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Abertay University UKPRN: 10007849

Abertay University TEF Contextual Submission 1. Abertay University- an introduction Abertay is a modern University in Scotland with a long history of educating students and preparing them for the world of work. Established in 1888 as the Dundee Technical Institute, its primary purpose was vocational education. Since achieving University title in 1994, the courses have always been designed to develop confident, independent, employable graduates. Tangible recent success of our new pedagogic approach (section 2) is evidenced by the 2016 National Student Survey (NSS) results, with Abertay ranked as Scotland’s best modern university for overall student satisfaction, and the University being one of the leading contributors to wider access and articulation in the Scottish sector. Abertay is well known internationally in the field of computer games education, being recognised by the Princeton Review 2016 as the top institution in Europe, and in the top 25 worldwide. However, we offer a wide range of courses in fields as diverse as psychology, ethical hacking 1, forensic science, business, computer arts, environmental management, biotechnology, civil engineering, mental health nursing, and sport across our four academic Schools: Dundee Business School; the School of Arts, Media and Computer Games the School of Science, Engineering and Technology, and the School of Social and Health Sciences. There are currently just under 4000 students (of which 3500 are undergraduates) and 190 academic staff across the four Schools. Our undergraduate focus is on full-time provision. That is, we do not normally recruit to part-time, with the exception of a widening access course, so the part-time figures in the statistics represent small numbers of visiting students or those repeating a number of modules. We have strong links with our local partner colleges and in 2016/17 around a third of our entrants articulated into years two and three of our four-year undergraduate programmes. Some key demographic statistics about our undergraduate student population: • 97.6% of young full time first degree entrants (2015/16) are from state schools (87.3% is the Scottish average, HESA 2014/15) • 41% of young full time first degree entrants are mature (aged 21 and over) students (2015/16) (26% is the Scottish average, HESA 2014/15) • 82% of our undergraduate students are Scottish domiciled • 53% of our Scottish-domiciled undergraduate entrants 2 are from Dundee and the surrounding area (Fife, Tayside and Angus) 3 • 15% of Scottish-domiciled undergraduate entrants are from the 20% most deprived postcodes in Scotland, which is above the national average of 14.1% 4. In addition, we introduced a new contextual admission policy in 2014/15 in recognition that our evidence shows that the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) statistics do not capture all entrants who have experienced educational disadvantage before applying to university 5. 1

Abertay was first in the UK to offer this. 2016/17 data. 3 TEF year two data maps. 4 Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD), the Scottish Government’s official tool for recognising areas of multiple deprivation 5 Criteria include participating in a recognised higher education widening access programme, spending time in care or a combination of other criteria including attending a low progression school, living in an SIMD20 area, having parents or guardians who have not participated in HE or having experienced serious disruption to formal education. 2


Abertay University UKPRN: 10007849 Taken together, contextual entrants and SIMD 20 (the 20% most deprived postcode areas) entrants accounted for 26% of our Scottish-domiciled undergraduate intake in 2016/17. This demonstrates the breadth of our commitment to offer opportunities to potential students from the widest possible range of backgrounds. 2. Enhancing our Teaching and Learning strategy since 2013- a synopsis Since late 2013, the University has made a sustained effort to enhance the quality of teaching and learning from an already sound base, catalysed by a new Teaching and Learning Enhancement (TLE) strategy. This has been a conscious decision based on the aim of our 2015-20 strategic plan to provide our students with the knowledge, skills, confidence and attributes that they require to succeed in their chosen paths. We are a small, agile university with – for its size - a broad academic portfolio, and our explicit practice is to embed Teaching and Learning (T and L) excellence throughout all areas of operation. By doing so, we aim to fulfil our purpose of offering life-changing opportunities to our students; to inspire them; and to make a positive impact on the world around us. The results have been transformational. The focus on T and L has led to significant improvements in the student experience, with Abertay now being recognised as the top modern university in Scotland for NSS results; top modern university in Scotland in the most recent league table to be published, 2017 Times/Sunday Times League Table; and shortlisted as one of only six universities in the UK for the Times Higher Education University of the Year Award in 2016, the latter nomination being entirely driven by our innovative T and L reforms. During 2013 we commenced work on our new strategic plan (2015-2020). Our high-level aims for the future were dominated by teaching excellence ambitions, including making major academic changes through partnership working with the Students’ Association (SA); offering a high quality and distinctive learning experience; embedding the Abertay Attributes in our curriculum; and providing opportunities for work related experience. It is also very important to note our continued commitment in our strategic plan to “recognising and developing potential”, offering opportunities to all who have the ability to benefit from Abertay’s approach to University education through a variety of degree pathways. To promote high quality and consistency in the student experience, the application of our enhancement and T and L activities and processes are universalised – that is, they apply to all students and all staff across the University, e.g. feedback turnaround times; assessment criteria etc. For example, as part of the ‘Expanding Horizons’ strand of our strategic plan, we state that we will, across the University, offer every student the opportunity to undertake work-related experience, and provide entrepreneurial and other extra-curricular activities. While the expectation is universal, innovations often arise bottom-up and are School-specific (e.g. the student-led cyber security Conference “Securitay” organised by students in the School of Arts, Media, and Games; or Innovation for Global Growth, a University/Industry collaboration where students work on real-world problems and solutions mentored by leading companies). We disseminate good practice and encourage the generation of new ideas through centralised University-wide events such as the popular and well-attended internal TLE workshop series (e.g. 68 staff attended the recent ‘What’s New in Learning Technology’ workshop, from a total of 190 academic staff, and attendance is regularly in excess of 50); and a highly regarded and successful biennial TLE conference that has attracted significant attendance from across the UK (e.g. 154 attended in 2016). Our strategic plan, in addition to its focus on T and L, enjoins us to ‘Choose our own path’, effectively giving licence to creativity and innovation. The effect on T and L provision has been profound. Working intimately with the SA, in a period of rapid development, we have: implemented Grade Point Average (GPA) as part of a new assessment and feedback review 2

