Students Staff

17 May 2019

Our new vision for student development

Filed under: Latest news, Student experience — Communications, CER @ 11:11 am

Richard Stock, our Academic Registrar, tells us more about our new vision for student development and how our new Student Development team will lead and support delivery of the vision.

Focusing on the needs of our students is central to the University’s mission. We offer a transformational education and put support for every student from every background at the heart of everything we do to enable them to achieve outstanding outcomes. Our transformational offer is supported by the work we do to equip our students with the skills to develop as individuals while they are with us to reach their aspirations and to prepare for the next stage of their lives beyond Essex.

As we embark on our new Strategic Plan, we have developed an ambitious new vision for how we will support our students’ development. The vision has three overarching components:

  • Supporting our students as they make the transition into our global learning community, maximising their resilience, ambition and capacity to succeed and develop.
  • Supporting our students to develop throughout their educational experience, enabling them to have the study skills and wider personal development opportunities they need to achieve their academic potential.
  • Providing insight into the effectiveness of our support for individual student development, using data to identify barriers to student success, enabling us to take actions that have real impact in transforming our students’ lives.

From 1 August 2019, a new Student Development team will be established in the Academic Section to lead the delivery of the new vision. The team will bring together the existing Employability & Careers Centre and the Talent Development Centre. The changes also affect colleagues in the current Student Engagement team.

How will the changes enhance the support on offer to our students?

The process of change to establish the new team will see an increase in staffing overall across the new Student Development team. In designing the new team, in consultation with colleagues, we have been able to reshape our existing structures, resources and ways of working to increase capacity to support Departments, to be more responsive to the needs of our students and to enable a clearer and more coherent offer.

How will the newly formed single team cover the priorities of the current teams?

The new team will bring integrated leadership to four related areas of responsibility:

  • Skills for Success will provide support for students as they make the transition into higher education and will support them to develop through their educational experience, enabling them to have the study skills they need to succeed. This area will include international language, academic, numeracy and digital skills. As well as the delivery of embedded teaching, the team will work with Faculties and Departments to identify priorities and to offer short-term, targeted support.
  • Work-Based Learning, Industry & Placements will oversee the sourcing and development of placements, work-based learning, including practice placements, internships, entrepreneurship and innovation, industrial liaison and employer engagement and will support students to prepare for the world of work. For industry and placements, each Department will continue to have a named individual to develop department specific knowledge and expertise in relation to work-based learning and we have increased the number of student-facing roles to support student engagement in relation to placements. Support for innovation and enterprise has been embedded into roles as a distinct area requiring support and development.
  • Building on the success of the ‘Hub and Spoke’ model in supporting Faculties and Departments, the Faculty Coordination team will enable a holistic view across all Faculties, working closely with Departments to determine and plan for Career Development Learning and advice. The team will ensure that insights and best practice are shared across the Faculty boundaries and we have increased the number of Careers Advisers to reflect present demand and to plan for growth, including expansion at Southend.
  • The Career Services team will be focused on the development and delivery of professional and proactive careers services for students, enabling them to have the wider personal development opportunities they need. We will be integrating access to careers services with the Student Services Hub in order to raise visibility of the services to students and expand access times and availability.

How will Departments interact with the new team?

The new Student Development team structure maintains features of the ‘Hub and Spoke’ model (currently used in the Employability & Careers Centre) and seeks to build on the proven value of working closely with Faculties and Departments to shape and deliver our work around local needs. The Faculty-facing element of the ‘spokes’ will continue but with an expanded ‘hub’ to enable greater operational resilience, the sharing of expertise and opportunities to maximise the more effective use of resources.

How have colleagues contributed to the development of the new team?

There has been extensive consultation over the last few months. Informal discussions with key stakeholders and affected staff as well as formal consultation have now concluded. The process of change has also enabled us to seek feedback from Departments about their demand for skills support to understand current and future need. In response, we are increasing the support for numeracy and the support available at the Southend Campus. We are also expanding the remit of specific roles to reflect the future need in relation to digital skills.

How will the changes impact on the important work of the Talent Development Centre?

For the new Skills for Success team, the changes being introduced will move us to a position to deliver in full the policy agreed by Senate in relation to academic skills support. The changes will allow us to meet the particular peaks of demand for skills support in the autumn term. In terms of hours of teaching capacity, current embedded teaching demand across all levels in the autumn term is around 1300 hours across all campuses. The changes we are making will release capacity to enable all departments to have the 5 hours of small class teaching for first year undergraduates, which will represent a significant increase in the present teaching hours to over 2100.

Overall, through the changes we are making, the full-time equivalence in the Skills for Success team will increase in comparison to the current Talent Development Centre.

How do the changes align with the University’s commitment to decasualisation of the workforce?

All colleagues will be remaining on permanent contracts of employment. In order to align our resources effectively to meet our students’ needs across the academic year, the new team will operate new patterns of work. Skills tutors’ contracts will be full-time during the autumn and spring terms to reflect the full-time teaching demand during this half of the year. The changes are supported by a new workload model based on the established model used by Essex Pathways.

Once colleagues working in this area have been allocated to roles within the new structure, we will be recruiting additional staff on permanent, part-time contracts to support autumn term delivery in particular. As a consequence, we are envisaging eliminating the requirement for the use of casual staff to support the needs of our students for skills support. Over time, as we increase our year round support activity and work with Departments to shape our services, we will consider investing in future permanent roles through the usual planning round process.

How will scholarship and programme development be promoted?

The new structure recognises the importance of scholarship and programme development. The workload model we have developed for the Skills for Success team in consultation with colleagues includes hours ring-fenced for personal and professional development such as attending conferences, visiting other universities, internal training, peer-observation, pedagogic activities to maintain expertise, individual supervision and team meetings, away days, collaboration with Departments about content and summer projects. In shaping these aspects of the work of the team, we have drawn explicitly on the approach used in Essex Pathways.

How will the new team be supported?

Administrative support arrangements have been reshaped but the overall full-time equivalence is not being reduced and there is no reduction in services to students. Support in Southend will be expanded. We are integrating student access to our academic support services into our broader student services delivered by the Student Services Hub. This will enable initial enquires to be managed via the Student Information Team, which is a larger team working flexibly across all three campuses. The changes will ensure longer hours of access and greater visibility for students and parity of experience across our campuses. The helpdesk space currently occupied by the Talent Development Centre will continue to be used for student-facing Student Development activities.

What other changes will be happening alongside the creation of the Student Development team?

In addition to enhancing the ways in which we will be supporting students, we are creating additional capacity to evaluate the effectiveness of our support. Working closely with the Finance, Planning & Data Insight team, a new role will enable improved insight of the University’s educational performance in support of individual student development and success. The role will help to ensure that the impact of our services can be evaluated based on robust data, providing a firm evidence for identifying future priorities and realising the full potential of, for example, the Learner Engagement Activity Portal (LEAP).

A new Student Experience team has also been created, which will take responsibility for Student Voice, Welcome and Induction and Registration. This team will be located alongside the Student Development team in the Student Life team in the Academic Section.

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