In subtext 168, we reported on ‘A proposal for radical improvement’, drafted by the Dean for Academic Quality. The subtext collective postulated at the time that the implementation of those proposals could have meant the end of Part One at Lancaster. News reaches subtext of another proposal – well, an instruction – from the Dean for Academic Quality that could have further implications for Part One. This concerns Welcome Week activities, whereby it is intended that students will spend an increased amount of time during Welcome Week in their major department. The purpose of this is to help the new students to engage with their academic disciplines at an early stage, so that they can feel more embedded in their academic community. This is seen to be of vital importance, contributing significantly towards high student satisfaction, performance and retention.
To facilitate this bonding experience all minor taster talks, normally delivered on Tuesday of Welcome Week, are to be scrapped. This, we are told, is an idea which has found widespread support throughout the University among academics, professional service staff and the Students’ Union, although subtext is not aware of any consultation fora where this has been discussed.
Minor talks are to go online. Details are sketchy at the moment but subtext understands that the plan is to set up a repository for information about every minor option across the university. This will probably have a standard template as a ‘front page’ for each option, and departments can then add links to anything else they want, which could include readings, handouts, videos etc. It has been made clear to departments that no additional money will be available to facilitate this.
Information for students about how to access this repository will be given to them in their welcome packs, and they will be encouraged to access them before they arrive, with further ‘prompts’ by their major departments when they get here. Let’s hope that these prompts aren’t used to apply pressure to students to choose a particular minor, otherwise the days of Marketing students choosing Criminology or Gender and Women’s Studies as their alternative for Part One may be numbered.
As we pointed out in our initial coverage, a number of departments or degree schemes with small student numbers are very dependent on the revenue that Part One minor students provide. Quite a number of departments welcome face-to-face interaction with potential Part One students and see it as a good recruitment opportunity. Anything that threatens such arrangements should be considered very carefully.
The fact that this proposal apparently emanated from the working group charged with looking at radical improvement set alarm bells off in the warehouse regarding ulterior motives i.e. the dismantling of Part One by the back door. Other wiser heads point out that such joined-up thinking is not normally how the University operates and we should take the proposal for what it is – an attempt to foster greater identification with the students major department and aid retention. Thoughts and letters to the usual address.