Our Universities major on student support – this class of 2020 will need that support more than any previous cohort
By Ed Layt
I was reflecting on Dan Beynon’s blog from the other week and in particular, his observation on the impact of the exams omnishambles: ‘They have caused serious and unnecessary trauma to thousands and thousands of young people’. For me, the impact of the last few weeks all boils down to this. Whatever a student was intending to do after receiving their level 3 results, the experience they have gone through could have long-term impact.'
We’ve witnessed bias and discrimination in its purest sense – being baked into an algorithm and passed off as an acceptable compromise. It completely ignored the individual, the amount of work that had been put in, the personal battles that had been overcome, the fight to open new doors and create opportunities for themselves. Only then to be knocked back at the last hurdle and be completely powerless to stop it. The details around how the algorithm was constructed are highlighted in this Guardian article.
Moving to Centre Assessed Grades has righted some wrongs. But what a way to start the next big chapter of your life - being reminded of where you come from and how that is likely to limit your potential.
So, I think it’s important we step into their shoes and consider what their experience might be like as they start university later this month and progress through their studies. The start of this academic year was always going to be different, with COVID-19-secure plans being formulated across our universities, but the last few weeks adds an additional layer of complexity, which can’t be ignored.
In any year, new cohorts are made up of individuals in a range of different positions; the majority will have got into their first place institution; some may be starting at universities they didn’t think they would get into; others will have made quick decisions and accepted a place after being rejected from their firms. Whatever their story, they may all now have doubts around their capabilities - was their teacher right about the grade they got, or was the algorithm, right?
These personal stories will impact how individuals engage and progress over the next few years. So now is the time to listen. Understand where they are at through ongoing programmes of experience monitoring and support them in ways you’ve never had to before. It will be resource intensive, but our engagement and support structures must align effectively. If they don’t, we could see attrition rates on the up and years of aspiration raising being knocked back in one fell swoop. So, let’s make sure we don’t ignore the individual again.