Friday, 20 November 2015

Star courses

the worst degree in the UK - the least satisfied graduates in the UK - the lowest paid graduates - the worst degree for getting a job - the most boring degree

Star courses: the least satisfied, most bored & lowest-paid UK graduates

Related: Bad Economics Teaching for the twenty-teens from data on Unistats, 2015 Better Economics Teaching: some off-the-cuff suggestions based on being a student in the 1980s  The British Economic Crisis - a similar book to Robert Peston written in the 80s - Star Courses: the least satisfied, most bored and lowest paid UK graduates, written 2015 Bad Economics Teaching: how someone managed to teach economics from memories of an old textbook at the peak of the worst recession since the 1930s, and tried to cover-up for government causing the recession. Journal Articles by Professor Les Fishman - unbelievable beliefs - UK unemployment 1980s



Comments and links to Unistats reports were made in 2015. The links still work, linking to more recent data.

A search of subjects called blank at blank or * at * on unistats a brings-up a list of all higher education course combinations. The first result is local but the second attempt can get all courses if you cancel the suggested area. On the same left-hand menu you can reduce the search from over 27,000 degree course combinations and make your home-grown and improved league table. Results can be sorted again by some review questions on a drop down menu, with some trial and error changing the question to try to make the "data only" box work and then searching another time with a different question. Unfortunately, cost isn't one of the selectable questions but most of the courses over-charge by the maximum amount: £9,000 a year for tuition and management fees alone to UK students outside Scotland.

I discovered this stuff while writing about economics degree courses, and have another page about their recent scores.

I started writing about a 1980s economics course. You sometimes read that economics teachers didn't predict the banking crisis in the 2000s and that this was the worst economic crisis for 30 years. I disagree. There was another long manufacturing crisis at worst in the early 1980s, and UK economics teachers couldn't give a damn about that one either, so journalists don't know much about it.

I think the most interesting information is on the worst UK degree courses for jobs or satisfaction, because those faults are most obvious. The bad courses are not always the worst-explained; staff do their jobs on courses that are hard to explain, like economics taught from algebra and textbooks, and can still score 77% at Keele for being good at explaining things. Also, staff don't get a chance to state how boring their thick lazy students are and how much of the budget goes to managers, buildings, libraries and student unions before teaching departments get a cut to pay for enough staff time. Out of this cut, they have to pay for preparation, teaching and marking time and try to avoid meetings and admin jobs that their managers try to pull them into, such as discussing this blog post.

Generally, teachers suffer when judged by their colleges and not judged by their courses. Judgement-by-college encourages college managers to reduce the budgets for paid teaching, preparation and marking hours in favour of college-wide spending. The salary for college managers is an example of college-wide spending. The rule is that claiming grants is low-paid if you are on the dole, but high-paid if you run a quango. People who teach and grade essays are paid between these two rates, but closer to the rate for people on the dole than the rate for people who run a quango. Boss-people might argue that their job is hard. I have never done it or been in the running so I don't know. Certainly a lot of good people are forced-out of the career path or choose to leave the career path that would qualify them to apply. Apply to be stared-at by colleagues, to be lobbied, to sit in meetings, to make decisions, and to make sense of a meeting cycle and a library of policies aims and objects that filled the predecessor's office before the unfortunate incident and before flowers were sent to the family while newspaper reporters camped at the gate.

Specifically: if you want to study, check the course on the prospectus and unistats.
If you are college manager, encourage prospects to check the course.
If you invite students to interview, you might drop a hint like "interview about the course on the prospectus", because at age 18 this isn't obvious.
If every prospective student looked at the unistats scores for each course, and checked the prospectus to find-out what the course was, that would help everyone including teachers, who's worst employers would close and who's best employers would have more vacancies.

I have a dim memory of trying to research some some colleges before I knew my flunked A-level results. I even went to an interview at one. I asked why the college wasn't better ranked. In hindsight, I should have asked about the syllabus of the course, just to show that I had read the prospectus, which I hadn't. If current applicants learn from my mistake, they will help pass-on concerns about bad economics degree courses, even if like me they flunk their A-levels and have to skip uni or choose the only course(s) on offer. They might say "I have read Robert Peston and want to know more". If the person on the other side says "We start with the most basic assumptions and gradually build-up to Walrasian Equilibrium alongside brown-nosing the presumptions of Wall Street". They might think "maybe we should tweak what we offer", and the student might think "maybe I should give this one a miss".
Star courses: the least satisfied, most bored & lowest-paid UK graduates - the course that got 0%: the worst degree in the UK - the least satisfied graduates in the UK who give figures - the least remembered course - the lowest paid graduates in the UK who give figures - the worst UK degree course for getting a job - least helped at freelancing: a question not asked about degree courses - least access to tools and clusters after graduation: a question not asked - the most bored students in the UK can sit close to the most interested students - Management science question: who gave Mad Professor Piercy the job? - Graduates employment or further study by broad subject, 2011 and 2013

