Developing a strategy for student success

Last week we defined the trending term ‘student success’, and discussed how this phrase makes it a lot clearer for us to understand what a successful outcome for our students tangibly looks like. But what are the steps that we need to take to form effective strategies that achieve it? Tom Lowe, the Head of Student Engagement and Employability at the University of Winchester, believes that there are two questions we need to ask ourselves:

  1. How do we support students to succeed after education?
  2. How do we support students to communicate their successes during education?

The answers to these questions should help guide our student success strategies, as Tom explains in the video below.

As discussed, the employability team at Winchester has developed a clear framework to guide their efforts towards fostering student success. This has been partially achieved through the setting of seven strategic priorities:

  1. Access to higher study
  2. Student engagement
  3. Using data to make informed decisions
  4. Developing connections with employers
  5. Proactive relations with graduates
  6. Portfolio development
  7. Sustainability and social justice

Alongside creating a checklist of what they believe every student should leave with:

  1. The ability to write a graduate CV
  2. The ability to write a personal statement to a specification
  3. The ability to complete an online job application
  4. The ability to translate their degree, employment, and extra-curricular experiences for the working world
  5. The knowledge of diverse routes to follow after their degree
  6. At least one tangible, authentic extra-curricular/additional curricular, such as a work placement

This need for learning and development beyond a degree certificate is seeing increasing demand by students and, in the competitive job market of today, is becoming a necessity. Research from QAA Scotland[1] in 2019 found that:

  • 48% of graduates do not feel that their HEI had offered sufficient opportunities with local employers.
  • 20% believe that more varied opportunities for work experience and improving access to employers could have prepared them better for their future.
  • 20% of employers do not rate graduate preparedness as ‘good’.

So, what exactly are these wider learning and development opportunities that students and employers are demanding? The University of Queensland recognises many possible avenues to explore when trying to devise opportunities that will arm students with a skillset that adequately prepares them for success post-graduation[2]:

  • Work placements (active learning)
  • Casual jobs or volunteering (service orientation)
  • Group projects (leadership and social influence)
  • Assignments (critical thinking and analysis)
  • Activism, politics or debating (persuasion and negotiation)
  • Tough exams (resilience and time management)
  • Competing in team sports (communication and collaboration)
  • Using social media (technology use and design)
  • Planning parties (organisation and creativity)
  • Disagreements with friends (emotional intelligence)

It should be noted, however, that there is not a 'one-size-fits-all' solution to student success. Our strategies should, instead, be tailored to our unique organisational characteristics and aims. Next week we will be joined by Alan Stuart, Director of Employability Service at Middlesex University, who will show us exactly how to do so. Don't miss out.

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