Abertay University UKPRN: 10007849 (1st provider in Scotland, 2nd in UK); introduced Electronic Management of Assessment (EMA – by which all coursework is submitted and feedback returned electronically); achieved sector-leading student feedback return times (10 working days for the majority of work); initiated whole institutional curriculum reform (e.g. introduced interdisciplinary central elective modules; increased module size to 20 credits to improve disciplinary depth; and offered the first true accelerated degrees in Scotland.); and achieved a significantly higher than average proportion of HEA national professional recognition for staff in UK universities. These practices apply to all staff and students in the University. Additional strategic initiatives directly linked to the T and L agenda included a planned reduction in the student to staff ratio (SSR), significant investment T and L resources, regularising the timetable, and purposively freeing academic staff from administrative tasks so that they could concentrate on TLE. Investment in TLE resources included a £2.85M ICT transformation programme in 2013 to improve Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) capability for students; lecture capture hardware; EMA facilitative equipment for staff; classroom AV equipment; network infrastructure; storage, backup and servers; and end user computing. Additional investment in 2016 has seen the provision of our pilot facility for technology enhanced learning with state of the art interactive equipment; and a similarly equipped room for creative thinking and innovation in TLE. Pursuing our focus on enhancing T and L, in 2014 we strengthened the explicit recognition of teaching contribution in our annual promotion rounds, and in 2015 we redrafted our role profiles for Division Leaders and School Academic Curriculum Managers (ACMs, effectively School Heads of Learning and Teaching) to focus more strongly on teaching excellence. The TLE team itself has grown from 1.6 FTE to 6.4 FTE since 2013/14, and its Abertay Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund (ATLEF) supports an annual round of funding innovative projects designed to develop leading practice and to build internal capacity for scholarship in T and L (see sections 4.1.1 and 4.1.2). 3. Student Engagement in relation to the preparation of this document Involving students and the SA has been a key element of our change management programme since 2013. We have had student, staff, and union input into the preparation of this document through specific briefings, open meetings, and document dissemination. Importantly, early involvement from students and staff at all levels has contributed to the success of the many reform measures mentioned in section 2 above. Further examples are listed in section 4.1.1. In relation to the TEF submission, the SA provided input into the construction of this document, and commented on a draft. SA Executive members were briefed in a University Executive/Student Leadership meeting, and received a subsequent briefing document. 4. Commentary on Abertay performance against TEF assessment criteria 4.1 Teaching Quality 4.1.1 Student engagement (TQ1) Much of the success of student engagement (including involvement in producing this document) flowed from the ‘Turnaround’ project, initiated by the SA in 2014, which was conducted in partnership with NUS Scotland and supported by the University. This reviewed the effectiveness of the SA leading to a series of recommendations, with transformative results, and the University and its students are now bearing the fruit of a vibrant and critical SA. The University is also one of only nine Scottish HEIs with a Student Partnership Agreement (SPA), which has been in place since 2014/15 and is an annual strategic document committing the University and the SA to work in partnership on certain agreed 3

