Gateshead College: Enrolment Shambles Response

Thursday, September 17, 2009 7:20 | Filed in Local Interest, Public Sector, Ranting

So, yesterday I posted about the complete shambles that was enrolment at Gateshead College, and suggested that I really wasn’t happy with what they had done.

I had two separate lines of response from them. Because I don’t believe in directly naming people, I’m going to call them “A” and “B”. “A” contacted me over the phone shortly after my initial and rather snarky comment was sent to them. Owing to her being busy, and then me driving, I didn’t actually get to speak to her properly until the following day, but other than that, she handled the situation fine.

Firstly, she apologised for not getting back to me earlier, saying that the note to call me had ended up on her desk, but with enrolment being over two days, she had not got a chance to look at it until later on in the afternoon, and she said she’d also spent most of the time phoning round various other people whom she had messages to ring.

A slightly more negative person than me would have suggested that she wouldn’t have to have spent as much time phoning around after people if they had only organised the damn thing properly in the first place, but since she’d phoned up and apologised, this would be a bit churlish, so I won’t suggest that.

She also said that they had instigated some of my suggestions straight away — the idea of writing key information on the board, for example — and would be looking to improve the procedure further for enrolment next year. This also helped me feel better: while it was a complete shambles this year, if they actually learned from this and put it right for next year, then this would be a great step forwards.

She also explained that the decision not to run the A/AS Level English course had been taken on the Monday afternoon, which was why, later on the Monday afternoon, staff did not know that the course was not running. I pointed out that this was really part of the problem: by the time you are actually turning up to enrol, they should bloody well know whether or not your course is going to run. Any decision to scrap courses (other than for lack of interest) must be taken well in advance of enrolment.

So anyway, after a brief discussion on the phone, I sent some further suggestions to her by email.

  1. Ensure that there are spare plastic water cups by the water dispensers and that the dispensers are full. By around 5:15 it was not possible to get a drink of water from most places, and this added to the discomfort of waiting around.
  2. Consider opening up online registration? Even if you still need to come in for an interview, if you can register your interest online and get an interview appointment then at least you won’t be waiting around as much because you know what time you’ll need to come in for. If people need to do a literacy/numeracy test, then give them two appointment times – e.g. 4.15 for test, 4.45 for interview.
  3. Consider running the numeracy and literacy tests online on the internet. This will take some of the time pressure out of needing to get so many people doing it in a small space in a short space of time. It’s not an exam certificate after all; if you’re unsure you can follow up with questions in the interview
  4. Try (and I know you’ve said you did) to stick to the commitment to actually have those courses which are listed in the syllabus. At the very least, if any decision needs to be made to drop any of the courses (other than for lack of interest, which I appreciate you can’t know about beforehand), make the decision at least a couple of days in advance of enrolment, so that people don’t turn up, spend their time queueing and THEN find out their course won’t run.
  5. When people are queuing and already have their names on the list, give them an appointment time. Granted, you’re not going to be exactly accurate on the time, but if someone knows their appointment isn’t for 40 minutes, it gives them the chance to wander off, get a coffee or something instead of standing around being kept completely in the dark.
  6. Ensure that staff check documentation and know where people ought to go. People who are sent to wait in the wrong place and waste two hours waiting there before they find out they should have gone somewhere else are likely to end up in a bad mood (I know!). This should be backed up with signage (“this queue for HEFC courses X, Y and Z”) so people can double-check.
  7. Ensure you have some ‘floating’ staff who know several of the available jobs so that they can be sent to help out wherever the queues are at their worst.

My email to ‘A’

For anyone who needs to go down to Gateshead College and enrol in September 2010, please bear this list in mind. If the enrolment procedure is a shambles next year, or they repeat the same mistakes that they made this year, then they can’t say that they weren’t told. If they make no attempt to get it right next time, let’s make sure that everyone knows that they were given this advice which they chose to ignore.

And then of course, there was “B”. I don’t know if you remember the questions I posed last time — how many courses were cancelled, what did they try and do to ensure enrolment went smoothly, what steps will be taken to fix things in future and so on.

I got an email from “B”. Well, I tell a lie, “B” wrote a word document, which they then passed on to someone else to email to me. This was not a good sign: was “B” not capable of sending an email out herself — and if so, why did the whole thing have to be routed though a third party?