the courses that got 0%: the worst degrees in the UK on the league tables

£4,000 a year for four years should buy you part-time coaching from Barnsley College towards a degree called "early years", if you deal with small children. 0% of students thought the course was well organised or smooth. A much more positive 8% thought they got advice, support, or at least notification of changes. Assessment and criteria are organised by Huddersfield university, and are the only aspect to score just over 50%. Nearly a quarter of students thought the staff were enthusiastic or made the subject interesting, and a third thought that there was a subject worth study, or "intellectually stimulating", behind the verbiage.

No quote is available from the college because none of their student quotes or job descriptions get to the point. The page that should be about the course is about a student who did the course. Maybe the college took legal advice and decided not to make any claim of any kind about what they do to future students. Instead they write a lot about their other work as a sixth form college. In defence of Barnsley College, the unistats web site doesn't rank degree courses by all questions; this was a chance discovery. There may be several UK degree courses that scored 0% on one or more student survey questions.
Higher education providers produce information for their intended audiences about the learning opportunities they offer that is fit for purpose, accessible and trustworthy. - Quality Assurance Agency expectation
Reading Uni's Theatre Arts degree was taught one year alongside Education and Deaf Studies. This degree scored 0% for organisation, 10% for time-tabling, advice and support, and 30% for fair marking, feedback on work, and news of changes to the course, which is no longer on the college web site. Presumably they started by thinking "cutting edge - never attempted before", as people with input funding tend to do, and then they discovered that deaf people can't hear very well. Reading Uni web site used to say
"Our BA Theatre Arts, Education and Deaf Studies is the only degree of its kind in the world. It offers you the chance to study theatre arts, education and deaf studies together, with a focus on sign theatre. Your learning will benefit from our strong links with specialist deaf schools and professional theatre companies."
Star courses: the least satisfied, most bored & lowest-paid UK graduates - the course that got 0%: the worst degree in the UK - the least satisfied graduates in the UK who give figures - the least remembered course - the lowest paid graduates in the UK who give figures - the worst UK degree course for getting a job - least helped at freelancing: a question not asked about degree courses - least access to tools and clusters after graduation: a question not asked - the most bored students in the UK can sit close to the most interested students - Management science question: who gave Mad Professor Piercy the job? - Graduates employment or further study by broad subject, 2011 and 2013

the least satisfied graduates in the UK who give figures

Staffordshire Uni's 15 students of music journalism and broadcasting were 6% satisfied, making it the worst-reviewed course for that overall heading for which statistics are available, although the college site quoted a minority view from a real graduate, stating that he is deputy editor of Base Music Magazine, which isn't real on sites like bing or google or linkedin or journalisted.

"In what were easily the most exciting and productive three years of my life I can safely say that Staffordshire Uni developed the skills and the attitude needed to succeed as a journalist"
Star courses: the least satisfied, most bored & lowest-paid UK graduates - the course that got 0%: the worst degree in the UK - the least satisfied graduates in the UK who give figures - the least remembered course - the lowest paid graduates in the UK who give figures - the worst UK degree course for getting a job - least helped at freelancing: a question not asked about degree courses - least access to tools and clusters after graduation: a question not asked - the most bored students in the UK can sit close to the most interested students - Management science question: who gave Mad Professor Piercy the job? - Graduates employment or further study by broad subject, 2011 and 2013

the least remembered course - a question not asked for university league tables

This question isn't asked, but I guess that recollection of anything about a course after 30 years is a sign that something was working in the brain at the time. I remember more faces, names, scenes, and even bits of syllabus from an arts course than an economics course done as joint honours at the same college. On the other hand I'm demonstrating skills or interests that attracted me to a technical course. Maybe the skills were made better there in ways now forgotten; maybe I pick this stuff up quicker now.


