‘Universities should offer more information about courses to Facebook generation’

Wednesday, February 13th, 2008


Universities should offer more detailed information about courses to the Facebook generation, the shadow universities secretary, David Willetts, said today.
The Guardian’s Higher Education summit heard that students were sharing information about the offers they receive for university courses on social networking sites, forcing universities to rethink the kind of information they give out.

Willetts said students should be able to find out how crowded seminars were likely to be, how much access time they would receive from lecturers and what form this access would take.

‘Universities are going to have to become more proficient at answering these kinds of questions, even if it is something that many are uncomfortable with,’ he said.

Willetts also gave a cautious welcome to a new commercial website designed to plug into social networking sites and disseminate information to 5,500 higher education institutions across the world.

Jancice Kay, deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Exeter and chairwoman of the student experience policy group of the 1994 group of smaller research-led universities, said it was important for universities to become more transparent in response to the increasing use of Facebook sites by students exchanging information about their courses. This was the only way they would be able to maintain control of the information that students received and make sure it was accurate, she said.

Les Ebdon, vice-chancellor of the University of Bedfordshire and chairman of the Universities UK student experience committee, warned that much of the information available to students over the web is misleading and inaccurate.

‘If there are questions to be asked, what better place to ask them than on an open day?’ he said.

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