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Like all Students’ Unions, our core responsibility is to represent the interests of our members. Whilst there is clearly significant diversity in the student body, there is a common concern to ensure that all students have access to, and participate in, a high quality learning experience. In 2012 the Students’ Union surveyed over 670 students to canvas their views about their academic experience at the University of Huddersfield. This survey, allied with the National Student Survey (NSS) ran during the same year, and a significant piece of research conducted in collaboration with a specialist company Redbrick in 2013 1 , has confirmed that University of Huddersfield students have some great things to say about their University experience. But the research has also revealed that there is further room for improvement. We have consolidated the above evidence, drawing upon day-to-day case work, student representation and other forms of membership engagement, to produce this Education Manifesto for Change. This document will serve as a road map for the work we do to improve the academic experience for students at the University of Huddersfield, and will play a key role in the development of the institution’s Teaching and Learning Strategy. Our proposals are ambitious and challenging, presented on behalf of our students who are themselves ambitious and expect to be challenged. We would expect that our University considers the challenge offered and finds innovative ways to respond to students wishes. Consequently we expect that many of manifestos points may be accepted and implemented, whilst we expect others will be thoughtfully examined and alternative ways of meeting students’ expectations will be found. This documents aims to make a positive contribution to the debate, which will find ways of improving sustaining the improving academic experience. Where there are errors, omissions or misunderstanding of current University provision, those errors are my own, or reflect that the communication of services or provision to students has not been as effective as we would wish and consequently provides opportunity to reflect on how we can work in partnership to do more. Josh Elderfield Vice President Education 2013/14 1
This piece of research surveyed a total of 1412 students and 286 members of academic staff.
2. Statement of Principle We believe in a higher education sector that is characterised by five key principles: i.
Public: a sector that recognises the role of higher education as a public good, where the benefit of further study adds value not just to the individual, but society in general.
Transformative: a sector that makes a positive impact on peoplesâ€™ lives, and gives students the skills and knowledge to develop both personally and professionally.
Responsive: a sector that not only adapts to different political, economic, sociological and technological expectations, but helps to shape them. Higher education should be at the forefront of shaping public debate and discussion.
Collaborative: a sector that champions the approach of genuine partnership between the academy and student body, recognising students as co-producers of knowledge.
Holistic: a sector that recognises the wider student experience as important, not just what happens in the classroom.
Students at Huddersfield deserve a higher education experience that: i. ii. iii. iv. v. vi.
Respects and engages them as genuine partners in their learning development. Develops their critical thinking skills. Establishes a platform for lifelong learning and professional development. Provides subject specific knowledge and transferrable skills relevant to the programme. Prepares them for a career beyond their education. Supports and develops them as active, responsible citizens.
To deliver this, the University of Huddersfield should provide: i. ii. iii. iv. v. vi. vii.
High quality learning environments fit for students. A high quality staff team actively engaged in knowledge transfer. Teachers who consistently inspire, stretch and motivate their students. Course content that is relevant, engaging and inspiring. Formative and summative assessment that is linked to constructive feedback. Curriculums that enable and encourage holistic self-directed learning. A platform to engage students as partners in the learning experience.
3. Executive Summary For simplicity, this manifesto has been set out broadly using the main headings of the National Student Survey. We have done this intentionally to make it easier for policy positions and our Big Ideas for Change to be considered by the University as they develop their own action plans. These are as follows: Section 4: Section 5: Section 6: Section 7:
Teaching Quality Assessment & Feedback Academic Support and Personal Development Organisation & Management and Learning Resources
Within these sections, which outline our thinking and objectives in greater depth, we have identified a number of key policy changes that we believe the University should take forward. Very briefly, these are:
Teaching Quality 1. Increase the support the University provides for Course Representatives to make positive change for their peers. 2. Promote the use of inspiring, research-led teaching – using innovative and interactive content that students recognise as sector leading. 3. Increase the information and guidance available for module choices, so students are better able to select the path most suited to them. 4. Implement a minimum standards policy for the use of technology to support teaching and learning, including audio lecture capture as mandatory.
