This symposium will provide an open and supportive environment within which to share and discuss contemporary practice and initiatives. The event will include a keynote speaker alongside participant-led workshops and presentations.
The issue of student poverty is as old as universities themselves, but the cost of living crisis will have far-reaching implications for student retention and success. The rising costs of accommodation, fuel and food are already a concern for many students, and will potentially have a detrimental impact on all aspects of their learning and wider student experience. The result may be poorer outcomes for many, and for some, may mean that they cannot continue their studies at all.
Students’ fundamental needs (food, shelter and transport) must be met to ensure their physical, mental and social wellbeing, which is in turn crucial for students to attain their educational potential. Solutions to this problem will be complex and multifaceted; this symposium aims to explore the issue holistically from all perspectives to inform whole-university approaches to tackling student poverty. To stimulate creative, responsive solutions and insightful dialogue, we welcome exploratory workshops and sharing of planned initiatives and work in progress as well as case studies of established and evaluated good practice.
The symposium will address the following themes:
- Engagement: Students who are stressed about their finances and basic needs, and don’t have adequate study space or resources can’t learn well. How might an inclusive, trauma- and evidence-informed awareness of students’ circumstances be embedded into our teaching, learning and assessment, as well as the extra-curricular activities which constitute the student experience? How can we ensure that targeted interventions are meaningful and don’t pose an additional burden on those least able to afford it?
- The Campus: What is the role of the campus in student poverty? The need to commute to campus (or other locations) may constitute an extra financial pressure, but equally the campus may offer an equalising space in which the effects of digital, food or fuel poverty might be mitigated. How can we use campus spaces from the classroom to the canteen to alleviate the impact of poverty? How do we integrate digital spaces in an inclusive way?
- Systems, Services and Processes: How might we need to transform our services, processes and systems to accommodate the pressures students are under with flexibility and compassion? Students experiencing poverty and associated issues might need anything from hardship funds, personal extenuating circumstances and suspending their studies, to support services such as finance advice, counselling and flexible accommodation. How might we rethink our provision to be fit for purpose in the current context, and ensure that students access and receive appropriate help in a timely fashion?
- Understanding our students: The cost of living crisis may affect different parts of our student body in different ways and to different degrees. How do we ensure that our understanding of students’ experiences and needs is accurate, and work with them to ensure that our provision is proactive and responsive?
The aims of this symposium are to:
- provide an open and supportive environment within which to share and discuss contemporary practice and initiatives in student retention and success; and
- provide evidence-informed examples and ideas for university staff and students to address the challenges of attrition, retention and student success in higher education.