Inductions, Admissions and Timetable Hell

Image courtesy of s.khai on Flickr

Well, here it is – the start of another teaching semester. I thought I would take a little time to reflect on the administrative nightmare that unfortunately distracts many of us from the important job of preparing inspiring teaching material  and actually teaching itself…

Induction Week – I love this time of year. No really! I love the sense of expectation in the air as new students arrive, existing ones return and staff wait eagerly to see what their teaching load looks like. It was induction week last week at my institution and a number of things stood out for me this year. Firstly, numbers are down – that is no surprise to anyone really given the changes to student fees, and the fact that the UK Borders Agency seems to think all international students are potential illegal immigrants. Secondly, and despite theses issues, we have a very interesting and diverse range of new students at both undergraduate and postgraduate level this year. We have over 20 different nationalities on our Project Management MSc programmes, and a healthy intake of international students on our undergraduate programmes, due in part to the Erasmus exchange programme. This is fantastic as it really adds some depth to the discussions that we have in seminars and better reflects the increasingly globalised context that we all work in. The third observation is that there appears to be a larger proportion of students at both levels who have returned to studying following a period of work experience. Perhaps this is a reflection on the continuing state of the global economy? As is often stated – the best thing to do in a recession it to retrain.

Admissions – New for me this academic year is the role of undergraduate admissions tutor. This came as some surprise to me as the first I heard of this new responsibility was it appearing on my workload model – the impossibly complicated document that is supposed to ensure that all staff members get equal working hours. Despite this, I am beginning to enjoy getting into the marketing and recruitment side of the university. It appeals to my distant background as a retail manager and surprisingly is not dissimilar – at the end of the day we are selling our programmes to an increasingly savvy group of students and their parents. Of course the stakes have risen this year with the introduction of higher fees, and the Key Information Sets (KIS) which will publish standardised information for all undergraduate courses such as student satisfaction, contact time and graduate employment statistics. I am looking forward to the first open day in October – watch this space…

Timetable Hell – Finally a bit of a rant…Timetables aghhhh! I don’t know if this is common among HE institutions, but the system that creates the timetables at my institution is clearly not fit for purpose. We don’t actually get our finalised timetables until the week we are teaching – which drives me mad (I can be a bit of a control freak at times I admit). This makes it difficult to plan where you need to be and when and manage your time effectively. The second issue is the location of the teaching rooms, and to some degree the timing. In one case I have a postgraduate lecture on the 4th floor of one building, followed immediately by an undergraduate lecture in the basement of a building on the other side of the campus. What this means is that I have to cut one lecture short, and/or start the next late – as well as very quickly changing gears intellectually from level 7 – level 4. Tough. And finally I have very variable seminar group sizes. A case in point – I have 20 in one group, but 5 in another (both seminars are for the same course). Of course the dynamics of these groups are very different and potentially I have to prepare different sessions for each – which is not really fair…

Anyway, despite all these issues and teething problems, its great to be back in the classroom and working with my wonderful students..

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