Student Feedback Conference
Trip Start May 04, 2007
16Trip End May 21, 2007
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After breakfast, we met Lawrence at the Landsdowne campus and he walked with us to the Victoria Hotel, where the conference was scheduled. We had another spot of tea, then headed to the conference room where the students were assembling. The students were representatives from each tutoring group, chosen by the students themselves. They were a student union, similar to our student govt. although without the student leadership structure.
Why did you chose to come to BPC?
As part of the British system, students at 16 can choose to either continue in the primary school, go to college, go a work, or go to a grammar school (a more elite primary school geared towards academics). Students generally choose between two tracks--workforce or academic track. Their education, even at college, it paid by the govt until the age of 19. So, we wanted to know what made them choose college and this college. Most students came because of location and because of the reputation (particularly word of mouth) about specific programs. International students (students from the rest of the European Union are seen as UK students and don't have to pay) came primarily to learn English, because the UK educational system has a strong educational reputation, and because of word of mouth about BPC.
BPC was a unique system (ACCESS or Skills Track) setup to capture older, adult students to help them get back into education. Skills Track students are actually "bribed" (student word) with either a laptop or driving lessons at the successful completion of their studies.
What is relationship to your personal tutor? your content specialist tutor?
This ranges from very strong (they are like "mum and dad"), to minimal, to negative. This seems dependent on the tutor and on the discipline (arts students were very close, while business students saw it in terms of efficiency.)
What do you do in a typical classroom? What type of homework do you have?
Typical classroom experience--a lecture followed by class work based on the lecture. Because almost everything is completed in-class, they don't have homework. Particularly for the workforce students, who can't take stuff home, they can sometimes complete their activity at later times in the day.
Do you work a part-time job? Why (extra money, need, experience)?
About 1/3 work, mainly because they need the money. Many get an EMA (Education Maintenance Assistance) of up to 30 pounds a week.
We've seen signs around campus about respect and about not tolerating bullying. Do you think that bullying is a problem on campus? Do you feel safe on campus?
We received varying responses to this. Some students said that bullying was an issue, mainly in the form of verbal harrassment. Others said it wasn't a problem at all and that the campus was very safe. The campus is in the town centre and there are some problems with undesirable types, including drug addicts, sometimes (fairly rarely) showing up in the campus restrooms. However, most students did ultimately feel safe on campus. Many students referred to a type of student they labeled as "CHAVs", which stood for Council House Aggressive Violence, as the common bullies on campus. The stereotype is that they wear track suits and have an attitude about demeaning others.
These conversations, about an hour each, were incredibly informative to us. We got a stronger understanding of the BPC system from the student side and their educational goals and experiences. After a lunch of finger sandwiches and pea soup, the students were able to play with a Wii game system, apparently not yet available in the UK.
At the end of the conference, we met up with Less Lees, one of the Academy Directors, who gave us a tour of the North campus and the Lower Constitution Hill campus and the surrounding areas. The North campus, in Poole (about 30-45 minutes from Bournemouth) is the main campus for administration and for the Arts programs, although other areas are taught their as well. Most of the buildings were from the 1950s, except for a new art galley that part of the overall rebuild of all the campuses (they were all be rebuilt from scratch). Its a beatiful gallery, that displays valuable art collected by a previous Principal as well as student art during Final Projects. We saw all the studios and art spaces in quite a wirlwind tour (Less is high energy) and were suddenly in a small (30 seat) stadium lecture room where Julie was to give a presentation on WebCT to the art faculty.
Although she did have to take a second to figure out the SmartBoard technology, her presentation was sharp and informative. She gave them a clear overview of WebCT environment and answered questions about its use. I thought she did a great job. I regretted not taking a picture (sorry, Julie).
Next, Less took us to Lower Constitution Hill, about 10 minutes away. This is where music and the performing arts are housed. As part of their final project, the performing arts students put on a series of plays in their small theatre (about 100 students). The music hall is a small church building, dedicated in the 1930s. Ultimately, Lower Constitution Hill will be sold to developers to generate cash for the reconstruction of the other campuses. BPC's major commodity is land, and the land at LCH is quite prized.
After giving us a tour of the coastal areas around Poole (including driving past Sunseekers, a manufacturer of high-end yachts), we headed to his home to meet his wife Stella and to have dinner. Stella made a fantastic meal of Singapore Chicken; a mixture of asparagus and peas; and potatoes, all covered in a mustard-based sauce. This was followed by a dessert of fruit and cream. They have a wonderful little home, with a covered patio (where we ate), a deck with a small garden, all decorated with Less' own artwork.
During the evening, we got a chance to talk with the Stella about the educational system in general and with Less about BPC. He was honest and lively--he's a very passionate administrator who fights for the arts. We found out about the rather frequent adminstrative restructuring at BPC, his thoughts about the current structure, and other details about the college. He was honest, which we greatly admired. I quickly grew to respect him in many ways. It was a wonderful evening of spirited conversation.
After dinner, Less called us a taxi. I'm impressed by the respectful way our hosts have avoided any issue of drinking and driving. The taxi ride home was quiet, as we were all tired. Another late night, but we were not complaining--it was a informative, engaging day.
Where I stayed