Studying students' futures

TODAY we are right at the start of the new student recruitment season, for those students who are going to be joining us in September 2008. It probably will not be many years before our strange system of applying to university a year before you actually start is swept away by a new system which would allow application after the exam results were known.

TODAY we are right at the start of the new student recruitment season, for those students who are going to be joining us in September 2008.

It probably will not be many years before our strange system of applying to university a year before you actually start is swept away by a new system which would allow application after the exam results were known. There are arguments on both sides and while a head of steam is building up around a new system I believe the pros and cons are sufficiently well balanced for it not to be quite such an obvious decision.

For the time being however students in Year 12 (what we used to call 'lower sixth') are starting to request university prospectuses, or access the university websites for information about the courses they will apply for this autumn and enrol on a year later in the autumn of 2008.

Many of us remember the process of applying to university as one which happened on the basis of little guidance and a great deal of pot luck. At University Campus Suffolk we are offering potential students as much support as possible, offering them a chance to visit our campus and centres, speak to lecturers, and discuss issues surrounding finance and student support. We believe that if we offer students as much advice and guidance before they begin the application process, and throughout, that students will confidently be able make their decisions about what next steps to take and hopefully these will be through the doors of the brand new UCS building in Ipswich.

It is certainly true though, that we are now much more thorough about preparing students and much more slick in how we market to potential students - after all this is a highly competitive market and Universities are very sophisticated in extracting the maximum number of well qualified students.

All have smart, comprehensive and professional prospectuses, websites, CD-ROMs and advertising campaigns. Many have giveaways to attract students - from the useful-if-dull pens and carrier bags through the slightly more offbeat such as playing cards bearing the university's name, to the downright bizarre such as squidgy stress relievers in the shape of brains, or plastic ducks for the bath.

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All of this, the straight information and the gimmicks, are brought together at huge higher education fairs which are held across the country where thousands of potential students are wooed by scores of universities.

These fairs have just started and University Campus Suffolk has launched its new Prospectus and curriculum for 2008 - but this year we don't have any special giveaways!

The higher education fairs continue until mid summer and UCS will be there across the country attending 24 fairs. The recruitment circus rolls into Suffolk on June 27 at Trinity Park and we look forward to being really busy!

My colleague Claire Marrington has just returned from a week of school visits and recruitment fairs slightly further afield in Poland.

The expansion of the EU has created great interest in UK education and this region has already become home for many workers from Eastern Europe. Perhaps for this reason, as UCS has not even formally opened for business yet, Claire was surprised to find a high level of interest and knowledge about Ipswich and Suffolk.

As a consequence we may well be looking forward to attracting more students to our new campus in the early years than we would otherwise have expected. There is another reason though; it appears that everyone she met, when they heard where she was from, was able to respond with “Oh yes, Ipswich Town Football Club!” - no doubt a legacy from the glory days of European football.

Many readers may have noticed the hoardings which have gone up around our Waterfront site and even have spied the diggers inside.

At the moment they are doing preliminary work on the site but in the next few weeks we expect building to begin in earnest on our first major new building. We will be putting up webcams so we and the public can watch the progress of the work, and if all goes to plan it will be ready for students and staff in the summer of 2008.

Keep reading The Evening Star for further details.

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