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21 April, 2005

Didn't ask you that

The University website has a feedback form, inviting comments about the site itself.  It clearly states that it's not for general enquiries, and that prospectuses cannot be requested via that route, but it's a truism that if a form – any form – is provided, it'll be used for whatever purpose the user chooses, irrespective of the provider's intentions.

This morning's haul is slightly atypical, but not by much:

  • Someone requesting a Nokia handset (what?) and a prospectus, but only providing a name, house number and street name – no town or nation. The syntax suggests it's somewhere in Africa.
  • The parent of a potential student commenting on the website. Critical, but a fair point; exactly what we welcome.
  • An existing member of staff complaining that certain pages don't fit on her monitor without scrolling. And?
  • From Lahore, Pakistan, an extremely long (7,443 words) treatise about world poverty, I think (didn't read past the first paragraph), which had been pasted into the box clearly marked "Please add any other comments which you would like to make about the website".
  • Someone complaining that she was unable to order a prospectus via the correct form, as that form's drop-down list doesn't include 'Great Britain'. That's because officially (and the list of countries is taken from an official government source) there's no such country – it's the UK. A non-Brit might have been confused, but this comment was (by definition) from an applicant already in the UK. One would have thought she'd at least look further down the list, for 'UK'.
I sometimes think we should use this form as part of the selection process. The minimum standard of English required in order to study at a British University is relatively high, so those so grossly failing to understand the form mightn't be qualified. Those ****ing-up for non-linguistic reasons are probably just undesirable....


The "Great Britain" thing is an interesting one - and one that's always guaranteed to get my goat, being from Northern Ireland. The "United Kingdom" (according to my passprt anyway) is the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" - so you can see why I get a little annoyed when "Great Britain" gets used.

During the Olympics, for example, I used to seethe every time I heard the words "Team GB"

Posted by Siobhan at April 21, 2005 12:23 PM

Yep. I know you know this, but for the benefit of others reading:

Technically, 'Great Britain' is a unit of physical geography the name of the main island, alongside Mann, Anglesey, Wight, Skye, Mull, St. Kilda, Eigg, Muck, Rhum, and a few hundred others in the archipelago of the 'British Isles'.

To state the obvious, the British Isles definitely isn't a synonym of the UK, as the island of Ireland (physical entity) is divided between two entirely independent, sovereign nations (political entities): the UK and Eire.

Posted by NRT at April 21, 2005 01:04 PM

As someone who has to send out information when it is requested via Email I know where you're coming from. We get a lot forwarded from the abuse at brad... address, along with the content-manager at brad... address which is on the home page. Then you have the people who send the email to every address they can find, so after everyone has forwarded it to you, you have at least 5 copies.

Our prospectus request form has 3 options at the top for country - UK, European Union and 'Rest of World'. *usually* people get that right but we still have a number of enquirers who leave it as UK but then tell us that they're African or whatever.

Then there's the people who tell us "I got ver god english skills"

Posted by Neil T. at April 21, 2005 05:22 PM
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