UCE to focus on flexible learning

January 19, 2007

AcademicsJmayJneed to considerJeveningJand weekend workJif they are to improve the learning experience for students, in particular for part-timers, according to David Tidmarsh, the new vice-chancellor of UCE Birmingham.

Professor Tidmarsh, who took over as vice-chancellor from Peter Knight on January 2, wants to champion flexible learning in a bid to deliver courses to students who are unable to study during normal academic hours.

"We have got to look at the experience of part-time students as well as the full-time student experience," he said.

The health sector - a major area for UCE Birmingham - has reduced the amount of time off it gives its employees to do continuing professional development courses, Professor Tidmarsh said. Therefore, courses in this field would have to be delivered flexibly in evenings, at weekends and using new technologies to meet demand.

But Professor Tidmarsh said that there would have to be more research into how the flexible learning for part-timers would work before UCE Birmingham made any changes. "We have to be able to prove it's as good for the students or better," he said.

Professor Tidmarsh stressed that part-time flexible learning was a key focus for UCE Birmingham to meet the Government's skills agenda. The university wants to charge part-time students full fees pro-rata.

"That's a higher priority for me than taking the cap off top-up fees,"

Professor Tidmarsh said. "The level of flexible learning will have changed in five years. The skills and abilities of 15 or 16-year-olds now are very different. They want to be able to download information on to their iPods.

There's a lot of development work to be done."

Professor Tidmarsh also said that he had no plans to bring UCE Birmingham back to the national pay bargaining table. He suggested that other institutions might follow UCE Birmingham's lead in negotiating wages locally.

"I'm waiting to see how many will join us," he said. "Institutions are getting more and more diverse missions, and we are trying to control that within a centralist framework. It's very hard to see how it can survive."

Professor Tidmarsh added that he wanted to emphasise the importance of professional practice in high-quality teaching at UCE Birmingham.

Professor Tidmarsh rejoined UCE Birmingham after three years as vice-chancellor of Anglia Ruskin University.

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