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Julian Goodwin: "BHOS students' level is very high"

Julian Goodwin, Head of Chemical Engineering Teaching Group at Heriot Watt University (HWU), UK: “BHOS students’ level is very high”


Baku Higher Oil School (BHOS) is cooperating with Heriot Watt University (HWU) UK. As a result of the cooperation BHOS students will be awarded diplomas of both higher educational institutions. One of the requirements leading to this is invigilation of examination process for each semester on the part of HWU. Currently UK lecturers are invigilating exams on petroleum engineering and chemical engineering specializations. Thus, those BHOS students who study petroleum engineering and chemical engineering specializations in accordance with HWU educational programmes are taking exams simultaneously with the students at HWU Edinburg campus, that is, the same days, only taking into consideration time zone difference between Azerbaijan and the United Kingdom.Julian Goodwin, HWU Head of Chemical Engineering Teaching Group kindly responded our questions on the level of BHOS students, organization and invigilation exams, assessment of the results, transparency, at the same time the question on his professional career.


- Mr. Goodwin, examinations are invigilated and papers are marked on your part. What are the procedures of this process? What are the main criteria you are guided by?


- Before the students even sit examination, the exam questions are written and checked entirely by HWU staff. In the case of the examinations which contribute to the degree classification, the papers are also checked by exterior examiner. So the quality is checked before the students even see the paper. When a member of the staff prepares an examination paper, there will be a marking scheme developed to allocate marks to a particular aspects of student’s answer. So when we look at a paper we are looking for specific things that are defined in the marking scheme for that question. So we already know what we are looking for what we are expecting from a student before we start to mark. Although in some cases they may have some flexibility because some questions we can ask are relatively open-ended and a student may choose to answer it one or several different ways.


- What do you think about BHOS students’ level? What are the general mistakes they make?


- BHOS students’ level is generally very high. I do not think it is very much surprise to us, we know that they are some of the very best students in Azerbaijan and therefore they are selected to be good, so it is not a surprise that they are very good students. I think that in the early years of the programme they are generally better than the corresponding students at Edinburg campus and HWU campuses. That difference becomes less pronounced as they move to more challenging part of studies in higher years of the programme. Certainly, their work is extremely good and we are very pleased to have them as our students.


- While marking the papers do you usually focus on the theoretical knowledge of students or their logical competence?


- Students should be able to apply methods and be able to think. Exam questions are stretched to bring out some of that ability from students. So in some questions we are looking for students to have knowledge of facts, and in some others for their ability to apply particular solution technique to a problem. Some questions are very open-ended problem solving type and students need to think about how to approach those questions and problem solving on the spot. In our marking scheme which I have already described the marks are generally allocated to different stages of the process by which a student answered question. We are really looking for the students’ thinking when we mark the question and getting the right answer is not actually as being able to reason the way through a problem, because for student it is possible to get the correct approach and at the very last moment they get small numerical area which then leads them to get the answer which is actually incorrect. So we are really looking for the process.


- Could you please elaborate on your educational background and your career at HWU?


- I did not start as a chemical engineer I came through an alternative technical root. I did sciences at high school and then I completed a degree on chemistry. So it is my first degree at the University of Sheffield. After that I went on to PhD study. Initially, I was in the department of civil engineering at the University of Birmingham and my PhD thesis was about wastewater treatment. While working on wastewater treatment I was able to apply my biological knowledge. But I also became more interested in processes and process engineering and after I completed my PhD, I went on my post doctorate studies and worked on a project which was co-supervised by the Department of Civil and Chemical Engineering at University of Birmingham. So I got a degree on wastewater treatment. Then I obtained position at HWU. That time the university was recruiting people with specific biological knowledge because they wanted to strengthen their bioprocessing operations. So I obtained the lectureship on that basis since then I’ve developed my experience of chemical engineering and indeed of education. My current role as Head of Chemical Engineering Teaching Group involves allocation of workload to my teaching team and staff. It also involves being the primary person responsible for assigning of all kinds of things that relate to teaching group which extends from quality processes to student appeals and advising students on career choice and so on.


- What would you like to advise to our students?


- I think the future is open for your students. Our degree is very well regarded. In UK it is accredited by the Institution of Chemical Engineers, so it is regarded as professional level qualification for engineering students. Certainly, our graduates in Edinburg campus will go on and work for the variety of industries. I believe your students will work for variety of industries. If they necessarily want to work in oil and gas sector, of course the petroleum engineers are specifically targeted by that industry. I would advise them to be themselves, think about their studies, think about what they want to achieve and make sure they put enough time on it. Students should take responsibility for their learning that means they should really put time into their work outside classes. So they should think about what they want to achieve and make sure they put time for their studies what would enable them to give the best performance.