Student Engagement at UW Collaborative Centres

Posted on 13 March 2014
In 2013, the University sent out a questionnaire and an accompanying explanatory letter to a sample of 30 collaborative centres as a pilot survey to try to test awareness of chapters B4 and B5 in the QAA UK Quality codes for Higher Education, and actions that were being taken to respond to them.

The Quality Code is the definitive reference point for all those involved in delivering higher education which leads to an award from or is validated by a UK higher education provider. Chapter B4 addresses the ways in which higher education providers enable students to develop and achieve their academic, personal and professional potential, and chapter B5 covers Student Engagement

With 25 respondents, this small scale project reflected a cross section of University of Wales collaborative centres in terms of subject specialism, size, geographical location and governance. It included small independent colleges with a niche market, centres owned by large global companies, centres with a range of UW programmes, as well as centres offering programmes validated by other providers in addition to the UW.

The questionnaire sections included questions on many aspects including student Learning, student learning support, Involvement of students in strategic planning, the collective student voice, and systems in place relating to student engagement.

The feedback from centres proved to be valuable and showed that there was a clear enthusiasm for student engagement and a readiness to develop further initiatives in this area. All of the centres that responded had well-developed learning support for their students at programme level and the following were clearly valued in them; access to academic staff, tutorial guidance, mentoring, academic advice. Several overseas centres emphasised their special arrangements to help students from outside their country.

Although only a small percentage of our total centres were involved, some conclusions can be drawn from this information. Not surprisingly, the size, type, mission and institutional culture of our centres seem to be the key factors shaping the institutional ethos around the student experience and student engagement.

Student support, student representation and participation may be better developed at the programme level than at senior and cross institutional level although there are some interesting developments regarding the latter in some of our centres. There is a developing focus on wider and more holistic interpretations of the student experience with more emphasis on the personal and professional, not simply the academic, education of students and again there are some very interesting examples of good practice in this area.

With the importance of sharing examples of good practice and innovation with all of our collaborative centres, this survey proved to be a useful tool and worth repeating across more of our centres, supported by interviews with staff and students at our centres.

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