In this post, Najwa Kamaruzaman and Marianne Brown offer an overview of the new student support model and share their experience listening to and supporting students across different aspects of their University life. Najwa studies MSc Social Anthropology and is the student support evaluation intern who supports Student Analytics, Insights, and Modelling (SAIM). Marianne is the Head of SAIM within Registry Services and is leading the evaluation and monitoring of the new student support model. This post belongs to the Learning & Teaching Enhancement Theme: Student Voice.
In September 2022, a new model for supporting taught students was rolled out to over 7000 students. Student Advisers, Wellbeing Advisers, and Cohort Leads were appointed within Phase 1 schools, each with the responsibility to provide support across different aspects of student life – responding to day-to-day questions, providing wellbeing and pastoral care, and supporting academic success.
The aim of this new way of supporting students is to enhance the experience of our students: to provide them with better and accessible support when they needed it; to ensure specialised support is provided where required; to enhance their University of Edinburgh experience; and to ensure that their academic and welfare needs are met.
The model has shifted the way that support is delivered to our students in Phase 1 schools. Next year, this support will be rolled out to remaining taught students across the University.
While implementing such a fundamental change in our approach to student support, listening to the student voice has been critical – helping us to understand what is working well and what needs to be developed further, from a student perspective. This was a key part of the development of the model, and has continued as we’ve rolled this out across the University. This is both shaping the way things work in-year, but also in preparation for next year.
Over the last seven months, we have asked students to provide feedback through surveys, focus groups, and Student Panel tasks.
In semester one, we asked students within the model to give feedback on the communication and visibility of support available to them. This ranged from their awareness of support services, to whether they knew where to go to access information to undertake tasks such as matriculation or course enrolment. This feedback highlighted to us that students felt there was a lot of support available but were often unclear about whom to contact in which circumstance. This showed us there was a need to articulate more clearly what different services offer and when students should reach out to them.
In our December Pulse Survey, we asked students about their sense of community and belonging. Through this survey, we gathered information on what is important to students in creating a sense of belonging. It also showed us that there is more work to be done in encouraging and fostering this – but provided early insights that “cohort activities”, which are a component of the new model, could contribute positively to that.
Over Semester 2, we are running a further series of focus groups with a range of students to gain deeper insights into their overall experience within the new support model. These focus groups target students from different programmes – including Undergraduates and Postgraduates in on-campus and online programmes – aiming to collect diverse feedback from the students about the support they receive. This will help us understand, and work towards ensuring, that all students have access to consistent support that aligns to their needs.
A continuation from the feedback gathering in semester one, in addition to asking questions about their awareness of support services, we will expand on asking them their experience of support across the academic year, and what could be done to improve that experience. The feedback that is gathered will be valuable not only in making us aware of their current concerns with the support services, but also in providing us with ways to improve the model for the benefit of the students.
Listening and responding to the student voice is a critical part of ensuring that the new model provides students with the support they need. Their feedback is shaping the development of the model, and will continue to be critical in the further roll out of the model next year, and beyond.
A short summary of insights from the December Pulse Survey on Community and Belonging is available on Bite Size Insights SharePoint page.
Students who would like to be involved in providing feedback on their student experience through surveys and focus groups can sign up to the Student Panel.
Najwa is the Student Support Evaluation Intern who supports the Student Analytics, Insights and Modelling (SAIM) in evaluating the new Student Support Model to gain insight into student and staff experiences. Mainly involved in developing and implementing data collection methods and analysing the outcomes, Najwa is currently studying MSc Social Anthropology at The University of Edinburgh.
Marianne is Head of Student Analytics, Insights and Modelling (SAIM) within Registry Services. She oversees the running of student surveys, the Student Panel, and the reporting and analysis of student and timetable data to support operational processes and strategic decision-making to improve student experience. She is leading the evaluation and monitoring of the new student support model.