Sep 272012

New Shoes New Approach

This is a funny week for me. It’s the first time in over twelve years that I’ve not started the term as a Programme Leader at DMU. With BSc Radio Production & Technology not recruiting this year, and the course being passed on to the capable hands of my colleague, Simon Walsh, I’m left with a little more time on my hands to do some reflection and thinking. Buying a new pair of shoes and breaking them in kind of fits the mood that I’m in. You know that they will feel comfortable eventually, but it’s going to take a couple of weeks before they become discomfort free.

There has been none of the usual chasing people around looking for solutions to small problems, and trying to keep people on board. It’s not that I am walking away and turning my back on things that I had been previously responsible for, it’s just that I’m starting to get some perspective on the issues that I’ve been dealing with for some time now. Being a programme leader is a bit like being in a minefield and not being able to work out what the next move should be. Lots of people are stood on the sidelines yelling advice, but it’s easy for them, they don’t have to chance standing on a land-mine and blowing yourself up.

Being blown-up is a curious feeling as a programme leader, because you can never predict where it is going to come from. The very poor NSS score that radio production received this year was the trigger, which then led to the closure of the course to new recruits. Dropping from 76% to 32% overall satisfaction in one year was rather startling, and I had no easy answer for it. Neither did any of my colleagues, as it happens, so the course was bundled out of the building like a drunken uncle who’d embarrassed himself at a family wedding. Getting the course out of sight was the priority. The inquest would come later.

It’s a shame the course was closed in this way, because there is a lot of expertise that will now go to waste, and the knock-on effect has not yet been calculated. Sometimes the solution is worse than the problem, and we always have to be careful that the message that we send out to the wider world is long-term. Other courses have been supported with low numbers during particularly difficult periods of recruitment. It matters that we are seen to face our difficulties with some fortitude and intelligence, rather than going-off half-cocked, which is how I feel things now are.

There is always an opportunity to rebuild, though. The course was originally built from the bottom up, with very little active involvement and understanding from the leadership in the faculty. Building credible industry courses takes a long time, a lot of commitment, the establishment of serious relationships and a large dose of attitude. I’ll be making this case as we go forward into the new regime, should anyone care to listen.

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