Any topic is welcome, including issues relevant to Senate. As the Graduate’s Representative on Senate, I can make your views known. Future matters, especially those pertinent to graduates will be released prior to Senate (the agenda is usually sent out about a week or so beforehand) on Platform < Services < Alumni.
Alumni represenative on Senate, Dr Petrina Stevens reports on what will be discussed in the next meeting and welcomes your views....
Having previously addressed the issue of postgraduate study and reasons for most OU graduates deciding to do their postgraduate studies elsewhere, I notice that the final Postgraduate Review will be presented to the next Senate after much consultation and research into Postgraduate choice of university.
Unsurprisingly fee levels are a consideration when thinking of embarking on further study and many graduates can only afford this if support by an employer or sponsor. The main reason for employers not sponsoring students through the OU is that the employees have not requested it. Employers show no preference for choice of qualification until it is negotiated by the employee, so it is up to the employee to present the OU as a choice.
Research commissioned by the OU has shown that prospective and current students also consider tutor/student interaction and student/student interaction to be of vital importance. This focuses on e-mail communication, telephone tutorials and face to face interaction versus virtual sessions.
Is OU flexible study appealing?
The UK Market Strategy work conducted by external consultants in conjunction with the Strategy Office, has shown that the target group (employed individuals aged 24-49 who have an undergraduate degree but no experience of the OU), feels that high quality provision is essential, as well as a qualification which is highly regarded by employers. They also like the idea of full Masters Degrees, together with flexibility in progress so the pace of study can be changed to fit around work and family demands. The competitive fee structure the OU offers is also an attraction.
What is your perception of the OU?
One area which did not score well with this group was their perception of the OU in the following categories: ‘Strong Academic Reputation’, ‘Recognised Degrees/Qualifications’ and qualification that are ‘Well Regarded by Employers’ (Study 2011). You may have your own opinions as to why they have this perception and how it can be changed. As an OU graduate and/or as an employer, what is your experience of this perception?
Is interaction important to study?
Interaction with other students is also an important preference and the OU has little choice but to falter in this. As the OU mainly offers part-time, distance learning postgraduate courses to busy, working people it is difficult for student interaction to be greater. I must note here that the OU also offers full-time postgraduate posts where interaction with other students and tutors is similar to that of other universities.
Despite the desire for greater student interaction, I have heard from some current undergraduate students that some tutorial groups are small due to students choosing not to attend. We may have an anomaly here as it is often through meeting people in tutorials that further social interaction can develop. However an OU student may be older than most undergraduates and have a social life already in place, which would inhibit this development.
The recommendation is that we need to present a postgraduate offer which differs in presentation from the undergraduate offer. Your comments on how the two approaches may contrast, and on any other issue are very welcome.
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Alumni represenative on Senate, Dr Petrina Stevens reports on what will be discussed in the next meeting and welcomes your views.... Postgraduate study Having previously addressed the issue of postgraduate study and reasons for most OU graduates deciding to do their postgraduate studies elsewhere, I notice that the final Postgraduate Review will be presented to the next ...
If you were restructuring student support in the OU, what would you do? I suppose that without the wider picture we can only make suggestions from our individual perspectives, but we may have one or two ideas.
The Student Support Review hopes it has covered all eventualities, but it is realistic in knowing that it has to be able to change with the times and requirements of its ever-widening student population. The Review is an enormous undertaking, with the sole aim of redefining the relationship between students and university. The OU has dedicated a huge team to the project, which has made certain recommendations.
There are also specific teams redesigning the Access to Success programmes to help students who would not normally apply to university, with a fee structure which is less complicated.
Recommendations have been made by The Student Support Review, that the Curriculum Support Teams be mapped into host locations, so student support will be curriculum-based, rather than location-based. This, it is hoped, will make communication with the relevant subject teams easier, and more effective.
There is also a vast retraining programme to enable staff to assist students in understanding their options. The registration of new students has dramatically altered for 2012/13 through new fees and funding issues. New students need to declare their aimed qualification and will now have five years in which to complete their studies.
Course choice has always been difficult but qualification-based programmes are now structured into Pathways, where study is sequenced. The university will have more control over the way in which students progress, in order to cover the requirements for that qualification. Progression can now be managed in order to help students achieve their goal. Study goals will therefore be clearer, making it easier for the university to understand the identity of individual students.
Open degrees are still available with the OU, which is the most flexible approach to study available in the U.K. Students can create their own Cert HE, Dip HE or degree if they wish and combine a range of subjects they enjoy.
It seems that the changes still allow the OU to be unique in its approach, whilst offering traditional, structured degrees. There are also clear qualification pathways to help employers develop qualification structures for their employees.
Students have already voted the OU, as one of the top three universities for student support in the U.K. We hope the new Student Support Programme will make it the world leader.
photo by: RogueSun Media's photostream, May 2012
OU graduate representative on Senate: Dr Petrina Stevens, releases part 2 of her report from the latest meeting on 'The Student Support Review'..... If you were restructuring student support in the OU, what would you do? I suppose that without the wider picture we can only make suggestions from our individual perspectives, but we may have one or two ideas. The ...
