My Week: Dr Tim Westlake

The University of Manchester's director of student recruitment on number-crunching, advice... and cricket
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The Independent Online

Monday

We received the A-level results yesterday, so today we try and work out where we stand: who has made their grades required for entry, who has missed out.

This is the first year that the Government has indicated that we will be financially penalised if we exceed our intake targets, which is an added pressure. We're into work very early and try to get as much data as we can to work out what's going on. It's a hectic day going through numbers and trying to work it all out. We also decide which courses will go into clearing. It's significantly less than last year, at least half. More students have made their grades and our firm acceptances are up 5%. I think it's a reflection of hard work. It's also a result of there being more emphasis on coursework.

Tuesday

I play cricket with colleagues from the university. I also have friends, whose children have applied to university, who to ask questions about what to do if their child doesn't make their required grades. I'm the advice bureau.

Wednesday

More cricket and, sadly, I'm bowled for a duck. Our team is completely humiliated. There's a new debate with the universities this year: parents offering to pay international fees in case their children miss their grades. This is a new area and, while we don't feel it supports our policy, we're looking into the legalities of it. We can see ethical issues, but it's a debate that seems to have appeared in the press this week.

Thursday

The results are out now so we have a huge team waiting to take all the phone calls from students to see if they can come through clearing. Interestingly, it's quieter than last year. I do a live TV interview about clearing in the evening, which is a first for me and is fairly nerve-wracking. A very close personal friend's daughter hasn't quite made her grades and so I try to give them some advice. Luckily all other children of personal friends managed to get their grades. On top of all this, being a huge sports fan, I'm obviously nervous for the England cricket team and also Andy Murray. Our two children are visiting their grandparents so my wife and I go out for a nice meal to celebrate getting through results day.

Friday

All our clearing places are filled, and our courses full. It's a quick process. In the evening I go to my in-laws in Newbury and meet up with the children for the weekend after a busy week. From now until September potential students will drop out, decide to take a year off, want to change courses, etc... so there's still plenty to do. You can get caught up with looking at numbers, but we try and remember that every one of those numbers is an individual and we want to take everyone's needs into account. Going off to university is usually the first time young people have been away from home for a prolonged period and we understand it's a daunting, and exciting, time. We really just want everyone to have as good an experience as possible.

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