Select Committee on Education and Employment Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from Professor Michael Wright, Principal, Canterbury Christ Church University College (HE105)

  The significant and continuing changes in higher education (expansion, curriculum, funding, student finance) mean that there is relatively little "hard" evidence upon which to base views—much is anecdotal.

  I concur with SCOP's evidence to the Sub-Committee regarding the contribution of the colleges of higher education (Diversity and Innovation: April 2000).

  The recent (December 2000) consultation report of the Church Schools Review Group (chaired by Lord Dearing) is relevant to those SCOP institutions which are Church of England Foundations (see especially Chapter 8).

  My views on the factors affecting student retention are grouped under the three headings identified in Mr Rees' letter of 21 December 2000:

1.  STUDENT EXPERIENCE

    —  clear, accurate pre-programme information and admissions system (prospectus, web site, visits, interview);

    —  comprehensive induction (most withdrawals occur within first four weeks);

    —  effective systems of academic and pastoral support including early careers advice;

    —  flexible course structures allowing programme transfers;

    —  professional and vocational courses (teacher education, nursing, radiography etc) which combine theory and practice and have clear career routes seem to retain students effectively;

    —  small campus and town (real or perceived) may be an advantage;

    —  assistance and sound advice regarding part-time work eg strongly advised not to exceed fifteen hours (NB part-time work not generally possible for those on professional courses.

2.  QUALITY OF TEACHING

    —  quality of learning and teaching (including work placement experience) critical to student retention;

    —  importance of teachers who regard teaching and student support as their main priority;

    —  strong relationship between the quality of teaching and teachers' involvement in research and/or continuing involvement in relevant professional activities;

    —  staff recruitment/retention very difficult when pay less attractive than elsewhere; particularly difficult to recruit good schools teachers, nurses, radiographers.

3.  HIGHER EDUCATION FUNDING

    (a)  institutional funding:

    —  pressure on resources has made it increasingly difficult to recruit and retain certain categories of staff (Bett report);

    —  recruitment and retention of new groups of students from wider range of backgrounds carries significant additional costs;

    (b)  student finance:

    —  debt and perceptions of debt (especially for female mature students and those from less affluent backgrounds) are a real deterrent to recruitment but appear not to be significant in themselves once students start their courses (limited evidence);

    —  availability of non-means tested bursaries and fees for certain NHS students very important to recruitment and retention.

Professor Michael Wright

January 2001


 
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