'There's lots of girls, so that's good for you'

August 26, 2005

Asking about a would-be student's grades and finding course vacancies are the main roles of those manning clearing hotlines. But how do they cope when asked something a little different? We got student Tim Cartwright, aka reporter Tom Wainwright, to pose a few more unusual questions

Leeds Metropolitan University

Answered quickly, gave a good run-down of the courses in my chosen field.

Tim: What's the uni like, is it any good?

Hotline: Yeah it's really good, I go here myself, I'm a student here.

T: What's the vice-chancellor like?

H: [Bemused silence... laugh] I haven't heard that question before. I've actually no idea, I haven't met him. Actually I don't even know who he is.

T: What's the ratio of boys to girls?

H: [Silence... laughs] I honestly don't know that one either.

Bristol University

H: I can tell you the university isn't going through clearing, except on one course, and that's audiology. It's about the science of hearing.

Nottingham University

Met with an automated message, then put through to someone.

T: Would you recommend the uni?

H: Yeah, I can. Well, I really like it anyway. I'm a postgraduate student. The teaching should be pretty good. I mean, it's one of the best in the world, so it must be OK.

T: Are there any famous academics?

H: Um... I can't think of any. But I haven't really looked into it.

T: And the vice-chancellor?

H: Er... well, I really like the university. I don't know who could help you... there might be some of this information on the web. I'll put you through to someone else.

[ A new person answers ]

H: All that information is on the website really.

T: What's the vice-chancellor like?

H: I'm sorry, can you bear with me a moment... Could you call back next week, so I can answer your questions? Thank you.

Nottingham Trent University Business School

T: Is the teaching good?

H: Yes, it is, we have a very good department. We have a good reputation in business and around the university as well.

T: Have you got any famous academics?

H: Um... not that I can think of really, no.

T: Who's the vice-chancellor? Is he good?

H: His name is Neil Gorman. Yes, he seems very good.

T: Do you know the male-to-female student ratio?

H: No, I don't unfortunately.

York University archaeology department

T: What's the department like?

H: It's great. We got 24 out of 24 in the latest ratings.

T: What's the university like?

H: You're not asking an impartial person. It's probably best to sound out a few people, but it's a very good university - we're usually in the top six in the country.

T: The vice-chancellor?

H: He's called Brian Cantor.

T: Is he good?

H: Ooh yes. New broom and all those sorts of cliches. York's very expansionist at the moment. We're really on the up.

Glamorgan University Business School

T: Is it a good department?

H: Well we're... it depends how you want to measure it. We're the largest business school in Wales, and we've got the highest teaching ratings of any business school in Wales. In the most recent assessments we've got four "excellents" and a "very good". So in that respect, I don't think we can be bettered.

T: What's the vice-chancellor like?

H: We have Dr David Halton. He's just recently joined. His predecessor, Sir Adrian, was well-known and very high-profile, and had good contacts, but he was sometimes a bit focused externally to the university. Our new vice-chancellor is more hands on.

T: What's the male-to-female ratio?

H: I think it's about 50:50.

T: It might seem a bit silly, but...

H: No, absolutely. All those things, the social perspective... We're only 15 minutes from Cardiff, so there's plenty to do.

Newcastle University

T: What's the uni like?

H: I've just graduated after a four- year course. It's a big uni, there's everything you'd need and it's all close to the city centre. Pretty much all the accommodation is really close to the city centre, so it's almost like a campus university. And the nightlife's fantastic, it really, really is. And I wasn't that into sport, but I think Newcastle's really good for sport if you are. Overall, it's a really good university. I'd say there was nothing missing.

T: Who's the vice-chancellor?

H: I'm not sure, I'll just have a look for you on the web...

T: Any famous academics?

H: Yeah I think so, they mentioned a few at my graduation, but I can't remember who. I think there have definitely been some good ones though.

T: Do you know the male-to-female ratio?

H: [Much giggling]. No I don't [much more giggling]. But no one has a problem [uncontrollable giggles]. See you, bye.