Abertay University UKPRN: 10007849 priority areas. Our extremely successful 2016 QAA Scotland Enhancement Led Institutional Review (ELIR) commended our engagement with students in that process. TEF provides us with yet another opportunity to develop not just the relationship. In terms of academic governance, the last three years have seen a significant and planned increase in student numbers on the University Teaching and Learning Committee (a subcommittee of Senate). There has been strong SA involvement in all T and L short life working groups such as our new Abertay Attributes (2014), review of internal student surveys (2016/17), the Library Redevelopment Project (2016/17), and a working group on the reform of Senate itself (2016/17). Following initial discussions with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) (DVC (A)), the SA worked independently to produce a revamped Class Representative system that was subsequently implemented. Students have been partners in all T and L changes introduced in the past three years, including amendments to policies such as attendance, and self-certification of illness. Student input into the formulation of our assessment policy (specifically the turnaround period) had a demonstrable and powerful effect on our recent NSS score improvements. It is important to highlight that on a less formal basis, the SA meets fortnightly with the DVC (A), and these meetings, plus an explicit ‘open door’ policy means that the DVC (A) responds immediately to any T and L issues raised by students. The SA runs a popular and successful Student-Led Teaching Awards scheme, with students casting votes for six award categories including outstanding teacher, most helpful student support staff member, and best developer of student employability. Other examples of collaboration during the TEF period include regular invited appearances at the Students’ Representative Council by the DVC (A), the Director of TLE, and the Director of Student Services, to invite comment on issues relevant to students such as attendance, curriculum reform, assessment feedback, central electives, etc. Further, the DVC (A), Director of TLE, and SA President have delivered joint presentations on Assessment and Feedback at the 2016 QAA UK annual conference (invited talk) and to the University governing body. The University encourages feedback from students through formal and informal mechanisms including module and programme internal surveys (current response rate of 38.7%) . The results of these surveys are analysed centrally and triangulated against e.g. NSS scores. The timing of the module surveys was moved from end of module to mid term in 2014/15 in order to allow in module changes and improve our responsiveness to student feedback. A short life working group is currently reviewing further internal study surveys policy to enhance effectiveness of responses. Students are encouraged to take part in the scholarship of teaching, for example the Abertay Teaching and Learning Enhancement fund (ATLEF) has student engagement as one of its founding principles. In less than three years we have moved from students simply being subjects of pedagogic research to undertaking research (led by academics) and, in the most recent call, projects being led by students. This work has been presented at national conferences e.g. Enhancement Themes and JISC Change Agents Network (both June 2016). 4.1.2 Valuing teaching (TQ2) “Raising the status of teaching” is one of three strategic priorities within the University’s TLE strategy and significant resource has gone into this area in recognition that staff development is key to realising the ambitions of our strategy. As mentioned at the end of section 2, a dedicated TLE team was created in 2013 and “the team fulfils a highly visible leadership role for enhancement activity at the University. The team provides ongoing continuing professional development for staff, has a key role in sharing good practice, and supports local and cross institutional enhancement activity through the Abertay Teaching and Learning 4

Abertay University UKPRN: 10007849 Enhancement Fund (ATLEF) projects and Teaching Learning and Enhancement seminars. The team has also played a key role in supporting staff through the significant strategic changes that have taken place” QAA ELIR Outcome report (2016). As indicated in this quotation from the ELIR, the purpose of ATLEF is to build capacity and support innovation in T and L practice. Thirty-six projects have been funded through five rounds of funding and the outcomes of the projects have been disseminated at a range of external conferences. Several papers have been published, resulting in increased institutional learning, sharing of good practice and raising of the profile and reputation of the institution for scholarship in T and L. The University has a Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education Teaching (PG Cert HET) which was first developed in 1998 and validated by the Institute of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (ILTHE) in 1999. Since September 2015, the University has integrated the PG Cert HET within our new Higher Education Academy (HEA)-accredited CPD scheme, titled “Going for Gold”, which aligns with all four descriptors of the UK Professional Standards Framework for Teaching and Supporting Learning in Higher Education (UKPSF). The University currently has 5 Associate Fellows of the HEA, 66 Fellows, 17 Senior Fellows and 2 Principal Fellows, which represents over 40% of the academic staff population (around double the average for UK universities). A further 50 staff are currently engaged in either the PG Cert HET or Going for Gold so these numbers are set to increase significantly over the next 12 months. The University has set a target in the 2015-20 strategic plan that: “By 2020 we will ensure all staff involved in teaching and supporting learning achieve national professional commitment”. This is a stretching target but significant progress has been made over the last few years; by way of context, in 2012-13 the University had just 2 Associate Fellows and 34 Fellows. Successful applications for national professional recognition are celebrated by the institution and publicised through University communications. It also provides an important external, UK-wide reference point for staff wishing to apply for promotion. Another important mechanism for recognising and rewarding teaching is through our Student Led Teaching Awards scheme (see section 4.1.1). All academic staff are required to successfully complete the PG Cert HET as a condition of probation unless they already hold an equivalent qualification or HEA fellowship. The University’s Academic Role Profiles and the grading/ promotion criteria for academic staff explicitly list the University’s requirements in terms of education, qualifications, knowledge and experience in relation to learning and teaching. This includes the requirement for staff to hold a higher education teaching qualification and/ or HEA national professional recognition. In addition, the majority of our core academic staff hold a PhD (56%) - again, well above the UK average. All academic staff at the University are expected to teach and support student learning. An important point to emphasise is that the majority of our academic staff are full-time (80%) and on permanent contracts (81.4%) which we believe has a positive impact on the student experience in terms of staff continuity, experience and morale. Hourly paid staff make up less than 3% of the total academic staff numbers, and deliver less than 1% of the teaching. The majority (58%) of the staff who teach our students are at lecturer grade (7 and 8); only 16% are Teaching Fellows (grade 6). 27% of academic staff are in senior roles; 13% are Senior Lecturers (grade 9) and 14% academic staff are employed in Grade 10 Professorial Grade/ Academic Leadership roles. Both the Vice-Chancellor and DVC (A) still contribute to teaching, albeit on an occasional basis. Staff are promoted based on academic excellence in both T and L and research; they cannot be promoted to SL or Professor without a positive teaching record, regardless of their research contribution. (The University does not use the rank of Reader).


