Advance HE’s core mission is to “improve higher education for staff, students and society” and that mission does not start and end in the classroom, nor with the vital work of academic colleagues.
Higher education sometimes feels as if it is an endless series of league tables and government metrics. Regardless of where providers are located, they face more scrutiny than in the past and must evidence how they make use of public monies and demonstrate impact.
When considering student outcomes, we have seen a focus on retention, progression, and graduate outcomes which rely on hard (and contested!) metrics but also more nuance around student wellbeing and health. As a result, there is a deeper focus on the role of teaching and learning staff and a measurement of their activities via pass rates and module feedback.
In my previous roles as an academic I was nominated or won teaching excellence awards for eight years in a row. This sounds impressive and what I believe my fellow young people refer to as a ‘flex’, but in reality, it was always a team effort. Every single year I was supported by, and worked with, a whole range of dedicated professionals who the students may not have come into contact with but who had a strong direct influence on their overall success. It takes a team.
Successful HEIs are therefore ones where strong classroom teaching is complemented in a range of ways. This can be from the work of library service professionals to instructional designers, through to the thoughtful and creative work of those involved in designing our modern campuses.
It can incorporate the work of experts in widening participation who understand what it means to be a first-generation student and what is needed to ensure that there is a successful transition to success. It can be the financial expert who designs programmes of support during a cost-of-living crisis. It is actually all of these people working together with a clear vision and strategic plan.
Beyond the classroom
We therefore wish to create conversations and share in-depth learnings about what happens in these other spaces. One element of this is a Collaborative Development Fund (CDF) project called Beyond the Classroom that will collect and analyse case studies of best practice from third space professionals.
We are pleased to announce a member benefit project that will continue to deepen this conversation and look at how student outcomes can be impacted by new forms of collaboration between academics, professional services colleagues and external partners.
Between now and July 2023, we invite you to be involved in this member benefit which focuses around the following concepts:
the creation and sharing of short informal video case studies about best practice which are ‘beyond the classroom’ or show how academics and professional service colleagues can work together to improve student outcomes.
webinars that consider these challenges from a range of different perspectives including how to work with external partners to maximise student success and what leadership means beyond the classroom.
Charles Knight is Associate Director (Knowledge & Innovation) at Advance HE. Previously he was an Associate Dean (Student Experience) at Salford Business School and has worked extensively across the sector with universities on strategy and leadership.