Student Feedback Forum

Trip Start May 04, 2007
Trip End May 21, 2007

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Wednesday, May 9, 2007

May 9th
Much of today was spent at the student feedback forum.  This is a regular event at the college in which opinions are sought fro m50-70 student representatives about their perceptions/concerns about the college.  These student representatives are from tutoring groups that meet on a weekly basis.  The forum was arranged such that each student group (7 students or so) would meet for approximately 30 minutes in different rooms/tables to share their opinions on specific topics (such as tutoring).  Our group was entitled "Home and Away" and provided an opportunity for us to ask questions of the students and for them to ask us about college in the U.S. 
These groups were fascinating and we learned a great deal about the incredible support that these students receive from their government and from the school itself.  As I mentioned in a previous post, these students have personal tutors that act as mentors during their time in school.  I was impressed with the way students described their relationships with the tutors, terms such as "friend" were utilized frequently and most students identified their tutor as someone in whom they could confide if they encountered difficulties (personal or academic).  These tutors also help students prepare CVs (resumes) and advise them throughout their tenure at school. The financial support that students receive is overwhelming to hear.  Students can receive something called EMA (education maintenance allowance); this is provided to students who meet certain income levels and ranges from 10-30 Pounds per week.  Students can also have bus/train passes subsidized by the government and they do not pay for their textbooks or much of their pre-university education.  Up until 2 years ago, even Higher Education (university) was free; students described "Uni" as expensive in the UK and I seem to recall one student telling me that it cost 6000 pounds per year (I may be remembering this incorrectly)-this translates to $12,000/year. 
Since I noticed anti-bullying posters around the campus, I asked students about the issue of bullying.  It wss interesting to see how the responses to this question varied across groups.  In one group, several students indicated that it does occur.  One young woman said that she even stopped dating a classmate because other women in the class gave her a very difficult time about it.  Other students discussed verbal insults as a more common type of bullying that they encountered.  Some students used a term that I had never heard before "Chavs"; they said that these people were more frequently engaged in bullying behavior.  They said that Chav stands for counsel house aggressive violence (from what I understand, counsel house is a home for troubled youth-although it does not seem that a stay at counsel house is important in receiving this title). 
One major difference that I did not expect in the UK was the amount of homework.  There is actually very little; most of the coursework is completed in class and it seemed that it was somewhat uncommon for students to be taking a great deal of homework away from school.  A part of this may stem from the fact that students are in their courses for nearly 9 months  several days of week, as opposed to one semester.  Additionally, it is more common for students to move through programs in cohorts; meaning, a student group takes a cluster of classes together for an entire school year (and in some cases for 2 years). 
BPC also has a view about student work that is somewhat different from what we see in the U.S.  The counselor in our group (who was also a facilitator) said that they view any part-time work over 12 hours as putting a student "at-risk" in their studies and this would typically be something that is discussed with a tutor/counselor.   
We also heard about an interesting and apparently controversial program called "Fresh Start" which is aimed toward those who have been out of school for 6 months or longer. Apparently, this is somewhat of an outreach program aimed at helping high risk youth enter college.  We were told that the program is controversial because incentives are offered for program completion; the choices are either driving lessons or a laptop computer.  One student in one of our groups said that he entered the program because he was homeless and was interested in the incentives; the facilitator (who knows the student) said that he was downplaying the achievements that he has made while in the program (and from the articulate discussion I observed from this young man, I believe her).
When students were asked about why the chose BPC, several of them stated that the location of the school appealed to them and many discussed the reputation.  It was interesting to hear students discuss why they had selected their future professions; in one group, which contained several hairdressing students, and several IT students, we heard very different rationales for their career paths.  The hairdressing students indicated that they chose this as a career because they believed that they would be happy (and one cited a survey, stating that hairdressers attained the greatest satisfaction scores on questions about their careers).  The IT students indicated that the primary appeal was the financial security that the would have in this career path. 
Midway through the forum we had a break for lunch and the facilitator of the program had a Wii video game system for students to play.  He explained that the Wii is very difficult to get in the U.K. and it is quite a novelty.  Students were very interested in playing and watching each other during this break.
After the forum, we were picked up by Les Lees (academy director of arts) and he drove us to the town of Poole (about 7 miles away). The town of Poole is 750 years old.  Les also told us that Poole harbor is the 2nd largest harbor in the world (Sydney Australia is the first).  After seeing the harbor, I can certainly understand.
 The town of Poole is quite gorgeous.  As we drove near the oceanfront, Les pointed out the Haven Hotel, the location from which Marconi sent the first wireless message to the Isle of Wight.  If you would like a bit more information on this and the history of Poole:
We went for a tour of the Poole Campus (North Road campus), visiting areas dedicated to the arts; the arts gallery was fantastic, with beautiful space for exhibitions.  Julie gave a great presentation on WebCT to the arts faculty; this was especially desired by BPC as they are encouraging their professors to utilize something called the VLE (virtual learning environment) which is very similar to the WebCT we use at CFC. 
Following our tour of campus, we had dinner with Les and his wife Stella (who teaches at Bournemouth University).  Dinner was lovely and we had lively conversations about the educational systems in our respective countries.  I'll be getting ready to teach tomorrow, so I will do a bit of preparation before I go to bed tonight. Until tomorrow!
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