October 19, 2007

councelling

The day started with a very interesting Political Theory seminar, in which we discussed our first attempts to read Hobbes. Despite me not enjoying the reading that much in the first place, I get more and more fascinated by this character full of contradictions. A person that challenged the beliefs of his time up to a maximum at one point and argues that these kind of challenges should not be permitted for the sake of order at another.

In the seminar the discussion on Hobbes’s analysis of language was probably the most interesting part to me, the point that language is a precondition for society makes sense. Moreover, I would have liked it if we spoke more about the role of language in excercising power; are maybe only numbers truly egalitarian? Or do they impose a different kind of tyranny?

Anyway, in the afternoon I attended the second Economics lecture of this week. For once we talked about ethics in that class or maybe Pareto’s lack of it. I should defiantly do some background reading on the Edgeworth Box, etc., as I do not intend to lose sight of it when it just starts in getting interesting.

lectue_notes_th_3.doc

In ethics, we talked about killing people, again. This time in self-defence; the discussion was fruitful in general and once Felix question the methodology moral philosophers use in particular. I now feel to understand a little bit more about why we have to go through all these different kind of case studies. Indeed, our personal reaction seems to be the only form of empirical test moral philosophers can use to test the consistency of both their general theory and their subjective intuition. If they do not match one has to be revised.

Poltics and Policy gives me a headache, still. I really should see Roger tomorrow to speak about my ideas on how to structure this first essay.


August 21, 2007

Project expansion

Today was supposedly the last day of our research, but we are far from finished. At least I was able to finish my reading on Quality assurance systems in Germany, which may prove to be one of the cornerstones of our research. Also I finally found out how to create links to documents on my e-portfolio, even though this cost me a lot of time I did not have and nerves.

I mentioned in previous entries that I found it really quite difficult to find information on the accreditation structure in Germany. Well, it turned out that I simply looked at the wrong places. Today, I finally consulted the websites of the supervision bodies (nationally and on a European level), after which it was very easy to find the information I was looking for. Instead of slavishly following the literature I brought from Germany this is probably what I should have done straight away.

The documents I found today also proved one of my previous suspicions not to be correct, since it is not true that accreditation agencies in Germany run on a profit based structure. I guess that would have been a little extreme anyway. Nevertheless, I confirmed my view that an external accreditation structure is only necessary, if the system of higher education is organised on an independent level; quite simply, because government is no longer able to guarantee the quality of degrees, whose control devolved.

A new thought that I encountered today was how and if at all not for profit companies are able to compete on a market. Surely the main incentive to cut costs, is not to break even but to make a profit, otherwise the institution itself would have no gain from being efficient. On the other hand of course it may also be able to see it as some sort of a prisoners dilemma, because the institution that is least efficient will not be able to offer a break even price for its products, which is comparable to its competitors.

At the moment I am still working on a short summary of these findings, which of course means that I have not reached my target in finishing the project tonight. Luckily I will be in Leamington for one more week, gining me some time to finish everything off. This is certainly not the way I wanted it to be, but we should not have become so lazy over the past few days.


August 19, 2007

A lazy weekend

The weekend was rather calm, because I had some visitors, which gave me good excuse not to work. Never mind, before this gap Dan and I manage to record a podcast of us chatting about our project and our subject and, of course there was the URSS meeting on poster creation and presentation.

The Podcast first: Despite some attempts to write a script we decided that anything written down seemed to hinder any flow of conversation, so we ended up to improvise in the RAW radio. Also the idea to record the whole show as one piece was dismissed quite readily, after we discovered how hard it is to ask rhetorical questions without giggling. It was our luck that some postgraduate RAW member introduced us into the art of editing recorded material, which allowed us to work on more manageable time frames. This did not prevent the feeling of real unease, when I listen to my own voice on the radio, but it helped to cut out the most ridiculous parts of my answers. People who do this more often must get used to the feeling, otherwise it should drive them mad; unless they are hyper confident of course. Additionally the whole thing gave me the idea to maybe host a radio show next academic year, but my plans are not quite ripe enough to go public, yet. In conclusion the Podcast gave me the sense of achievement which was necessary not to see the week as a failure.

The URSS meeting offered brilliant food, as always, plus some good advice on posters. It did, however, not give us any guidance on how to overcome artistic differences, which Dan and I had developed by the time we thought on where to place the title. So far it is the middle, even though Dan still completely dismisses my idea to design the poster like a mind map. I really do not understand why he does not like the whole concepts of mind maps, but never mind.

For next week there is some pressure building up; the idea was to have everything finished by Wednesday, which would include the poster, report and most importantly a piece of writing which covers both, Dan’s and my work.

It will be challenging, so we have set us different level of targets. The minimal target is to write a conclusive piece on the Bologna process, its history and most importantly whether and to what extend it has led to a marketisation of European higher education; a Medium target is to finish the report as well plus our poster and all our hopes would be come true if we would additionally write a large text that takes British and German concepts of higher education into consideration, as well.

