Reviewing how we support our students across The University of Edinburgh

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In this post, Ros Claase, Senior Design Lead for the new ‘Personal Tutor and Student Support Review’ project, highlights how this initiative is reviewing and making recommendations on how to best support taught students across the University of Edinburgh…

In April 2019, we launched a project reviewing how we support our taught students across the university: Personal Tutor and Student Support Review. We want to ensure that all students are able to flourish during their time with us, and that they receive consistently excellent and clear support to do so. The project is co-sponsored by Senior Vice Principal, Professor Charlie Jeffery, and Deputy Secretary Student Experience, Gavin Douglas. It is being led by Dr Emma Hunter, Rosalyn Claase and Rosie Edwards, partnering with Andy Shanks, Director of Student Wellbeing, and working with a Design Group made up of expert colleagues from across the Senate Learning and Teaching Committee and the Service Excellence Programme: Student Administration and Support Board.

As a sector, higher education is operating in a continually shifting and pressurised environment for our students and our staff, including increasing student expectations and a growth in reported and presented mental wellbeing issues across the university’s communities.

We know there are some great examples of good practice across the university, and we want to recognise and build on these. We want to make sure students are at the heart of the support we provide, and make it consistent, high quality and easy to access when they need it. At the moment, student feedback and survey results indicate that as well as examples of great support, there are also problems with the nature and consistency of what is offered, and concerns are voiced by staff and students. There are also currently many different routes to support, with different interpretations and understandings of what this constitutes and who is responsible for delivering it.

Through our review and recommendations, we aim to deliver a model of support for students which enables them to make the most of their time studying at the University of Edinburgh, and which is understood by everyone. We want to improve the clarity and communication of what kind of support students can access, so that all students and staff will have clear information about what is available and how it is accessed. We want all students to feel well supported and listened to regarding their academic and personal development and wellbeing.

If we crack this, we believe students and staff will have a more fulfilling experience at the university, and we hope to reduce the stress and anxiety associated with not always knowing where and how to receive support. We want our colleagues to feel better equipped to support students, and our students to be better able to navigate their way through and beyond their university experience, preparing them for their transition into their futures.

It’s a challenging and extremely worthwhile piece of work to be tasked with, and we want to hear from you. We’re currently speaking with colleagues across the schools and deaneries, to listen to them about how students are currently supported, their ideas for improvement and their observations about the challenges we face in doing this. We’ll also be meeting with other specialist services across the University, and have been speaking to students informally in their social and study spaces. The team will be visiting other universities in the UK and beyond to learn from other places about how they have improved the support they offer students, and we are also researching various approaches to student support through papers and conferences.

Over the summer, we’ll be pulling together ideas for potential future ways of working, and, over the first half of Semester One, we will be running a series of workshops and discussions to get your feedback on our ideas. Using your feedback and insights, we will then be developing a detailed plan for delivering enhanced ways of supporting our students, and ensuring our colleagues are supported and equipped to do so themselves. This will be presented to the Senate Learning and Teaching Committee and Service Excellence Programme SA&S Board in December for their joint approval.

We’ve created a very simple site to keep you informed about the project as it progresses and so you can stay in touch. Take a look at our SharePoint site (EASE login required) for more information about the project and team helping to make it happen. Do get in touch if you’d like to contribute your ideas or have any questions about the project. We need our colleagues’, and our students’ input, in order to make this work.

Rosalyn Claase

Ros is Senior Lead Design for the Personal Tutor and Student Support Review project. Ros has a degree in Modern Languages (French and German) from the University of Cambridge, and has spent two years living and working in Germany. She holds a CIPD qualification, is an accredited Coach through the Association for Coaching, and a trustee of a local Edinburgh charity.

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