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imperial open day / maths
17

bananasplitwithcherry · 01/07/2022 18:16

Am I the only one that was underwhelmed by the maths talks?
The "taster" lecture consisted of "Here's a box plot, here's an outlier, and there's this thing called PCA but we're not going to tell you anything about what it is or how it works".
The admissions talk included a slide saying "physics and chemistry A levels helpful" which the lecturer promptly crossed out, saying: that's not really true, you could just as well do English, there's lots of writing in maths. This raises two obvious questions: (1) why turn up to give a talk to 250 people with slides containing statements you don't agree with? (2) on what planet are physics and chemistry A levels not relevant and helpful background to a maths degree?
Same lecturer then mused on whether they should just play the students youtube videos like 3blue1brown instead of giving the lectures themselves, which begs the obvious question: what are you getting for your money?
Went there wanting to be wowed, came away thinking the whole thing seemed tired, like they think they're so desirable they don't have to try.

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poetryandwine · 02/07/2022 12:19

Bumping for you. As a former Russell Group Admission Tutor in a maths intensive subject, with the highest respect for Imperial, I find this shocking. TBH although I love maths statistics is not my favourite part of the subject and I would have thought many impressionable young people shared this view, especially those of Imperial’s calibre.

I wonder if it was just a bad day and if the A Level slides were borrowed? Would also be interested in others’ opinions.

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noblegiraffe · 02/07/2022 12:25

I heard similar disappointment from one of my Y12s about how it seemed they weren't actually arsed whether you went there or not. They've crossed it off their list on that basis.

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bananasplitwithcherry · 02/07/2022 16:02

noblegiraffe · 02/07/2022 12:25

I heard similar disappointment from one of my Y12s about how it seemed they weren't actually arsed whether you went there or not. They've crossed it off their list on that basis.

That's exactly it. In fact, they said they had 3200 applications and were struggling to deal with them. It seems rather implausible to suppose that the aim of the open day was to cut down the numbers, but if they'd set out to do that, they couldn't have done much better.

Contrast this with the physics dept: tea and biscuits on arrival; a talk by an enthusiastic young PhD student on how he is designing new kinds of microscope to research cancer; fairly lively talks by the admissions staff, then a Q&A and tours of the department and labs given by a small army of undergrads.

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poetryandwine · 02/07/2022 17:08

I’m sorry, they should not be struggling with 3200 applications at this point in the cycle, or any time recently. Offers have been out for a while. All the most competitive degree programmes reject most applications early on. Even if predicted grades are acceptable on paper, admissions teams make plans for filtering applications whenever demand exceeds supply. For Imperial Maths, that should be routine.

Grade inflation will be bad again this year so that may be making it difficult to filter applications. But last year was worse. And my team of 4 admissions tutors routinely dealt with more applications than this. The excuse does not ring true. Having said that, COVID is complicating admissions in all sorts of ways. Perhaps everyone is just tired, but that is really sad.

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maryso · 02/07/2022 19:35

I suppose we tend to expect quite slick and hard selling from universities. Did nobody ask any questions about
(1) why they disagreed with the slides, and
(2) if someone aces the STEP papers and is doing English Literature and Art History instead of Chemistry and Physics, why would they not reject them for someone else with merely good STEP performance?

Also I understand Maths and university in general to be where you don't only go where you're led, but that question and challenge are part of the point of being there, rather than self-teaching (even if they are questions already asked by hundreds of thousands before you). Imperial I am told is less apt to prod students to stretch their minds although they will do that aplenty for those who push hard. Perhaps Oxford or Cambridge with their structured tutorials to push you along may be more suited? I'm sure that Imperial will be gutted at losing all those students who are capable of judging, however not of engaging. It's probably best to buy what you feel comfortable with, what with fees and maintenance costs.

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bananasplitwithcherry · 02/07/2022 20:51

"I'm sure that Imperial will be gutted at losing all those students who are capable of judging, however not of engaging"

We seem to have touched a nerve. Do you work there, or are you otherwise affiliated with IC?

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Matchingcollarandcuffs · 02/07/2022 20:55

14 applicants to every place for Maths

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maryso · 02/07/2022 20:58

Neither, @bananasplitwithcherry, nor have I ever been. You however seem to have issues engaging, as in your experience at Imperial, and now, and as a result come to dubious conclusions. Why post when you're so against a place that you could just ignore, or do you think you're doing the world a favour? I do hope your DC goes for what they want.

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maryso · 02/07/2022 20:59

@Matchingcollarandcuffs hopefully STEP will help...

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Matchingcollarandcuffs · 02/07/2022 21:05

And MAT

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sendsummer · 03/07/2022 04:50

Interestingly the national student survey results from Imperial are far better for maths than for physics. Although this is an imperfect measure of the degree ‘package’, it is certainly a better metric than an open day. Even judging by the open day you could just as well argue that if the most senior scientist representing a department was a PhD student that also gives the impression of academic staff who can’t be bothered.

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PerpetualOptimist · 03/07/2022 10:29

@bananasplitwithcherry raises very valid concerns and it is interesting that a similar impression was formed by one of @noblegiraffe's students. As @sendsummer says, an Open Day talk is only one imperfect 'data point' in an array of other imperfect data points.

The stakes are high for the current cohorts of students and HE threads here on Mumsnet often demonstrate that the experiences and benefits of attending uni have varied enormously and often for reasons outside students' direct control. Not all institutions or departments have necessarily made the best of a difficult few years and it is natural that applicants and parents are more sensitive to both hard evidence and softer impressions.

