Second day of UCISA Conference, and it's thick fog. Can't see anything outside bedroom window. There's an eerie hum of cars going slowly on M4, but can't see any of them.
Before the opening speaker we saw a short video of students' experience of using IT, asking them what they owned, what they brought with them, what they thought of what was provided for them. Very illuminating. Lovely quote from one student, "can we send all lecturers on a basic IT course. Sometimes things just aren't plugged in!" We provided some of the footage, and you can see the whole thing here.
Then we had the first speaker, the VC of Buckinghamshire New University and is called "A good student experience in changing times".
First looked at some of the HESA data on student profiles eg 38% of students are 21 or over. 40% of UG students are part time. Not all students are 18 yr olds doing full time UG degree.
We live in changing times. Illustrated by some phrases from Higher Education white paper "putting students in the driving seat", " more competition amongst providers", "Increasing informed student choice leading to improved quality"
But, are expectations going to be dashed?
There's a risk that the focus will be on regulation not students
Choice may be partially illusory. Some students will have little choice eg in geographically location or want to study a particular subject
Not all private providers will choose to be regulated, so there will be institutions outside the sector.
A risk based approach to quality assurance may lose the current positive aspects.
And, the Bill may never happen! Certainly won't happen in original timescale. So, step change as envisaged in the White Paper may never happen, but may instead be incremental.
Students have high expectations.
Student interest has risen up the agenda in all institutions in recent years. Commonplace for students to be involved in quality assurance, student charters increasing as a partnership. Student involvement is now promoted and accepted, but only up to a point.
Expectations getting higher - fees, government policy, NUS campaigns all encouraging students to expect more engagement in the business.
Engagement includes provision of feedback by students which leads to improvements in the learning experience.
How do we make progress?
We need to provide all types of students with a voice and listen to them.
Develop a shard ethos of shared action planning and partnership with students.
A good student experience is defined by the students themselves, and students should contribute to decision making about their learning experience in its broadest sense.
Student involvement is increasingly high priority, leads to innovation, and makes sound business sense.
Student engagement strategy will be different in different institutions. But, we all need a strategy and it has to be appropriate to university's mission. What are the boundaries? They have to be pushed out further than just quality assurance. May be some no-go areas, but has to be tested.
Need to guard against view that there is a universal student. Also, we mustn't view our students only as consumers, they aren't only consumers. Higher education is both transactional and transformational. We need a trusting relationship with them, can be hard if Student Union is campaigning, but if you have a foundation of trust you can talk it through.
Don't assume that a good relationship with students at a senior level permeates at all levels.
What would be the impact of increased student engagement on a sustainable IT service?
Would student involvement put more pressure on the resource base?
Are environmental issues likely to be a high prototype for students?
Does this make us more dependent on having the right people and culture?
Is our mix of skills right to embrace this approach.
Very good talk, and lots of stuff to think about and discuss next time I meet our student officers.
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