UAS Newsletter – July 2005

UAS Newsletter – July 2005

Introduction

The Undergraduate Ambassador Scheme recently held its third annual conference at the Midlands Engineering Centre in the heart of Birmingham City Centre. Over 45 delegates attended the event, including representatives from university departments who are already running the scheme across the UK plus those who are either about to start or are considering participating in the scheme in the future.

The conference was a highly successful event and created a great opportunity to find out how the UAS is progressing and hear directly from those who are already participating in it.

The report contains a brief review of the event, together with links to each of the individual presentations. For those who of you who were not able to attend, the presentations give an excellent insight into how different universities have gone about running the UAS, what developments we are going to see in the future, and advice on the best way to bring the UAS into departments.

The Review – Undergraduate Ambassador Scheme Conference Calls For Expansion of Scheme

Welcome from UAS Founder Simon Singh

The conference programme included a Welcome Address from UAS founder Simon Singh, who emphasised the importance of events such as this to share experiences and encourage dialogue between new and existing participants of the scheme. Simon revealed that all the parties who have participated in the scheme to date are so delighted with the results that they will definitely continue to run it in the future.

Update from the UAS Management Team

UAS National Director Sharon Herkes told the audience that the UAS now has 30 departments in 15 universities across the UK now running the scheme, providing 174 undergraduates to 100 schools. Over the next 12 months the aim is to increase this number significantly, and to obtain the support and endorsement of the scheme from Professional Bodies within the science sector.

Dr. Alex Brabbs, UAS Project Manager, announced the redevelopment of the UAS website (www.uas.ac.uk), which as well as featuring general information will also now have a private area for use by staff, students and teachers who are running the scheme. This will incorporate a wide range of resource material and advice sheets which can be downloaded, plus a discussion board and FAQ section.

View From Universities Running the UAS

Dr. Penny Gowland, from the University of Nottingham Physics Department and Dr. Phil Langton, University of Bristol’s Physiology department, both gave accounts of their individual experiences of running the scheme. Describing how they selected the schools and the students involved, as well as detailing the work and internal issues involved in establishing the scheme in the first instance, both presenters gave the audience a useful insight into how to run the scheme successfully. Click to download Penny and Phil’s presentations.

Discussion Forum

A lively Discussion Forum then took place, as delegates looked at the key barriers and issues involved when considering whether or not to run the UAS. Comments included:

  • a lot of one to one advisory work was involved between students and staff running the module
  • lack of resources is often a problem in terms of getting administrative and financial support for the module from departments
  • some schools requested payments for participation and it was felt that it was preferable to work with schools for whom the contribution of the student was sufficient ‘payment’
  • further streamlining of UAS documentation needed
  • once the initial work has been done to set the scheme up, the work involved in running it in subsequent years reduces drastically
  • Widening Participation Units have often been able to help with recruiting schools, although this has not always been the case
  • it would be very useful to have comments from External Examiners on what they need as evidence when assessing the scheme
  • more examples of how well it has worked and what students have done need to appear on the website
  • it would be useful to have a list of ‘Teaching techniques’ books to refer to although some delegates felt that this was not necessary as the UAS is not a PGCE level module
  • a standard list of ‘student interview questions’ would be useful to help select the right students
  • some Universities require a minimum number of students to run the module. Suggestions included linking with another department to run the module or, in the second year of running UAS, get those students completing the module to sell it to the year below.
  • one University is researching the legal obligatons involved in undergraduates with a disability doing the module
  • the UAS website needs to be easier to print from and categorised

The UAS Team will be looking at all of the comments made over the next few weeks, and will keep you informed of the action we plan to take to address each point.

The Student Perspective

The audience then heard about ‘The Impact of UAS from a graduates perspective – was it a useful experience?’ Charlie Lacey and Robin Reilly, both physics graduates from Royal Holloway University, took part in the scheme in 2004 teaching Year Seven and Year Nine students in schools in Surrey. Both graduates gave passionate endorsements of the scheme, describing how it had made a huge impact on their overall undergraduate experience and provided them with a whole new set of skills which they are now using in their professional lives. Whilst Charlie did decide to pursue a career in teaching, and will start her first permanent teaching post in Dorset in September, Robin has chosen to work as a business analyst in the City, but will definitely consider teaching as a career option for the future.

Conclusion

Sharon Herkes, UAS National Director said: ‘The enthusiasm for the UAS at the Conference was incredible, and we are delighted that it has made such a positive impact on all the universities, undergraduates and schools that have run it to date. We now need to spread the message and encourage more departments to participate in the scheme, and give more science, technology, engineering and mathematics undergraduates the opportunity to benefit from not only experiencing what it is like to be a teacher, but also to gain the transferable skills which sets them in such good stead for whatever career path they choose.’

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