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8:19am on Tuesday, 21st February, 2006:

Alarming Emails


I received two alarming emails last night.

The first was from the Deputy Head of Department (Teaching), informing me that I was the "Employability Mentor" for all my final-year students plus 10 others, all of whom I have to interview to "discuss their status with respect to their employability" a week from today. Just as well I wasn't planning on going anywhere that day, then, unlike this Thursday when the "informal briefing" to explain what the hell we're supposed to be doing will be held. I'll be driving up to Yorkshire at the time, as I'm giving a seminar in Middlesbrough on Friday. Needless to say, given that most lecturers are themselves unemployable except as lecturers, I expect I'll be missing one of the most well-attended informal briefings of the year...

As usual, although the professed aims of this sudden admin dump are admirable, there's a second agenda. Basically, the University fares less well in league tables than some places we're better than because we don't keep good records of what students do after they have left here and they do. By forcing students to attend a meeting with a member of staff who has been forced to meet them, the university is hoping to get the data it needs to increase its standing in the league tables. Never mind that we have a higher proportion of overseas students than most places and that these are much harder to track when they leave; such things aren't accounted for in the stats with which we have to live.

There's a ton of paperwork, naturally. For each student, I have to fill out an "EMPLOYABILITY RECORD". I couldn't answer the questions on it for myself, let alone divine the answers for anyone else. One section, for example, goes:

Vacation Study     Postgraduate Study     Employability Aspirations:


Gawd knows what's supposed to go in there...

There's also a small box for me to record data that I don't have, such as lecture attendance and assignment marks. Students don't get off any easier, either, with a self-appraisal form asking riveting questions such as:

3. What is your target aggregate for this academic year? .........%
What is your target final Degree Classification? ..................
4. What methods are you using to ensure you achieve this target?

I can't see that we're going to get anything other than cut-and-paste answers to 4, there. What do they expect, "I'm sleeping with a CD-ROM copy of the lecture notes under my pillow"?

I just know I'm going to screw this up majorly, producing a partially-completed EMPLOYABILITY RECORD with answers inappropriate to what I thought I was being asked, let alone what I was actually being asked.

It's the stuff of nightmares.

Oh, my other alarming email was either from a journalist trolling for a story or from an anxious mother whose son's 100-hour a week World of Warcraft habit was causing problems. Not the sort of thing you want to reply to at 11:30pm, but I did anyway.

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Copyright © 2006 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).