24 September sees the launch of the new look unistats website as part of the Government’s drive to ensure that students have as much information as possible to inform their choice about what and where to study. The cornerstone of the new look website will be the Key Information Set or KIS. As far as possible each course at every university will have a KIS, a series of statistics drawn from the National Student Survey (NSS) and the First Destinations Survey on student satisfaction, graduate salaries and employment rates. Also included will be local accommodation costs, fees, the availability of bursaries and scholarships , contact hours and the proportion of the course assessed through examinations and coursework. A mock-up of what a KIS might look like is on the HEFCE website.
This information revolution is set to gather further pace. The 2011 Higher Education White Paper Higher Education: Students at the Heart of the System recommended that Higher Education Public Information Steering Group (HEPISG) consider the possibility of a survey of taught postgraduate students similar to the NSS. It is timely therefore that the annual LLAS workshop for Heads of Department on 13 September will have a strong focus on exploring the possible implications of this data revolution on departments of languages, linguistics and area studies.
The KIS will enable students, their parents, the Government, the media, our colleagues and our senior managers to make comparisons between courses on an unprecedented scale. This is not just about comparing your institution with another institution but your French course with your German course, your Spanish course with your European Studies course. Up to now differences in the outcomes and students experiences on different courses in the same department have not been easy to spot, at least to those outside your institution. From September these differences will be in full public view.
Winston Churchill opined: “True genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous, and conflicting information”. With more information than ever, easier to find than ever, we need true genius more than ever.
Thriving in an uncertain world: a workshop for heads of department and leaders in languages, linguistics and area studies will be held in London on 13 September. Book online at the LLAS website to reserve your place.
Senior Academic Coordinator
LLAS Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies