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The ‘Otago Experience’: Insights Gained from the Otago Millennium Graduate Project Rachel Spronken-Smith, Nell Buissink-Smith, Gabrielle Grigg and Tony.

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Presentation on theme: "The ‘Otago Experience’: Insights Gained from the Otago Millennium Graduate Project Rachel Spronken-Smith, Nell Buissink-Smith, Gabrielle Grigg and Tony."— Presentation transcript:

1 The ‘Otago Experience’: Insights Gained from the Otago Millennium Graduate Project Rachel Spronken-Smith, Nell Buissink-Smith, Gabrielle Grigg and Tony Harland Higher Education Development Centre University of Otago

2 Outline Aims and rationale Research methods Background Otago as a positive experience Views on the purpose of higher education The ‘Otago Package’ Implications Conclusion

3 The Otago Millennium Graduate Project Aims - to explore: Views on the purpose of higher education Educational experiences at the University of Otago The impact of a higher education

4 The Otago Millennium Graduate Project Rationale: Graduates today experience “a new kind of higher education and come and go into a new kind of society,” and the expectations students have of higher education are undergoing radical change (Scott, 1997:44) Paucity of qualitative research into the perceptions of graduates on their higher education experience and its impact on their life post-university What is the Otago experience?

5 Quality learning at UO (Teaching and Learning Plan 1996) “The University of Otago is committed to scholarship through excellence in teaching, research and service to local, regional, national and international communities and to providing a stimulating campus environment in which students students from all sections of the community may develop lifelong learning skills” (Mission Statement, Annual Report 1996) Four dimensions of quality learning for a rounded educational experience: l Disciplinary and interdisciplinary knowledge, skills and attitudes l Understanding l Ethical and social implications l Lifelong learning

6 Research Methods l Cohort - Science and Humanities graduates in year 2000 = ‘Millennium Graduates’ l Mixed methods –Surveys –In-depth interviews l Longitudinal study –Re-contact every 5 years

7 Surveys l Would you recommend the UO experience to others? l Please discuss what experiences you found positive or negative while at UO l Please describe and explain the UO learning experiences that impact on your life now l Overall, did you find attending UO worthwhile? l Using hindsight, if you could go back to UO and do your degree again, what would you do differently?

8 Interviews l What do you think is the purpose of a university education? l What were your experiences at Otago? –What aspects of teaching and learning stand out for you? –Can you give me a specific example of a classroom experience? l Did your experiences meet your expectations? l How do you think your university experience has equipped you for work and life?

9 Demographics of survey respondents and interviewees

10 Types of degrees

11 Background to the Millennium Graduates

12 Survey results: Otago as a positive experience l Almost unanimous in positive view of Otago l 96% would recommend Otago (same as Graduate Opinion Survey, 2001) l 92% thought their education was worthwhile –Education gained (32%) –Friendships made (23%) –Life experiences (17%) –Student lifestyle and campus (14%) –Qualification gained or resulting career (14%)

13 What graduates chose to say…

14 Areas identified by graduates to describe the impact of their University education

15 What would they do differently? l Only 9% were happy with their choices and would make no changes l Of the others: –Study different subjects (26%) –Do a different degree (15%) –Study harder (20%) –Socialise more (8%) –Seek better careers guidance (7%)

16 Interviews: Views on the purpose of higher education JOB- ORIENTATED Credentialism Transferable skills (e.g. communication) Less self-fulfilled ‘Narrow’ benefits to society Degree as ‘external’ ‘Craig’‘Steve’ ‘Sam’ ‘Nick’ LEARNING- ORIENTATED Credentialism Transferable skills plus liberal values More self-fulfilled ‘Wider’ benefits to society Degree as ‘internal’

17 “ The night I got [my degree] I dropped it down the back of the fireplace, and I was distraught, so I really did love that piece of paper. So I pulled this fireplace out and luckily it had slipped back down, and I got it. Along with a button that said: vote for Nixon. Which was kind of cool.” [Craig] Purpose of higher education - job-orientated

18 Craig: “I think basically a degree should just be physical evidence that you’ve done these courses and you’ve obtained this knowledge and you’d be a useful person to employ” Julie: “nowdays [the purpose of a university education] it’s a big foot in the door to get a job… in the back of my mind a degree meant you got a job at the end of it.”

19 Purpose: job  learning-orientated Sam “So at 18 it was purely a bit of paper. Everyone else was doing it and I’d get a job… When I was 24, it was well I’m here to learn so I should actually apply myself…and hey, I’ve got some pretty good skills now that I can cross over into, anything specific.”

20 Purpose: learning  job-orientated Nick - initially thought that higher education: “should exist to serve some higher understanding and knowledge and the outcomes that come from that should be self-fulfilling.” - But now sees the purpose of higher education as: “keeping up [with] the pack because nowdays an undergraduate degree is a commodity…employers would expect that.”

21 Purpose - learning-orientated Steve “(university is about…) growing as an individual, the way a person thinks and how they process information and look at the outside world…The breadth of knowledge instilled by the Arts department truly prepared me for anything. More importantly, they taught me to think, to question and to criticise: those are some of the most important aspects of my professional life”

22 Barbara: - “to open up new worlds of ideas and study… to show people how studying can actually be rewarding in itself and for its own reasons, not for any particular job or anything like that… it will prepare me for being a lifelong student.” Kiri: - has two distinct views on the purpose of higher education: to gain a qualification that is relevant to obtaining a job; and to give something back to society. She related a Maori saying “He mana e matauranga, with education, you’re able to have prestige and some may say, power, but you also have a duty, perhaps, to give back as well, to use your education for the benefit of other people.”

23 Why the variation in views? Of the 24 interviewees: none moderate high Job-orientated Learning-orientated Parental cultural capital

24 Socio-cultural context Cultural capital (parental) Expectations of a university education Curriculum & learning experiences Sam, Craig Sam Nick, Steve Nick CraigSteveNick, Sam Job-orientated Learning-orientated

25 Strong Otago identity & loyalty Positive experience Positive educational outcomes Social experience can outweigh short-comings in curriculum

26 The “Otago Package” Jamie “It’s unbelievable how good it is. It’s just an automatic interest as soon as you mention that you’re an Otago University [graduate] and there’s an automatic warmth towards you that I just experience all the time. It’s sort of on the same level as you experience about being a New Zealander overseas. People tend to like New Zealanders and I get exactly the same experience from people in New Zealand about Otago.”

27 Implications for teaching staff and management: Best aspects l UO can provide a quality education and social experience that is highly valued l Student lifestyle l Halls of Residence l ‘Town and gown’ relationship l Quality of teaching

28 Implications for teaching staff and management: Areas of concern l Differing views on the purposes of a higher education (meeting needs or changing expectations) l Not all graduates are exhibiting evidence of the four dimensions of quality learning - loss of liberal values l Lack of quality guidance l Fees and burgeoning student debt l ‘Town and gown’ issues

29 Conclusions Otago offers an educational package that is highly valued. However, the situation is extremely complex: Surveys - showed satisfaction Interviews - showed the individual nature of the experience Broadly, graduates were orientated along a continuum from a job- focused to a learning-focused orientation. These views were based on experiences at Otago and five years of life post-university. Are we happy that we are producing some graduates with a very narrow educational experience? What are academics’ views? What do we do about cultural capital? Need for improvement in quality guidance so students are clear about what a university degree can offer them Need to provide extra-curricula activities and peer support How can we ensure curricula embrace both liberal values and develop transferable skills?


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