Assessment & Feedback 5. Guarantee feedback on assessed work that is user shaped, and takes into account the specific individual needs of each student. 6. Introduce a policy of guaranteed summative feedback deadlines for all coursework (excluding dissertations) so work is developed in partnership between student and academic. 7. Provide an opportunity for students to ‘feedback on their feedback’; ensuring academic staff are accountable for the service they provide. 8. Run a communications campaign to promote the standardised model of referencing across the Institution for students’ assessments. 9. Strengthen the consistency of marking of assessments in modules which are led by more than one member of staff.
Academic Support and Personal Development 10. Develop a system, and provide appropriate training, that allows Personal Tutors to use some form of value added performance tracking to help mentor students. 11. Develop a devolved model for the Careers & Employability Service that is School and Department centred, and integrated with already established placement teams.
12. Working with the Studentsâ€™ Union, introduce defined Careers Focus Weeks into the official University calendar. 13. Work with local businesses and former University graduates to develop a mentor network for current students.
Organisation & Management and Learning Resources 14. Implement a policy of electronic submission of all (written) assessments. 15. Recognise the role of students as independent learners, and implement a clear and concicse approach to attendence monitoring.
4. Teaching Quality On a number of occasions, the University has clearly demonstrated a deep commitment to providing excellent teaching for its students. Nowhere is this more evident than our success in becoming the first UK University to have 100% of substantive teaching staff awarded a fellowship of the Higher Education Academy - the professional body that recognises teaching excellence.
4.1 Our Results In the results of our survey, students clearly recognise the quality of the teaching they are provided - with 85% responding positively. We have also seen a gradual steady improvement over the past five years in the NSS, with an identical 85% of students responding that they agree with the statement ‘I am satisfied with the teaching on my course’ – against a national average of 86%. Figure 2: I am satisfied with the teaching on my course (+vely agree)
40%# 20%# 0%# 1#
No. of Students
Figure 1: How do you rate the overall quality of your teaching? 60%#
90%# 85%# 80%# 75%# 70%# 2008#
Satisfaction Level (1 = low, 6 = high)
However, there are also areas for concern and development. In terms of lectures, we explored the difference between how students perceived the current reality of their experience, and what they felt should be provided by the University – allowing for some rudimentary gap analysis. Figure 3: My lectures are... Top 6 results
Explained in depth Engaging A time where the words on the slide are read to me Focused Efficient A time where slides are explained, not just repeated
248 248 274 291 300 342
Figure 4: My lectures are... Bottom 6 results
Unfocused Outdated Not relevant to my career Efficient, but not in a good way Not interesting Exactly what I want
47 54 87
92 102 110
It is encouraging that the top six results (around 50% of respondents) indicated that lectures were a time where information was explained efficiently, in a focused way that often engaged students. Worryingly though, 274 respondents (approximately 40% of individuals surveyed) also selected the option of ‘a time where there words on the slides are read to me’, and there were significant responses for not relevant to a career, overly efficient and uninteresting.
Figure 5: My lectures should be... Top 6 results
Humorous Interactive Explained in depth Inspiring A time where slides are explained, not just repeated Engaging
197 202 225 249 273 299
Given the relatively high level of satisfaction amongst students with the quality of their teaching, it is therefore unsurprising that three of the results appear in both figures 3 and 5 - demonstrating that Huddersfield University is at least partially delivering to student expectations. However, there are also three results that score highly on ‘should’ but do not feature in the top results for ‘are’ – namely that lectures should be ‘inspiring’, ‘interactive’ and ‘humorous’. We also explored student satisfaction with smaller group teaching via a similar methodology.
Figure 6: My Workshops, Tutorials and Seminars...
500# 450# 400# 350# 300# 250# 200# 150# 100# 50# 0#
The results are broadly very encouraging, indicating that small group teaching is useful and informative, taking a discussion and/or group based approach to learning. One result clearly sits slightly apart from this, however. The element of timing – when small group teaching takes place – is clearly an issue of concern for students. We also looked at how students perceive the performance of individual lecturers, asking them to comment on some key behaviours. Again, the picture is generally extremely positive, although there is clearly scope for development in terms of the use of technology (particularly microphones2) and how teaching can make the step from simple information delivery to inspiring further learning.
89% respondents felt it should be mandatory for all staff to know how to use all core learning materials available – including audio and video capture.
