Bureaucracy

This year, for the first time, the University requires the students to register and choose their modules on-line. Then academic advisers are required to approve their selections on-line, with the click of a button, and the process is done.

Let me mention a few advantages and disadvantages of this compared to the old system, which involved students coming to see their advisers to fill in a machine-readable form which was then handed in to the Registry.

Advantages:

  • The machine-readable forms didn’t always get read properly, and the data had to be entered manually by Registry staff.

There may be others but this is the only one that any one has suggested to me.

Disadvantages:

  • There is no longer any incentive for students to see their advisers. Yet they will still expect their advisers to write references for them at the end of their course.
  • Module choice requires some care. The requirements of the study programme must be satisfied; there are prerequisites to check; some modules have to be approved by the module organiser. The only way I can be sure I have got it right is to have hard copy of all documents (the student’s academic record, the study programme specifications, the table of prerequisites, any permissions required, as well as the proposed module choices) in front of me. In most cases this means printing these documents out. More paper is used. (Believe it or not, the system cannot check prerequisites; in any case, sometimes we might want to overlook the missing prerequisites.)
  • Sometimes, academic advisers could actually do the job they were supposed to do, and give a student advice about which modules would suit his or her particular talents, which would make a coherent programme of study, and so on. This aspect is lost along with the personal contact.
  • In any unusual case, such as a student entering from another institution with credit for some modules, the system can’t cope and the modules have to be entered manually anyway, by someone with permissions which I don’t have.

Of course, if I hit the “Approve” button too soon and the student is left with an illegal combination of modules, I will get the blame.

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About Peter Cameron

I count all the things that need to be counted.
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