk/studentservices/careers/current/csinternational/international-career-resources/international-career-resources_home.cfm

What to expect from a careers interview – guidelines…

Following on from the previous post, one thing that is clear is how the generic “careers adviser” who gives “careers advice” in a “careers interview” often isn’t anything of the sort.  This can be due to the various people who play the role of advisers from parents, family, teachers and other adults, allied to what actually happened in the session. The summary which goes along the lines of  “I had a computer test when I ticked a few boxes and it told me what to be” does come around time after time.  All of the careers education and guidance work is often not mentioned, or perhaps recognized as such, nor is the fact that no test will tell you want to do. Indeed often these comments seem to refer to the original Jiig-CAL questionnaire which 21 years ago was the bright young thing on the guidance world. An interesting flashback on it from the BBC is here for those too young to remember it J !  http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/7463561.stm

Of course the fact that Jiig-CAL should have been part of a Careers Education and Guidance (CEG) programme of 8 weeks or so duration is often missed out, indeed it seems that the quick fix of a sheet that would tell you what to do has an enduring power in our society. Perhaps this is where the career of Leela from Futurama as a “career placement officer“would develop from. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turanga_Leela.

Returning to the present is there a need to be explicit on the role of the careers interview and what to expect from it ?  Some universities already do this, Bath http://www.bath.ac.uk/careers/guidance/guidanceprep.pdf has a nice example, as does UWE http://www.uwe.ac.uk/careers/about_us/careers_interview.pdf. to name just two examples. Is the old common understanding of the careers adviser telling people what career to do, (or more often remembered as telling them what they cannot do), still current in our work ?

‘Mickey Mouse’ degrees? – Perhaps Mr Disney will be happier now

One of the enduring quips that we experience in our guidance work is the duel pressure of widening and broadening students knowledge and understanding of the HE options, against the more traditional approach of doing a ‘traditional’ degree and a ‘respected’ university.  Any attempts to show the range of HE courses can be met with the “Mickey Mouse” degree refrain quite easily in my experience. Apart from the fact that Mr Disney had build a considerable business empire and thus seems a unusual candidate for such negative pressure, recently I have noticed a change within this area as some people recognise that the vocationally focused degrees might, just might, have some relevance.  I’m not sure if this is down to the recession and the decrease in more traditional ‘blue chip’ employers offering vacancies as mentioned by the AGR, or if the finance and banking implosion has caused some to revaluate their world views. I guess this became fact for me after a recent edition of the Sunday Times which carried a positive article on them stating that “Far from being worthless, the more unusual degrees are proving a hit with employers”.  http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/education/article6829650.ece

Although there have been other articles in a similar vein on other papers I believe the Times one stood out for me at I can still remember the “Scandal of the Mickey Mouse degree rip-off” headline from 2003 referencing it to the comments of Margaret Hodge, higher-education minister at the time http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/career_and_jobs/senior_executive/article1099107.ece and the concern this caused students, and their parents,  who were looking at vocationally focused degrees. Interestingly the reason that the Universities mentioned by Ms Hodge felt that students were not completing their Uni courses was down to funding, and issue which will only gain greater prominence as we move into the bright new future of raising more money from student fees and the implications of that activity.

Qualifying for the Future – article in New Stateman

Although this was produced earlier this year, it is an interesting document. With a forward from Edge, It covers such wide and varied fields as discussions from the FutureLab initiative and our understanding of what Schools, Colleges and Universities could be, information on how to market your institution from the Head of the Marketing Communications Consultants Association, analysis of the training offered by the MoD, a word of caution from NAPO, about how we need more education with the prison system to prevent reoffending,  how getting young people involved in their education helps them with learning to lead, (and I must disclose that this does feature one of my schools in Somerset, Wells Blue School !), Dress Codes for schools, what do they mean ?, and engaging parents  to promote a love of learning. This document finishes off with a round table meeting of the way forward amongst a select of the good and the great. Interesting reading. http://www.newstatesman.com/pdf/futurequalifying09.pdf  Having some knowledge of guidance work within the prison system, and the work of Edge this can give an insight into a wide range of work and career related issues.