National Application System Delays Visa Applications

At least 200 students could be late starting their master programmes at Lund, according to an article published on the 23rd of August in Sydsvenkan. The main points of the article are:

– Applications for visas are still arriving to the migration authorities, despite term having started

– The online application system (studera.nu is part of this) delayed the application process by 3 weeks

– The migration authorities are already busy at this time of year

– Students who are late may not be admitted to their programme

– Approximately 200 of 1200 students may be late

– The problem could be relieved by only allowing applications to be made in December

These kind of issues so need to be sorted – not only for the students who are currently in limbo now but also for the future. Fee paying students will not tolerate these kind of delays. One point of view is, of course, that the number of applications will drop when fees are introduced which may ease the pressure on the system, but there’s still at least two application periods to go before fees are introduced.

Meeting the Students

It was arrival day for the International Masters students in Lund today, and my visit to the registration room found me quickly hijacked by the organisers into processing students. Which was very cool, and fits in rather nicely with Gerry McGovern’s latest article ‘Too close to your website, too far from your customers’. Why was it useful? Because to meet students gives me some insight on the person really using our website. If nothing else, it gives a face to the visitor statistics. Why bother creating a persona when you can just go out and meet the real thing?

Finland Likely To Charge Tuition Fees To International Students in 2010

It looks like Finland will follow Sweden by introducing tuition fees in the next few years, according to the Finnish newspaper Helsingen Sanomat, and translated at The Chronicle of Higer Education.

The main points of the article:

– Finland will probably introduce fees in 2010 (the same time as in Sweden)

– Fees would be set by the universities, but in the range of 3,500 to 12 000 EURO

– There are 450 programmes, taught in English, in Finland which will probably be affected

Interesting times…

You can see all my posts on fees in Sweden here.

English-Swedish Dictionary of University Words and Terms

HSV launched a new English-Swedish dictionary on their website

This is really great, it’s good to have this sort of readily available reference source. But I wonder what they have referenced for this? For example, it’s not that common to see a Master’s Degree in the UK referred to as a ‘Degree of Master in’. That sounds like a literal translation rather than a colloquial (or common) one.

I notice the dictionary uses the word admission (which I confess to using myself) but, when you take a look at Google Trends, it would seem that a lot of people are searching for ‘Application’. When we had Gerry McGovern at the university he commented that ‘admission’ is quite a negative word, with connotations of ivory towers and superiority; whereas ‘application’ is more welcoming and more of a call to action.

Here’s the graph from Google Trends, click on it to see the real version as it looks a bit crappy here. I particularly like the seasonal trend in volume this graph shows.

What is cool is that they say the dictionary will be updated continually, and give the opportunity to leave comments.

The Web Will Change How Your Brain Works

Scary article from Nicholas Carr ‘Is Google Making Us Stupid?’. It’s also a great, thought provoking article. It even starts with a quote from 2001, which can’t be bad…

The gist of the article is that:

– By using the web, we condition and change the way our brain functions

– Because of this, we have lost the ability to absorb long text or print

– Similar changes have occurred in the past, for example with the advent of the clock or the printing press

Research Pages Review or ‘Professors Don’t Read’

Summer’s over and I’m back at my desk – there’s a lot of cool stuff coming up in the Autumn, not least the results of an expert review and usability test I’ve commissioned a consultancy to do of the english web pages. I’m looking forward to it with constructive apprehension – watch this space…

I’ve recently completed a review of the research pages of the university – principally just to find out how many we have…We’ve got at least 2500 pages which directly describe research and there’s probably another 5 000 to 10 000 describing, among other things, researchers, equipment, services etc etc. This review will be used to focus further development work.

One issue I saw immediately, in some cases, is the sheer volume of text. Many pages had at least 300 plus words – which is a problem. Why? Here’s some facts:

Gerry McGovern, in his book Killer Web Content, says that after the first 300 words you’ve lost 40% of the readers.

or, if you want something a bit more empirical (and we are talking about research, after all)

– Based on the work of Weinreich et al. (2008) Jakob Nielsen showed that most visitors to a web page will look at only 28% of the text (on a page with 300 words, users are on it for around 30 seconds)

Ah wait, but the research pages will be read by Professors and such, who have much more patience than the rest of us time starved hunter gatherers of the web. Sorry:

A study by the British Library (2008) showed that both undergraduates, and professors, exhibited the same tendency for shallow, ‘flicking’ behaviour in digital libraries. Yep, just like the rest of us, professors don’t read.

So too many words, and you’ve lost the reader. Which is a problem if the most exciting stuff is in your last sentence. And this is now 341 words, which means, according to Gerry, that only about 40% of you ever got this far.

Students Familiar with Sweden are More Likely to Pay Fees – Swedish Institute Report

A recent report from the Swedish Institute shows that the willingness of international students to pay fees depends on how well they know Sweden. According to the survey, 47% of the students – who had expressed in interest in Sweden –  would still recommend Sweden as a study destination, even if there was a fee. The report was published in July 2008.

The study shows that the more students know about Sweden, the more actively they will seek out knowledge and the more disposed they are to paying a fee.

A couple of thoughts – firstly, the more barriers we place in that attempt to seek out knowledge the more likely they are not to choose Sweden – our website must help them quickly and efficiently. Also, if knowledge about Sweden contributes to students being more positive to studying here then existing exchange students, who have studied as undergraduates in Sweden, may well be positive to studying in Sweden again. It would be interesting to find out the current conversion of undergraduate exchange students to master students.

This is the report in Swedish.