NSS success: It’s the little things?

I was asked to contribute this after the Business School scored highly in the NNS survey for Management & Business degrees, and was invited to focus on things the School has done that have contributed to the maintenance of and improvement in our NSS scores that might be shared.

The category includes our Accounting programmes, where staff have been awarded the RUSU Gold Star for the past three years and that must help. Continue reading →

Internationalising Student Support Community of Practice (COP) by Matthew Daley

The University Strategy for Teaching and Learning identified “communities of practice” as key vehicles for informal dialogue with the ‘academic voice’ and for mutual support, for the exchange of ideas and the sharing of good practice between different role groups involved in the whole University teaching and learning agenda.

The Internationalising Student Support COP has been established with the remit to offer opportunities for staff involved with and interested in the development and enhancement of student support and experience in relation to internationalisation; to share best practice and discuss current challenges and opportunities for providing a high quality international student experience for all students. This COP is led by the University’s International Student Adviser in partnership with RUSU’s elected International Students’ Officer and supported by the Associate Dean (Science).

Each meeting focuses on a particular theme and good practice and ideas for improvement on that theme are presented and shared, with the intention of exploring how to disseminate good practice effectively.

The first meeting took place on Wednesday 5 December with the theme ‘Employability’ and attracted 20 members of staff from across the University.

Some of the highlights were:

  • Em Sowden, Placement and Development Manager, talked about the demand for international placements from all students particularly in China, Malaysia and India. Em also talked about the new online resource ‘My Jobs Online’.
  • Jane Batchelor, Career Development Advisor for the School of Real Estate & Planning and Lilly Mae Liddicott, Head of Industrial Training/Industry Liaison for the Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences both highlighted the value of Alumni involvement. Alumni could be used in a number of ways including mentoring current students and offering evening lectures.
  • Organising student-led events, where previous placement students can talk to current students about their own placement experience and how it has benefited them.

Future meetings and their themes are below and bookings can be made via CSTD:

  • Tailoring Support for International Students (staff supporting international/EU students)

–        Thursday 07/02/2013 – 13.00-14.00

  • Integration and Languages (staff supporting all students)

–         Wednesday 24/04/2013 – 13.00-14.00

To count or not to count? – Time out for the Part One Debate…

Those of you who attended the University/RUSU debate on the motion that Part One should count towards students’ degree classifications (30th November 2011) will recall the persuasive arguments presented by both teams (see the Part One Debate summary for a reminder). Like me, you may have found your initial conviction in one side of the argument wavering slightly as proceedings developed.

As the debate came to a close we remained divided on the issue with a vote of 24 in favour of the motion and 31 against. 6 were still unsure. A larger audience may have resulted in a more definitive outcome, but given the relatively low attendance at the event (influenced by industrial action on the day) any evidence to support the University taking this issue further at this point in time is limited.

I’m not sure if we have heard the end of this debate though, as students experiencing the new fees regime begin to have their say. Suffice to say it is parked, for now.

Joy Collier


Response to Student Engagement Event: A Students’ Union perspective

The 2nd May saw CDoTL host an exciting event billed as ‘Exploring Student Engagement at Reading and Beyond’. Attending as a students’ union staff member with a passion for student engagement on a local and national level, I was excited to get the chance to hear about different viewpoints and approaches – especially from Scotland, where I feel the funding climate means the pressures & priorities within Higher Education are slightly different.

Karl Hobley, the President of RUSU opened the event with a frank statement about the impending threats to quality engagement with students for the UK HE sector and passionately requesting that Reading lead the way in national debate on the matter. He stressed that discussions about ‘engagement’ can frequently focus on methods rather than results & stressed the importance of reacting to student input and ‘closing the feedback loop’.

The main speakers of the event (Dr. Catherine Bovill from University of Glasgow and Prof Peter Kruschwitz, Helen Bilton & Dr. Richard Mitchell from University of Reading) provided some varied and interesting perspectives on and methods of engaging with students in relation to curriculum design, student representation & red-flagging of issues. I particularly enjoyed Prof Kruschwitz’s light-hearted yet frank approach to the bureaucratic barriers to effective engagement (such as new module approval delays) and his statement that ‘working towards the equality of opportunity to participate is better than chasing the unrealistic goal of total participation’.

Dr. Bovill’s interactive session involved the audience discussing and ranking examples of curriculum design on her ‘ladder’ of student engagement. It was clear that Dr. Bovill had done (and published) extensive research on the matter, but I felt that there were few conclusions – the session led to further questions for most attendees. These included questions such as: ‘should students be able to design their own learning outcomes?’ The ensuing discussions failed to arrive at a consensus, but I believe this was Dr. Bovill’s intention.

A shining example of excellent representation work came from Helen Bilton of the Institution of Education, who provided logistical and evidence-based accounts of the way her Staff Student Liaison Committee functions. What was most apparent about Ms. Bilton’s departmental success was the amount of tangible changes that had been made as a result of student input – something that echoed Mr. Hobley’s comments on ‘closing the feedback loop’.

Dr. Mitchell presented some very interesting examples of the systematic tracking of individual engagement which has huge potential in being integrated with the RISIS database. Dr. Bovill voiced my own concerns at the binary nature of the system (students were either ‘engaged’ or not) but with some tweaks I am excited to see what this type of system might mean for an institution’s ability to correlate engagement with academic success.

Overall, the event raised very interesting questions as well as suggesting innovative answers to some existing ones. The audience was a refreshing mix of academics, administrative staff & students and the discussions brought to light some important ideas, questions and concerns for the future. The finest quote of the session was, in my opinion, from Prof Kruschwitz: ‘we need to empower students to take ownership of their brains and invest that power as they see fit’.

Emily Collins – RUSU