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 1980s student 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 Boring Economics Teaching is interesting: 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 - 1980s recession explanations I wrote - UK unemployment 1980s from the Begg 1984 textbook


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
Leeds College of Health, a mental health service based in the old High Royd Asylum buildings in Leeds, used to coach for degrees awarded by Leeds University in the 1990s. Most of the customers were from certain health trusts in Yorkshire or in Pakistan. Courses were by post and phone - faxes were refused - and tutors were not available to speak to students, even during agreed contact times. Instead a health service worker would try to make sense of what the tutor had decided and whether he had really read an essay or had any idea what the job was other than his own importance. The tutor dissappeared half way through the course, just to complicate things further. After complaints through the system at Leeds University, it looks as though they no longer offer these degrees.

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