OU alumni and graduate Senate representative De Petrina Stevens discusses what will be covered in the next Senate meeting....
Perhaps it is true that not all graduates and alumni are familiar with the workings of Senate, and I know that I was unaware of its true role before I became the Graduate representative on Senate. I thought you may be interested to read the constitution of Senate, as I had occasion to be reminded of it myself when reading the papers for the next meeting. It states “The Senate is the academic authority of the University which, subject to the powers of the Council, is responsible for promoting the academic work of the University both in teaching and research. It oversees the University’s academic management, including the curriculum and all aspects of quality and standards associated with the University as a degree-awarding body. It has the power to make regulations, including those which (subject to the approval of the Council) delegate any of its powers. Senate meetings concentrate on major issues of academic strategy, policy, priority and performance.”
It would be impossible and indeed inefficient for the whole of Senate to be initially involved in too much detail. In order to be more effective in overseeing the University’s academic management, Senate has to delegate more detailed governance to various committees whose members are taken from Senate.
One of those committees is the Quality Assurance and Enhancement Committee (QAEC). Its role is to assure Senate that quality assurance and enhancement arrangements are appropriately established and implemented, and to oversee the University’s engagement with external quality assurance processes. The committee also monitors and reviews action and institutional performance, assures quality and standards and advises other governance bodies or management so it has a pivotal role to play.
The QAEC has to meet not less than three times a year and reports each meeting to Senate. These reports have not in the past been evaluative and Senate will be asked to comment on the suggestion that in future they also provide an annual evaluative report. Suggestions made by Senate will provide the committee with a context for developing its first evaluative annual report, so comments from you are welcome.
The Student Support Review Update
You may remember a while back, around June last year to be more precise, I was talking about the recommendations of the Student Report. As possible future students, should you be thinking of returning to study, or as someone who may suggest OU study to another, understanding the restructuring of student support may be helpful.
There were two recommendations; the first being that a student support structure should be based around the curriculum area, rather than the geographical area in which the student is studying. The second recommendation was that the University should organise the new curriculum-led support structure through the creation of Student Support Teams.
The Student Support Review is implementing these two recommendations in developing Curriculum Support Teams (CSTs) within the Study Experience Programme (SEP), (who said/hoped acronyms were dead?!).
Each of the four nations of the UK will host their own CSTs. It is hoped that UK-wide support for nations will help them sustain a close relationship with the university, whilst encouraging a distinction in their provision for students.
The most suitable way to transition the move from the geographically-based support structure to the new curriculum-led student support structure is to ensure sufficient time for the change to happen with the least disruption to students as possible. The projected system will therefore not be fully in place until October 2013, with regular monitoring and communication enabling as smooth a changeover as possible.
Please let me have your comments at any time.
OU alumni and graduate Senate representative De Petrina Stevens discusses what will be covered in the next Senate meeting.... Perhaps it is true that not all graduates and alumni are familiar with the workings of Senate, and I know that I was unaware of its true role before I became the Graduate representative on Senate. I thought you may be interested to read the constitution of ...
OU graduate representative on Senate: Dr Petrina Stevens, reports from the latest meeting......
'Can't we can make more use of our Alumni?' was the question asked by a Senate member in this week's meeting. The topic being discussed was our Postgraduate Strategy, but to arrive at the point where this question was asked I need to take you through the preceding issues which lead to this question.
It seems that application enquiries for the academic year 2012/13 will reach our 500,000 target which is encouraging. Contrary to newspaper reports the university application rates for England have only fallen by 1 per cent but they remain the same for the rest of the UK. The applications for full-time degrees by older people however is down, but this may be because many have turned to part-time study, which in turn may be because of the change in retirement age which means older people are still working. There is an opportunity here for the OU to attract people who may now prefer part-time courses due to their change of circumstances.
Our postgraduate numbers however, are not what they might be as many students move on to other universities for their postgraduate work, although most of the postgraduate students in the OU are in fact from other universities. Senate sees it as a worrying trend that we are not able to retain our own students to progress them into their postgraduate work.
A number of possible reasons were suggested:
- The lack of personal communication with an academic faculty and tutor was a possible problem.
- Postgraduate tutors often introduce their students to their field of expertise and all their established networking opportunities, which is useful to any student who wants to develop within their field. This could be seen as deeply problematic for the OU, as it is difficult to offer those opportunities in distance learning
- Most postgraduates wish to enter a Master's programme, and we have had our successes, especially with our MBA and M.A. in Education, which have a vocational base. Other postgraduate courses however, have not done as well in attracting students in great numbers. Senate was assured that this is being addressed, by looking at ways in which tutors interact with students, and the development of greater student and tutor interaction through technologies such as podcasts and conferences.
This is how we came to the initial question, 'Can't we can make more use of our Alumni?'. Professional Alumni opportunities and networking were suggested by a member as a possible way forward, although marketing shows that this is not particularly highly valued. As Alumni and Graduates, do you feel that you can make any contribution to encouraging students into postgraduate work in your field? If so, by what means do you think it would be possible for Alumni and Graduates to contribute?