I suppose nobody can test forgetableness of single-subject degrees because they are forgotten. For example lectures in insurance to business administration students at the University of California in 1949, Would anyone remember the lecturer? Usually nobody, but their lecturer was bounced by injustice into loosing his job and getting other jobs to teach Samualson's forgettable economics textbook by 1965. Some civil rights activists managed to camp at his home for a night:

"we looked up Les Fishman (economics professor at the University of Colorado) .... They put us up for the night and then we toured the campus the next day.

Fishman's first observation was the lack of ability on the part of the students to grasp ideas from a textbook. In a way, he has to spoon feed the text, but on the other hand, they won't do any permanent good if they can't develop a little independent thinking among the students"
. [...] "The bookstore carried practically nothing but textbooks; only Gandhi's autobiography and five or six other paperbacks were available."

The injustice was that both colleges sacked the man for being a communist, so I hoped that he had some interesting beliefs. Unfortunately, lots of americans think anything unfamiliar is witchcraft or communist, including standard economic textbooks. This man was also a member of some political party with communist in its name, so he was a scapegoat. A stupid thing to join, but there were two leftish parties in the US, one was called Communist and different for approving of war against Hitler - something Fishman volunteered to join as a squaddie for Dunkirk. Less was known about Stalin during the war, and Fishman had relatives in the soviet union; he would not want to get them added to any list by telling anyone anything that would get in the papers about any change to his membership of the communist party.

More about this forgettable economics teacher on another post about Keele Economics teaching when there were three or four million people unemployed because of a manufacturing crisis in the 1980s. Twenty years later he still hadn't realised that you ask the students what they already know and discover the more obvious material, tell them lots of facts about what they don't already know, then pick a problem and try to solve it with real data and the right button on free software, while explaining a bit of maths to say how the software works. A lot of them mess-up embarrassingly, and get feedback, and that's OK, and students learn how to talk about evidence and disagree. Twenty years later, Fishman had become a better comedian; he liked to interrupt himself with some gleefull thought in class, and he knew his strengths as a paternal-looking character, but he never learnt his job as I saw it. He didn't even hold a tutorial.
Star courses: the least satisfied, most bored & lowest-paid UK graduates - the course that got 0%: the worst degree in the UK - the least satisfied graduates in the UK who give figures - the least remembered course - the lowest paid graduates in the UK who give figures - the worst UK degree course for getting a job - least helped at freelancing: a question not asked about degree courses - least access to tools and clusters after graduation: a question not asked - the most bored students in the UK can sit close to the most interested students - Management science question: who gave Mad Professor Piercy the job? - Graduates employment or further study by broad subject, 2011 and 2013

the cheapest or lowest-paid graduates in the UK who give figures

Teenage colleges that coach for degrees among other work with sixth-formers and apprentices tend to score lower for wage rates than colleges that teach 20-odds. Colleges in low-pay low-rent areas tend to score lower. There ought to be some way of weighting the figures for both of these.

The cheapest graduates are the ones who do stage work in 4 hour shifts as stage hands and actors in low-paid areas for £11,000 a year after paying £7,500 a year to Blackpool And The Fylde College, a college for teenagers which drama students give 100% for satisfaction. Their course was only 9% boring. Hereford College Of Arts students earn an average of £11,000 a year but people from the Blacksmith course might start on £12,000 a year, so fine artists earn less. About fine art at Hereford:

"A significant number of our graduates go on to undertake further study at postgraduate level in areas such as film, book arts and painting, or a post graduate teaching certificate. Most graduates also continue to practise and exhibit their work nationally, with artist commissions and gallery sales common place."

Photography crops-up in a lot at the same low-pay colleges, with the same problems of intermittent low-paid work doing an hour or two at a time. These arts departments may suffer because so many bad-pay courses are taught together, so graduates who have got to know each other do not hear of ways to earn more, and then graduate employment statistics are averaged together across the department on unistats if they are small courses. A department of economics or accountancy and photography might do better on the league tables, and give economists and accountants a chance to do some photography. Some Hereford photography and blacksmithing graduates seek self employed work with their own web sites - one part of being able to enjoy life more later-on, so there is a benefit beyond the rate of pay. The blacksmiths also get a chance to hit things.

