Hello, my name is Mike. I work for the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, and my role is to ensure we provide an outstanding student experience for our cohort of 750 on-campus undergraduate Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery students (BVMS), a professional veterinary degree.
In this post I will introduce and talk about four mechanisms which we have developed and use to support students who encounter difficulties during their studies. The four mechanisms are:
- Note of concern
- Student welfare week
- Student Leadership Award
- Professional Development course.
The note of concern mechanism allows any student or member of staff to bring inadequate professional behaviours, health and well-being concerns or performance issues of any student to the attention of the student support management group (SSMG). Where appropriate the SSMG meet with the student to try and uncover any problems they are having, and then offer support and guidance to help resolve them. This is a great way to ensure you support and help students tackle problems they may not be aware of, or have difficulty recognising and/or confronting. It also allows you to see what the pressure points are, when they occur, and if specific resources are needed at particular times in the academic calendar.
The student welfare week is held annually in the third week of February. Using the New Economics Foundation ‘5 ways to wellbeing’ model, each day is built around one of the five themes. I call this an enabler event because it gets students to think about the importance of their health and wellbeing, using a range of fun recreational activities. Support services in the University also take part in this event. In previous years the Chaplaincy, counselling service, careers service, and security services have taken part. As the Vet School is located on a satellite campus, this event is a great way to showcase further support services the University offers and how to access them.
Our student leadership award introduced in 2016 recognises students who have done something outstanding outside of their academic achievements. Any member of School staff can nominate a student and nominations can be made all year. Nominations are considered by the student support management group. If an award is successful, the nominee receives a certificate signed by the Head and Deputy Head of School and a gift voucher. This is a great way to create and foster a positive student environment, and it gives students something exciting to talk to prospective employers about.
Our Professional Development course has been developed – and is mandatory – for any student who fails to progress into the next year of study. The BVM&S is a professional degree and failed courses cannot be carried into the next year of the programme. The Professional Development course provides general support and advice on personal and professional development, including the opportunity for students to consider their own weaknesses and strengths. The course is a series of eight discussion sessions over the year with short reflective exercises to encourage change and improve future performance. All repeating students work together regardless of year of study and this course allows them to maintain close links to the School, staff, and friends, at a time when they may feel vulnerable. An online distance learning option is available for students who are unable to attend class in person.
In combining these mechanisms and using them from day one, we ensure that students become more resilient as they mature through the programme and less reliant on help to solve many problems. Not only does this give our students more confidence but it also means they are graduating into the workplace with the right skills to guarantee a positive start to their career.
I hope you find the insights into these four mechanisms of student support useful. Please contact me if you are considering adopting any of these in your School and would like further information.