Figure 7: My lecturers for my course are... Are inspiring Answer their emails promptly Use a microphone when necessary Positively challenges my thinking Challenge students in an appropriate manner Ooze passion for the subject they teach Are willing to listen to students Are on time Are willing to be helpful Allow me to ask questions when I need to
0%# 10%# 20%# 30%# 40%# 50%# 60%# 70%# 80%# 90%# 100%# Never#
4.2 Our Big Ideas for Change 4.2.1. Increase the support the University provides for Course Representatives to make positive change for their peers. Although this manifesto for change has been undertaken at a University level, it is clear that the most effective mechanism for students to impact on the quality of their academic experience is through an active, vibrant and pro active network of Course Representatives. As an institution we need to do more to support these students. The University should allocate additional funding for the Union to ensure these students are better able to participate in quality assurance and enhancement process. 4.2.2. Promote the continued use of inspiring, research-led teaching – using innovative and interactive content that students recognise as sector leading. The University’s progress in terms of number of staff registered with the Higher Education Academy is encouraging, but the University needs to ensure this does not uncouple the link between teaching and research. The University should adopt a workload model that ensures active researchers are engaged in content delivery for students at all levels of study – not just postgraduate and beyond. 4.2.3. Increase the information and guidance available for module choices, so students are better able to select the path most suited to them. The University should make Module Fairs in all academic Schools compulsory. These would provide students the opportunity to discuss choices in an informal and constructive manner. A central portal for students to access module evaluations – to see what previous students think – should also be developed. 4.2.4. Implement a minimum standards policy for the use of technology to support teaching and learning. Significant investment is needed in Unilearn, to reflect the University’s desire to become sector leading in teaching quality. This should be coupled with minimum standards for all modules – for example all lectures recorded and uploaded via secure audio capture, and handouts available
online for students to download before the lecture. This would enable students to focus more on understanding, and less on note taking, in lectures â€“ also aiding revision and assessments. The University should invest in garnering regular strategic level feedback with regard to how the VLE supports studentsâ€™ learning.
5. Assessment and Feedback As a University we can claim a good level of achievement with providing prompt and valuable feedback. This success saw the University receive a score of 79% in the 2012 National Student Survey (NSS), securing a position as the number one University in the country for assessment & feedback. Figure 8: Satisfaction with the assessment & feedback (% that +vely agree)
80# 70# 60#
70# 2012 Nat Average
5.1 Our Results In our recent consultation however, there are also a number of less encouraging responses to some specific issues - showing that there is still significant opportunity to continue these improvements. Criteria for Assessment Whilst it is evident that the University has made significant improvement in this area, with a 14% increase in NSS score in four years, it is clear from our survey that there is still room for improvement. The first result relates to whether academic staffs are setting clear criteria for assessments â€“ clearly important for students who are aiming at achieving top grades for their work. Figure 9: How clear do you find the criteria for your assessments? (1#=#very#unclear,#6#=#very#clear)#
40%# 20%# 0%#
Figure 9 clearly shows that there is significant room for improvement, with only 41% of students indicating that they receive clear or very clear criteria for their assignments. Distribution of Assessment Deadlines A related issue that students have brought up through a number of the Unionâ€™s engagement structures has been the negative impact that too many deadlines within a single time period has on quality of work. Overwhelmingly, 83% of those surveyed would prefer assessments to be spread out across the academic year, rather than clustered together towards the end of any given term.
Figure 10: How would you like to see your assessment deadlines distributed across the year?
Format and Substance of Feedback In a number of Student Pulse Groups3 run during the 2012/13 academic year, students have expressed a desire to see feedback offered in a variety of ways â€“ to most effectively support different learning styles. Figure 11 shows that students prefer feedback that is given on a one-toone basis, supported with typed up comments and some notes on the actual assessment. It is also worth noting that 85% of students surveyed valued informal, continuous feedback from tutors. Figure 11: How would you like to receive your feedback from assessments?
