Because of my recent job change, I find myself in a bit of a bind regarding the tasks for this week. I had selected in week 2 an issue that currently affects my present job, but I was not in the institution when current policies were discussed and implemented, so I can’t discuss them usefully here. I’d like, therefore, to switch my issue to the one I outlined in the discussion forum this week: that of the streaming policy. Being related to student engagement, it fits the topic of our discussion.
Issue background In the pre-2013 curriculum, first-year students selected specific courses based on streaming into six fields; law, marketing, finance, business, international affairs and economics. Many students expressed frustration that they could not properly choose their stream because they were inexperienced and did not really know their interests and aptitudes. In 2013, all first-year students do the same courses for 60% of their grade and the remaining 40% is made up of elective courses. Streaming begins in second year.
Evidence for development The documents that were available to the president were: student enrolment figures, Open Campus questionnaires from potential students, current student satisfaction surveys, attrition rates and job type of graduates. Besides these quantitative data sets, the role of word of mouth cannot be overstated. Informal conversations between professors and more formal conversations that occurred in meetings can potentially inform the background to the issue of streaming. Furthermore, the level of the university (an E-rank institution, i.e. the lowest tier) meant that only low-level high-school achievers applied to enter. This group of students typically have less intuition about their studies, lower metacogntive abilities in study and lack motivation to self-direct their live courses. Even without any quantitative data, this last set of characteristics is strong enough to warrant the change of streaming policy.
Evidence of effectiveness The documents and verbal appraisals listed above are the same mechanisms by which the effectiveness of the policy change can be assessed. However, in this case, the policy change process was characterised by a top-down managerial style that alienated much of the professoriate. Feeling that the environment was not conducive to a ‘real’ academic job, many professors resigned and others (including myself) began looking for employment elsewhere. The mood in the faculty dropped significantly, an aspect that would influence teaching and motivation. The Board of Directors recognised this drop and in an unusual move for a private university, the president was fired and most of the Board was replaced. However, even as of 2016, enrolment rates are at a record low, Open Campus attendances are low, attrition rates remain high and most graduates end up in the service industry.