Abertay University UKPRN: 10007849 In terms of staff continuing professional development (CPD), the University has an annual appraisal system named “Pathways”, and all staff agree with their line manager a series of objectives for the year as well as any staff development priorities. A significant investment in staff CPD in T and L has been made over the last few years and the University now has a vibrant and growing community of practice. Co-ordinated by the TLE team, there is a comprehensive series of seminars, workshops, briefing events as well as funding for projects on various priority topics and a healthy mixture of external speakers/ experts and internal sharing of good practice. The monthly TLE seminar series (see section 2) slots are also regularly used to help shape institutional policy e.g. reform of the academic calendar, assessment policy changes, curriculum reform, Abertay Attributes, and electronic management of assessment. Peer observation of teaching is an important component of the PG Cert HET (one of the three 20 credit modules is titled teaching in practice and focuses on peer observations). This has proved beneficial for staff on the PG Cert, their mentors and their line managers and has helped to identify isolated cases of poor performance/ development needs. Additionally, all academic staff are expected to be observed by a peer at least annually through our “Peer Support of Teaching” scheme and has resulted in sharing of good practice and greater peerpeer T and L interactions. 4.1.3

Rigour and stretch (TQ3)

As part of a drive to improve the quality, content and flexibility of our provision, including aiding greater student choice within programmes, the University undertook a meta-level review of its portfolio in autumn 2014 and developed an evaluation framework for the ongoing monitoring of programmes (including factors such as student numbers, student satisfaction). Our portfolio has subsequently been revitalised by a suite of new programmes which launched in September 2016. All programmes are now based upon a subject-based curriculum, offer students more choice than previous versions, and incorporate new interdisciplinary electives at stages one and two. We have also changed our modular structure to facilitate disciplinary depth, and from this academic year all of our taught provision is 20 rather than 15 credits per module. The overall strategic objectives of our curriculum reform have been to introduce more choice and flexibility for students, as well as achieving greater breadth and depth in our programmes. The University places significant importance on accreditation and values the input and validation from external bodies. Of our 26 undergraduate programmes, 14 have Professional, Statutory and Regulatory Body (PSRB) accreditation/ recognition. Accreditation is also important for our students, many of whom come to Abertay to enhance their employability. “ Incentivising student achievement” is the second priority within our TLE strategy and has been a key driver for reforming our assessment policy and practices- see section 4.1.4. A key feature of our reforms has been to fully implemented the GPA system for our degree awards (since 2014/15) - one of only two HEIs in the UK to do this so far. The drivers for us were to: • provide further granularity in detail of a student’s performance (avoiding the 2.i/ 2.ii “cliff edge”) • help incentivise student performance in both stages three and four, rather than just in the final honours year • align better with our new TLE strategy than the traditional honours classification alone and to complement the HEAR (which was implemented in parallel) The GPA is based on students’ achievements at stages 3 and 4 and is used to calculate students’ honours classification. The primary reasons for not including stages 1 and 2 are the


Abertay University UKPRN: 10007849 high numbers of students articulating into later years, and sensitising students to a system new to them. Feedback from the students has been largely positive (some concerns have been raised that performance at both years 3 and 4 now contribute to honours classification) and we have been monitoring student attainment on annual basis. The observed increase in good degrees (1st and 2.1) is due to enhancements in our learning, teaching and assessment policies and practices as well as an increase in student entrance requirements (see also grade improvements, section 4.3.3). Abertay places significant importance on fostering intellectual curiosity and research mindedness in our students. All staff on academic contracts, including those who are research active, are expected to make an appropriate contribution to teaching. Evidence that our teaching is research-informed is evident from REF 2014, where we ranked 76 in the Times Higher Education league table weighted for proportion of staff submitted, among the leading group of UK modern universities and ahead of all other modern universities in Scotland. We achieved a GPA of 2.15 (quality that is recognised internationally), submitting 36% of all academic staff (12% more than the next closest Scottish modern university). 4.1.4

Feedback (TQ4)

In reviewing feedback to students, we went back to first principles for our assessment policies and practices. We undertook a holistic review in order to address students’ poor satisfaction with feedback (particularly timeliness but also quality), assessment load, transparency, fairness etc. The result was that for 2014/15 we implemented: • A new pedagogic-focussed academic calendar which incorporated explicit feedback and revision weeks • A new literal grading scale • A new assessment policy with requirements for feedback turnaround times (10 working days for in-module assessments, 15 working days for end of module assessments) and setting a maximum number of units of assessment for modules (2 for 15 credit, 3 for 30 credit modules) 6 • Grade Point Average/ Honours Classification degree awards • Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR) In addition, from 2015/16 the University moved to Electronic Management of Assessment (see earlier) for all coursework submissions and feedback from staff. The culmination of these changes, supported by significant staff development (workshops, best practice seminars, several funded ATLEF projects, peer observation, student feedback, provision of equipment) has resulted in significant positive impact in terms of staff capabilities, efficiency, effectiveness and student satisfaction. Comparing NSS results for 2013- 2016: q.7 “feedback on my work has been prompt” rose from 44% to 70% q.8 “I have received detailed comments on my work” rose from 57% to 74% q.9 “feedback on my work has helped me clarify things I did not understand” rose from 54% to 70%. This explains why the TEF split metrics for assessment and feedback have risen from - - in Y1 to + for Y3. We anticipate that going forwards our metrics for assessment and feedback will be at least +. This is a remarkable success story in a notoriously difficult area, and the data indicate the extent to which our students are benefitting from the change.


