The Lancaster Award

Another disappointment.

I was under the impression one’s level of pass at The Lancaster Award would appear on one’s degree transcript.  What actually happens is that a description of it appears on the diploma supplement and without the grade.

But let us define terms first.

  • Degree certificate – the posh piece of paper one puts in a frame.
  • Degree transcript – the piece of paper provided by the university that says what modules you did and what you got in them, plus anything else the university wants to add.  The thing some employers may ask for if they want to know the details of one’s degree.
  • Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR) – the six page long European standard Diploma Supplement which describes the degree in detail and is intended for showing to overseas universities.
  • The Lancaster Award – a university-assessed award for extracurricular activity and can be awarded as Bronze, Silver or Gold.
  • The Digital Skills Certificate – an award the university gives for completing five (or more) e-learning courses.  It goes toward the Lancaster Award.

The Lancaster university web site says the Digital Skills Certificate is mentioned on “the HEAR transcript“.  Between that and what people told me, I thought the Lancaster Award pass level would appear on my degree transcript.  So I worked hard for it and got a Gold Lancaster Award.  But it is not mentioned on the degree transcript.  Instead it got a one line entry on the diploma supplement.  I queried this and got a replacement diploma supplement with a description of the Lancaster Award, but still nothing to say the pass level.  So I queried that and was told they do not put it on the degree transcript and that they do not have the means to put the level of pass on the diploma supplement.

Likewise, the Digital Skills Certificate gets a mention in the diploma supplement but no reference on the degree transcript.

What goes on a degree transcript is up to the university.  They could choose to put the Lancaster Award and Digital Skills Certificate on there.  Putting it on the HEAR diploma supplement is worthless as employers never look at that an academic bodies would not be interested in the extracurricular activity.

It seems such a shame the Lancaster Award does not appear on the transcript, and the level of award does not appear anywhere.

I have submitted my dissertation

Yesterday I submitted the dissertation for my Master’s Degree in Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies.  If it gets a pass, I shall have an MA,  If it fails, I do not know what happens next.

Seven years ago I researched peace sector jobs and they were all asking for an MA in Peace Studies; it is the entry-level qualification for the sector.  So if this passes, it is the end of those seven years of academic work.

Just when I need motivation…

Thanks, BBC.  I’m trying to get my dissertation finished by the end of the month and did not need to see a news story saying I’ve gone to the wrong university.   It is no news that “job applications are filtered by university ranking“; we all know Oxford and Cambridge graduates will also get through job filtering before University of Southern Rutland graduates.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-49728941

Being told that Russell group university graduates get jobs, despite appearing lower in the university table rankings, while those who went to Aberdeen, St Andrew’s and Lancaster won’t, despite their academic achievements, is not reassuring.

Being assured our levels of debt are the same, and the uni appearing higher in the rankings than the prestigious ones, but won’t get work afterwards, is a nice miserable message to put out at the end of one academic year and the start of the next.

Studying away from university and home

So I studied with the Open University as a distance learning student.  I never attended any OU premises; all lectures were in schools or other universities’ sites.

I attended university in Lancaster.  This gave me face-to-face access to tutors and meant I could study on campus in any of the study areas.  Initially this meant the Graduate College IT Study Area they call their PC Lab.  After the first few months I migrated to studying in the library as I had access to the bookstock and it was more convenient for lectures.

When we moved to Milton Keynes it meant I no longer could study in the Lancaster University library.  I have tried studying at home but, with the usual domestic stuff and unpacking to do, there were too many distractions.  So I have looked into alternative places to study.  The nearest public library is in the town centre where parking must be paid for.  Others have restricted opening hours. The nearest university library is … the Open University library.

So I arranged access through the SCONUL mechanism and today I have visited to see how suitable it is.  I had a wander round and, crikey, the place is like an oven above the first floor.  A member of staff told me that is a design flaw that has been there since construction, so won’t be fixed any time soon.  The 1st floor is the silent study area and it is unbearably hot up there.  That is a shame as it is where the study carrels are.  The 2nd floor study area is less formal but is also very hot.

The ground floor comprises a selection of ‘comfortable’ seating areas which means they will be uncomfortable after a while trying to use a laptop.

Parking is free and there were a couple of empty spaces behind the library.

