In this post, Susan Hunter, an Academic Policy Officer in the Quality and Enhancement Team (Academic Services), highlights some of the key areas in Student Support Services, which are working together to build community…
The Oxford English Dictionary defines community as:
(mass noun) The condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common.
The University’s Student Support Services cover a variety of activities to support the student experience; in other words, sharing or having certain attitudes or interests in common. Examples of University services working together towards common interests are included in their annual quality reports to Senate Quality Assurance Committee (through the Student Support Services annual review process). Some highlights from the last reporting cycle are as follows…
Sharing complex student casework
Several services have experienced an increase in demand from students facing complex welfare or mental health issues in the past couple of years. The Student Counselling Service, Accommodation Catering and Events (ACE), The Advice Place and the Chaplaincy provide a network of support for students experiencing academic and personal problems. These services often work together as part of a connected network, or community, of support for students. They also recognise the importance of supporting staff dealing with complex cases, and explore ways to support these staff.
Sharing attitudes and interests
The Chaplaincy is a key service for community building activity. It provides space for students and staff to get involved in local and international projects, for example, the Syrian tutoring programme, which addresses local needs of the refugee community. Working with the Institute for Academic Development, Students’ Association and Edinburgh Global, the Chaplaincy provides a community to share different attitudes, interests, and explore local and global issues in a safe space.
The International Student Advisory Service (now part of the Student Immigration Service) established the Refugee Advisory Group, which supports a global community perspective. It reaches across academic communities, not least in working with the Council for Academics at Risk (CARA) UK Universities network; an example of a shared interest as an effective driver to forming communities of practice.
Another example of community building is Student Recruitment and Admissions’ (SRA) pre-arrival activity. SRA used social media to create communities of students before arrival at the University. In 2018-19, Edinburgh had the largest Welcome Week Facebook group with over 5000 followers. SRA also leads the University’s Social Media Community. Initially set up as a practitioner forum it has developed into a learning provider and brings together more than 100 colleagues from across the University.
Partnership working for common interests
The above includes many examples of partnership working and the University’s Student Support Services aim to enhance their collaborative activity wherever possible. Scholarships and Student Funding work with The Advice Place, Finance and ACE; the Careers Service works with Student Disability Service, and SRA. The list goes on. All services have links with Colleges and Schools, and there are some key partnerships including but not limited to the Careers Service and Student Disability Service. All the University’s Student Support Services aim to provide a supportive community of services and activities to benefit all our students and staff.