Photographers who carry-on working working freelance are probably better paid, because advertisers quote higher rates on job-ads aimed at people with photography degrees. Adzuna.co.uk's job search engine estimates that the worst-paid jobs advertised for specific degrees are hospitality and tourism at just under £20,000 on average, business studies at £20,746, sports science at £21,406, photography at £25,109, and health or social care at £25,194

Accountancy isn't often seen as a hobby and is generally a good qualification for getting freelance work, but graduates don't get freelance work. At some colleges, not enough accountancy graduates submitted income returns for employment figures or wages to be published. Otherwise, the places to put your gumtree add or advertise to students are Ulster, Queen's Belfast, and Hull where qualified accountant wages can be £14,000 in the year after graduation. One web site tries to chart pay difference by location for accountants, with Northern Ireland as the cheapest place to hire an accountant and Aberdeen the most expensive. Figures are unclear because some courses do not qualify graduates to sign accounts for limited liability at whatever turnover under the companies act. Another measure of graduate employment prospects is the number of accountants signed-up to work remotely with customers of accounting.waveaps.com or quickfile.co.uk or Xero or whatever online software people use (more about online accounts software for free in the UK here). The first site - waveapps - lets you search for accountants by region. Only four of their accountants based in Northern Ireland, so something prevents unemployed accountancy graduates from doing online accounts for Waveapps customers. Maybe the problem is searching by area - maybe other software lets customers search at random or by price, and works better for Northern Ireland accounts graduates. Or not.

One thing in favour of accountancy courses is that the students are less bored than economics students.
Star courses: the least satisfied, most bored & lowest-paid UK graduates - the course that got 0%: the worst degree in the UK - the least satisfied graduates in the UK who give figures - the least remembered course - the lowest paid graduates in the UK who give figures - the worst UK degree course for getting a job - least helped at freelancing: a question not asked about degree courses - least access to tools and clusters after graduation: a question not asked - the most bored students in the UK can sit close to the most interested students - Management science question: who gave Mad Professor Piercy the job? - Graduates employment or further study by broad subject, 2011 and 2013

the worst UK degree course for getting a job

Graduates who are not part of the labour market, like people in prison who do distance-learning degrees in astronomy come bottom of the unistats list because they put "other" as their occupation. The figures are bad at reporting other courses with a distance-learning element, like the cheap courses at Derby and Staffordshire Unis, because a lot of graduates write "other" on their forms. Even product designers from Derby.

The worst degrees for wanting a job and not getting one are hospitality and tourism courses at University of East London at Stratford.

They say...

Hospitality is a growth industry, employing 1.9 million people in the UK alone. Our BA (Hons) Hospitality Management degree will give you a head start in forging a career in this dynamic, exciting sector.

We began the course in 2013 in response to high demand for a first-class education in hospitality to complement our popular courses in events management and tourism management.

In your first year, we’ll give you a broad understanding of the culture, leisure and creative industries. Then, in your second and third years, you’ll be able to specialise, with a wide-ranging choice of modules.

The course will prepare you for all aspects of the hospitality business - managing people, resources and events, as well as mastering the marketing, finance and innovation areas of the industry. Graduates with the knowledge and skills gained on this course are in demand in hotels, restaurants, clubs, cruise liners, airlines, casinos and anywhere else where hospitality skills are valued throughout the world.

To boost your career chances, we run a dedicated employ-ability programme for business and law students, called Employ. It includes employ -ability workshops, skills training sessions, guest speaker events, voluntary work, student ambassador roles and work experience opportunities.


Other bad degrees for job-seekers include a lot with "fine art" in the title, and those in related departments with averaged-together statistics like the photography and product design graduates of University of Derby, who paid £6,750 a year part-time. Half the product designers put "other" as an occupation, which I don't understand - maybe it's a placement working somewhere, or maybe they're designing a product. This looks like a degree that I'd quite like to do if I wanted to do a degree, but I don't understand what graduates do next.

Salford's physics degree has 60% of recent graduates clearly unemployed and most of the rest doing admin jobs or ones not related to physics. I think there's a pattern of degrees studying shorthand formulae leading nowhere, except, if you find maths a form of meditation, towards teaching the next generation. Each letter of algebraic shorthand on the wall of a lecture theatre might match one penny off the average salary of last year's graduates, and I hope someone does an MA to test that theory. This is dispute a rapid decline in studying of pure maths and science degrees that might be addressed by The Nuffield Foundation's q-step  and taxpayer cash.