There is a tepid tap water fountain but no cups. I must bring one next time.  On this occasion I paid £1 for a tea from the vending machine.  Wow!  A new standard in awfulness for vending machine tea.  That is remarkable since it was even worse than the foul browness provide by ICL’s data centre vending machine in Enfield circa 1999 which was considered a prime example of the art form.  Trying to stir in the floaty bits did not make any difference to the appearance.  It tasted like chilli-laced brick dust.  I had to throw away the translucent ochre fluid from the cup, then rinse out the grit from the bottom, so I could use it as a receptacle for the drinking fountain.  As I went to do so, someone else was sucking from the tap as he had neither cup, class nor consideration.  Discovering the water was tepid assured me any germs contained thereon would be fit and healthy.  I should bring my own refreshment in future.

There are some PCs provided in the study areas.  It won’t let me access Lancaster email as it hijacks the Outlook requests and redirects it to the OU.  I did not bother trying out any apps on there; documents would need to be saved to USB and it was too hot to investigate further.

I must remember to bring tissues, if only to wipe the sweat from my fevered brow.

But there is nothing to do here to distract me; not even other students I have studied with.

So I might end up completing my dissertation at the OU as a Lancaster distance learner!

The Lancaster Award; I’ve submitted my application

Lancaster University runs an award scheme that runs alongside, but separately from, the degree programmes.  It is all about ensuring graduates have skills for the workplace and skills for finding work.  According to the number of activities one does, one can apply for a Bronze, Silver or Gold award.  I have submitted my application today, the day of the deadline.

This is the description of the Award for using on CVs and cover letters:

The Lancaster Award is a non-compulsory, assessed employability award that recognizes individual achievements and endorses the development of key employability skills developed through extracurricular activities.  It is evidence of motivation and commitment to personal development.

The level of Lancaster Award granted goes on ones degree transcript. The idea is that it helps with employability.

“Don’t be so modest. It is offensive.”

Many moons ago I was told off severely by a colleague for being modest. I had brushed off some praise and she was seriously angry at the rejection. I explained that was how I had been brought up, she said it was offensive.

A few months ago I had a 1-to-1 support session with someone in the Lancaster University Careers Team. She was helping me write a CV in the current fashion. When I told her about some of the entries and omissions she sat staring at me in silence, then asked why I did not have them in detail on my CV. I said they sound a bit like bragging, like showing off. She told me to stop being so modest and put down my achievements. But doing so does not come naturally.

I have had some more praise today. So this time I will document it.

My final Open University module, DD301 Critical Criminology, went well for me. I had an excellent tutor who was uncommonly wise about the module and happy to share his wisdom. But I also had some excellent guidance from a previous student of the module who dragged me from the wrong path I was taking into the light and showed me the way. Having received her insight into what the module was saying, and with the guidance I have had from OU students over the years, I got 90% in the final essay and 94% in the exam. This will not impress a STEM student, but this is social science at degree level where such marks are not common.

I returned the favour by joining the 2018/19 Facebook group for that module and passing on the advice I had received to the year that followed me. They sat their final exam today and it has been a glorious pleasure watching them take on board the material in the module, see the light and prepare themselves for the exam. They have worked together in an incredibly positive and mutually supportive way and I can tell from the what they say that they are going to get much higher exam marks than many of the people who attended the tutorials I went to when I was studying the module. They have not been asking silly questions but been buried deeply in the theories and how to apply them. When they have wandered off the rails or got confused, I tried to shine a torch toward the path I had followed.

I am no expert in the subject, much of it left me cold or did not ‘speak’ to me. But I got the concepts and could explain them and apply them, so I did. I also gave some of the essay tips and exam tips that students have been passing on for years – I cannot take the credit for any of that wisdom. I tried to tell them that after the exam:

I’ve been worried about all of you all afternoon.

However…

I am not the only one who has stayed around to help, others did too.

And I did not do the TMAs. You all did.

And I did not do the learning. You all did.

And I did not actually discuss the material here. You all did.

And I did not do the revision. You all did.

And I did not do the exam. You all did. (Well, actually I failed it numerous times through the night in my sleep!)

Any advice I have given was given to me by OU students who went before. I merely passed it on.

Any practical tips I have given came from my tutor, who was better than most.

Any insight I have given into the subject came from the year before me who showed me the way.