Two for 20 credit modules from 2016/17.


Abertay University UKPRN: 10007849


Contributions to national policy development in teaching and learning

It is important to note that Abertay’s sector profile in T and L has risen significantly over the last few years, partly in recognition of the transformation of our pedagogic approach. We contribute strongly and actively to national agendas through representation on key Scottish T and L committees and fora facilitated by e.g. Universities Scotland and QAA Scotland and we actively contribute to T and L policy development and decision-making. Further, the Director of TLE is Deputy Chair of the QAA Scotland-facilitated Scottish Higher Education Enhancement Committee (SHEEC) and Vice Chair of the Centre for Recording Achievement’s Trustees Board. The Academic Quality Manager is a member of the Quality Strategy Network Executive and of sparqs’ HE Advisory Group. Specifically, we have been very active in the development of the following sector policy areas, all of which affect the student learning experience.: • • • •

the TEF in Scotland (Director of TLE and DVC (A)) including part of Universities Scotland TEF working group and advising Million+ the Grade Point Average: DVC (A) is a member of the HEA GPA Implementation Group (for example, we are contributing directly to the FAQ database); the Scottish interdisciplinary learning agenda through DVC A)’s membership of the Royal Society of Edinburgh Interdisciplinary Learning Action Group (for example, a paper and discussion at the group on our central electives); Student engagement through e.g. the Director of TLE chairing of the current SHEEC working group on student engagement.

4.2 Learning environment 4.2.1 Resources (LE1) An important distinguishing feature of the Abertay student experience is our relatively small student population, purposely-reduced SSR, and, consequently, smaller class sizes that allow richer staff-student interaction and support (Abertay is ranked in the top 20 in the UK for student support according to the 2016 Whatuni Student Awards). Our most common module size in the range of 11-20 students, 80% of all modules running in 2016/17 have fewer than 60 students and only about 6% have more than 100 students. The extent of the positive impact of the University’s T and L reforms over the last few years has been quite remarkable and planned investment in the student-facing estate is set to stimulate further improvement in the student learning experience. In terms of recent investment, the University completed its £2.84M ICT Transformation Programme in 2013 which included four main projects which are Classroom AV Technology; End User Computing; Network Infrastructure and Security; and Storage Backup and Servers. In 2014 and 2015, the University spent £4.2M on maintenance, renewing and refurbishing multi-use flexible space and several other projects most notably a new Graduate School and Support Enquiry Zone (SEZ) for students in the library (see section 5.3 below). In recognition that there was an urgent need to develop new teaching spaces which aligned more with the philosophy of our new T and L strategy, several projects were approved for 2016/17. These include a new Collaborative Learning Suite (£200k) completed in September 2016 which provides a technology-rich, flexible space usable by students outwith formal class contact; new wet labs for teaching and research in sciences, food and nutrition (£3.5M, completion January 2017); and plans to completely refurbish the university library with new study areas, social learning spaces, integrated student support hub etc. (cost, £4.5M, completion by September 2018).


Abertay University UKPRN: 10007849 4.2.2 Scholarship, Research and Professional Practice (LE2) All of Abertay’s programmes are informed by the latest developments in their field. This is evidenced by our Research Excellence Framework results (see 4.1.3), and the significant number of accredited programmes (>50% of our undergraduate portfolio, section 4.1.3 above). Furthermore, all programmes are required to have both work-related experience and employer engagement embedded in their delivery as part of our Scottish Funding Council (SFC) Outcome Agreement (since 2014/15). Several programmes, including our Sport, Mental Health Nursing, Engineering, and Food provision have work placements embedded (section 2); and in the School of Art, Media and Computer Games students undertake simulated work placements where local and national companies set team-based groups of students live-client briefs. The culmination of these activities has resulted in both new and stronger existing partnerships with businesses. Further, all programmes were reviewed as part of curriculum reform in 2015 which has resulted in updated content, delivery methods and redesigned assessment. The substantial recent investment in our teaching estate includes state-of-the-art research and development facilities (see 4.2.1) for the food and drink industry such as consumer testing, providing opportunities for our students to work alongside industry. All students are able to attend research seminars held in the University and the our Graduate School offers staff and postgraduate students a comprehensive package of development opportunities including seminars, workshops, short courses and access to resources and support offered by Vitae, Epigeum, Scottish Graduate Schools and Enterprise Campus. Finally, there is a number of opportunities for students to get involved in pedagogic research e.g. as part of their honours dissertation project, ATLEF etc. They are encouraged to present their findings and have done so both internally and externally at workshops and conferences. The outcomes of these projects have been useful to the University e.g. to inform future learning spaces developments, support needs of articulating students, and review of the University’s Feedback Week. 4.2.3 Personalised Learning (LE3) Abertay offers an integrated range of student support services covering pastoral and academic matters delivered by a combination of Student Services, Information Services and Academic Schools. An important development has been our Support Enquiry Zone (SEZ) - a central one-stop-shop for all generic and non-academic student-facing enquiries and a range of digital literacy support. SEZ offers an unusually broad range of services, and is the common entry point to others. Further examples of support for students include: career development, student academic support (e.g. writing, mathematics, statistics etc.); disability services; counselling; international advisory service; summer schools for articulating students; English language for international students; and multi-faith chaplaincy. Academic matters related to particular modules and programmes are dealt with through direct access to individual lecturers, module leaders, and programme leaders. All student-facing Schools and Services submit annual reports that are considered by the Teaching and Learning Committee. A common template is provided along with centrallyprovided data, however, units are encouraged to undertake their own evaluations including primary research e.g. through user surveys.


