University Musings: Back to Basics

I grew up in a time which you might now count as b.c. before computers. In those dim and distant days we got our news from things called newspapers and the nearest thing to YouTube was the BBC 9 O’clock news. I vividly remember my dad telling me that I shouldn’t really believe everything that I read in the ‘papers. You see they were all owned by different companies with different agendas. To many people those days are gone and we can now have the news sent directly to our computer, phone or even watch, but has anything actually changed? Should we believe what we read on the internet?

In this, my first, short, piece for KIS Today I would like to take all of you back to the basics.

Universities have websites upon which they lay out their initial pitch for prospective undergraduate students. These universities also put their names forward to be included in the, now, abundant league tables that are printed every year. If you type “top universities in the UK” into your search engine you will get page after page of results. Yet, after the top 3 or 4 almost all of the others will be in a different order. This is because each ranking company or site uses different criteria in order to put out their results. How then, do you know what you are letting yourself in for?

The short answer is that you don’t.

As with my fathers’ newspapers all those years ago, the universities and ranking sites have their own agenda:  Some measure teaching hours or value for money whilst others look at student satisfaction whilst yet another will include nightlife and sports teams in their mix.

Be careful which survey you look at and be careful what you read. That is this week’s lesson. When I taught Psychology I would point my student at blatantly false Wikipedia pages and ask them to carry out some work on them and very able, certainly intelligent students would take the pages at face value just because they were on the internet.

The IB teaches its students to be inquirers, open minded, reflective, caring and above all independent so why do so many G11 students come to me with a list of universities which they have culled from a website the veracity of which they know nothing about and the truth of which may be dubious to say the least?

What I really want from a student is an open mind; all students will not achieve 45 points but all students will achieve. Getting to university is a team effort between you, the student and your school. Of course we will use the internet and we will respect the views put forward by your parents but what we are doing is laying the foundations for your future. You won’t find that in a list.

This post was written by Mr Carl Gavin, KIS University Counsellor. His column, ‘University Musings’, will be continued next term. 

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