There have been previous threads about applicant and parental reactions to Open Day talks and these have exposed various tensions that exist within the current Open Day format - with its mix of academics who perhaps feel coerced into a 'hustings' style situation (as they sense a more critical atmosphere), uni marketing staff evaluated on how appealing they present their institution (and so prone to dialling up the 'promotion') and finally, of course, applicants and parents understandably anxious to decipher whether the website 'promises' hold any water.

Personally I think the Open Day format is in need of a fundamental reset, to the benefit of all parties involved. Open Days could return to being held mainly on weekdays (with colleges and schools told to drop their ban on weekday attendance), particularly in the early summer period after uni exams/A-L mocks.

The more structured side of Open Days (beloved by uni marketing depts if only for reasons of competitive escalation) could be dialled down to reduce pressures on all sides and allow programmes to start later in the day (and finish earlier) so students can make their own way to Open Days by public transport if that is their preference. Some talks and informal sessions with existing students might be strictly applicant only. Yes, we have train strikes currently but unis (and staff within unis) might be willing to run a larger number of weekday events if they are generally less intense in nature; that would inject some much needed flexibility. As it is, you have large numbers of unis homing in on the same Saturdays in June, Sep and Oct.

There does not have to be a complete switch from the current model of weekend only/heavy parental presence/lots of structured talks; I do understand why all those aspects can be useful, but the blind adherence to the current approach does need to be challenged. It sounds as though the Imperial Open Day Maths talk was one where no one benefited really and that is not a good outcome.

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FlakeSnow · 03/07/2022 14:08

We had a bizarre experience at the Oxford open day last week where the head of subject for a college turned up and said he couldn't say Oxford was the best place or that the subject was worth doing. He then talked about a different uni where in his opinion students were happier. We wondered if they were trying to reduce applicants. It was truly odd.

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poetryandwine · 03/07/2022 18:30

@maryso the timings for MAT and STEP are tricky for Inperial. You must sign up for MAT well before 15 Oct, as it is really an Oxford exam now also used by others. Imperial applicants not applying to Oxbridge will mostly miss that deadline. As you infer they will be taking STEP. Your question about A level choices vs STEP grades is fascinating. But it is extremely difficult to predict STEP grades accurately and many schools leave them off. So for the most part the question is unfortunately moot.

@PerpetualOptimist I agree with much of what you say about the wisdom of rethinking Open Days. But on another thread recently a parent was asking whether her DC could attend some Open Days by themselves and the collective response was that this would be a shame. I agree that a parental presence of the right kind can be useful, but that is a far cry from saying that it is necessary for every DC, or even that it necessarily makes for a better experience. Surely it depends on the individuals?

From an Admissions Tutor’s perspective, the worst part of Open Days is having only enough seats in the Subject Talk auditorium for prospective applicants and dealing with parents who feel attending the talk, carefully calibrated for A level students with a nod to their cultural frames of reference, etc, is a parental right.

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easyday · 04/07/2022 15:07

@PerpetualOptimist I totally agree. Having just attended one this weekend (not Imperial, not math), the welcoming talk was delivered in the most monotone uncharismatic way. He was definitely selling the course 'we are better than any other uni in this field', with stats lifted off their website.
The exhibits were impressive but it was speaking to the course leader on his own that was most informative. He was very frank. He mentioned an aspect of the course that was so important I couldn't believe I missed it on the website and course description- I checked later and it wasn't mentioned once! He also said contact hours were being cut to a day and a half with no access to facilities outside this time - ouch he lost us right there.
But still we felt it was one of the best open days, simply because we got to have informal chats with the actual leader of the course, students on the course, and see the work. So many open days are so crowded no chance to actually talk one on one. The formal auditorium lecture was a waste of time.
Students want to meet lecturers and current students who are enthusiastic about their subject and the course and uni they have chosen. They want to be able to ask questions without feeling they have an open audience.

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maryso · 04/07/2022 17:01

@poetryandwine you graciously associate my STEP comment with your levels of insight, however it was actually down to ignorance of the detail of Imperial's admissions test/s, on which I happily defer to @Matchingcollarandcuffs and you.

It's sad that open days seem to have become such consumerist freak shows, when all we ever used to expect was a chance to explore and respectfully quiz staff and students about course and student life, preparing beforehand to ask what we wanted and needed to know. I'm glad and unsurprised that @easyday found staff and students all still delightfully and disgracefully candid about both their course/s and at other places, especially since everyone seems to know everyone else most of the time in higher ed. At that stage, my role was to provide transport and refreshment and agree not to embarrass DCs subject to their assuring me they'd thought about and were clear what they had to get out of the visit. I also suspect that some of the more outrageous comments may be in response to possible off-beam questions, and may have caught others in the cross-fire. There have been a few occasions at talks where I've thought myself, please don't come to this place because it'd be so tedious having to play chess with a pigeon.

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piisnot3 · 05/07/2022 09:58

sendsummer · 03/07/2022 04:50

Interestingly the national student survey results from Imperial are far better for maths than for physics. Although this is an imperfect measure of the degree ‘package’, it is certainly a better metric than an open day. Even judging by the open day you could just as well argue that if the most senior scientist representing a department was a PhD student that also gives the impression of academic staff who can’t be bothered.

to clarify, by admissions staff in the physics dept I meant the director and deputy director of admissions - both academics in the dept; both gave informative talks.

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