Petroleum engineering graduates did not strike oil near Portsmouth, which leads to the next question.
Star courses: the least satisfied, most bored & lowest-paid UK graduates - the course that got 0%: the worst degree in the UK - the least satisfied graduates in the UK who give figures - the least remembered course - the lowest paid graduates in the UK who give figures - the worst UK degree course for getting a job - least helped at freelancing: a question not asked about degree courses - least access to tools and clusters after graduation: a question not asked - the most bored students in the UK can sit close to the most interested students - Management science question: who gave Mad Professor Piercy the job? - Graduates employment or further study by broad subject, 2011 and 2013

least helped at freelancing: a question not asked for degree course league tables

Freelancing doesn't get mentioned as a way for recent graduates to earn money, which is a pity because, age 20-something, nobody cares that you have just come out of a university, they just care that you haven't done the job before, so you end up doing odd jobs like shifts for employers that need shift workers or anything you can find. A system that helped graduates to risk freelancing, with supervision to catch mistakes, would be great for the ones who are qualified to do something specific. Maybe a rota by which graduates could try to do freelance jobs that came-in to a college or students' union scheme. I might even hire a graduate economist to tell my why Oxford Economics statements about London Fashion Week are wrong.

Job stats are self-reported by about 80% of students; more objective guides by year and state are very general http://www.slc.co.uk/media/5365/slcosp012013.pdf  Government projections suggest that only 45% of students will earn much over the £21,000 threshold for long enough to repay all their student loans; too many will earn below that figure, which is in the middle of the wage range, for too long to repay the grant that becomes a loan if you earn over that wage.
Star courses: the least satisfied, most bored & lowest-paid UK graduates - the course that got 0%: the worst degree in the UK - the least satisfied graduates in the UK who give figures - the least remembered course - the lowest paid graduates in the UK who give figures - the worst UK degree course for getting a job - least helped at freelancing: a question not asked about degree courses - least access to tools and clusters after graduation: a question not asked - the most bored students in the UK can sit close to the most interested students - Management science question: who gave Mad Professor Piercy the job? - Graduates employment or further study by broad subject, 2011 and 2013

least access to tools and clusters after graduation: a question not asked for degree league tables

The worst-paid pot graduates are worth a mention because there's a Staffordshire theme to this post and the economics one. Cardiff pot graduates award 38% for clarity and satisfaction while earning a £13,000 graduate salary. I guess a second problem after teaching a technical course is tooling. As a graduate you can't afford a hydraulic press and mould, you wouldn't have anywhere to put it, and you are no longer allowed to use the college one. Small workshops are hard to find. If you rented one, you'd have to sell as well as make just to pay the rent, which is too many jobs to do at once. That could explain another sad fact that the best paid pot graduates weren't anywhere near the factories. Staffordshire Uni pot graduates earn £17,000 in an area of low housing costs while the oddballs who study it with an arts subject at Bath Spar, or at University of the Arts in London, earn a bit more. There is no moulding machine to borrow in London but there is Createspacelondon.org; I guess that access to a moulding machine makes a big difference to the wages of a potter. Lower housing costs in the potteries might balance-out the higher graduate wages in Bath and London but I still think there's a problem for technical graduates who don't have a ceramics factory or a steel works or a ship yard or a car body press or even a welding torch or a night a week at a restaurant or a day a week on a stall to test their ideas and prove they can do the job.

The problem could be solved by making sure that machine time, restaurant time, stall time, is available by the hour or by the shift somewhere near the college, just as there ought to be some self-help system for graduate freelancers.

A course on animal behaviour looks like a bad idea, because anyone could get an animal to do it more cheaply and perhaps better.
Star courses: the least satisfied, most bored & lowest-paid UK graduates - the course that got 0%: the worst degree in the UK - the least satisfied graduates in the UK who give figures - the least remembered course - the lowest paid graduates in the UK who give figures - the worst UK degree course for getting a job - least helped at freelancing: a question not asked about degree courses - least access to tools and clusters after graduation: a question not asked - the most bored students in the UK can sit close to the most interested students - Management science question: who gave Mad Professor Piercy the job? - Graduates employment or further study by broad subject, 2011 and 2013

the most bored students in the UK can sit close to the most interested students

10 financial mathematics and business studies graduates were 92% bored, 36% clarified, and only 27% advised or supported, and had to try not to be jealous of interested economics students studying yards away at the same address. This is quoted student feedback on the maths course, from the colleges Orwellian web site.

"As a university, it was a high ranked university in my field. I found the course very well organised and structured, staff and lecturers were always being very helpful and friendly. ... Finally, as a student who has being in Kingston University for eight years, I can say that I am very happy and glad to be here and if I could go back in time, I would have made the same choices again " - quote from a graduate.

