Musings of a mere undergrad.

Having just retired from a long, arduous day on campus, I sit and think about all the tasks I squeezed into just one day. Before I know it, I’m drifting off into a spiral of thoughts about my role as an undergraduate student. For those of you that haven’t realised by now, I’m a thinker. I like to think. I choose my words carefully, even tactfully, and despite methodically considering the implications of an action, always prefer to err on the side of caution when faced with dilemmas.

Tonight I sat in the audience of a guest lecture by Dorothy Bishop of Oxford University. In this lecture she discussed the TEF (Teaching Excellence Framework), its potential implications, and its potential value. If you don’t know what the TEF is, and you’re involved or interested in education, I highly recommend you do some reading (good and bad). In essence Dorothy wasn’t in favour of the framework, and based on my knowledge, neither is the remainder of the HEI sector. Why am I raising these points? Because out of this discussion emerged three key flaws in the university (and education) system.

  1. Proactivity. A flaw to the system because, if absent, it inhibits progression, preemptive action and ‘excellence’. Perhaps this issue relates more to students than for staff, as a certain degree of extra-curricular work is often expected of staff. Whereas for students, it does not come naturally to engage fully in representation work; to take responsibility and contribute toward broader university improvement. Yet our feedback is one of (if not) the most valuable change-bringing tools we stow in our arsenal. Our willingness to get involved, to help make our degree programmes better for the future, to take an interest in the institution we belong to.
  2. Consistency. Among my pet peeves. Inconsistency is a second kryptonite for progression and continual improvement. This may be reflected in the form of certain departments ‘falling behind’ on a new policy, or entire universities ‘falling behind’ in league tables (dep. on metrics). Everyone should pull their weight and strive toward standardisation, wherever possible.
  3. Trust. Not only must the government trust the teachers, lecturers, professors, et cetera that it serves, and have faith in their abilities to deliver excellence, but this trust must also run between staff and students. Mutual respect is important.

While I fully recognise that education is very rarely perfect – I’m guilty of complaining – we should all be concerned with enhancing our education system and making it the best it can be. It certainly is a darned sight better than the government are making it out to be. But how can we achieve this? Of course it’s ambitious, but we can only make progress by taking things step-by-step at the micro-level: lecture styles, assessment methods, personal tutor systems, VLEs. We should celebrate excellence, learn from methods of best practice, and take pride in our institutions.

how-to-eat-an-elephant

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