Typed up comments on paper
A one-to-one with staff
25% Handwritten comments on the work
1% General comments as a class
We also asked a substantive question to students, asking them to indicate exactly what they find most useful from their feedback. The most significant reason, as you would expect, is to help improve for the next assessment. However, it is interesting to note that a secondary group of factors, associated with skills development, also scored highly. Figure 12: What would you find most useful to get out of your feedback from your assessments? 122# 151#
A minimum of 3 good points What you did right What you missed A breakdown of results by assessment criteria What you did wrong A minimum of 3 improvement points What skills do you need to develop How to get the next grade/improve
227# 246# 251#
no. of students
5.2 Our Big Ideas for Change 5.2.1. Guarantee feedback on assessed work that is user shaped, and takes into account the specific individual needs of each student.
Student Pulse Groups are a series of focus groups, with a mixture of permanent and openly recruited students, to consider key strategic issues faced by the Union on a rolling basis.
Feedback is most effective when it forms part of a progressive, deliberative discussion. To facilitate this, the University should allow students to indicate at the time of submission what type of feedback they most value and require on their work. This should be taken into account during marking, and used to shape comments provided by staff. 5.2.2 Introduce a policy of summative feedback deadlines for all coursework so work is developed in partnership between student and academic. Coursework is used to assess the ability of students to complete a piece of work with support and resources outside of an examination room. Giving students the formal opportunity for some summative feedback on work before assessment will help students improve and develop in a more structure manner. 5.2.3 Provide an opportunity for students to â€˜feedback on their feedbackâ€™, ensuring academic staff are accountable for the service they provide. Students already complete evaluations for modules that they study. This should include a specific section for students to comment directly on the quality of the feedback they have received. 5.2.4 Run a targetted communications campaign to educate students on the standardised model of referencing that has been introduced across the institution. Students on joint programmes, and even students within a single School, are not given clear enough instructions regarding what mechanism of referencing is required. This idea simplifies and clarifies the issue. 5.2.5. Strengthen the consistency of marking of assessments in modules which are led by more than one member of staff. Discrepancies between staff applying the marking scheme differently on the same module can cause students to lose trust in the academic integrity of the assessment. In these cases, the internal moderation of marking should be strengthened and increased, with the process clearly identified in the module handbook for students to understand.
6. Academic Support & Personal Development The University boasts a wide range of support services, offering students help and guidance on issues ranging from careers, to academic practice, to health related concerns. These include: ! ! ! ! !
Counselling Services Disability Services Academic Skills Tutors Learning Quality Support Unit (LQSU) Careers and Employability Service
In the NSS, we have seen a consistent improvement in our score, going up 8% over the past four years â€“ now sitting slightly above the national average. Figure 13: Satisfaction with academic support (% that +vely agree) 82#
80# 78# 76# 74# 72# 70#
6.1 Our Results In our most recent piece of research, we asked students their reasons for choosing to come to the University of Huddersfield. The responses, overwhelming, were centred on the desire for greater employability. Interestingly, there is a notable difference between the options of any career and that of a specific career, indicating that a large proportion of our students already know what they want to do after graduation. Figure 14: Why students choose the University of Huddersfield Passion for learning Develop as a person Interest in the subject Improve chances of getting any career Pursue a specific career 0%
Careers and Employability Given this careers focus of our students, it is therefore surprising that only 27% of those surveyed answered yes to the question of whether they have used the Careers and Employability service at the University of Huddersfield.
Figure 15: Have you used the Careers and Employability Service? 27%# 0%
Drilling down a little further, we then asked students how the felt about the level of support they receive in their placements (if applicable), and more widely, whether their courses of study really are preparing them for future employment. Figure 16 below shows that 49% agreed (to some extent) that they are well supported to find placements, whilst 24% disagreed. This clearly raises an issue for the University, since almost a quarter of students do not feel they receive adequate support in this area. Similarly, 51% of respondents agreed to some extent that their academic course prepares them for employment, whilst 26% disagreed â€“ again something that links with the poor uptake of the Careers and Employability Service. Figure 16: How far do you agree with the following statements? 50%# 40%#
I feel I am well supported to find placements
My course has prepared me for employment after graduation
Communicating with Staff Through a number of different channels during 2012, students also raised the issue of communication with staff outside of key contact hours. From our survey results, it is clear that students prefer user generated opportunities, rather than strictly defined periods set by the staff member in question. Interestingly, by far the most preferred mechanism was email, scoring 16% higher than face to face contact via an open door policy. Figure 17: How do students want to contact academic staff?