Abertay University UKPRN: 10007849 Abertay has excellent links with our two local partner colleges, Dundee & Angus College and Fife College, and more than a third of new entrants in 2016/17 are articulating students 7. A range of specific support pre- and post entry is available to these students including the Associate Student scheme (pre-entry), Dundee Academy of Sport (pre-entry for sports students), bridging programme (pre-entry) and peer mentoring (post entry) as well as generic support available to all students. Academic staff also provide these students with specific academic support and guidance. For example, Dundee Business School have created a specific Articulation Tutor to aid students who transition from college to university and this trial model is being discussed for rollout across the University. The positive impact of student support and guidance is evidenced by our NSS scores in this are e.g. For q.10 “I have received sufficient advice and support with my studies” we have increased from 81% satisfaction in 2013 to 88% in 2016. For q.12 “Good advice was available when I needed to make study choices” we have increased slightly from 77% satisfaction in 2013 to 80% in 2016. For q.11 “I have been able to contact staff when I needed to”, our score has dropped slightly from 90% to 87%, perhaps due to changing role of support provided by academic staff, following the introduction of SEZ. 4.3 Student Outcomes and Learning Gain 4.3.1 Employment and Further Study (SO1) A key aim of Abertay’s 2015-20 strategic plan is “Expanding horizons” which includes “raising the aspirations of potential students in the communities we serve” and also “ensuring our graduates have the relevant knowledge and skills to be ready for the world of work”. It is important to note that the vast majority of Abertay’s students are Scottish domiciled (82% for 2016/17) and, of those, 53% 8 are from Dundee and the surrounding area (Fife, Tayside and Angus) 9. Further, our graduates’ employment locations broadly mirror our recruitment maps, i.e. most students find jobs in the local area where local employment is lower than the national average 10. Many of the high proportion of articulating students are first generation in HE. A key driver for these students to go to university is to improve their life chances and employment prospects and we provide such opportunities through our academic provision and a range of co-curricular opportunities as outlined below. However, it is important to recognise that many of our students are constrained to seek employment in their local area after graduation (due to, for example, family circumstances or financial reasons), which, given the limited local employment opportunities, has a significant impact on their employment (though not their employability) and is outside the control of the University. This is particularly the case for mature students 11 who are less mobile in terms of career opportunities, and explains why Abertay has a negative flag for graduate employment of this demographic group. That said, the percentage of students from Abertay in graduate level employment has increased year on year since 2009/10 (with the exception of 2012-13) from


Students joining Abertay in years 2 or 3 of a four year degree, having received fullcredit for ther existing qualifications. 8 2016/17 data. 9 TEF year two data maps. 10 From October 2015- September 2016, Dundee City had the fourth highest unemployment rate of all 32 Scottish Local Authorities (7.6% cf Scottish average of 4.9 %). 11 28% of our students include in the TEF data were classed as mature but the proportion of entrants who are mature has increased recently as a result of articulation with 41% of youngfull-time first degree entrants in 2015/16 aged over 21. 10

Abertay University UKPRN: 10007849 around 52% in 2009-10 to 70% in 2014/15. Employment figures across our four Schools vary and this informs the setting of Careers Development Support priorities..











Employment 2013-14

80.0% 70.0% 60.0% 50.0% 40.0% 30.0% 20.0% 10.0% 0.0%

Further Study Unemployed


There is also a difference in the employment of Abertay graduates depending on gender, with male students underperforming compared with female students (approximately 90% employment cf 87% respectively, according to 2014/15 DLHE figures), which is reflected in our - - flag within the split metrics. Overall, approximately 53.2% of our students over the TEF period were male, however, the gender balance varied significantly across disciplines. Computing programmes had on average 81% male students and Computer Games programmes had on average 94.6% male students. As can be seen, male students at Abertay are particularly concentrated in Computing and Computer Games, and bearing in mind that benchmarks reflect a particular university’s subject mix, any difficulties experienced by graduates seeking jobs in the creative industries will adversely affect males more than females. The school of Art, Media and Computer Games had the highest unemployment rate for 2014/15, but it is noteworthy that for those who did go on to work, a higher proportion went on to graduate level employment than other schools. As part of Abertay’s ATLEF initiative (see 4.1.1 and 4.1.2), a project was funded to undertake a longitudinal study tracking careers of, in the first instance, our sports graduates (20002015). Key findings included: • • • • •