These are defiantly a fine set of goals, which is the reason for me looking forward for the last lap of the project.


August 15, 2007

A wasted Day

Personal Problems were a great hindereance to my output today. Luckily I was able to finish some rough sketch for the Podcast tomorrow and to finish my URSS student profile, but that was about it. I really need to find some track to get into make this last part of the research a success. Hopefully recording the Podcast tomorrow will be a beginning, because it may help to reflect on the work we have done already in a new and creative way.

In my URSS student profile I ended up writing far more than I originally expected, probably this only makes the point that we have already done a fair bit of work over the past weeks. The question to what I consider to do now after the URSS project first seemed a little odd, because I have two more years to study for. Nevertheless, I followed the input and booked an appointment with the careers service for tomorrow, to discuss how I can prepare myself for the search that is inevitably coming up. In many senses URSS was an eye opener in this regards, because beforehand I failed to appreciate how difficult research actually is and what kind of self-discipline it requires. On the other hand, it seems like I have two more years to catch up on both: Academic excellence and self discipline.


August 14, 2007

Starting the final lap!

The trip to London was definatly a right decision. Even though the British Library was less helpful than we originally expected, mainly because Dan did not get a reading pass; so for everyone who intends to go: Do not forget your ID and prove of residency and a separate confirmed card with your signature. Nevertheless, it was still a very nice day out in London, which we used to visit the British Museum and the National Portrait gallery (Dan saw it on his own).

Working in the British Library was great, despite the fact that it is even harsher than our library in Warwick, was great. In comparision I would even argue that Warwick University Library is a liberal paradise; in the BL you are for example only allowed to use pencils, not speaking about any form of drinks. The social science reading room, in which I worked, is an experience in itself, but I also found some interesting information for our research. Most importantly, that the Bologna-Process has its origins in the early 1990s, when the Commission published a paper that aimed at the economic importance of higher education in Europe. I became aware of this through a very interesting article by Tomusk, who has written quite extensively on the Bologna process, but to whose work I had no access before I went to the British Library. He also had some things to say about Warwick, which I am not going to quote, because we are thinking of using his quotes in our poster presentation.

After this day out, we did some proper work today, discussung our work done in phase 1 and 2, with our supervisor Ben. I think he was quite happy with what we have done so far, however, now the difficult part arises in finding some coherent themes between Dan’s and my work.

Additionally, we are planning to publish a potcast or a vidcast on our research for which we practice in the RAW rooms today. Thursday will be the date when we will hopefully record it. First, we will have to write something like a script though; I am very much looking forward to it.


August 12, 2007

Looking forward to London

At the moment the research is slowing down. Dan and I spend most of today and yesterday in prove reading each others text, doing only very little reading besides it. Well, at least I am now quite pleased with the report which I am going to send to my supervisor today and I guess we have now reached the stage where new input is needed. We need to decide how we are going to tackle the Bologna documents to come to our final conclusion.

I already have some ideas on how the German system interacted with the European Level; however, it seems very difficult to back my argument up. This is mainly due the fact that my current argument is based on a suspicion rather than factual knowledge. To me the Bologna documents appeared very vague, so that it does not seem far-fetched to argue that a lot of policies could be justified with it. This is exactly what appeared to have happened in Germany, as especially the Second National Bologna, quotes nearly all current higher education reforms to be in some relation to the Bologna process; to get more certainty, I guess interviews with people involved in the process would help. Maybe, I could ask Fran whether I could consult the material he collected.

Tomorrow, Dan and I are planning to visit the British National Library in London, to consult some of the literature that is not available in our Library and to have a nice break after having finished our first extended reports. The main book, which we want to read, is a major work on the Bologna process and might give us some new ideas, too.


August 10, 2007

Weird but facinating

Title:
Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

A friend of mine, who is a great fan of Vonnegut gave me the book very recently as a birthday present, in the hope to foster an enthusiasm in me, too. Let me say this right away: He was definatly successful.

Even though, it was first quite difficult to see what was actually going on, since the complicated story plot is not made easier by the fragmentated style; but as I continued to read things started falling into their place which was a very satisfying experience.

Content wise the book deals with some very heavy, but important issues, concerning the responcibility of the scientist towards his research. I guess the fact that the book was first published in the middle of the Cold War gives sufficient hints to what some of these ethical issues may be. However, it is not simply a moral sermon. The conflict of science develops to find itself set in a surreal war against a rather marvellous religion in the Carabean.

Definaltly a great read for people who do not mind thinking about global distruction and the extend to which science has replaced religion and with its scientists and doctors as new priests. Or to quote the book "Science is magic that works!"


August 03, 2007

Finishing Phase 1

I am glad to be able to say that I have overcome my writers block. A combination of further research and free writing was what helped me most, no matte how good my own excuses were not to do exactly this. The more I wrote, the easier writing became, moreover, the whole subject matter started to make some sense. This shows me again that I should have done it much earlier, but than again I ask myself, what exactly I could have done differently in my preparation.

