Firstly, for those who didn’t get to go on the DIAC trip – there was a mad rush of late interest so the good news is it was sufficient that we may be able to organise another trip. The Week of Welcome at DIAC will no longer be on, but seeing real life on the campus might be more interesting and realistic anyway. We may go back to DIAC itself, or to the partner campus at Knowledge Village. Any likely trip will not be until late November now, but watch this space – I will post details in good time. The separate universities also have open days of their own so search their sites.
For those who went, I’d like to offer a few things to reflect on:
Murdoch showed us Media and IT course facilities, along with the small and focused library, but with a laid-back approach; Esmod was a very practical, hands-on fashion and design workshop – you got a real sense of professional industry training and incredibly high standards; at Heriot-Watt we got a no-nonsense sense of the way university life works and what it aims to provide you with.
From all of them, and indeed from the range of difference itself, you should see that the leap from school is vast: these places provide incredible facilities schools can’t, narrowly focused on the professional area of study. The moral of the story: choose carefully the course of interest to you, to take best advantage of these amazing facilities.
PROFESSIONALISM – the onus is on YOU
Allied to this sense of incredible resources was a sense (particularly at the latter two, where real members of faculty were talking to you) that you will have the privilege at university to study under people who really know their stuff – real experts. Uni lecturers are not teachers – they are experts focused on a professional level. Where school teachers come down to work at your level of ability to help you improve, uni is about you rising to the level of the professionals you learn from. The moral of the story: what’s the point in a uni course if you don’t reach professional standards by the end of year 2 of 3? Why will you have spent all that money and wasted all that time otherwise?
PLACEMENTS AND INDUSTRY EXPERIENCE
I particularly liked the sense at Esmod (although the others referred to it too) that real and leading industry companies – Christian Dior, Estee Lauder etc – will come and stage fashion shows etc in Dubai, and will use Esmod students (and often only Esmod students) as their backstage help. This kind of work experience is unbelievably critical in any vocational industry (and many non-vocational ones too), as is the chance to secure placements. Don’t gripe about long hours. Don’t gripe about being unpaid. This is the make-or-break stuff getting into an industry – any industry. The moral of the story: don’t go into a field you’re not prepared to work damned hard in.
And while you’re at it – if you don’t do half a dozen different “contribution” or “participation” things at school (prefectship, house vice captaincy, D of E, more ECAs than the minimum, sports, etc etc etc) you will note that – not only will this have to change at university (you’ll need to be heavily involved in as many things as you can to have a chance of breaking into the industry of your choice), but – without those “breadth” things on your CV – you may not get to the institution you want to get to in the first place. You need to excel at school to get to the best places at the next stage. The moral of the story: do more, do better, and do it now.
BE DISCERNING AND ASK TOUGH QUESTIONS
It follows from the above that if you’re going to stake your future on this, and spend possibly hundreds of thousands of dirhams on a given university and course for three years, it had better be good, and had better get you into the industry you want to be in. Look carefully at websites and prospectuses. Don’t just settle for the one you like first – actively research the competitors. Compare the evidence of real industry links for each. Fun, informative, engaging and well-taught are nice criteria for a uni course, but it better give you the BREAKTHROUGH you need as well. Write a list of tough questions and ask them at each place you visit. The moral of the story: you’re the customer.
FOUNDATION OR A-LEVEL?
I know plenty of the year 11s who came are now considering going straight onto a university foundation course after GCSE, rather than A-level. I’m pleased you’re considering all your options and for some of you it will be just the right thing – for many others it will not, and A-levels will be a more suitable choice. More about this in forthcoming weeks in PSHE / assemblies. Remember that even for a foundation course you need good GCSEs, and especially good English and Maths – when we walked through the lecture theatre at Murdoch, it was foundation English that was being taught and the lecturer stopped me on the way through – actually grabbed me as I passed! – and said “Make sure you teach them to write good basic academic reports! Make sure they realise how important the basic English and Maths is, even for foundation courses.” You heard it here first.
Have a good think back about everything you saw. Go to more open days yourself, and sieze any chances we offer as soon as we can. Start your research for your next stage as soon as possible.