Providing information, advice and guidance to students

My previous post asked if you were taking too many study risks.

Arthur made a great point in the comments:

“The focus on your education should be increasing your capabilities, not getting through a series of assessment tasks. If you bought a car that did not have wheels, you would feel ripped off. So why buy an education without capabilities?”

No matter how aware you are of increasing capabilities, how can universities help you increase them further in a changing world?

image by rild

image by rild

Yesterday, Aaron Porter, President of NUS, spoke about the type of information, advice and guidance students need in order to develop talent and make the most of their time at university.  Speaking at the Graduate Talent conference on Innovation and Skills for Competitiveness, he gave a similar analogy to Arthur’s.

Porter said that if you buy a bike and the chain falls off after five minutes, you’d get a refund because the goods are faulty.  While he understood the massive difference between high street transactions and entering higher education, he still saw the need for an increasing recognition of how students perceive HE and the need for those students to have the right tools throughout their education.

That, he explained, is why information, advice and guidance needs to be properly targeted at the point of application, and that individuals are made aware of the differences in curriculum and community in different institutions.

You may be in the position to assess risk in terms of study, but what about ongoing?  What can a university do to help you minimise risks after you graduate?  And how can they help you minimise risks in terms of what you study and how you use your time at uni?

Porter covered a lot of ground in today’s talk and made a number of important points.  Here are the main details covered in his talk:

  • Students will begin to change the way they engage with institutions. More students will actively ask “What can I do to guarantee employment?”
  • So much information is available, but it’s hard to navigate through it all.  How can the relevant information be provided to students in an easy to digest fashion?
  • Student background makes a difference in how easily individuals can navigate information.  Must address a diverse community, so nobody is left behind or left wanting.
  • League tables are used to choose where to study, but not always with real understanding of what those tables mean & how to see the big differences between institutions.
  • Students won’t dust down a strategic report on what employers want from graduates.  As good as the advice may be, there is still a need to put the detail forward in a way that students *will* access it.
  • How often during induction are students actually asked what the purpose of HE is, told how it is different to what learning has come before, and asked what they personally want out of HE?  Helping students to focus on these critical issues will make a huge difference to their experience and understanding.  Ask critical questions at the start to earlier allow students to prepare better.
  • Need to think about better integrating employability and careers into curriculum and teaching.  Students now expect this, so let’s deliver.
  • Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR) needs rolling out quickly to make a level playing field for students.  Beef up academic achievement and its detail, while also highlighting achievement outside the classroom.
  • Drawing out this information through HEAR will help graduates articulate their achievements and skills.  In turn, job applications can be better targeted by graduates, as they can sell themselves more accurately.
  • All students should feel able to participate in extra-curricular activities, whatever their background.
  • Work exp. & internships need to become almost an entitlement, especially with fees about to climb.
  • Way in which we communicate information needs to be more innovative in terms of social media.  On campus and off campus, are institutions operating in the same environments as students?  Careers information is perfect territory to take on social media, because it’s not likely to be seen as a personal intrusion.
  • National measure of employment needs to go beyond a 6-month view.  1 year, 3 years, 5 years, etc.  Students need to know, because education costs are growing and employability is a big deal.
  • There is a danger that learning for its own sake may be lost.  Could be an adverse impact on which skills students learn before graduation.
  • Browne didn’t crack the problem of getting an entirely flexible HE system.  The opportunity was there, but hasn’t been addressed.  We must, therefore, still think about how we can address the issues.  This is critical in allowing students to get the employment skills they need.
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