The quote doesn't mention that this graduate is now a teacher on the course: "Teaching Assistant / Demonstrator, Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing, Kingston University, London. Provide support during Laboratory Sessions and tutorials, prepare necessary material, support students, any other related work assigned by Module Leader."
The college management may be Orwellian but they have learnt that university league tables for economics are important, and so decided not to put "economics" in the title of this awful course.

One of the most interesting-looking economics courses is held a few yards away at the same college and is 85% interesting even to Kingston university students

There's more about economics teaching on another post - about how it often goes wrong and why this course looks worth a shot of you think of the subject as a bit like politics but more specific.

Shall I go off the point?
There was another good science course I did called Nuffield Physics A level. I didn't realise that other science teaching is just awful and that nobody cares. In Nuffield Physics A level, we discovered patterns of events by ourselves with weights and springs and things. Nuclear physics was a bit difficult, but the Nuffield Foundation has commissioned some special polystyrene ping pong balls the rights size so that we can pretend to discover nuclear physics using microwaves more easily than the likes of Rutherford did a few years ago. Frankly the teacher had to help us a bit with nuclear physics. And schools don't like teaching it because of the cost of the ping pong balls. But it was good. No greek shorthand and laws discovered by geniuses needed. No need for traditional physics teaching to continue at all, but apparently it survived because cheaper in ping pong balls and I doubt the Nuffield exam is available any more. The Nuffield Foundation is still going and it looks as though they've had a grant to write teaching materials for economists.

http://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/q-step
The only discouraging thing is that one of their collaborators is Glasgow University, which has a 45% score for "staff made the subject interesting" on economics courses, so their great physics A-level may be better than their 21st-century statistics teaching.

Anyway, that was interesting so it can't be good for us. We are here to learn about boring things because they must be good for us if they are boring.

Electronics engineering at Leicester. is the second most boring course at 20%, so it must be second best for us after the first most boring degree course, dispite a good footwear degree in Leicester and cheap housing.

Events Management at University of Wales comes third at 21% satisfactory or interesting - "This exciting programme prepares students for a career in the rapidly expanding Events Management Industry" , says the web site. The course is better for job prospects than Tourism or Hospitality at University of East London; 95% of graduates are employed within a year, but at salaries around £16,000.

Nearby at Swansea University there was an 80% interesting Economics course, run by their School of Management, with graduate wages around £20,000.

The college states that it no longer fiddles figures and no longer employs mad professor Piercy, who in turn hired his son and spouse to teach, and photographed them next to a symbol of a political party in order to gain alliances. He was interesting for the wrong reasons; this is politics or psychology, not management science. You would expect a rational manager to be interested in students, teachers, and benchmarks at least as clear as the standard ones copied at the end of this other blog post for each subject. You would expect a manager to give or take job security, student places, and degrees in some fair and graded way, rather than fiddling the figures. An external examiner wrote in 2014 that this had been discovered in an earlier visit, but an official report published on the quango web site doesn't mention fiddled exam results or  bullied staff.

"The University's award-winning approach to staff recognition and development seeks to recognise accomplished teaching and the promotion of student learning. The Academic Career Pathways, aligned to the UK Professional Standards Framework, distinguish career progression routes based on teaching and management from those based on teaching and research, defining core and enhanced criteria at every grade.There is a progression path to professorial level for staff whose main focus is teaching and scholarship and management and student support. External examining is also a criterion for promotion. This approach is clearly understood by staff who value the evidence-based approach to promotion and the flexibility to redirect their career pathway over time."

The reality of how Professor Piercey operated was different. "The Piercys vowed to drag the school into the 21st century", where it already was. Professor Nigel Piercey's memo stated that the job "is not a rest home for refugees from the 1960s, with their ponytails and tie-dyed T-shirts"; in a blog post he described trades unionists, including staff he line-managed, as "unpleasant and grubby little people" distinguished only by their “sad haircuts, chewed fingernails and failed careers”. Only after loosing thirty staff, including one who said her office was cleared without consultation and her name removed from the college web site while she was teaching a course of 200 students, did he state he had "reached the position where I have differences with the university regarding implementation of the school’s future strategy".

You would think that the people who hire and fire quango managers would ask them whether they can judge colleagues by ability to do the job as defined by documents like benchmark standards but no: life is not like that.

