Congratulations on a Gold TEF

Later today we are going to celebrate, as a community, the award of a Gold TEF to Swansea University. This is an incredible achievement and something that everybody, across the institution, both staff and students, should be very proud of.

We were somewhat disappointed to be awarded a Silver award last year, but that did reflect where the University was at that point. So much more work has been done over the last year and some of the projects and initiatives that had been started three years ago, when I arrived, have only really come to fruition and begun to have an impact in the last year. What was most surprising, and reassuring, when we came to develop the TEF submission for this year was just how far the University had moved, and all the work that has been done, around employability, academic mentoring, student voice, technology enhanced learning, feedback and assessment, and much more besides, that has made such a significant impact even in that short space of time. It was, in fact, surprisingly easy to demonstrate within the TEF submission just how far we had traveled. It is so fantastic, therefore, to see that recognised and rewarded in this year’s Gold award.

What this also demonstrates, of course, is just how many people across the whole institution have been involved and how many different people can claim some credit for the award of the Gold TEF. These kinds of achievement are never the work of one person, or even a small group of senior managers or professional services. We would never have achieved such a great outcome without all the hard work, and commitment of staff and students across the University. We can seek out ideas and initiatives, as we did with STEP4Excellence, beginning with a visioning day three years ago, bringing together staff and students to ask what needs to change to achieve a radical improvement in student engagement. We can set up working parties, seek staff and students to lead on a range of initiatives. We can work with champions in each College, seeing how they can inspire and challenge their colleagues to make meaningful changes on the ground. We can provide the professional services support, the training and practical interventions from each of the Academies. In the end, however, it is the way in which the staff and students in each of our colleges come together, work together and achieve their local results that ultimately makes the difference and achieves a result such as the Gold TEF.

To begin to offer thanks, therefore, would take pages and pages and pages. My personal thanks goes to all our staff, across all seven Colleges, those who take on extra responsibilities, those who make that extra special effort for their students, those who seek out new opportunities for improving their learning and teaching, that is, of course, all of you! Overseeing this activity are also the Directors of Learning and Teaching in each of the Colleges, colleagues with whom I am honoured to work on a daily basis and the leaders of this activity that make so much else possible.

I would also want to offer thanks to staff in the various Academies and across the professional services. Student engagement, and improving the student experience, is a collective effort and something that is central to all our different roles, something that we all take extremely seriously, and I thank all our staff for their commitment and professionalism. And, once again, to a small group of colleagues, the Directors and senior leaders in each of the Academies, heads of professional service units and others whose commitment to the cause of student experience really does set Swansea apart as somewhere special.

I would also want to thank our colleagues in the Student’s Union, without whom none of this would have happened. To watch their work, over the last three years, the growth in student representation, the growth in confidence of the full time officers, the support that is given to academic societies across the institution, and the many important and transformational ideas that have come from the Union and the wider student body, is phenomenal and I am really grateful for their support and enthusiasm.

Finally, therefore, I do have to thank the team that brought together the final document. Some of the unsung heroes of this kind of activity are those who are fully on top of our data. We made many significant, and probably impossible demands on the data teams, in order to understand what the metrics meant and to demonstrate the impact of so many of our initiatives. Without them this submission would not have been possible. However, it was also the drafters, the writers and editors who put in weeks of work to make the final submission possible. Two names, particularly, need to be mentioned, Rob Bowen who managed all the final data analysis, and Melissa Wood who co-ordinated the whole activity, and without whom we would not have achieved the spectacular outcome that we have. My personal thanks goes to both of them.

Many thanks, therefore, to all our colleagues and to all our students. It is an amazing achievement and one that we can all be justly proud of. All that remains now is to go out and celebrate (and, of course, to begin the work of sustaining and improving all those wonderful activities that have got us this far!).

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