However, instead of actually trying to answer any of the questions, I received what appeared to me to be a generic, waffly reply:

We do plan the rooming and staffing of the events, however, higher numbers of applicants attended the evening than we anticipated. This unfortunately did cause us some issues and also longer waiting times than we would have liked. We regret that this was the case. However, we do review our processes to improve what we do and we already had planned a review of our admissions process. As part of this we will be considering our recruitment events and the experience you have had will be fed into the review.First response from “B”

So, no information about how many courses were cancelled, no detail on what planning took place, how many applicants they expected, how many turned up — it was very long on “it wasn’t really our fault” and “but don’t worry, we’ll get it right next time”, and correspondingly short on any detail. I contacted them again, explaining that I didn’t feel this actually answered any of my questions, so I pointed this out to them, and suggested that when someone is already narked, they are likely to feel fobbed off with a generic apology which doesn’t address any of the issues they raised.

I did then get a response (again, from “B” via a third party) which actually provided some detail.

Why did no-one tell me when I had turned up that AS English had been cancelled?

The AS English class was cancelled late on the Monday afternoon and unfortunately this meant that the information sheets on the welcome desks did not reflect this late change. Therefore staff on the welcome desk were unaware of the cancellation and unable to tell you this when you arrived. When it became evident that the course had been cancelled, applicants were already in waiting areas [...]

. New procedures for communicating cancellations at short notice will be considered as part of the admissions review to help ensure that this does not happen in the future.

Second response from “B”, 15/09

In other words, we didn’t tell the staff on the admissions desk it had been cancelled, and we quite happily left people queuing for stuff that was no longer running because we didn’t go to the waiting areas to tell anyone it had been cancelled. But don’t worry, we’ll do better next time.

Why was I directed to the wrong place for English AS Level? Why did none of the staff sufficiently check my form?

I can’t be certain how you came to be in the incorrect waiting area but it is probable that the late closure of the English class and the numbers attending the event contributed to this error.Second response from “B”, 15/09

Right, well I know how I came to be in the incorrect waiting area. It was because Gateshead College staff directed me there. And I wasn’t the only one. No answer appears to have been provided as to why nobody actually checked the form sufficiently, although I would presume that this is because “B” knows that the staff ought to have checked the form, and this one is pretty indefensible.

How many of the courses advertised in the prospectus are not being run this year?

There have been 33 courses cancelled that are in the part time prospectus based on the information we have today. 941 courses are offered for 2009/10 across all of our provision, of which 61 have been cancelled.Second response from “B”, 15/09

Of course, what this doesn’t tell you is that while 6.5% of all courses have been cancelled (which seems quite a high figure to me, but I don’t know what is usual here), it is also the type of courses which has caused a problem: for example, Gateshead College no longer runs any A-level or AS level courses on an evening. If you want to study part-time, evenings only, you can maybe do a NVQ in Hairdressing, or a City and Guilds in plumbing, but if you want to do something academic, your choice is restricted — I was led to believe that the college are no longer running any A-levels on an evening.

It’s simple: if you want to do academic qualifications, and you are at work, Gateshead College doesn’t seem to want you. Which really is a shame: Gateshead College used to run a wide range of evening A-levels, including Psychology, Sociology, History, English Literature and so forth. It’s a real shame to see it having dropped all of this, and I guess that’s one of the reasons I’m annoyed: it’s had a lovely new campus, it has brilliant facilities, and yet the courses it offers now aren’t as useful to the wider community as the ones it previously used to (if you can’t turn up during the daytimes, there’s not much for you).

What steps will be undertaken to ensure this doesn’t happen again?

I have already outlined my plans to review student admissions to College Managers and have requested that a subgroup of Managers work with me to review the processes – from application through to start up using feedback from staff and students. The subgroup has been established and at the first meeting there will be discussion on issues that need to be addressed and then work undertaken to identify what improvements can be implemented. The issues you have raised will be fed into the review.Second response from “B”, 15/09

In other words, we’ll solve it by having meetings. I’m not being facetious here: this process might well reduce the problems, if the process is reviewed properly, if they look at what they need to fix, and if they take action to fix it. But I am concerned that while stuff is being “fed in”, there is no commitment whatsoever to any confirmed action. Talking alone will not fix the problem.

And what else should Gateshead College be doing? Why not join me tomorrow when I take a look at their website…

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

14 Comments to Gateshead College: Enrolment Shambles Response

  1. Rob Kirton says:

    September 17th, 2009 at 10:29 am

    All colleges must require some form of literacy test prior to particular courses. It is a fair assumption that the test is a standard benchmark.

