Wednesday, 23 December 2009

More from Peter Mandelson

Have a look at the piece by the Independent's Education Editor, Richard Garner on Mandelson's plans for more fast track / two year degree courses.

He writes, ......In a letter to the Higher Education Funding Council for England, which is responsible for allocating university cash, Lord Mandelson said he wanted more programmes "such as foundation and fast-track degrees that can be completed full-time in two years". He added: "Over the next spending review period [to 2014], we will want some shift away from full-time, three-year places towards a wider variety of provision." ....

There's more on fines for over-recruitment and maintaining research funding.

Polly Curtis, The Guardian's education editor focusses more on the funding cuts angle at

Will we be here next year?!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Just in case you missed, it Peter Mandelson has spelt out his vision for universities......

Yes, we know more degrees need to target mature and part-time students rather than 18-year olds, but it is the call for a "consumer revolution in HE" that concerns me. Will it really help to treat employers and students as customers? How does this square up with the evidence that most HE students (whatever their goals, age, background, digital literacy......) still want and need guidance and structure to their learning?

Luckily, there are people much more qualified than me to talk on this subject. JISC's online conference started on the 24th November and I have just listened to the Keynote session lead by Helen Beetham and Rhona Sharpe.

Helen Beetham challenged the "consumer" model that it being touted about. She argues

"A consumer model sees learners' needs and expectations as one and the same thing....Find out what learners want - or employers, in another version - and deliver it. But we know learning isn't like that. If we see learning in the highest sense as self-reflection, self-realisation, self-transformation, we see that needs may be met by challenging expectations, and that both will change if deep learning is taking place."

If you want to find out more, these resources may be of interest: Learning Literacies for a digital age wiki LLiDA) (Learners Experience of E-Learning)

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Mike Baker wonders when review of student fees is going to happen

Thanks to Paul for highlighting this recent bbc news article by Mike Baker asking when the "New Framework for Universities", due late October is going to be published.

The following extract from this article ponders current challenges for flexible and part-time learning.....

....Lord Mandelson has also hinted that boosting the number of skilled people in the economy will be central to the new framework for universities. This is likely to be mean more short courses, at both undergraduate and post-graduate level, delivered in a variety of ways: part-time, in shorter, more flexible modules, through distance learning and in the workplace.

Yet the worrying reality is that in the past few years the number of part-time students has started to fall. This is at a time when total student numbers are rising. No-one quite knows what has caused this reversal of the previous growth trend. However a student support system that discriminates against part-time study may be part of the explanation.

After all, is it logical to treat a student with a full-time job who studies part-time differently from a student who studies full-time but has a part-time job?

.....The other half of this equation is the way universities are funded for part-time students, which tends to discriminate against those institutions that are trying hard to widen participation by offering more flexible learning.
Some universities have pushed ahead with encouraging part-time students - on short courses, via distance learning and at undergraduate level - but this is a risky strategy, as these students often require greater support, need teaching outside standard office hours and are more likely to drop out.
We already have benchmarks to measure universities' achievement in widening participation, should we have benchmarks for the proportion of part-time students enrolled? ....

(Posted on BBC News Website Saturday 24 October 2009)

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Curriculum and Design Programme Meeting 13th and 14th October -The Why and for Whom Questions

Thanks to Sarah, Lisa and Marianne for organising a really helpful programme meeting.

As usual the more my prejudices are reinforced the more I like it. This time it was why do we have validation/approval processes and student record systems and for whose benefit. The consensus seemed to be both are largely driven in their current incarnations by the needs of external agencies i.e. HEFCE reporting and QAA audit. Ensuring a variety of stakeholder’s requirements is met by these processes and systems including assurance and funding bodies is perhaps the key challenge.

Key points for me were:
1. The ability to re purpose the data generated by validation events and processes.
2. Ensuring validation/approval events encourage properly evidenced reflection by programme/course teams.
3. How to ensure that the artefacts from validation events add value after the event/process is completed. Should it ever be completed?
4. Once again the need for joined up processes.
5. Flexibility without boundaries is called a mess.
6. The process of course/programme delivery should be a larger issue for those involved as opposed to content.
7. External agencies are happy to support a greater range of flexibility than they are often given credit for.

The Design studio should provide a valuable resource and help guide our developments. We need to think about how we introduce it to the management team and institution generally. Reassured that the discussions the project are enabling within and outside of the institution are acceptable outputs.

The projects outside of our cluster group that seemed to have the most direct relevance for our project are Staffordshire, Ulster and Manchester Met. Particularly liked the look of the user interface design tool Ulster is using.

Enjoyed Keri Facers presentation without agreeing with some of the conclusions she was drawing. Is there really a disconnect between parents and their children as a result of technology. Sounds like a familiar tune with technology replacing pop music.

Friday, 25 September 2009


One of the things that our project and I suspect other projects would benefit from are examples of good practice in terms of the institutional processes supporting part-time and flexible delivery in the HE sector. We are told that for example the private sector has something like 90% of the CPD market and that HE are " So slow", but I'm finding it difficult to identify examples within HE of institutions that are considered to have got it right. Should we be looking at the processes being used in the private sector? Is it really just about us reducing the admin burden around institutional processes as suggested at the ALT symposium? As the song says "thier are more questions than answers". So far!

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Welcome to the UG-Flex Project Blog

Welcome to the UG-Flex Project Blog!

We have created this blog to provide regular updates on the project - our progress, the challenges, what the project team is up to etc.

We want to hear from you too, so please feel free to add your comments and views - it could be anything from what you had for breakfast to sounding off about the latest systems gliche! You might even want to share some good news too.

So, what is "UG-Flex"?

UG-Flex is a JISC funded project based at the University of Greenwich that is working to reveal and enhance the University's curriculum development processes in order to support a more flexible and diverse curriculum underpinned by agile systems.

We know that the University of Greenwich is already flexible and for many years we have run part time, CPD, distance, blended and short courses. The problem is that our current processes, from inception of the idea for a programme or course through to registration and delivery, are shoe-horned into processes that were designed over 10 years ago, when the academic models and student demographic were very different.

UG-Flex is based on the premises that we must become more agile, more efficient and more responsive, and this requires a University-wide understanding of what “flexible” means and slicker systems and processes that can support curricula of a high quality and standard that is trusted and widely used.

To achieve this UG-Flex is working with a range of stakeholders to identify their key requirements.