I leave it to you to inwardly digest as I would be interested in your suggestions. Please comment on this article below. However I do have further reports from today's Senate meeting, which will be posted in separate postings in the days to come.
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OU graduate representative on Senate: Dr Petrina Stevens, reports from the latest meeting...... 'Can't we can make more use of our Alumni?' was the question asked by a Senate member in this week's meeting. The topic being discussed was our Postgraduate Strategy, but to arrive at the point where this question was asked I need to take you through the preceding issues which lead to this ...
Dr Petrina Stevens, the graduate representative on Senate updates on the latest meeting.....
Unfortunately, the paper on the Open Media Operating Policy was withdrawn from discussion in Senate yesterday, so I can’t update you on the latest issues. I hope we can get back to it when Senate has time.
It is difficult to select topics which specifically interest Graduates and Alumni, unless they refer to return to study. For this reason I want to take this opportunity to ask you as Graduates and Alumni members, what OU issues you would like to discuss and have reported, should they arise in Senate.
Despite having a number of people view the Platform Graduate rep’s report, there were no comments. As a lone voice in Senate I can’t make great changes but each voice is heard, and with support from other Senate members it is possible to have issues addressed and modified.
As the request for comments comes only a few days before Senate, I wonder if you feel you do not have the time to respond. Unfortunately there is not much we can do to change that, but if we could have comments on-going, then when those issues arise in Senate I am well versed as to your opinions and won’t have to rush you to respond. This means you will have more time to think about issues which affect or interest you.
Having previously studied with the OU, you may now in hindsight, have an opinion on how the approach of the OU could have helped you in a more relevant way. You may have ideas on how the OU can offer relevant Professional Development input, or support you in other areas of training. As some of you may be thinking of returning to study for your own interests and self-development, registration and enrolment issues may be an appropriate topic to cover.
Perhaps you can comment on the types of qualification offered, funding and financial support for returning students, tutorials (both actual and telephone), assignments and a heap of other things on which I am sure you have an opinion.
The ideal place for all these discussions is through Platform in the Graduates' and Alumni Forum Group where you can start our own topic or comment on others. I really look forward to hearing your ideas.
Dr Petrina Stevens, the graduate representative on Senate updates on the latest meeting..... Unfortunately, the paper on the Open Media Operating Policy was withdrawn from discussion in Senate yesterday, so I can’t update you on the latest issues. I hope we can get back to it when Senate has time. It is difficult to select topics which specifically interest Graduates and Alumni, ...
It is no wonder that the OU sees itself in the forefront of Open Media public broadcasting, freely providing educational materials to the public. Before the arrival of the internet it was noted for its television broadcasting which now seems very dated, but these programmes had a following outside of the OU’s student population. Even from the start the OU was making material freely available.
The arrival of the internet offered even more opportunity to reach its audience, not only in the UK but worldwide. The internet was also available as a media tool for other educational institutions, so it was essential that the OU provided a unique service. As media was the main public face of the OU, it was essential that it remained distinctive in its media usage. Having provided educational materials to the public for forty years, and through the BBC, also supported online activities, the OU had a head start in its experience of utilising media opportunities. However, there have been many changes over the years and the OU has had to adapt to new technologies and cope with many financial fluctuations.
The changes in funding are of course in the forefront of issues the OU is addressing. The development of Open Media is now essential to promoting the OU brand and fulfilling the commitment to education in its charter, which states that through ‘means such as broadcasting’ (and other technologies) it will, ‘promote the educational well-being of the community generally’. For this reason one of the chief roles of Open Media channels is to support this mission.
Open Media offers greater public awareness of the OU, hopefully making it one of the obvious considerations for those who wish to continue their education. It would be helpful to know from you as OU graduates, if you are aware of the OU’s role in Open Media. Perhaps you have noticed it mentioned in a number of television programmes, or discovered OpenLearn.
As a graduate, did you know for example that you could also access OU materials through YouTube, iTunesU or Google Book store and Apps store? If this is all new to you then it would be great if you could let us know. It would be helpful, for example, to know what percentage of the 6-8 million visitors who engage with OU educational materials through Open Media, are OU graduates.
Those of you who have accessed these sites, you may like to tell us if this engagement encouraged you to take on further courses with the OU. It is hoped that the taster material offered will encourage some ‘conversion’ to courses, especially for graduates and alumni,
but if you are unaware of its availability then the opportunity is lost.
As usual I haven’t given you much time to respond, so apologies, but this is due to the fact that the minutes cannot of course be available until close to the meeting date, to ensure they have the latest information available. Further comment on this subject by the end of Tuesday 24th January would be gratefully appreciated, however, the discussion is on-going, so even if the date has passed your contributions will be really appreciated.
Any other issues on which you wish to comment are also very welcome. I suggest you join Graduates’ Forum in Platform and then we can have a good debate!
Dr Petrina Stevens is the alumni representative on Senate. Here she reports on the issues which will be covered in the next Senate meeting and asks for your views..... It is no wonder that the OU sees itself in the forefront of Open Media public broadcasting, freely providing educational materials to the public. Before the arrival of the internet it was noted for its ...