On Russell (A Poem)

It might seem unconventional to write up your findings like this, but that’s tradition talking. It’s not the only way I’ll be presenting and sharing what the project tells us, but poetry helps me to capture and express what’s important in a concept or a situation. This is the first verse – click on it to read the whole thing.

Let’s talk about Russell.
Big, old – at least old-er – well-known,
prestigious, whatever that means.
Not much actually, on the inside.

3-D Universities?

How can we think about students’ experiences in the broadest way possible? Going to university is first and foremost about pedagogy and intellectual development, but outside that, the experience of going to university is a complex social conundrum. What else could we include that has some influence on this?

The university you attend is clearly a major factor. All universities are similar in that they teach and research, but they’re also unique in some way, and metrics (rankings, Unistats data etc) and so on don’t capture that. They tell us something, but they’re not really very useful in telling us what a university is really like. Here’s a starter list for different aspects of university that you can think about in relation to the ‘student experience’:

  • Location – country, region, city, town, countryside;
  • Layout – campus, scattered buildings, new, old, purpose-built, ad-hoc;
  • Architecture – ancient, gothic, Georgian, modern, brutal, mixed;
  • Policy – funding, university competition/hierarchies, labour markets;
  • Research – how much academics research in relation to teaching, the connection of research to teaching, how much students engage in/with research;
  • Teaching – who’s teaching, and how, class sizes, teaching styles, online, teaching time, learning/study support ;
  • Non-academic – catering, accommodation, extra-curricular activities, mental health support, careers advice;
  • Identity – who you are, how much you know about university, how welcome you feel on campus;
  • Student population – class, gender, ethnicity, dis-ability, sexual orientation, domestic/international;

It’s common sense that that all of these things make a difference. Some of these things we know a fair amount about from research (teaching, social class, and to some extent policy), but the rest is relatively unknown. This project is an early attempt to try and knit many of these aspects together, joining (some of) what we know with a few things that we know far less about…