Thursday, 30 January 2014

Lunar New Year 2014: the year of the horse

More than 60,000 students from outside the UK were accepted at UK universities and colleges in 2013 alone. With such a multicultural student population, you can expect not only be able to do things ‘the UK way’ but also see, taste and celebrate cultures and traditions from all over the world.

Lunar New Year is one of the highlights on the social calendars of campuses up and down the UK. We’re showcasing what universities do to mark this vibrant festival through Pinterest, but you might be wondering what the meanings behind the traditions are. The festival is celebrated by a number of cultures, but here OKHIWI explain what this exciting time of year means to the Chinese.

What is the Lunar New Year?

Lunar New Year 2013 at the University of Sussex
Lunar New Year is also known as the Spring Festival. The celebrations run from the last day of the last month of the Chinese calendar, to the ‘Lantern Festival’ on the 15th day of the first month, making the festival the longest in the Chinese calendar. Because the Chinese calendar is lunisolar, the Chinese New Year is often referred to as the ‘Lunar New Year’. But it’s not just a Chinese festival. From late January to mid-February, celebrations take place in other countries including Vietnam and Malaysia. In fact it’s celebrated around the world, wherever people from these countries have settled. 

There are many regional customs and traditions related to the celebration of the Lunar New Year. In China, just like the Western New Year’s Eve, the day before Lunar New Year's Day is an occasion for families to gather for the annual reunion dinner. It is also traditional for every family to have a serious ‘spring-clean’ to sweep away any ill-fortune and to make way for good luck in the coming year. Windows and doors are decorated with red coloured paper and paper chains reflecting themes of good fortune, happiness, wealth, and longevity. This is apart from the usual lighting of firecrackers and giving money in red paper envelopes.

The Year of the Horse – what will it mean?

In the past, the horse provided quick and reliable transport for people long before the car was invented. With a horse you could get from A to B very easily, so it is not only a symbol of travelling, but also a sign of speedy success.

The Year of the Wooden Horse – 31 January 2014 through to 18 February 2015, is expansive and exciting! It rewards honest opinions and disciplined thinking.

Social networks will be buzzing and people will be more forgiving and cooperative. It's a great year for travel, parties, and community events. 

In Wood years, teamwork brings out the best in everyone. You'll find it easier to get agreement and have fun in the process. In the first half of the year families will work together and gain exciting opportunities. Later in the year there will be more time to follow your heart.

Love is in the air! A Horse year is really lucky for romantic relationships. Marriages made this year hold the promise of long lasting happiness and stability. 

What year were you born in and what does it mean?

If you were born in Tiger, Horse, or Dog years, you will enjoy a boost of cheerfulness that makes you quite popular. You'll have more fun with friends old and new. Positive feedback enhances self-confidence. Share your thoughts! Social networking will allow you to spread your influence.

Celebrations at the University of Bedfordshire
For those of you born in Rat, Dragon, and Monkey years, you'll be willing to take more risks to get what you want. Your intuition is strong and your creative juices are flowing! Even though you like to take the lead, it will be even easier to be a team player. 

Being born in Ox, Snake, and Rooster years will help you use patience and determination to support a foundation for success. What you sense about people and environments will be very accurate. People are drawn to you. It's an ideal year for developing your skills in any area of interest. 

Those born in Rabbit, Sheep, or Pig years will be well respected for their kindness. You'll play a quiet but vital role in any group or family activity. Step out of your comfort zone and embrace life to the fullest. Anything that brings you joy is where to focus more time and attention.

Find out which animal from the Chinese zodiac relates to the year you were born:

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

What you need to do before the deadline

15 January is the deadline for most undergraduate courses. If we receive your application by 18:00 (UK time) on this date, its guaranteed consideration by your chosen universities and colleges. There are some exceptions where a different deadline might apply – use our search tool to check when you need to apply for your course.

Has this deadline crept up on you? If the answer is ‘yes’ then you’re probably less prepared than you might have hoped. It’s never a good idea to wait until the very last minute when it comes to something as important as your university application, so if you haven’t already hit send, aim to do so as soon as you can. Here are some of the reasons why you need to set aside plenty of time...

You’ll need to pay for your application
If you’re applying independently you’ll have to pay for your application before you can send it. If you’re applying with your school then this is true for you too, unless your school has agreed to let us bill them instead (you’ll know if this is the case because you won’t be asked to make a payment before you send your application to your referee).

So, the majority of you who will need to pay with a credit or debit card – make sure you know which card you’re going to use, and check there’s enough money in the account. You’ll need to pay either £12 (for one course) or £23 (for multiple courses).

