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Each new student to be assigned an enrolment specialist and to develop a learning plan.

First-year students entering the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver campus this fall can expect a more personal touch, thanks to changes the university is making to its enrolment procedures. The enrolment changes are among several UBC is implementing in admissions and student-support services for undergraduates.

All new undergraduate students at UBC Vancouver will be assigned to an enrolment services professional, or ESP, who can answer questions and help students resolve problems involving financial planning, eligibility for bursaries and scholarships, emergency funding, registration and a host of other services.

“This represents a radical change for our organization,” said Lisa Collins, associate registrar and project director for the new enrolment-services model. The program, dubbed Names Not Numbers, aims to establish a stronger relationship between the university and its students and will “bring the small campus experience to what is a large campus here at UBC Vancouver,” said Ms. Collins. It will also help alert university officials should a student run into trouble, she added.

UBC is in the process of hiring 23 ESPs who will be assigned to students in June as they register for fall classes. Each ESP eventually will oversee about 300 students for the duration of their undergraduate careers. UBC expects to hire some 65 ESPs by June 2013, as the program is rolled out to include all undergraduate students at UBC Vancouver.

UBC’s enrolment services estimates that it has about 200,000 interactions with its students and prospective students each year, many of which take place online. For many students, that will continue to be the case; they may opt to meet with their ESP just once or twice over the course of their undergraduate experience, Ms. Collins said. “But for those students who would really benefit from an ongoing relationship with an ESP, we want that to be there for them.”

The project is part of a broader UBC initiative aimed at enhancing student engagement. The changes include a shift to broad-based admissions that the university announced earlier this year and a proposal to introduce a “learning plan” for all first-year students.

Learning plan in the works

The faculties of arts and sciences and the school of kinesiology already have piloted several versions of a learning plan for some of their students. UBC’s campus-wide strategy would see the program expanded to include all-first year students within the next year.

A learning plan is an organizational tool that students use to establish their learning goals. As currently configured, the UBC learning plan is divided into three parts: active learning and scholarly engagement; degree planning and career exploration; campus life and community engagement. Students are encouraged to select various workshops, seminars and activities that UBC offers throughout the year to help them meet their goals and to enter those into their learning plan.

“We give them a way of thinking about three parts of their life as an undergrad and ask them to establish some goals in these areas, to look ahead and see how they might achieve those goals,” said Paul Harrison, associate dean for students in the faculty of science.

Starting this fall, all first-year science students will receive a learning plan template as part of their orientation package. They will be assigned a peer coach – a senior student who will explain how the learning plan works. Students can refer to it throughout the year when they meet with their peer coach and with academic advisers, professors and other staff, all of whom can help students shape the plan, spot weaknesses and point out opportunities students may have overlooked. Students will be encouraged to update and revise the plan regularly. Dr. Harrison would like to see it become an online tool that students can use throughout their academic careers. Arts students can already access their learning plans online.

The broad-based admissions process that UBC adopted this year for its Vancouver campus requires applicants to UBC to submit, along with their high-school marks, a personal profile. The profile involves answering several questions that are designed to give the university a better understanding of an applicant’s personal characteristics and non-academic strengths. Ms. Collins, the associate registrar, said the transition to the new application process has gone smoothly. “We are learning a lot more about our students,” said Ms. Collins, who acts as one of the readers of personal profiles.

UBC saw a drop of 12 percent in the number of applications it received this year from last, she said, most likely because the new application is more involved and takes longer to complete. Other institutions that have moved to broad-based admissions have experienced similar declines, she noted. UBC receives about 300,000 applications to undergraduate programs a year and last year enrolled 5,900 new first-year students.

“We will be analyzing this year’s admission cycle data to see whether the type of applicant also changed,” said Ms. Collins, but added that UBC is confident that its “applicant pool remains strong and admission is still a highly competitive process at UBC.”

Taken from universityaffairs.ca , Rosanna Tamburri

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Ranking of 48 countries, organized by Universitas 21, looks at various measures of what constitutes a “good” educational system.

While there are any number of well-regarded global rankings of universities and colleges, these don’t reveal anything about national systems of higher education and the environment which different countries provide for their institutions and students. Given the significance of higher education in economic growth and development, it’s important for governments to be able to benchmark their systems. More transparency and clarity is needed to encourage knowledge-sharing, collaboration and development of opportunities for students in all countries.

Today sees the first publication of a new ranking of national HE systems, based on research at the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research at the University of Melbourne into data from 48 countries. The ranking is organised by Universitas 21, an international research network of 24 universities and colleges whose membership works together to encourage international mobility and engagement between staff and students (the network has two Canadian members, the University of British Columbia and McGill University).

The ranking is based on 20 different measures that the researchers believe are critical to what makes a “good” HE system, grouped under four umbrella headings:

  1. resources (investment by government and private sector)
  2. output (research and its impact, as well as the production of an educated workforce which meets labour market needs)
  3. connectivity (international networks and collaboration which protects a system against insularity) and
  4. environment (government policy and regulation, diversity and participation opportunities).

Population size is accounted for in the calculations.

Canada is placed third globally in the ranking, behind only the U.S. and Sweden, and above international competitors for overseas students such as the U.K. and Australia. Its position is based primarily on being ranked first for resources – a reflection of the level of investment into the system – and third for outputs. Canada’s position may have been higher but for lower ratings for environment (29th, a reflection of a relative lack of diversity in terms of types of HE institutions and the composition of the student population) and connectivity (17th, meaning relatively less international collaboration and involvement of overseas students in research).

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Source: Universitas 21.

Generally, there is a strong relationship between resources and output – illustrating the importance of funding support. Of the top eight countries in output, only the U.K. and Australia are not in the top eight for resources. There is some evidence of groupings of neighbouring countries. The four Nordic countries are all in the top seven; four east Asian countries (Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan and Korea) are clustered together at ranks 18 to 22; Eastern European countries (Ukraine, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovenia) are together in the middle range; and the Latin American countries (Chile, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico) also cluster together. While many countries don’t feel they can be a world leader, they do want to remain competitive with their neighbours.

Government funding of higher education as a percentage of GDP is highest in Finland, Norway and Denmark, but when private expenditures are added in, funding is highest in the U.S., Korea, Canada and Chile. Investment in research and development is highest in Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland. The U.S. dominates the total output of research journal articles, but Sweden is the biggest producer of articles per capita. The nations whose research has the greatest impact are Switzerland, the Netherlands, the U.S., the U.K. and Denmark. While the U.S. and U.K. have the world’s top institutions in rankings, the depth of world-class higher education institutions per capita is best in Switzerland, Sweden, Israel and Denmark.

The highest participation rates in higher education are in Korea, Finland, Greece, the U.S., Canada and Slovenia. The countries with the largest proportion of workers with a higher-level education are Russia, Canada, Israel, the U.S., Ukraine, Taiwan and Australia. Finland, Denmark, Singapore, Norway and Japan have the highest ratio of researchers in the economy.

universitas_2
Source: Universitas 21.

International students form the highest proportions of total student numbers in Australia, Singapore, Austria, the U.K. and Switzerland. International research collaboration is most prominent in Indonesia, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Denmark, Belgium and Austria. China, India, Japan and the U.S. rank in the bottom 25 percent of countries for international research collaboration. In all but eight countries at least 50 percent of students were female, the lowest being in India and Korea.

We hope the Universitas 21 Ranking will be recognised as an important reference point for governments and everyone involved in HE, as a means of ensuring recognition of the value of HE to economic development and the international standing of a country’s institutions.

Taken from universityaffairs.ca by Ross Williams

Ross Williams is a professor at the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, University of Melbourne.

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