Feel free to pass it all on to others, it was all given to me freely. I’m just the messenger.

But you did the work, not me.

You deserve the credit. You and your families who have supported you.

And remember: you haven’t failed until you have given up trying. And OU students like you are tough, are resilient and not quitters.

Celebrate. You’ve earned it. Nobody else.”

But I got some lovely feedback today, hence this post. For once, I shall cease to be modest and repeat some of what I have been told.

  • “Simon Reed you’ve been such a star throughout this module and you’ve helped us all at one point or another”
  • “A special mention to Simon Reed who, I think you’ll all agree, has been an amazing source of insight this year… Props to you for having the brain power to stick around and help other people after having completed this module, I think it’s made me brain dead for life 🤣”
  • “I bet this afternoon was rather quiet for Simon. Just wanted to say a massive Thank You for all your input. You are a star x”
  • “Yes thank you Simon Reed🤗🤗 I think we all owe you a drink!”
  • “Simon Reed thank you sir! You dont realise the impact you have had but you have helped immeasurably! Mwah xx”
  • “Simon Reed I have thanked A and B on their posts…they are stars too. You are way too modest. Yes we did all the work… but you kept us on track, made essay questions look like a walk in the park. I actually sat my exam worrying about you worrying.”
  • “Simon. Top boy! Gracias Mon frere”
  • “Simon Reed, you are a star and may you continue to shine brightly.”
  • “Brilliant, thank you Simon for the help and support this year”
  • “Good advice, thank you Simon Reed 😀”

There was much more, through the year.   What lovely people.  🙂

I’ve been quiet lately

I was expecting to be posting on my blog every day since September with updates and excitement about finally doing the course of study I have been planning and preparing for since 2012.

I registered to do my Master’s Degree in Peace Studies.  Things did not go well.  I have been misled and let down.  This has been a huge distraction for me.  I could not even write about it.

I’ve put a complaint in to the university, which has been accepted.  I am awaiting their response.

Master’s Degree Registration

I have received a “Preparing for Lancaster: Begin registration” email saying it is time to register as a student for my Master’s Degree.  So begins the next stage of my study so I can be eligible to work in the peace sector.

For the previous stage, Open University study to get an undergraduate degree, I blogged my progress on my OU blog site.  302 posts, 1,971 comments Although that will continue to exist for another 3 years or so, it will disappear.  So I think it is time to return here to record my progress and my reflections on learning.

Is a PhD a possibility for me?

So I am preparing for my Master’s in Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies at Lancaster University and reviewing my plan.  My intention was to get a Peace Studies MA then a job in conflict prevention somehow such that I could do my bit to stop the UK starting any new wars by providing evidence-based arguments that there are better alternatives.

A few people have – in jest? – asked if I am intending to do a PhD or suggested I do one.  Having looked again at the university I have chosen – a “triple top ten university” with a joint top best research library and one of the top 3 research universities in the UK – and it seems I have chosen well.  One that prides itself on the quality of its research.  I wonder if that applies to the social sciences too, specifically the politics and international relations?  If so, I would be in the right place.

I had an idea the other day regarding modelling of the kind done in IT, physics and maths: are there models for conflict resolution?  If not, fame and fortune awaits if I invent the first.  If so, there is the opportunity to learn about them and apply them in the workplace.  But an academic view might be to review them, compare them, evaluate them – that could be what I do with this MA.

But there is a further opportunity. I am a practitioner by nature, not an academic.  I have been seeking ‘the learned journal for peace’, the professional body for peacemakers, the text books, the methodologies, the best practice for the people working in the field.  Do these things exist?  If not, they need creating and there is the scope for a PhD.

If I could create or document a framework for peacemongery such that practitioners could take it off the shelf and use it, that would be a heck of a legacy.  If I could form a ‘professional body’ or a methodology, that would also be a great contribution.  Even creating something so that when someone says “There is no alternative to war”, I can say “Yes there is, I wrote the book!” would be an immense move forward.

I shall keep pondering on this idea…

 

MA application done and sent

I have received two excellent academic references from my two Level 3 Open University tutors.  I am very pleased with them.  I’m considering framing them!

I have sent these, along with my application form, to Liverpool Hope University asking to join the MA in Peace Studies starting this autumn.

Well done me.

I’m very excited.  🙂