Articulating students were significantly more likely (47%) to graduate with an unclassified degree For respondents to the study, an unclassified degree and SIMD status had no significant effect on graduate or sports employment 77% felt prepared for their first job and 87% felt prepared for working life in general; year of exit had no significant effect on either of these figures. In addition to knowledge and skills, “coaching”, “placements” and “research methods” were cited as the most beneficial aspects of their course. Personal growth and maturation were also rated as significant factors. 55% of Abertay sports graduates are from Tayside and 55% then remain in Tayside after graduation

4.3.2 Employability and Transferable Skills (SO2) The University’s strategic plan (2015-20) was informed by the TLE strategy and an Employability Strategy (2014) that cross-references the TLE strategy. Since 2014/15, as part of our Outcome Agreement with the SFC, we have ensured that all programmes feature employer engagement as part of development and delivery and this is internally audited each year. Further, all programmes provide work-related learning opportunities for students at appropriate stages of study which includes work placements (actual and simulated), projects etc. The high proportion of our programmes which are accredited/ have PSRB recognition 11

Abertay University UKPRN: 10007849 (14 out of 26, see section 4.3), is further evidence of the importance we place on enhancing the employability of our students and their positive impact on society post-graduation. Abertay was the first Scottish University to develop and implement a set of Graduate Attributes in 2007. These were subsequently updated and revised before a working group was established in late 2013 tasked with going back to first principles and define the new ethos of an Abertay education experience. A new conceptual framework was developed comprising four dimensions: intellectual, professional, personal and active citizen, each with asset of qualitative descriptors The term Abertay Attributes (rather than Graduate Attributes) was used as it was felt that the attributes were relevant to all students and staff of the University, including those that choose to leave with a certificate or diploma to accept employment offers, e.g. in the creative industries such as computer games, where our students are in high demand by the industry. The Abertay Attributes framework was a key reference point for programme teams during the whole institutional curriculum reform exercise in 2015, and was used to inform content, learning outcomes and assessments. Some programmes have assessments that require students to explicitly reflect upon their learning and skills development in terms of the Abertay Attributes. Another important objective of the TLE and Employability strategies has been to recognise students’ wider achievements at the University through the introduction of the Higher Education Achievement Report (HEAR), in 2014/15, in response to calls from the student body. We formally recognise a significant range of students’ wider achievements such as academic prizes, class representative, sporting awards (blue, half blue), study abroad, ATLEF student researcher etc. Our flagship co-curriculum award is the Principal’s Award coordinated by the Career Development Centre. It comprises four core components (including a minimum of 25 hours work experience) and another two elective components. Enhancing students’ reflective and employability skills are key aims and numbers have risen steadily since it began (7 completions out of 8 in 2011/12 rising to 69 completions out of 109 in 2015/16). Student-led activities, including academic societies, offer our students the opportunity to interact with their peers at the discipline level but in a less formal environment. The University has several vibrant student societies. Since 2010, the Abertay Ethical Hacking society has organised a major conference, “Securitay”, which is the largest student-run conference of its kind in Europe, attracting over 300 participants from a range of industries. Staff members are actively and formally encouraged, through our Teaching and Learning Committee, to assist student academic societies. Supporting student reflection to inform personal and career planning is an important aspect of enhancing student employability. We have increasingly been using e-portfolios, particularly Pebblepad for both formative and summative assessments. This is most notable in professionally oriented disciplines such as Law, Nursing and Sport. Pebblepad has the benefits of allowing students to create a private space for reflection and to choose which parts to share with their lecturers. It is also a portable asset that the students can take with them post-graduation. In addition, we have piloted several projects focussed on Open Badges and we are recognised as a leader in the field, delivering several invited talks at national events, including the Centre for Recording Achievement annual residential in December 2015. Enterprise is embedded in our relevant programmes (such as Business and Management). In addition, we are at the early stages of launching a university-wide initiative to embed enterprise and an entrepreneurial mindset in our students, and are in talks with the Scottish Institute for Enterprise (SIE) to expand our current partnership work with them. This follows earlier work, including a project in 2014/15 funded by the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) which focussed on identifying and addressing skills gaps in the computer games industry, but has broadened out to developing a framework for embedding enterprise