A word of warning – if you enter invalid payment details five times you’ll be locked out from making any more attempts, and for security reasons you’d need to call us to unlock your account.

Your school needs to review your application 
(This bit is only for those of you applying through a school or college, so independent applicants can skip ahead.)

Simply sending it to your school or college before the deadline won't count as sending it on time; it has to be received at UCAS by the deadline. Your tutor will read through your application and make sure you’ve entered everything correctly. If they spot a mistake, they might send it back to you to make changes.

Even if your application is completely error free, your school still needs more than a few minutes to get your application sent off. It’s unlikely that yours is the only application they need to approve and send, plus it’s possible they’ll only be looking to see which applications are ready during school hours. If you think you’re going to be sending your application to them close to the deadline, speak to your tutor about this in advance.

You must have a reference
However you request a reference (whether you're applying independently or through a school or college), it must be included in your application before it can be sent to UCAS.

If you're applying independently and you’ve agreed with the universities that a reference is not required – read the information in the reference section of your application to see what to do. Only do this if you have spoken to the universities you’re applying to and had definite confirmation they don’t need a reference for you.

Find information about payments, references and sending your application on our website.

Do you know your login details? 
Our final piece of advice is about login details... If you are going to be sending your application close to the deadline, make sure you know your username and password. If you have problems logging in, read our blog post 'The five reasons why you can't log into your application (and how to overcome them)'.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Is The Duke of York right that universities are about education not training and don’t prepare people for work in the way technical colleges do?

Mary Curnock Cook,
UCAS Chief Executive
For most of my career, I have worked in businesses and organisations where the most valuable skills for key workers and managers have been the ability to think clearly, solve problems, communicate ideas and arguments powerfully, and to strip down an issue to its fundamental elements using logic and confidence.

Of course there are many careers where technical skills are needed and there are many ways to acquire these through vocational qualifications in school, further education courses, apprenticeships and a wide range of degree courses.  And Prince Andrew is right to say that University Technical Colleges give people the choice of the workplace or higher education after completing the course.

But in my experience, many young people don’t develop a clear idea of what career they want to pursue until long after they’ve left school or college.  Sometimes, it’s only through extended education and learning that they discover enough about themselves and their talents to make the decisions about the job roles in which they might excel and be fulfilled.  And the truth is that the majority will probably work in many different sectors over their working life.

My own career has taken me through international sales and marketing (biotechnology), the food and drinks sector, the hospitality sector, education and skills policy and now higher education, as the chief executive of UCAS.  At 18, I had no idea what I wanted to do and had no concept of the variety of roles or sectors that were available to pursue.

Looking back, I regret going into the world of work straight after school and leaving university until I was in my forties.  Not because I didn’t love working, even when I started on the bottom rung of the ladder.  My regret stems from my lack of confidence in my skills and potential.

Tucked away in a file somewhere, I still have a single page (typed on a manual typewriter) of thoughts about marketing the products that my firm was trying to bring to the market.  I was 21; I was the office secretary and general dogsbody, but I had read a book about marketing and it got me thinking.  I spent a Saturday in my office feverishly applying all these thoughts to our own innovative range of biotechnology products which were being successfully manufactured but not reaching their intended market.

A colleague found my typescript and showed it to the Managing Director.  The Managing Director brought it up at an office meeting.  I remember blushing furiously and feeling deeply ashamed and humiliated.  In my mind, my thoughts were the worthless musings of an inexperienced underling.  But I was wrong.  The paper was widely praised and became the foundation stone of our marketing strategy.  This was just one of many examples that I can reflect on where I believe a degree education (in whatever discipline) would have given me the confidence to discuss and share my ideas without the fear of looking naive.

I have spoken to so many people of all ages studying vocational and academic degrees at universities in the UK and I have read hundreds of current students’ entries to our writing competition last summer.  I have been struck by so many stories of growing personal confidence, minds liberated to create and express opinions and arguments, the unshackling of expression through a less structured curriculum – and by the uncovering of sheer talent in students who least expected to find it - in themselves.  I have learned how many students value the broadening of their horizons that comes from living independently from their families, and in an internationally and culturally diverse community.

While there is no denying that technical training is important in many fields, a degree in any discipline also trains and exercises the brain in a way that provides the foundation for success in a wide variety of careers. It comes through developed personal confidence, creative and logical thinking, and the ability to assimilate facts and ideas in a coherent way.  These skills are as essential to a wide variety of careers as technical skills are for specialist technical roles.