As we start the new academic year, we're being bombarded with meetings and information. Some if it interesting, some of it useless,to me at least, some of it quite worrying.
Interesting and worrying was our general lack of graduationg students. This is not a reflection on our staff, but more a problem with the fact that our standards and resulting drop out rate are so high that by the time they come to 4th year we don't have many students left. Or they've taken an extra year to complete.
Its really quite a big issue, any university is measured by the quantity and quality of its graduates, we've got quality all right, several high ups in the industry are starting to say that. But we need to address the quantity.
That's going to mean a lot more pressure on students to get on with things, there's far too much larking around at certain key stages so we're going to monitor that more closely and make more effort to keep them on track.
Of course this means work for staff who act as mentors (like me) but overall its worth it. It should mean our low/mid skill range students will get more attention and hopefully we can push them forward rather than having them fall away as has happened in the past. OFten they are perfectly good students who just take a bit longer to "get it".
One or 2 things I am not happy with though, which may in the future cause issues for my job security.
There was a huge scandal recently over a university chain called InHolland which in light of similar issues with poor graduation figures, took a foolish route of downgrading the quality of the courses and basically let students get thier degrees for no work. This totally undermined those degress and many students have been forced to hand their certificates back and seek alternative tution to graduate again.
Madness of course, but once uncovered it created a massive stink at government levels, which of course has produced a typical political knee jeerk reaction with several new laws being proposed.
Some make sense...like forcing students and schools to pay for delayed graduations, (education here is heavily financed by the government so putting a limit on how long you can take before having to pay will be a major issue for slow students).
But others are just a bit daft...Like the insistance all teachers/lecturers are educated to Masters level....yeah you guessed it, I don't have a Masters. I don't even have a degree. I had planned to go to university to be a Vet, but when I messed up a year at school and got lower than needed grades I didn't go and instead drifted into computers.
When I got into games, there really were no equivilent degree courses that related to the games industry. I, like others of my generation helped lay the foundations of the game industry as it is now, and like others of my generation was self taught and have been constantly motivated to maintain and update my skills by the constant rise in industry standard.
I won't ever claim to obe the greatest coder around, but I do feel I am an industry veteren, an expert in my field and good at what I do...Thats why I was hired so many times as a freelancer as well as a code slave. Its also why I was hired to teach at NHTV.
How would an academic background help me be better at that? Academia and the Games industry have in the past been so far apart in both standards and goals that its long been known that game courses were generally outdated, impractical or even usless for entry into the games industry.
This is why I was so attracted to NHTV's IGAD program, here was a university clearly making efforts to build bridges and produce industry standard graduates, not academics with paper qualifications who would still need a years training if they were ever hired, many of whom may even end up going back to academia to teach without ever having produced a commercial game in anger. Are these the kind of people the government wants to teach the next generations?
After nearly 30 years in the industry nearly 70 self coded projects, 100's of producer credit projects and god knows how many lines of code and sleepless nights working out how to do things that now go into books I would have to read to gain a Masters, and quite possibly being supervised by people with a fraction of my expereince and knowledge???
A Masters will not make me better as a coder, it will not add significantly to my knowledge, (though I am not so arrogant to assume I won't learn something, even my students teach me new things which I love.)
It won't make me a better teacher..it will probazbly teach me a few new things, show up some bad habits I have and perhaps even force me to rethink the way I do certain things...but I do that every time I start a project. So how will it make me a better teacher having MA or whatever after my name?
The idea that a masters or Phd makes you a better teacher is nonsense.
If this does become law, and the university tries to enforce it...I could have issues. Fortunatly I have a life time contract here, which has no stipulation about qualifications so I could fight it..
And I will, for as long as practical. But hopefully it will only apply to people who are working towards life time contracts. Bina for example...she however WANTS to do a Masters so she has my full support.
I don't... (I won't say never, since I LOVE my job and want to keep it), want to do a masters. I will not be forced to take a qualification I don't need, don't want and don't see any need for.
Hopefully this will be recognised as a human rights issue...we'll have to wait and see if the law comes into force and people start to fight it..who knows I might be the test case ;)
I also worry that this insistance on a masters is going to drive away potential industry people who want to move into teaching. IGAD is now almost totally populated by industry nerds who are jumping at the chance to show students how it should be done as industry demands. Many in fact there becuase of my spreading the word.
A few of those don't have masters or life time contracts, and are now being forced to take them...some more willingly than others.
But I know many many people in the industry who are not academically qualified who would be great teachers, able to provide incredible uptodate insight into the black arts of game development and who would now be unable to take up a position here....unless of course they WANT to do a pointless 2 years masters course to prepare them for an insutry they already excel in!!!
Thats just plain daft. I really do hope that Academia does not start retreating back to its ivory towers insisitng it knows whats best for the games industry while the Game industry again establishes it market driven 10 year lead on academia as a result of idiotic blinkered shortsightedness.
At least IGAD for the next few years at least has Industry bods at the help producing top grade people......but a few years from now, we're going to need new..old blood to keep us in front, and it won't be there!
Rante really over now!!