Decisions at 18

I’m going to be presenting at workshop at Decisions at 18 tomorrow. Although the presentation is called Careering Through the Web (which is what I’ve called pretty much every presentation I’ve done for the last six months) it actually includes some new ideas and new materials. As ever, all ideas/comments appreciated…


Winston Churchill Memorial Trust: Trip to Canada

I have been very privileged to have been awarded a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Travelling Scholarship. This scheme exists to provide people with experience overseas which can enhance their effectiveness in their career or field of interest. I have applied to undertake a visit to Canada to investigate the Blueprint for Life/Work Designs. I’ll also be trying to use the trip to gain a better insight into the Canadian Career Guidance system and to develop some of the understanding that I gained at Cannexus 11. Broadly my feeling is that Canada is one of the world leaders in the career guidance/career development field. I am sure that the UK can learn a lot from studying it more closely and this trip gives me an opportunity to do this.

I’ll be in Canada during August and September 2011. If you are a reader of this blog and want to meet up with me while I’m in Canada then get in touch ( If you are UK based and have a question about careers work in Canada then get in touch as well. I’m planning to use the blog to keep in dialogue with people while I’m overseas.

I’ve attached my letter of introduction so that people can see that I’m legitimate and also what I’ve been funded to do. I’ve got lots of plans to make – but I’ll be really interested to hear what people think about this project.

Social Media: 5 Practical Uses for Careers Professionals

I’m running a one day workshop for the Institute of Career Guidance. Details are below.

To book go to

Thursday 26 May 2011
10.00am to 4.00pm
University of Derby

Room B222 (Sign-posted from main reception), University of Derby, Kedleston Road, Derby, DE22 1GB

Social media and Web 2.0 have become buzz words that are thrown around a lot. Many careers professionals have been convinced that they should probably be doing something with these technologies, but the question remains – what? This workshop will give participants an overview of the world of social media and examine ways in which it can be used for careers work. Participants will leave with the skills and ideas that they need to implement at least five practical uses of social media within their careers service.

The workshop will be run by Tristram Hooley (Head of the International Centre for Guidance Studies). Tristram is a committed user of social media and has run a range of practical workshops around its use. Tristram was one of the authors of the recent UKCES publication “Careering through the web” and writes the blog “Adventures in Career Development”.

The Third University

I attended something very interesting this afternoon. On the day of the UCU strike in higher education a small group of people in Leicester sent out some messages inviting people to attend “Leicester’s third university”. We were asked to

Come contribute to the alternative to the privatised hegemony that is higher education. Let us enlighten each other, break down the walls of elitism, profit and inequality. Our education is not a product to be sold and a critical mind is not worthless, we are all artists, we are all humanity! Let us remember to QUESTION EVERYTHING!

Improbably the venue for this endeavour was Coffee Republic on Granby Street. So I went along…


I should say that I’ve been interested in radical critiques of educational practice and process for a while. I read Deschooling Society about ten years ago and it really excited me. Some of the essential arguments of this text and others like it seem more and more true the more I work as an educator. Essentially these radical educational critiques argue that much education serves only to certify people and that this process of certification actually works against the possibility of them actually learning something. Furthermore the hierarchical systems of mainstream education in which TEACHER is professional and STUDENT is vessel to be filled up serve only to reinforce hierarchies and entrench the existing social order.


The problem however is what you can do with this critique. It is easy to rubbish the existing system (man!) but not so easy to come up with an alternative. Lots of supposedly left wing or emancipatory educational experiences end up reproducing the worst of the mainstream educational system but with a different curriculum. Telling people the “truth” and smashing their “false consciousness” is all very well but it often ends up with them feeling either confused, stupid or vindicated and all of these feelings are essentially the opposite of learning.


So I was really interested to see what the third university collective had planned. What transpired was that they didn’t have a lot planned. The approach needed to emerge from the participants – no one was going to tell us what to do. This was both good and bad. There were (as one participants t-shirt read) “no more heroes”, but there was also no real direction. We didn’t have a hierarchy to tell us what to do (hooray!) but we didn’t have a hierarchy to tell us what to do (what do we do?).


