NSS, Go Beyond and STEP4Excellence

This week was the first time in my life that I have been compared to Woody from Toy Story. Those who were at the Go Beyond event on Monday will know who was likened to Buzz Lightyear, the rest of you will have to guess.

In the first two days of this week I have been at a series of events that have begun to get various agendas for 2016/17 off the ground. The Go Beyond workshop on Monday on the Bay Campus was a really exciting event with lots of ideas and proposals being thrown around. Everybody said that they wished that they could have had more time to talk, and that has to be a good thing.

On Monday evening I attended the graduation ceremony in the Great Hall for the Reaching Wider South Wales Partnership Summer University. This was a very inspiring event with around sixty students from local sixth forms and colleges who had spent three weeks this summer learning what the University experience is all about. Widening Participation is an important agenda for the University and we are currently undertaking a review of our provision that is due to report in the New Year.

Yesterday, Tuesday, we held our annual Student Experience and Feedback events, one at the Park Campus and one at the Bay. I was very pleased with the numbers who came to listen to how well we have done in NSS and what actions are being taken to improve on these figures for next year. The events were also videoed and so the presentations will be available for all very soon.

One of the responses I have been having from a number of these events comes from people asking how the various projects that we are involved in actually fit together and so I thought it might be helpful just to outline those projects that are working through this year and how we see them relating to each other.

Everything this year, and in subsequent years no doubt, that relates to learning and teaching will be seen through the lens of the TEF. We are all very used now to seeing everything related to research being framed by the REF and the REF Strategy Group provides university leadership in this area. So, all our initiatives and activities to improve learning, teaching, student experience and student engagement must now be seen in relation to TEF. And when TEF 3 comes along, requiring all programmes and subject areas to prepare their own submission, then the University will need to have the structures in place to manage this. Senate and the Learning and Teaching Committee of the University will continue to have responsibility for strategy and development in these important areas, but a great deal of the co-ordination of initiatives will inevitably fall to a TEF strategy group that has yet to be established.

Under the wider umbrella of TEF related activities we need to address the issues raised by the NSS, by DEHLE and by continuation statistics (and any other metrics that get included in the TEF in future years). As I mentioned in the presentations yesterday we can be very proud of the overall satisfaction results in NSS, but the responses to the other themes, and particularly to teaching and learning (4% down across the University) means that there is still work to be done. Some of the response to NSS will be done through the Colleges, in partnership with specific subject areas, and in the usual structures of engagements and actions plans. Other responses come through the work of Go Beyond and STEP4Excellence.

Go Beyond is aimed to provide an in depth look at the structures of our programmes and the way in which we present, deliver and enhance learning and teaching across the University. We will be looking at the portfolio of programmes that are on offer. We will be asking how we can embed professional practice and student mobility into our programmes. We will be looking at the use of educational technology across the University and at the nature of the academic year, the academic week and the academic day. We will also be having an in depth look at assessment and feedback, an essential area of NSS and, through that, of TEF. This is an ambitious agenda but these are all things that we need to be addressing to underpin the excellence of our learning and teaching in the classroom. The event on Monday showed both that there was a clear appetite to engage in these agendas and, perhaps more importantly, lots of ideas and examples of good practice across the University that we can already point to and learn from as we look at the wider issues.

STEP4Excellence now enters its second year and is aimed primarily at improving our overall engagement with students across the University. The first year was very successful and initiatives are being developed around academic and pastoral support, learning and teaching CPD activities and student representation and voice in forums and through student reps. Further work will develop this year around student participation and student empowerment. Personally I have been very impressed, and somewhat humbled, by the engagement and enthusiasm of the students’ union in this programme, and it would not have been possible without that level of partnership. Students will also be involved in Go Beyond and if there is one thing that has come out of all the many activities that took place in 2015/16, that will really make the ambitious plans for the current year possible, it is the commitment to collaborative working across the University; academic staff, professional services staff and students all working together (Isn’t that also one of the morals of the Toy Story films, or have I missed something?).

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