Looking at this is slightly more depth, we then asked students about their specific experience with this form of communication. The results are broadly positive, with 85% of students reporting that staff replied to emails within three working days. However, 81% of respondents also said they
would value an email response guarantee time, with the overwhelming expectation that this should be within one working day. Figure 18: How long does it take for staff to reply to emails? Over a week 4-7 working days 2-3 working days Within 1 working day Same day
20%# Student Expectations
6.2 Our Big Ideas for Change 6.2.1. Develop a system, and provide appropriate training, that allows Personal Tutors to use some form of value added performance tracking to help mentor students. In the Universityâ€™s new Strategy Map, there is an explicit desire to improve the performance level of undergraduate students, raising the number of upper second class degrees. Personal Tutors should be at the forefront of this, using data to ensure students are developing during the course of a year. 6.2.2. Develop a geographically devolved Careers & Employability Service that is School/Department centred and integrated with established placement teams. The University of Huddersfield overwhelming attracts students who are enrolled on programmes directly related to specific careers and employment paths. The provision of a Careers Service should reflect this level of specialism, and be integrated with placement teams to develop stronger relationships with potential graduate recruiters. 6.2.3. Working with the Studentsâ€™ Union, introduce defined Careers Focus Weeks into the official University calendar. By identifying a number of Focus Weeks, the University will be able to free up time and resources to plan a range of much higher profile careers events, including things like mock assessment days and interviews. 6.2.4. Work with local businesses and former University graduates to develop a mentor network for current students. A formal mentoring programme that matches current students with alumni/successful local businesses will support the employability agenda, and have a large positive impact on retention and the success of our students.
7. Organisation & Management and Learning Resources The University has seen a steady improvement in its NSS scores for both organisation & management, and learning resources â€“ and we currently sit slightly above the national average for both indicators. However, during our consultation with students via our Student Council, Student Pulse Groups and work with Course Representatives, a number of specific issues arose relating to teaching and learning facilities, and printing/assessment submission. Figure 13: Satisfaction with academic support (% that +vely agree) 90
65 60 2008
Organisation & Management
2012 National Average
7.1 Our Results The first question we asked students during out education consultation was whether they had experienced any form of technical failure during teaching. This is obviously crucial in an environment where a large proportion of teaching relies on some form of technology to enable and support it. An overwhelming 68% of students indicated this happened on semi regular basis, with items like projectors, speakers and computers malfunctioning. Figure 21: How often does your classrooms have technical failures - for example projectors, speakers, computers malfunctioning?
32%# 50% Sometimes
We then explored this in greater details, and looked at the specific issues that students were unhappy with. As figure 22 shows, classroom and lecture theatre sizes, the number of power sockets and the temperature of lecture theatres all figured prominently as areas that the University should look to develop and improve.
Figure 22: How happy are you with the following points? Temperatures in classrooms Computers on campus No. of power sockets in classrooms Size of classrooms Wi-fi on campus Size of studios Size of labs Desks in classrooms Cleanliness of classrooms
The final issue that our survey looked at was that of student expectations regarding printing, and given tuition fees, whoâ€™s responsibility it is to ensure lecture notes and course packs are provided. The results indicate that half of students view these resources as something the University should provide as a matter of course, whilst half are happy to arrange printing themselves. This is also relevant to the issue of assessment, with a large majority (80% of students) agreeing that the University should move to complete electronic submission to save costs and environmental impact. Figure 24: All assessment should have electronic submission to reduce cost and environmental impact...
16% 50% Disagree
7.2 Our Big Ideas for Change 7.2.1. Implement a policy of electronic submission of all written assessments. The technology already exists, and indeed has been utilised by a number of HEIs, to make submission of assessment a wholly electronic endeavour. This has the added benefit of reducing admin, reducing the costs born by students for printing, and imroving our green impact. 7.2.1. Implement a clear and concicse approach to attenedence monitoring. The use of electronic attendence monitor should be reviewed in light of changes to the (former) UKBA, and re-evaluated with reference to the concepts of student-directed learning, retention and success data. Academic staff should clearly state in module handbooks which sessions are required (and therefore subject to the monitoring process), and which are not. There needs to be strong pegagogical reasons for the justification of penalty based monitoring.