Thursday, 19 January 2012

Choosing a university

A smart terrace of grey and white houses

For most of last Sunday I was battling with the chapter of the book I've been commissioned to write, aimed at potential students of Dietetics, and all about how to decide which university to choose. It has made me think about what exactly makes a university attractive to students, and also try very hard to remember what it was like to be aged 18, but not in the selfish and irresponsible way that I behaved when I was 18.

That's been one of the main differences I've noticed in the young students who studied with me this time round - they seemed to be mature for their age and have a sense of purpose, they knew their own minds, and were generally doing a Dietetics degree because they thought that being a Dietitian was something that would suit them. I was an Engineering student at the same age, and I was studying that subject because I was good at physics and maths, the adults advising me thought it would suit me, there was a very favourable male:female ratio, and there wasn't anything else that I particularly wanted to do.

I'm very glad that I had that experience and gained a degree and many lifelong friends, but it wasn't the right subject for me. But I couldn't possibly have done a Dietetics degree at that age - I wouldn't have conformed to the necessary professional standards of responsible behaviour, and I had no intention of settling down into a career at that point in my life.

The other factor influencing my writing this chapter is my experience since graduating, and the difficulty I had in getting a job. It is always possible that my age is a factor in interviews, although of course recruiters are not supposed to be influenced by such things, but actually I think it is more about how I answer the questions. Whatever the reason, it is clear that a solid past career and getting a First class Dietetics degree has not smoothed my way into my first job, although maybe it will lead to wider opportunities later on.

All degrees in Dietetics lead to registration and eligibility for a job as a Dietitian, whether from the 'best' or the 'worst' university, so in some ways the academic reputation of the university is irrelevant. But I can't bring myself to write that - surely there must be some advantage in doing four years at a university that sets high entry requirements, rather than a shorter (and therefore cheaper) course or one at another place where you don't need the best A levels to get in? I have to say that at this point of my Dietetic career, I really don't see what that advantage is, unless you are either a swotty swot like me (as Lola II so accurately describes me), or what you really want to do is research. In which case, you might as well do a different course, like Nutrition or Food Science, where communication skills and professional standards aren't such a high priority.


Cernoise said...

Are there statistics available on how quickly people find first employment from the various universities? That would let you make a more complete assessment of the influence of where you study.

Lola said...

There are such statistics, but not broken down into subjects. Obviously, Dietetics is slightly different because the majority of graduates will be looking for specific jobs that other graduates will not be qualified for, so mainstream job market conditions don't apply.

I know that our School collects figures about graduate Dietitians' employment status, but not so sure that they are published or compared publicly with the few other universities that offer Dietetics courses.

Lola II said...

No I don't, I call you a 'speccy four-eyed swotty swot-swot'.