Entry: Graduateness? 5/20/2006

Graduateness in my context
Neil Kinnock once famously said that many of my generation were the first 'working class' to attend university. Well, not in my family, and not for many Scots. My grandfather and great-grandfather were both alumni of Glasgow University. My father never went because architecture was an indentured profession and took 7 years rather than the 3 needed for university. It was assumed by all that his training was as high if not higher than degree level. It was also assumed by all, including me, that I would attain a degree at 21.
There's a very long tradition of reverence for learning in my family. There's also a long tradition of independent thinking. (2)

Actually I'm descended from the younger sister.
Stop going on about ancestors! Concentrate!What does it mean to be a graduate?
Cardinal Newman (3) thought the graduate was a paragon, a man who could analyse and see the way clearly to the heart of any subject.....
"Carlyle said his (Newman's) brain was that 'of a medium-sized rabbit.' "(4)
Another distant ancestor from lowly origins, that was, Thomas Carlyle. Echlefechan has produced some interesting people for such a tiny hamlet (many of them graduates). He was rector (headmaster) of Annan Academy in 1820, less than a hundred years later the post was held by my great-grandfather.
This won't do at all! Stop wandering all over the place! What does graduateness mean?
OK - back to boring grey :-(
In my quest to define it I was advised to make two lists- they didn't help much:
G Graduates1
From a posting to my learning set
10 words or phrases associated with
1. undergraduate:
wears a rugby shirt
bad hair
nervous wreck at this time of year
OK not sure I'm getting much out of this exercise :-)
I plead guilty to bad hair, broke, nervous wreck and untidy, ashamed to admit I might be a bit boring too !
2. Graduate
very broke (often with cripling overdraft that they are now expected to pay off)
wears a suit or similar
unemployed or flips burgers unless it was a 'good' degree in a shortage subject
student teacher (whole subcategory requiring considerable restraint for a TA not to rant)
NQT (ditto)
clever (has certifcate to prove it!)
smug (oops, was that envy creeping in there? lol)
survivor (very important that one!!!)
(posted in my Learning set)

The conclusion they led to was that in my opinion for most graduates it's all about getting a good job.
But I've got a job and I am gainfully employed and to be brutally honest you sold me this degree on the basis that I didn't need another job because I liked the one I had. <Sigh>
Yes, well, you don't like it so much now do you? Always moaning about finding some other job aren't you? Well maybe the degree will help you do that, oh for goodness sake you've got me doing it now! Get on with the subject in hand! The word count will all be gone at this rate!! Do a bit about the way graduateness changes the way you think - come on!
Many people have said (you can't say that give a reference for goodness sake - do I have to do everything??)
X suggests that graduateness (vile word) bestows a particular level or quality of thought. It presupposes the inferiority of the thinking skills of those external to the academy. I am unconvinced of the truth of this proposition. I have a slightly strange perspective on all of this. 20 odd years ago I walked away 6 weeks from the end of a B.Ed. I'd taken my academic finals and had only final teaching practice to do. If graduateness exists was I excluded from it by those 6 weeks?
Hadn't my analytic skills already developed?
Well yes, perhaps, but we live in a time of life-long learning. So the skills I may have learned all those years ago needed to be up-dated. Like my ancient A levels they were too old to be of academic value. I had proved that I could once think to graduate level but not that I still could or did. Here's where the

'value added' might come in.
Spours and Hodgson's (1996, p. 5)
"Using the same input/output notion as in economics, value-added has been used to describe the difference between the state of knowledge or qualifications of a student on course entry and her/his state on exit. By taking the starting point of the learner into account, it is possible to consider the extent to which both a course and an institution have been responsible for any progress made. " (4)

OK starting point of the learner is vital according to this definition. Mine would have to be
educated to degree level but without achieving the qualification. Qualifications at NVQ3/A level
So my start point was quite high. This was clear in modules in years 1 & 2 where very high grades were achieved (including 2 90% marks).
End point
Degree level qualification at a reasonably high grade but not beyond. In moving into level 3 work the marks have dipped with only 1 so far achieving an excellent (78% for Methodology Justification and Literature Review). It seems unlikely therfore that I will now acheive a First but a 2/1 should be within my capacity. Unlikely that the degree will be adequate to consider further post-graduate formal study, especially given my age.
Financial Costs incurred by institution
minimal - 1/30th or so of an LF salary per yr for 3 yrs, some paper work, provision of limited access to digital library, provision of access to FirstClass
Finanicial costs to me
1800 (hmm they may even have made a profit on me!) + books + broadband +
Value added in my context?
In the language of value added I will have made a leap to being a graduate. It is not unreasonable to assume this should provide me with improved employment prospects so long as I am able to move away from this area. (Local conditions mean relatively high graduate unemployment or graduates taking jobs well below their level - note I personally know 3 Teaching Assistants who are already graduates, 2 of them also have PGCE). The question of my age and relative lack of experience outwith the school system may also mitigate against this improvement in prospects.
Indirectly the degree has changed and continues to change aspects of my current job. It was because of my undertaking the degree that I moved into the research post. That gave me opportunities to become part of collaborative action research projects. Now I'm moving into a role where I'm working with adults some of the time (a few hours a week) in my role as well-being facilitator. I've run feedback workshops and will be co-running staff meetings. At my recent annual review I was commened on all aspects of my work but especially contribution I've made to the research network.
(posted to my learning set)

Margaret Wilson, a Coventanter who refused to recognise the Book of Common Prayer. The painting shows her chained to rocks on the Solway Firth where she and another woman were condemned to death by drowning in 1685. It is said that as the tide rose she defiantly quoted and sang from scripture,
John Everett Millais
Walker Art Gallery.
(4) Spours, K., & Hodgson, A. (1996). Value-added & raising attainment: A formative approach. A resource pack for practitioners. Poole: BP Education Service.


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