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Race Equality Charter

Connect Benefit Series 2021-22

A suite of projects designed to co-create and share innovative solutions to contemporary challenges.

The Connect Benefit Series is free and exclusive to all colleagues at Advance HE member institutions and provides a collaborative space for our members from across the globe to work with us and each other in understanding and addressing their key challenges. Providing opportunities to experiment with solutions, innovate and create, share best practice and engage with a range of practical, real-world, applied solutions such as toolkits, podcasts and publications, the projects bring our diverse membership together through live virtual events.

The Connect Benefit Series is a benefit of Advance HE Membership.

Find out more about Membership

The Connect Benefit Series for 2021-22 comprises four, three-month deep-dive projects and two, six-month longitudinal projects and covering the following themes:

  • Student success

  • Inclusive institutions: enabling and supporting culture change

  • Transitions, retention and progression

  • Leading, change through teams and networks 

  • Flexible learning

  • Organisational wellbeing

The lateral themes of sustainability in HE, hybrid operating models – leadership and engagement and structural inequality, intersectionality and identities run across all of these projects ensuring the project outputs speak to the pervasive issues our members are facing.

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Deep dive projects 

Our four deep dive projects will run over the course of the 2021-22 member benefit year, each lasting three months.

Transitions, retention and progression

Recognising the potential impact of the past year on student's confidence, study skills and well-being, we will support members in adopting practical, evidence-based approaches to enhance the student experience in transition and to support retention and progression.

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Leading change through teams and networks 

The disruption brought about by the pandemic has highlighted the need for effective leadership both within and outside formal structures and decision-making processes; leadership that is flexible, resilient and responsive to continuous change. This theme explores the opportunities for and challenges in developing change agency as a core skill for collaborative working within and between teams, groups and networks. 

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Flexible learning

Pace, place and mode are central to inclusive and accessible higher education. This theme will support members in rethinking their learning and teaching strategies to provide a quality higher education for all.


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Organisational wellbeing 

In this theme we will be exploring the link between healthy and prosperous universities and the wellbeing of staff and students; how cultures, structures and policies can enable (or prevent) the expression of full human potential, collaboration, creativity and innovation. As we are all going through a transition into the Unknown New due to the Covid pandemic, we have a real opportunity for a “shift in consciousness” (Joanna Macy, 2014) to create more compassionate higher education institutions, which can help bring about a multi-levelled transformation for the whole of society.

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Longitudinal projects

Our two longitudinal projects will run over the course of the 2021-22 member benefit year, each lasting six months.  

Student success

This theme will explore aspects of the core thematic areas for student success with an initial emphasis on Access, Retention, Attainment and Progression, and Employability. The focus will ensure that the foundations for upcoming framework updates include and recognise hybrid, flexible and inclusive modes of teaching and learning.
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Inclusive institutions: enabling and supporting culture change

Addressing the barriers that limit access and belonging, and particular attention to removing barriers to marginalised groups can only be created and sustained through an inclusive institution with a culture that is well aligned to purpose, values and goals. This is what attracts students and talented people, and enables the whole organisation to be sustainable and thrive. Therefore leaders must find ways to create and explore shared understanding about culture, identity and the organisations direction of travel in a way which unites. With a practical focus on addressing challenges this theme will explore the challenges of understanding, enabling and supporting an inclusive culture from student to board.
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A calendar of when these themes will be covered can be seen below.

Member benefit calendar
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Lateral themes

Three lateral themes will run across both the deep dive and longitudinal projects ensuring the project outputs speak to the pervasive issues our members are facing. Information on these themes can be found below.

Sustainability in HE

This cross-cutting theme will challenge institutions to consider their contribution to sustainable development through all areas of activity from their curriculum, research, consultancy, estates/facilities management, leadership, governance and ways of working with students, employers, partners and the community, both locally and globally.

Hybrid operating models - leadership and engagement

The Covid-19 pandemic brought about disruption, displacement and disconnection: the disruption of work patterns and activities, the displacement of teams and departments, and the disconnection of colleague relationships. As the return to campus unfolds there are both opportunities and challenges in new, more flexible and inclusive work arrangements. This thematic strand will explore how the sector can plan, prepare for and promote hybrid working for the benefit of all.

Structural inequality, intersectionality and identities

Major disruptors during 2019 - 20, including Covid-19 Black Lives Matter and Brexit, offer us the opportunity to put equality, diversity and inclusion at the heart of our vision and values. Improving our practice calls for a deep understanding of structural inequalities and acute attention to the voices and experiences of students and staff from marginalised groups. This lateral theme will encourage a focus and energy on creative and adventurous solutions across all of our membership benefits.

Advance HE Connect Member Benefits Group 

If you are unable to attend an event or join a webinar, you can still join the discussion in the Advance HE Member Benefits group on Advance HE Connect, our online network exclusively for higher education. Share, connect and collaborate with your over 22,000 HE peers around the world. All webinars in the series are also recorded and available to view in the group.

Join or login here

I was the lead for student experience at [my institution] for Autumn 2020 and utilised the learning from the workshops and reports to formulate my thinking and a principle led approach. The discussions help both to shape and endorse the
approach I thought my University should take and enabled us to navigate through this rapid period of activity in the build up to the start of the new academic year.

Assistant Director, Education and Student Experience, UK University.