All 3 entries tagged Higher Education

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October 19, 2012

Universities and Employability: The power of PR

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Over the past few weeks in my literature search the notions of university engagement with employability and the importance of PR and marketing in recruitment cropped up here and there (specifically in this 2002 esru report by Purcell et al).

Just today I noticed a poster which nicely illustrated how universities can combine PR with graduate employability.


It's part of a campaign by Aston University to show that their graduates are attractive to employers. This campaign is interesting in several respects.

Firstly, it is an example of how some universities, competing for students who are in turn selecting HEIs on the basis of the return (salaries) on their investment (£9000 per year in tuition costs and additional living expenses*), respond to the current HE and labour market climate. Secondly, it is also an example of how universities are justifying the costs of HE to potential students and to their families, tapping into the ‘successful graduate job’ mantra. And thirdly, it is especially interesting from the perspective of gender representation in media and advertising.

One of the aspects of the poster which struck me in the thirty seconds of a train stop at Banbury station was the depiction of a male graduate as parody of a model photoshoot, as well as a slight association with Fructis, a (popular?) hair product in the 1990s. In an advertising culture saturated with suggestive images, mostly of women, it is refreshing to see such explicit parodies. To use analytical jargon, it’s a bit lol.

Upon further googling I found a few more posters:


The juxtaposition of these images of graduate employees in professional jobs (suggested by the shirt and tie attire) with 'attractive' for employers in the context of parodies of adverts with suggestive sexual imagery (hot under the collar, suggestive eyebrow, obvious wind machine etc) implies that while sex sells, lol also sells.

These posters are in vogue with the current age of parody on the Internet, evident in memes and viral content, encouraged by the ease with which texts (in the broadest sense, including images, sound etc) can be cut up and repackaged to create new meanings.

Finally, using parody for photos of male and female graduates as part of the campaign is definitely a step towards equality in media representations of gender, at least in some sense of the term.

*Yes, it isn't paid upfront, and yes, the story is a bit more complicated.

June 27, 2012

Online lectures and courses – free!

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When I heard that Harvard and MIT created a joint venture to offer free distance learning courses worldwide I had a quick look on the Internet. The JV is in its early stages: currently there is (was?) just one course in Circuits and Electronics, but others will come.*

Yet, without wanting to rain on the 'new' e-distance learning parade or anything, there are already lots of freely available resources, including full courses, from many top universities, conveniently listed here:

Just saying.

I suppose the lure of the Harvard and MITs edX, and similar partnerships, is their high-profile set-up, offering free courses which will give those who are successful a 'certificate', backed by leading higher education institutions. According to this NYTimes article, the 'certificate' is apparently not convertible to any official (educational?) credit, but I wonder whether this might change.

Although it is clearly highlighted that these free e-courses are not equivalent to a bachelor's degree, could they provide some kind of alternative when higher education is increasingly less affordable? People from low-income countries have responded to this development positively. But another question is whether these courses will remain free of charge, or whether some kind of tiered system will evolve, where the basic material is provided free, but to get some actual educational credit one would have to pay.

But anyway. Learning things is always good, so on the whole it looks like these university endorsed e-courses are a good move. Not sure about using natural-language software to assess essays, particularly humanities essays. Also not sure about crowd-sourcing, or peer-assessment if it is the only way of grading work. But in general, I am interested to see what happens. And if I can, I shall definitely look into some of these online resources myself.

*Although the MITx image shows happy Apple users, the Circuits and Electronics course apparently has only partial non-Flash support, so the girl with the iPad may not be getting to fully experience the course content.

An inexhaustive list of free online course databases courses of all kinds for many levels - HE courses, has ability to create course lists and track progress UK thing, yet to offer stuff, watching this space

Generally, The Internet.

April 18, 2011

A does not mean B

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The article states that inquiries about Nottingham university from potential applicants (about undergraduate admissions, prospectuses, and open day attendance) are increasing. The headline says "Students 'not put off by high fees'" (Nottingham is charging £9000, like most other 'top' HEIs).

An increase in inquiries does not equal an increase in actual applications, or any indication thereof. What this most likely shows is that potential applicants are shopping around, trying to find out what they'll actually get for their money. The people who did not especially look around before are now becoming more careful about the decisions they make about where to study, given that the fees have tripled. That is not surprising.

Who is in this apparently homogeneous mass of potential 'students'? Are the same people who are looking at Nottingham also looking at other universities (which will also probably report a rise in inquiries)? What is their socioeconomic status, gender and ethnicity, and how does that compare to previous years? Just out of interest...

Until the actual stats come in on who has applied where under the £9000 regime, claims like this are completely meaningless.

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