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What is the HEAR?

13 April 2012

Curricular Development and Examiners Manager Irenie Morley tells Ele Cooper about how the Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR) is being implemented at UCL and explains its implications for students.

Two female students walking together

The HEAR is an electronic document that combines the academic data of a traditional degree transcript with verified information on a student’s non-degree-related achievements. From September 2012, universities will be required to begin producing HEARs for nearly all new undergraduate students*.

The nature of a non-degree-related achievement is central to whether it is included on a HEAR: the report only acknowledges significant work that has involved a position of responsibility. For instance, the fact that a student has been an office-holder in a union club or society will only be mentioned if the work has occupied over 20 hours of their time, and this information must be verified by official stakeholders.

Irenie Morley, who is playing a key role in implementing the HEAR at UCL, says, “We’re also recognising StARs, student ambassadors and mentors. Prizes and scholarships are included on the HEAR but the scholarships have to have been awarded either for merit or for merit and need.”

While it offers many advantages, a potential problem with this system, says Morley, is that some students may not be permitted to go out into the community and do voluntary work for cultural reasons. In order to avoid these groups being at a disadvantage, UCL is looking into organising campus-based activities that would yield equivalent credit on a HEAR.

One key benefit of the HEAR is that it will allow employers to compare graduates with ease because the report is based on a template that will be used by HEIs across the country. “Quite often, a degree title just doesn’t give enough insight into what the graduate is actually qualified to do. It can be very difficult to differentiate between 25 qualified mechanical engineers who all have 2:1s,” Morley says. “The HEAR is one way of allowing employers to see that, for example, one of the applicants has organised a complex volunteering project – which may give them the edge.”

Various websites can host HEARs, and UCL has opted to work with Gradintel. The site offers additional facilities, for example CV-hosting and psychometric testing, but UCL staff can only access a student's HEAR – the rest of their profile will remain private.

Employers are able to search for potential job candidates using the Gradintel site, but only companies that have been carefully vetted are granted access, says Morley; recruitment agencies are barred. An employer can only view a student’s HEAR if the student chooses to send them a ‘token’ – and, because the HEAR is a virtual document, the minute it gets printed, it becomes invalid.

UCL is a member of the HEAR National Steering Group and has been piloting the system since September 2011. So far, it has been a success. This year’s first-year students will be officially notified that the university is producing HEARs for them on April 23rd but, says Morley, “They don’t ever need to engage with it if they don’t want to.”

If, however, a student does wish to access their HEAR and/or start building a supplementary profile, they simply visit the site and set up a username and password, using a personal email address so that they can still log in after leaving UCL.

While a final, unalterable HEAR is produced in the October of the year a student graduates, interim versions are published twice yearly (in August and October), enabling students to share their achievements with prospective employers or other universities before graduation if they wish to do so. They can also request for non-degree-related achievements to be removed from their HEAR, with the exception of prizes.

The HEAR won’t mean more work for teaching staff, Morley explains, just a slightly different mode of operating – for example, if prizes are awarded, the information will simply need to be recorded in a different way. Indeed, the HEAR could well make teachers’ lives easier in future years when it’s supplied as part of a postgraduate course application. And with HEFCE now considering whether to introduce HEARs to postgraduate courses too, it’s a system we’re all likely to become familiar with sooner rather than later.

For more information about the Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR), visit the UCL HEAR website or the HEFCE HEAR webpages.

*At UCL, those studying for an MBBS or intercalated degree and those on affiliate or School of Pharmacy programmes, along with all those who enrolled before September 2011, will continue to receive a paper transcript with their degree certificates and will not receive a HEAR.

By Ele Cooper

Page last modified on 13 apr 12 15:02

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