They quote:
"The thing I liked best about my course was the variety... My degree taught me essential skills such as ... how to think analytically. ... Before I started at Swansea I had no clue what to expect, but it was beyond what I could dream of."
Star courses: the least satisfied, most bored & lowest-paid UK graduates - the course that got 0%: the worst degree in the UK - the least satisfied graduates in the UK who give figures - the least remembered course - the lowest paid graduates in the UK who give figures - the worst UK degree course for getting a job - least helped at freelancing: a question not asked about degree courses - least access to tools and clusters after graduation: a question not asked - the most bored students in the UK can sit close to the most interested students - Management science question: who gave Mad Professor Piercy the job? - Graduates employment or further study by broad subject, 2011 and 2013

Management science question: who gave Mad Professor Piercy the job?

I don't know. There are two Piercys, father and son, and they left-off the "mad" bit of their names when applying to work at Swansea University. Instead they sent-in CVs so full of success that you wonder if they had ever failed at anything, and why they did so many different things if each succeeded. Members of the Welsh Assembly also wondered why Nigel Piercy wasn't sacked sooner. The line manager was called Hilary Lapin-Scott and is still working for Swansea University.

This is the CV of Mad Professor Nigel Piercy. This is mad Niall Piercy.
Neither CV says they ran a stall or a business - or not near the top of the CV anyway - it goes on a bit and I haven't read the whole thing. It's worrying because so many quango managers have done masters of public administration courses before becoming unfit bosses in public-funded organisations.

More generally, management science graduates are below-average at getting jobs after graduation, suggesting that management science training by people who are not in business is unhelpful. I hope that there is more employee-involvement in decision-making in large organisations in future, so that the next generation of mad professors gets found-out sooner in their careers.

Star courses: the least satisfied, most bored & lowest-paid UK graduates - the course that got 0%: the worst degree in the UK - the least satisfied graduates in the UK who give figures - the least remembered course - the lowest paid graduates in the UK who give figures - the worst UK degree course for getting a job - least helped at freelancing: a question not asked about degree courses - least access to tools and clusters after graduation: a question not asked - the most bored students in the UK can sit close to the most interested students - Management science question: who gave Mad Professor Piercy the job? - Graduates employment or further study by broad subject, 2011 and 2013

Graduates employment or further study by broad subject, 2011 and 2013

Employment by subject source: Guardian, 2011
Medicine & dentistry and veterinary science 99.6
Education 95.0
Subjects allied to medicine 94.3
Law 92.7
Agriculture & related subjects 91.6
Biological sciences 91.1
Languages 90.9
All subjects 90.4
Historical & philosophical studies 90.1
Social studies 89.8
Mathematical sciences 89.6
Combined subjects 89.6
Physical sciences 89.1
Business & administrative studies 88.9
Creative arts & design 88.2
Architecture, building, and planning 87.8
Engineering & technology 87.7
Mass communications & documentation 86.0
Computer science 84.7

Employment by subject source may be re-hashed in a slightly different way: Forbes, 2013
Medicine & dentistry and veterinary science 90.6
Education 89.8
Subjects allied to medicine 88.1
Law 67.6
Agriculture & related subjects 71.2
Biological sciences 69.6
Languages 68.9
All subjects 90.4
Historical & philosophical studies 65.9
Social studies 75.1
Mathematical sciences 89.6
Combined subjects 67.5
Physical sciences 63.9
Business & administrative studies 80.1
Creative arts & design 77.7
Architecture, building, and planning 85.0
Engineering & technology 77.2
Mass communications & documentation 80.0
Computer science 75.7
Star courses: the least satisfied, most bored & lowest-paid UK graduates - the course that got 0%: the worst degree in the UK - the least satisfied graduates in the UK who give figures - the least remembered course - the lowest paid graduates in the UK who give figures - the worst UK degree course for getting a job - least helped at freelancing: a question not asked about degree courses - least access to tools and clusters after graduation: a question not asked - the most bored students in the UK can sit close to the most interested students - Management science question: who gave Mad Professor Piercy the job? - Graduates employment or further study by broad subject, 2011 and 2013

Which university league table is most reliable?