The Way I am working now is to write an annotated Bibliography, in which I summarise what I found interesting about a particular text. These summaries are not referenced, but completely emotive, as I found it simply takes too much time to note down any detail. In a sense, this works very well to get an overview over a topic, however, it consistently lets me down if I want to write more than a couple of bullet points on a subject. Because, this method also implies that I have to go back to each essay individually in order to find the particular passages that I need. Due to the time intensity of this, I do not make use out of all my material, because it is just simpler to stick to a confined number of sources. A vicious circle really.

I have written before on how great my enthusiasm for MindMaping software is and maybe it could offer me some guidance with this problem. Additionally to my annotated Bibliography, I could note down the passages that I believe to be relevant in my mindmap. Than, it should be relatively easy to access these parts, whilst I am writing my text. What I will note down and what will be left remains of course a question which no software will, hopefully, ever answer.

Content wise, I am consolidating my knowledge on higher education reform in Germany and start to look at the broader philosophical context. During my, gap filling, research I stumbled across some quite interesting articles that go beyond the report which I am just finishing of, but that may also be of some interest. One specifically targets the question of how European universities came on the path of marketisation at the end of the 1980s, so that should defiantly be of some interest.

Dan was also writing on his report for most of the day. We saw numerous parallels between German and British developments, especially regarding the expansion in the 1970s and the lack of funding in the 1980s. I guess, after that Britain took the more radical approach with electing Margaret Thatcher. Anyway, it is a real pleasure to discuss these things on the kitchen table, inspiring each other and spending new motivation. Hopefully this will stay the same when we start researching on the same topic tomorrow. But, I am sure it will because we are now both bringing in our own little field of expertise, which should equip us with some very individual way to analyse the same policy process


August 02, 2007

Why is it so difficult to write?

Why is it so difficult to write? At least for me this was not only the most challenging part of my first year, but also proofs to be a major burden of my URSS project. Today, I targeted to simply finish of my research on the historic background of higher education reform and to write a scholarly essay on the matter. Well, I did not; despite three folders of extensive notes, advanced MindMaping software and a lot of good ideas. Instead, I found plenty of excuses to reopen my research, work on my annotated Bibliography and I even found myself downloading commentaries on the book Exodus from J-Store. But where does this apparent incapability to summarise the work I have done originate from.

I guess, one element of it is a fear of bullet points. Having read a lot of essays on my topic, believing to have understood them makes me very self conscious. Indeed, I am very much inclined to judge the my own work by the same standards as the published work that I have been using as resources for my information. Not surprisingly, I always loose in this comparison, feeling inferior, or even like someone who is simply using other peoples ideas. Since I know where I have drawn my ideas from it feels like cheating not simply to refer others to these works.

The second problem is structure. My notes follow the structure of the works which I consulted, but of course these differ and opposed to first year classes there are no lecture notes which provide a general just of how things are. Yesterdays entry briefly considered this problem, even though it did not go into sufficient depth. It is not a clear cut decision whether to take a chronological or a thematic structure in the first place; moreover, arranging ones thoughts around the structure chosen seems even more challenging. Especially after the first 200 words written it is incredibly tempting simply to dismiss everything and to construct a whole new plan. This leads to nothing but frustration.

For my last report I used the constructive option of simply forcing myself to write. I do not claim that the outcome was the most pleasant experience for my supervisor, not did it satisfy PAIS referencing standards, but it left myself with a sense of accomplishment. What I will try tomorrow is to use this experience, free writing a semi structured report. However, I will be a little bit more disciplined compared to my last report, aiming for a fully referenced work. This is very much possible because I have a full day to do this. And once it is done Dan and I will finally able to focus on our main topic of enquiry: The Bologna Process.


August 01, 2007

Annother Summary Day

Today, I could finish of my mind map, really appreciating the beauty of MindManager. I am still waiting to a reply from the IT-services to whether they are also able to supply the software to my personal computer, if so that would be brilliant. However, the MindMap does not completely help me to overcome my ordering problem, since I am not sue yet whether I should structure my summary of higher education reform chronologically or by political actors and their particular position.

The reason why I am not sure on this issue is that all major argument have been around for quite some time now, the predominance of one over the other is thereby mainly subjected to the relative positions of power of the particular group. Essentially, it is I believe that the pre-dominance of Neo-Liberalism is a major factor to explain why Germany has finally come around to some major reforms.

This is of course a very complex development, in fact I might as well describe it as ‘the course of history’. In fact probably it will be much easier to organise it chronologically, since this offers the opportunity to stick to a relatively neat pattern of organisation.

The atmosphere is getting up with the weather, yesterday Dan and I used the first afternoon of sunshine to walk eastwards from Leamington, going through Offchurch, whose Pub was unfortunately closed, so we carried on to Cubbington.




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