Student Involvement – A report on the Gearing Up Conference, March 2016

Gearing Up

I recently attended the 4th annual Gearing Up conference in March. The conference focussed on Student Transitions tying in with the current QAA Enhancement Themes.

For me as a member of staff who supports taught postgraduate students via study skills workshops, the conference was an opportunity to meet academics, support staff and students. It made me look at support mechanisms and opportunities that are in place and think about what points in the transitions periods – into, during and out of University – that we as staff step in to help students with academic and personal development. It was also an opportunity to think about what else we could be doing and a chance to support and celebrate our successes at the University of Edinburgh. It was clear to me that the students were the focal point and were greatly involved in this conference.

The student voice was at the centre of this event. The student panels led by Jonny Ross-Tatum (EUSA President) established the framework for the day ahead. The panels were engaging and it was refreshing to hear about real life experiences from the different cohort of students, past and present. All of the student panellists demonstrated seizing opportunities to ‘get involved’ in activities (either extracurricular or subject related), whereby they developed many life skills.

In the breakout sessions much of the research focussed on student viewpoints and many of the breakout sessions were either student led or supported by students, such as: ‘Widening participation’; ‘Credit for entry and beyond for mature students’; and ‘Transitions in online postgraduate education’. These sessions echo the importance of the student experience and the role the University has to play in helping students to lead and challenge concepts to succeed within academia and beyond.

It is clear there are many positive transitions currently happening, suggesting no end of opportunities to learn something new. The Gearing Up conference was successful in that it made me think about the direction we are moving in as an institution and also how we as staff and students are consistently working towards building stronger and smoother transitions for the future. This is to ensure that the students have supportive and positive transitions throughout their University life and beyond.

This event brought home the variety of experiences from undergraduate and postgraduate, to mature students, and many more that exist within the university.

Key emerging questions are:

  • How do we support the variety of experiences?
  • How do we do things differently?
  • How do we capture and support students coming into the university who may be uncertain about how to seek or attain information about opportunities, or scared to even ask?
  • How can we get these voices heard to ensure that students also experience smooth transitions?

Perhaps some of the answers to these questions lie with the students. The conference signified the importance of students being heard in an educational setting and it is clear that there is a need for more student involvement. We need contributions from students to develop opportunities within the curriculum and by consulting with them we will be allowing them to have ownership of their own university journey.

Read more:

Watch videos of the three student panels and download PDF versions of the breakout session presentations at the Gearing Up for Transitions 2016 website.

Attend the launch event for the Academic Transitions Toolkit on Tuesday 24 May 2016.

Support provided for Postgraduate Taught students.

Ravinder Panesar

Rav Panesar has been working in Higher Education for 10 years. She is the Programme Administrator for Masters Provision at the Institute for Academic Development (IAD). In particular she is interested in supporting students with their development whilst at University.

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