Abertay University UKPRN: 10007849 in the curriculum that is applicable to all taught provision in the University. Other enterpriserelated initiatives include the very successful Innovation for Global Growth which is coordinated by the Dundee Business School, gives our students the opportunity to develop solutions to real business challenges set by organisations from a range of business sectors including food-and-drink, banking, textiles and telecoms. An example of success in this area is that on completion our student team was invited to present its findings to senior BT managers in London. We also support students’ engagement in enterprise through the cocurriculum e.g. working with the SIE. One of the ATLEF projects funded in 2015-16 investigated the use of experiential learning in developing higher level skills in a business management context and consequently identifying the opportunities, benefits, and challenges of learning by doing for future business education. One hundred and fifty five students in “enterprise teams” audited the current resources of the University and identified how they might be commercialised for entrepreneurial activity and income generation. Working with senior management, SIE, and academic staff facilitators, a flipped classroom approach was adopted and ideas included: entertainment, staff & student crèche services, new societies, local food/adult education provision etc. The work has been presented nationally at the 2016 Enhancement Themes Conference and Abertay’s external T and L conference “Seeing Learning Differently”. 4.3.3 Positive Outcomes for All (SO3) Positive outcomes for all our students regardless of their background is core to our three-fold purpose as defined in our 2015-20 strategic plan: • To offer transformational opportunities to everyone who has the ability to benefit from Abertay’s approach to university education. • To inspire and enable our students, staff and graduates to achieve their full potential. • To use our knowledge and expertise to have a positive impact on the world around us. Abertay’s strategic commitment to equality has been recognised against important sector benchmarks. These include achieving an Athena Swan bronze award in 2015 for gender equality in STEM subjects although our positive actions extend throughout the institution. 12 Also, in 2016 Abertay became the first Scottish University to achieve the Equality Challenge Unit’s Race Equality Chartermark that aims to improve the representation, progression and success of minority ethnic staff and students within higher education. The University has put together an accompanying comprehensive action plan on race equality and is taking part in HEA Scotland’s “Embedding Equality and Diversity in the Curriculum” (EEDC) strategic change initiative. Our focus is race equality in the curriculum and so far we have done an audit of existing practice, identified a number of academic champions across the University and are disseminating good practice through seminars, case studies etc. to raise awareness and build capacity in the institution. A benefit of taking part in the programme is that we have identified more good practice in this area than was known about centrally. Examples include Food; Environment; Sport; Nursing; Oil and Gas Accounting; International Human Resources Management; Psychology and Sociology. The award of the ECU chartermark gives further future impetus. In addition, all programme specifications have a section on ‘Internationalisation’ and ‘Equality and Diversity’, evidence of progress will be requested as part of the 2018/19 Institution Led Review which will evaluate year 1 of curriculum reform (2016/17). Given the contextual information provided earlier, i.e. one third of our students articulate into second and third year of our undergraduate programmes, the majority of our students are from the city and surrounding regions (around 75%) and the challenging local economic 12

Two of our four Schools have subsequently submitted for departmental bronze awards. 13

Abertay University UKPRN: 10007849 situation (Dundee having the fourth highest level of unemployment in Scotland), it is important to highlight the encouraging lack of negative continuation and employment split TEF metrics for disadvantaged groups. Retention rates into year two (HESA performance indicator T3) were above the Scottish average from 2009/10 to 2014/15, including for all protected characteristic groups which explains why Abertay scores ++ flags for mature, disadvantaged, not disadvantaged, disabled and BME groups. In terms of differences in attainment for articulating versus non-articulating students, of the 221 articulating entrants to stage 3 in 2015/16, only 7 left with an ordinary degree at the end of 2015/16 so this does not appear to be a significant issue for us. Over the last four years we have seen an increase in students achieving good grades at all levels, particularly since the new grading scale was introduced in 2014/15. The new scale was designed to enhance simplicity, consistency and provide a series of accompanying qualitative descriptors for each grade that staff and students could relate to (gradations expressed in the language of learning gain). Illustrative data for SCQF level 10 (stage 4) is provided below. It is important to note that the increase in good modular grades and good degrees (1st and 2.1) is due to enhancements in our learning, teaching and assessment policies and practices as well as an increase in student entrance requirements.

All SCQF level 10 modules 40% 30%





20% 0%






Looking at our graduates’ employability, reviewing our DLHE data for 2012-15 and tracking against SIMD of our students is inconclusive. This is consistent with the findings of the longitudinal career tracking study of our sports students outlined in section 4.3.1 above. It is also important to re-state that SIMD does not fully reflect the number of our students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds (section 1). Taken together, SIMD20 entrants plus other contextual entrants (not from SIMD20 postcode areas), accounted for 26% of our Scottish-domiciled undergraduate intake in 2016-17. This leads to the conclusion that Abertay students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds do not appear to be disadvantaged, contrary to national trends, when it comes to their future employment opportunities. Finally, it is important to re-iterate the range of support opportunities available to our students both pre-entry (for articulating students) and in-programme, and how the focus of many of these is to build students’ confidence and employability- section 5.3. 5. Concluding Remarks Abertay is committed to following its own path (2015-20 strategic plan) and evidence shows that the transformational changes implemented since 2013 have significantly improved the quality of our students’ experience across all relevant measures. We are confident about our future, but not complacent, as outlined by the number of exciting initiatives underway such as new learning spaces, technology enhanced learning, improved links with business, and our continued strong partnerships with local colleges and with our students.


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Abertay TEF submisson