Vocational Education

When we talk to each other about our education we talk about what really matters: work we are proud of, incredible things we have learned and the people who supported us to achieve.

It is time to restart that conversation as a national movement and consider what higher education qualifications need to be like for every student to be enabled and inspired.

From our learning environments to course structures; from assessment methods to feedback, we need to take new steps to support students and students’ unions in co-creating excellent education.

3 Responses to this theme

  1. Stephd5 says:

    At my HEI (Plymouth University) we are looking at completely changing the way we design and see assessment and the curriculum. Research and feedback from students in the NSS has caused some concern that our curriculum is too stale and we need to completely upheave it to keep up with other HEI’s.

    The changes are mostly good things for students but I think there are positives and negatives attached to all of the proposals. One idea is to introduce a new module called ‘Plymouth plus’ where students can choose to study any subject they want for one module. I think this would really encourage creativity and bring out different skills for students however for people on courses such as engineering and medicine have concerns that is could de-value their degree.

    Alongside this, there is a proposal to change the structure of modules moving from a parallel structure to a single structure in which students would study one module after another. Again this could be a good thing as it would encourage intense learning on one module but would eliminate complementary information from one module to another.

    The last substantial change is around assessment. The specifics haven’t been decided but the university are suggesting that students get to choose the assessment they want. Learning objectives will be set and student will get to pick an essay question, an exam question or a presentation question.

    I’m not sure what is the best route is to tackle these changes and whether the positives out way the negatives but I thought it would be interesting to put the proposals on here for further discussion

  2. Ed Moloney says:

    OK let’s try to get this ball rolling.

    I guess this is fundamentally about what the purpose of university is and why different students come to university in the first place. Entwined into this are issues about a lack of parity across the HEIs on assessment and academic frameworks, and how the Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR) has been implemented across the sector.

    If you believe that the purpose of university is to expand knowledge and understanding then you are less likely to believe that achievements other than a students’ academic work should be formally recognised by a university. Conversely if you believe the purpose of university is to help the economy, or promote social mobility, then you are more likely to accept other qualifications or achievements being formally recognised by a university.

    This divide also exists in HEIs across the sector- some see themselves as ivory towers, others as providing the workforce of the future. And this gap is probably only going to get bigger with the on-going marketization of HE.

    This is probably why the implementation of the HEAR reports across the sector hasn’t exactly gone well, and there is little parity in terms of how universities have gone about implementing section 6 (which talks about students’ extracurricular activity at university). This is all about how universities see themselves and their purpose.

    At the same time I believe there is a problem with the other side of the qualifications issue- that there are no nationally mandated rules on academic frameworks. Some universities have very different rules on how assessments work. Yes, HEIs are required by QAA to “ensure the assessment of students is robust, valid and reliable” (chapter A6 of the Quality Code) but some universities allow multiple resits of exams (including one example I heard of recently where a student has taken their sixth attempt at an exam) whilst others will only allow one resit attempt (I think some don’t allow any at all??). Often it comes down to interpretations of what is an extenuating circumstance and how far these should be accepted for each assessment.

    Whilst this may be a case of “be careful what you wish for” why don’t we have some national guidelines/ rules about this? And are the reasons why we don’t have this already is because it falls down a gap somewhere between the OIA and QAA?

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