Unistats is much the most reliable league table for comparing the courses you want by the criteria you want. The Times, Guardian, and Complete University Guide fiddle the figures, or weight the figures, against good courses at bad colleges and in favour of bad courses in good colleges. They iron-out the oddities so that their university ranking looks tidy and random changes year-to-year don't make too much difference. The result is the opposite of what a student would want. If you want to go to a terrible course at a sought-after college, you should do it deliberately and not discover your decision, as I did, while sitting in the lecture theatre.

the next post will be about simple book-keeping and account aggregators
the previous post was about post-crash economics teaching, and the manufacturing crash caused by monetary policy that killed a fifth of UK manufacturing in five years without the professor at my college noticing. We were in a manufacturing area at Keele and there were 4 million people unemployed including about a million on government schemes. I don't know why he thought we'd turned-up to spend years of our lives as students. His first job was lecturing in insurance to people seconded to a college from work, so I suppose he didn't ask himself much why students were in front of him.

Problems with unistats

I overheard part of a conversation about this in a restaurant. I went something like "all it reveals is that people are doing their job. Most of the top ranking colleges on league tables are only a tiny fraction away from each other in feedback scores". "Of course there is a long tail, with one or two colleges failing. Blackburn is one".

Moving on a stage, here are some answers even if they don't make the world better.
 
  • Most of the work of form-filling is done for college managers rather than for the national student survey. If they have a rational reason, it is to anticipate bad scores before they reach the national survey too often, and to avoid hiring badly-scoring teachers. It would be nice if there was a way to do less form-filling for proven teachers, but that's a job for college managers to sort. They also have to sort the problem of students giving over-loyal or over-critical feedback, and of teachers dumbing-down a class rather than risk telling students that they are wrong, or thick, or lazy. I don't have a clear answer for this 
  • Exaggerated differences between good-enough colleges are a feature of league tables in The Times and The Guardian. It's a silly idea. The tiny difference between two colleges might not apply to particular courses at the colleges, and, if it really is a difference, is probably outweighed by things like whether the rent is lower in Leicester than Westminster. The problem is already being solved by colleges promoting Unistats' own web site, which deals with these points. It compares courses rather than colleges. And if gives some kind of score rather than a rank, so you can see that most of the colleges are about as good as each other. So, if you are a teacher and someone asks you about Unistats in a restaurant, tell them to avoid league tables and look for a nice course on Unistats' own web site, bearing in mind that most score pretty well.
  • Most of the worst-scoring courses have changed or ceased because of the survey. I went on one that was something to do with social services, for people who were working in that trade. Similar to the Early Years course at Blackburn. It was labelled as a Leeds University diploma but turned-out to be Leeds College of Health, also known as the asylum there, with various consultants marking essays, and nurses answering the phone. People very much like the ones taking the course. The problem was that consultants could be unreasonable, irrational, pigheaded, and know that the embarrassed nurse would have to cover-up for them. Even while I was on the course it began to break-down; staff left without replacement. It might have closed even sooner if the first group of students had been able to warn the second.

Mona from Life Enhancement

Afterthought
I wrote
More about this forgettable economics teacher on another post about Keele Economics teaching when there were three or four million people unemployed because of a manufacturing crisis in the 1980s. Twenty years later he still hadn't realised that you ask the students what they already know and discover the more obvious material, tell them lots of facts about what they don't already know, then pick a problem and try to solve it with real data and the right button on free software, while explaining a bit of maths to say how the software works. A lot of them mess-up embarrassingly, and get feedback, and that's OK, and students learn how to talk about evidence and disagree. Twenty years later, Fishman had become a better comedian; he liked to interrupt himself with some gleefull thought in class, and he knew his strengths as a paternal-looking character, but he never learnt his job as I saw it. He didn't even hold a tutorial.

After doing a road-to-nowhere degree in another town, I eventually found work in something called the voluntary sector for grant artists, where, once in a blue moon, under-trained and struggling staff are sent for communal "training", if they're not the temps who most needed training. By the end I used to dread it. Nobody in the room has a clue what works, but everyone pretends they already know. We are formed into small groups of people who have never met from different parts of the organisation usually doing different things, and asked to brainstorm. The first question was often something like "what is it that we do?" and someone in the small group - maybe Mona from Life Enhancement - would say "holistic". I used to dread the holistic moment. Any sensible person would be struck by how little we know what works and what for, but Mona wants to get a brownie point by saying we do everything for everyone under the sun as "holistic". Sadly or optimistically, she is part-right: people do lots of things and can do lots of things, but don't know lots of other things and fail at other things.

Blog on a single page
the author sells vegan shoes online at Veganline.com
, a UK online vegan shoe shop

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