THE Scholarly Web - 29 August 2013

Weekly transmissions from the blogosphere

August 29, 2013

What’s it like to go through clearing? If anyone needs to understand the process and to know how it feels to navigate it, it’s the National Union of Students – and that’s why president Toni Pearce decided to put herself through the trials and tribulations of securing a last-ditch university place.

Using her Twitter account (@toni_pearce) to keep her followers in the loop, Ms Pearce set about her “social experiment”. “I’m going to see how hard it is to apply to clearing if you don’t have any access to information, advice and guidance,” she tweeted.

After finding her way to the clearing website, she immediately had some queries about the Ucas registration form. “The only options on the…form for gender are Male/Female. Which is awkward, given those aren’t even genders,” she said.

“Not only do Ucas not acknowledge I’m a woman. They also don’t acknowledge my postcode. Probs less of an issue though.”

In search of more information, Ms Pearce headed to the National Careers Service website – which she described as looking “like an offshoot of the Olympics”.

“Great, on the front page of the national careers service website today it doesn’t mention the word clearing ANYWHERE,” she found, to her chagrin. “In fact, the NCS website front page doesn’t even mention the word university. Great.”

Undeterred, she ran a search of the website for the phrase “clearing”. “The second result is about landmines.” Conclusion? “Okay, the National Careers Service has been zero use in helping decide what to apply for.”

Next, Ms Pearce decided to go where we all go if we have a problem we can’t solve and need some reliable, considered and well-informed advice: YouTube. The first video she found (“unfortunately”) was an animation from Aberystwyth University taking students through the “Emergency Procedure” for clearing. “Take a deep breath, sit back and enjoy your flight to university,” it says, promising a “total loss of pressure during clearing” and other air travel-inspired puns.

“That’s right. Don’t panic, just follow the same emergency procedure you’d use if you were about to die in a plane crash,” Ms Pearce said – nerves clearly not eased by the comparison. Meanwhile, she only got 20 seconds into a video from the University of Hertfordshire before she “wanted to cry”.

The Unistats website (@UnistatsUK) chipped in to help, offering “comparable course data” and a “course assistance tool”, which it said would be improved “for our relaunch” later this year. Ms Pearce was unimpressed. “Really excited to hear that @UnistatsUK are relaunching their website in September. Great planning!”

After opting to study maths, she returned to the Ucas form – which continued to probe a little deeper than she had expected. “I have to remember the awarding bodies I took my GCSEs with?! Oh dear…I have to give Ucas the results of my A level modules. Wowzer.”

When her ordeal was over, Ms Pearce tweeted her advice for those involved in the clearing process. “Clearing is scary…No one should have to make a decision this important with no support in such a time pressured way.”

Send links to topical, insightful and quirky online comment by and about academics to chris.parr@tsleducation.com

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