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Let's sing our hidden praises

I could argue that our official college Christmas card was fashionably retro. That it was ironic. That it built on the groundwork of our ad campaigns. Or I could just admit that I found it tacky - and I didn't actually find anyone else who liked it either.

So we got the Christmas card wrong - not a hanging offence. Yet it points up a bigger problem of striking the right note when it comes to promoting our college - or indeed any college. As a sector, we remain the best-kept secret in Scotland.

Dundee University is celebrating the fact that it is among the top three in Scotland for the quality of student life. Of prime importance, it admits, is the quality of life in the city itself.

As the city's FE college, we share that fabulous environment so we should share the kudos and feel that the college will pretty much sell itself.

Certainly our students support the nightlife. Does it interfere with their studies? Usually. Our students love the city. Our research tells us they enjoy their courses. The problem is how to sell the product. We're wide-ranging, both in terms of the courses, training and education we offer and the people who come to us.

Tom is 16 and on our NQ media studies course. He told me he had met up with pals who had stayed on at school when he'd left for college. He'd been telling them about making video and radio programmes.

"That sounds really good," they told him. "Yeah," he said. It sounded as if he'd only just thought about how good it was.

The same day, a lady with beautiful silver hair beamed at me from the opposite end of the corridor. "You won't remember me, will you?" she asked.

I didn't, but it turned out she had been in one of my leisure classes several years ago and now, long-retired, had signed up for the HND in art and design. "Imagine," she kept saying, "at my age."

We teach the young, standing on the edge of their futures. We teach the not-so-young, who want to stay involved. We offer learning for fun, and learning that is fun and leads to national qualifications.

So in the end I'm glad it's not my job to sell this multi-faceted, multi-layered beast. Or to find the USP that will allow us to climb up on that podium and take our rightful place alongside our two pointy-elbowed universities.

And I'm so glad it wasn't me who sanctioned that Christmas card.

Carol Gow lectures in media at Dundee College.

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