On Friday March 14th we had Periodic Review at Bucks. Periodic Review is - as the name suggests - a review of the courses we run at Bucks, bringing in the views of our students, our academics, and external experts to give us all a reality check, and ask searching questions about what we are doing right - and what we are doing wrong. The process takes place every six years and, as it turned out, friday was a surprisingly useful day, helping to shine a light on the way we do things at Bucks, asking questions about why things are the way they are - and how we might do things better in the future.
Periodic Review took place all day on Friday 14th March in g5.05 in the Gateway Building (above), which incidentally has the best views of Wycombe I have seen so far - highly recommended if you ever need to book a conference room. So who was there? In the chair was Sue West, Academic Dean of Nursing.
From industry we had Adam Lucas, a digital artist who has worked extensively in Soho at many studios including Cinesite and Frame Store.
Academic -v- Practical outcomes
One of the issues that came up early on was the thorny question of striking the right balance between academic and practical content. Jon Thornton asked us if we thought we had the balance right between practical and academic outcomes? After all, given that our courses are focused on acquiring industry-relevant skills, how much purely academic content should there really be?
|Jon Thornton - Head of Sound Technology at Liverpool School of Performing Arts|
This is a debate we often have within the Animation and Visual Effects course. How much academic content should there be? John Thornton pointed out that our focus at the university is on employability, "but the assessments at Level 6 seem to focus 70% on written work...which seems an odd balance to strike". Jon added that at his university, the Dean has banned the word “academic”. Why can't we “be braver” he asked – "why not shift the emphasis from academic to practical skills?"
Tutor - student contact at Level 6
The next major issue that came up was the amount of contact between tutors and students at level 6, that is the say in students' 3rd (final) year of studies. According to the panel, the students "say they miss us” in their final year". In other words, "they want more contact with their tutors".
Collaboration between departments
David Rolfe asked "why don't the students collaborate more?" After all, he added, "they say they don’t even know each other!". This is clearly a concern for us - different students from different departments should meet and collaborate more. Alan Green talked about the possibility of animators and sound designers collaborating more (and better) in the future.
Ruth asked if our students were regularly checking blackboard? And are they checking their emails? Student attendance is often an issue and many of the tutors expressed concern about this.
David Rolfe wondered if too much documentation was being given out in general? He asked why he was a sent series of huge PDF documents in advance of today's event? He gave up trying to print it out – when all he really wanted was 2-3 pages of relevant material.
Jobs and employability is always at the forefront of the university's agenda. But how are we actually tracking this? The availability of data on employability is poor, and as an institution we don't necessarily have the best track record of keeping in touch with our former alumni. Ruth Gunstone explained that Helen Walters is “leading on alumni”, and invited lecturers and tutors to make contact with her.
Adam Lucas asked about bringing in visiting lecturers from industry. Were we doing this? And what is the focus of the new animation course? He was concerned that we should have as many visiting lecturers as possible, to make sure that the students were getting lectures from working professionals with up-to-date skills.
1. Our department should do more research.
2. There should be more cross-course collaboration
3. We should "package our virtual learning resources together", so that they can be more easily accessed by the students
4. We should "consider the shape of contact hours over level 6", and "add more structured contact" between tutors and students
5. We should "consider the balance of academic and practical assessments"
(Editor's note: for more on the experience of studying at Bucks New University, come and visit us at one of our Open Days, take a virtual tour of one of our animation studios, check out what our students think of our course, and see why we're ranked in the top 12 creative universities in the UK.)