But, conversation happened. Was this about setting up an alternative educational experience or was it about a critique of the current state of higher education? Were we looking for radical content or radical curriculum? What do we mean by radical? Do we want lectures or is the sage on the stage oppressive by its very nature? Would debates be better or is that just polarising and confrontational? What about non-hierarchical problem-based learning, is that just hippy nonsense?


The process of discussing and deciding was educational, but if the third university idea is to progress it needs to get beyond endlessly debating what it is about. My thought would be that we (if indeed there is a we) should experiment and try out lots of different sessions. Let’s hear prominent Marxists lecture us on their brilliance. Let’s watch politicians rip lumps off each other in debate, but lets also try some other things. After we’ve done a bit lets see if we keep learning, if people keep coming and if we have a better idea about what the third university can be.


My suggestion would be that people pitch some suggestions for sessions and we try and put a few on. I’ll have a go at pitching something and see if anyone is interested. If they are I’ll try and make it happen.


Is that a way forward or have I just oppressed everyone?

Why I went on strike today

I was on strike today. I wanted to be able to do something that would say loud and clear that what is happening in higher education and across the whole public sector is awful. Today’s dispute was about our pensions, the threatened redundancies and trying to keep our wages from declining in real terms. My union, the UCU has produced some useful leaflets to explain the dispute.


I didn’t manage to make it to the University of Derby picket line this morning but instead went to the University of Leicester one. From what I could see the strike was well supported and campus seemed pretty quiet. It is difficult to tell exactly how much support the strike has got, but there were a decent number of people on the picket lines.


There was also a huge traffic of #ucustrike messages on Twitter. I found this surprising as I didn’t think that the percentage of staff in HE using Twitter was that high, but there seemed to be a lot of interest in the strike online. Lots of people were posting that their campus was pretty dead.


I hope that this action gives the government and HE employers some pause for thought. If we continue to depress pay, sack people and attack pensions higher education is likely to become an increasingly demoralising place to work. People will leave, but worse than that we’ll create a culture where people feel ever more under-valued and grudging. I don’t want to work or study in that kind of environment and I’m really heartened to see that lots of other people felt that today as well.


The decision to go on strike isn’t an easy one. There are lots of little pressures that get put on you to try and persuade you that it isn’t worth it or it isn’t the right thing to do. However, I feel very strongly that it is the right thing to do both morally and politically. As ordinary citizens and employees we don’t have a lot of power and as a consequence we don’t get what we want a lot of the time. However, when people come together and vote to take action I think that we have a duty to support it. Of course there are always a million reasons why we should be an exception to the strike. But once in a while you are asked to put aside your immediate deadlines and priorities and stand together for the good of your colleagues and the sector as a whole. For me it feels pretty clear what the right thing to do is.


Obviously not everyone will agree. I regret the fact that some people feel that trade unions are wrong or that they feel that you should never challenge your employer. But, for these people at least they are taking a stand. I find it more difficult to deal with people who know that the strike is the right thing to do, who believe that the sector should be more assertive, but who make an excuse in order to exempt themselves this time. It feels to me that strike days are one time that you should really follow your moral compass and do the right thing.


Today we achieved something. We made a point, we made the news, we made the government think about just how far they can push higher education. We made all of that happen because lots and lots of people made a difficult personal decision.


That makes me feel pretty good about the people that I work alongside.

iCeGS Associates Meeting

We had a very interesting iCeGS Associates Meeting today. It was particularly interesting to hear people’s experiences of the current difficulties in the careers sector. All in all I ended the day feeling wiser, but not happier.

However on the plus side we did hear a really interesting presentation from the SALAMI project. Kirstie Coolin from the Centre for International ePortfolio Development presented an overview of the development work that they are doing to try and link up various sources of careers information and LMI. A version of Kirstie’s presentation is available on the JISC website.

I also presented some stuff on the UKCES publications that we’ve done. It was mainly stuff that I’ve put on the blog before, but I have added a few new references about computer gaming and careers work. So have a flick through to find that bit.

Siobhan’s adventures in Sri Lanka

My iCeGS colleague Siobhan Neary has been asked to work on a project in Sri Lanka looking at careers work in schools. As she says it is really exciting to be involved in a project that is about developing careers services at the same time as everything seems to be being dismantled in the UK. She’s just set up a blog at on which she can relate her experiences over the next three months. It promises to make for really interesting reading.