Leicester University

T: I was wondering if you had any clearing vacancies?

H: In what, dear?

T: Politics.

H: What are your grades, dear?

T: BCC.

H: What's your B in, darling?

T: What's the university like?

H: I think it's fab. Most of our students do as well. Leicester is a very vibrant city. We're a bit upset at the moment because we're having £30 million of building work being done, so there are a lot of builders around. It's very progressive here. We're about 20th on The Times' list.

I don't really know my own name after the past few days. We've taken so many calls I feel like I've got the phone growing out of my ear.

T: Who's the vice-chancellor?

H: Bob Burgess. Bob's all right. He's very go-ahead. Spends a lot of money. He mixes with everyone very well. He's very good for the university.

T: What's the male-to-female ratio?

H: Oh, I honestly don't know. It seems very even actually. It's just not even in staff. We're always after more women. But overall, among the undergraduates it's definitely quite even, definitely.

London South Bank University

Noisy hall, someone takes my name and transfers me to someone else. A very lengthy quiz on my grades, address and so on follows.

T: What's the university like?

H: I've no idea, I've just been hired to do the phones.

[ I am transferred to an academic in the Business School ]

H: You got a C and two Ds? You're in. I'll send you the offer and see you at enrolment.

T: Hang on, I was wondering: how's the department rated?

H: That I wouldn't be able to tell you, off the top of my head. But a lot of foreign students start at other universities and come here for their second year, because they see how we do things here. We're probably one of the best universities in London for business.

T: What's your vice-chancellor like?

H: I don't think these are appropriate questions to be asking at this level. Hang on a minute.

[ He gets a less grumpy colleague ]

T: Is the uni any good?

H: It depends what you're after. It's very multicultural. I think it's a very good place to study. When I went to university, I started as a teenager and left as an adult. It's a really good experience. Our business school is rated 22nd out of 108 universities. Employers really value our degrees.

T: What's the gender balance?

H: It's about 50-50 actually.

Middlesex University

T: Is it a good place to be a student?

H: Yes, absolutely, I think so. It's quite close to London, and London's got so much to offer. I mean, London is London is London. To do politics you'd be at the Enfield campus, which is in North London. It's quite a Greek area as it happens, but that's by the by. I can get hold of a student for you to speak to if you want.

T: Yes, OK. [ Student picks up the phone .]

T: What's it like studying at Middlesex?

H: Well I do dance, and there's quite a broad mix of people. The campus is quite central: it probably takes about 20 minutes to get into London.

T: What's the vice-chancellor like?

H: I'm not sure, I've never had any contact with any of the main Middlesex people. I just know the head of dance... but that's probably not that useful to you if you're doing politics.

T: What's the male-to-female student ratio?

H: Well I can tell you that in the dance department, there are about 300 girls, and six boys. So maybe you want to come and do dance. But I'd say overall there are quite a lot of girls, so I guess that's good for you. Or maybe you prefer boys? Oh, I mean, I mean... well, anyway.

Bradford University

T: What's the uni like?

H: Accommodation is guaranteed for all first-years, either in halls or in privately run ones. Personally I'd go for the private ones. The nightlife is picking up. It's not where Leeds is at now, but hopefully in the next five or ten years it'll get better. They're meant to be building a new shopping centre in two or three years.

T: What's the psychology department like?

H: It's a new course so it's just starting this year, so it won't have any track record yet. There'll be new lecturers coming. Obviously if you ask them they'll say it's really good and this and that, but there's obviously nothing to really compare it with in terms of past performance.

T: Who's the vice-chancellor?

H: Chris Taylor. As far as I know he's pretty good. He's a former mechanical engineer, so there's a lot of investment in mechanical engineering, but that's not to say that other subjects are neglected. We're getting Imran Khan (pictured left) as our chancellor, so I think he'll be giving out all the degrees from next year. I think this university is really going places.

T: Do you know the gender balance?

H: Mmm... I can ask but I don't know. I'll just ask... I've been told it's 56 per cent. But if you want it that way, you might try Nottingham. There it's three to one, apparently.

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