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 

Why Does Diversity Matter at College Anyway?

Having experienced the recent one world week at one of my local colleges, http://www.strode-college.ac.uk/student_life/288 which I know is replicated across other institutions, and having discussed the need for greater awareness of the Diversity agenda within our work with colleagues I though it would be useful to summarise the 8 reasons why diversity does matter in education. It is from an American posting, (hence the use of a phrase such as liberal arts), but is quite a useful listing by authors of the book Diversity and the College Experience. The headline reasons are:-

1. Diversity expands worldliness.

2. Diversity enhances social development.

3. Diversity prepares students for future career success.

4. Diversity prepares students for work in a global society.

5. Interactions with people different from ourselves increase our knowledge base.

6. Diversity promotes creative thinking.

7. Diversity enhances self-awareness.

8. Diversity enriches the multiple perspectives developed by a liberal arts education.

You can read a fuller summary of this here: http://www.usnews.com/blogs/professors-guide/2009/08/12/why-does-diversity-matter-at-college-anyway.html

Foundation Course for overseas students – What is NCUK ?

Overseas students are increasing becoming a mix in the HE community, and this is only going to continue. When our local FE colleges have students from countries outside the EU showcased in the local press, this work is more mainsteam that many people realize. Such groups as the NCUK, http://www.ncuk.ac.uk/ a group comprising 11 Universities, has set up such a course for students from abroad to enter HE in the UK. Interesting initiative and set against a competitive international market for such students, the UK needs to be competitive in this field. With the current squeeze on fees, and increasing rumors of increases for UK/EU students, this work can only attain more importance. Giving career advice to students from abroad is both the same our usual work, but also another whole other issue which can involve a lot of research and checking of different aspects of work compared to dealing with UK nationals. Such issues as Visas can look large in some cases.  It can be interesting work, but can also be time consuming, one commodity which isn’t getting bigger in the working week of most staff I speak with.

Higher Education guide – from Connexions in the West Midlands

It is interesting that such minisites as http://www.heguide.org.uk are now appearing. They do provide a useful summary of the HE options and can be promoted by the Connexions Services secure in the knowledge that it ties into a more generic approach to promoting the options at level 4 and above. At it is not tied to any provider it should be seen as impartial and even-handed in what it does.   There seems to be two points of view for this kind of work. One is that it replicates info which can be found elsewhere on the Web, not least from UCAS of course, or indeed other provider such as the local Lifelong Learning Network, (although they are coming to the end of their funding now).  The alternative view is that there is so much info out on the web that it does confuse people and websites such as this one can be a useful starter to progress through what be available.  Perhaps with the increase in students attending university within their regional areas this sort of locally promoted website might grow. Interesting times…

Studying at Uni if you are under 18

Often people are good at thinking that something is stopping them going to University, when it actually doesn’t. One such example is that you have to be a certain age to go to University, this is often given as 18, or you can be too old to go to University. Like many things this one is a mixture of history and people having discussions about a friend who knows someone who said.. In actualy fact with the new Age Discrimination legislation we have in this country all age restrictions no longer apply, unless you can demonstrate the need for them. As the 18 year old example given is one of them it is worth pointing out that all Universities now have Admission procedures for people younger than 18 applying to them. Of course this also applies to distance learning institutions such as the Open University who have students studying with them aged from 90+ to those who are under 16 years of age. Although going below 15 years of age might be less common, there are currently over 8,000 students under 18 currently at Universities in Britain, so if you are considering this you would not be the only one. If this might be you, or someone you know, contact your chosen University and ask them for details. You’ll find they will be able to answer any questions you may have, especially if it concerns such areas as access to medical and social care courses. Click on the title of this post to find out more about this issue. Full details can be found here: http://www.ecu.ac.uk/publications/files/age-briefing.pdf/at_download/file

Interested in Higher Education ? Make this a regular stop !

Welcome to this, the first Blog aimed at all of those people who provide or support HE Advice to the pupils/students in your area. This blog came out of the Institute of Careers Guidance (ICG) Higher Education Advisers Community which has been created and supported by Andy Gardner. It is based on the need for those of us who work in this area to have one resource which is ours and covers the whole field of HE, but from the perspective of a Careers Adviser. However everyone is welcome here, you do not have to be an adviser to find something useful and interesting here. You may work in Secondary, or Primary education and want to know how best to raise the aspirations of your pupils to consider Higher education, you may work in an FE college or a 6th form and wish to keep abrest of this area, or indeed you might be working in an Higher Education Institution (HEI), but would be interested in seeing what is happening in this general area. Everyone is welcome and can contribute or comment as they see fit. But this is also a blog for the public, so if you are a parent or guardian, an employer or just an ordinary member of the public you are welcome to look in as well.  My prime aim in this blog is to promote the benefits of Higher Education for individuals, businesses and the economy of our country. Of course the fact that it can be interesting and intellectually stimulating is a bonus !