    It has occurred to me that if this test is available on-line, why were Gateshead not using it; and if it is not available, surely there is an opportunity in the market?

    Re: the lack of A levels, I am sorry to say that this is a sad state of affairs.

  2. garment business daily says:

    July 28th, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    Awesome website…

    [...]the time to read or visit the content or sites we have linked to below the[...]……

  3. bacterial vaginosis says:

    August 27th, 2011 at 2:54 am

    Recent Blogroll Additions……

    [...]usually posts some very interesting stuff like this. If you’re new to this site[...]……

  4. Swimwear says:

    August 29th, 2011 at 10:02 am

    Websites you should visit…

    [...]below you’ll find the link to some sites that we think you should visit[...]……

  5. flat mate finders says:

    August 30th, 2011 at 12:05 am

    Websites we think you should visit…

    [...]although websites we backlink to below are considerably not related to ours, we feel they are actually worth a go through, so have a look[...]……

  6. says:

    August 31st, 2011 at 1:45 am

    Queens University Blog…

    [...]If you know what is your job you can be a lot more successful than when you have no skills..[...]…

  7. room buddies says:

    September 2nd, 2011 at 9:23 am

    Recommeneded websites…

    [...]Here are some of the sites we recommend for our visitors[...]……

  8. free people search says:

    September 3rd, 2011 at 9:35 am

    Visitor recommendations…

    [...]one of our visitors recently recommended the following website[...]……

  9. buy watches says:

    September 7th, 2011 at 7:51 am


    [...]check below, are some totally unrelated websites to ours, however, they are most trustworthy sources that we use[...]……

  10. top best online casino says:

    September 7th, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Recent Blogroll Additions……

    [...]usually posts some very interesting stuff like this. If you’re new to this site[...]……

  11. dallas dwi attorney says:

    September 7th, 2011 at 2:21 pm


    [...]Sites of interest we have a link to[...]……

  12. burial urns says:

    September 22nd, 2011 at 11:48 am

    Read was interesting, stay in touch……

    [...]please visit the sites we follow, including this one, as it represents our picks from the web[...]……

  13. muzica de petrecere says:

    January 10th, 2012 at 11:03 am

    I like what you guys are writing about. Keep up the good works guys, I’ve you to our website.

  14. Reham says:

    September 2nd, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    You should dfienitely consider attending an online college. Although some might say an online degree will be easier to earn, or will not be respected by employers, that is simply not the case.Your degree will be identical to the degree conferred upon traditional brick-and-mortar students and as an online student myself, I can assure you, the programs are every bit as rigorous!Dozens of well-known, respected universities ranked in the Top 100 by U.S. News offer online programs (Penn State, Syracuse, Boston U, University of Illinois, and so on). Even Ivy League universities are catching on Harvard University offers online classes through their Extension School. Personally, I would advise against attending any college that is synonymous with online learning. Attend a well-established university that also has a campus program. State schools often have the best tuition rates and people don’t immediately think of online learning when you say you earned your degree at the University of Illinois or UMass.The best feature of an online degree is flexibility. I have attended traditional classes and online classes, and I prefer the online format. As an online student, I am able to work full-time and carry a full-time course load. You can also afford to be picky about your program of study. There are literally hundreds of colleges offering online programs. In terms of academics, as I mentioned previously, classes are every bit as challenging as traditional classes. In fact, I would say I work harder as an online student than I ever did when I was attending night classes. Also, if you shop around, online colleges can be more economical than traditional schools.The best way to save money is to take your first two years online at a community college, typically the best tuition rates will be in your own state. Example: I attended Central Texas College for two years and my classes were just $50 per credit hour ($150 per class). That’s a steal. Once you have about 60 hours, transfer to another school that offers online classes. There are PLENTY of them that offer reasonable rates you just have to shop around. Again, steer clear of schools that many consider to be for-profit (relatively new schools that offer mostly online classes). These types of schools are synoymous with online learning and your resume will look much better with Penn State, University of Illinois, University of Massachusetts, and so on.Also, in terms of cost, remember, just because you are taking online classes doesn’t mean you aren’t eligible for financial aid. If you are enrolled in a degree program and attending at least half-time, you are generally eligible for financial aid. It’s how I’ve financed my entire education!

Leave a comment