Undergraduate Retention and Engagement at UCA: The First Year Experience


This learning and teaching research project was initiated earlier this year with the aim of looking at the ways in which the institutional characteristics and disciplinary cultures within UCA affect retention and engagement among first year undergraduates

The research, now in its last stage, has been extended in order to ensure that the most apposite information can be gathered regarding the cohort of students who have just enrolled on their second year of undergraduate study. 
This is part of the third phase of the research; a close study of four BA(Hons) courses across UCA, which focuses on gathering narratives that can be set against the more widely available background of metrics. This phase of the research has already yielded some valuable insights from the four Course Leaders who have generously contributed to the research, and this final component will add to that rich mix of insights.

Following a well–received presentation of the project at the Course Leaders’ Forum in July, this project was successfully shared at an HEA event Ready for Retention: Effective Systems for Transition and Student Success, at the University of South Wales in July. Both presentations opened the project up to other perspectives and proved extremely valuable.

The full report will be complete shortly and will present a range of findings in relation to the strengths and challenges within the undergraduate experience at UCA in terms of retention.

In light of these findings, the report will also make a series of recommendations around priorities for development and change at strategic, course and programme levels, such as

  • Developing an area of the UCA website specifically for family and friends
  • Implementing initiatives early in the student journey, that is from four weeks pre-entry to first assessment point / beginning of term two

These will include recommendations for valuing and strengthening good practice across the university, in terms of retention, such as

  • Setting up a hub for sharing good practices across courses and schools, which would include facilitating exchanges between academics and those involved with other university-wide initiatives, such as studies of the experience of BME students, widening participation initiatives and Student Support Coordination
  • Acknowledging the crucial role of personal tutors, through, for example, realistic work-load adjustments for personal tutors and the provision of appropriate support, resources and training

The final report will elaborate on each of these recommendations and add several more for consideration.

Mary-lou Barratt

E: mbarratt@ucreative.ac.uk

T: 01227 817366




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HEA successes for UCA staff


As some of you may be aware, UCA has its own HEA-accredited Professional Recognition scheme.  This enables UCA staff to achieve professional recognition either through an academic route of study via the PGCert or MA Creative Arts Education courses, or by attending one of our dedicated units for professional recognition covering Descriptors 1-3 of the UKPSF.  We are pleased that interest has grown in the scheme, from 32 successful applications in our first year, to 56 in the second year.  Here is a list of the staff who achieved HEA recognition this year…if this is something you have been thinking about, why not get in contact with them to read about their experiences, or read this post on their experiences: Continue reading

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Day in the life of…Learning Support Co-ordinator

It’s a chilly but bright Friday morning in October. Since starting our newly-created roles as ‘Learning Support Coordinators’ here at Farnham, my small team and I have been busy getting our teeth stuck into all manner of projects with our central (and sometimes daunting) aim being to promote and increase inclusive practices at UCA.

In the light of recent DSA changes, it would seem that a cultural shift is occurring in Learning Support. As a result of government cuts to funding we are moving from the traditional ‘deficit model’ of support which involved much one-to-one in-class support, to a new way of supporting students which we hope, ultimately, will improve the experience of teaching and learning for ALL students. How? By embedding good inclusive practices more firmly into our learning environments.

However, it’s early days! Our initial research has covered areas such as peer-buddy/mentoring schemes, improving mental health resources, support for new students during transition periods and much more, which has included looking at successful schemes running in other universities. Continue reading

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BME students’ experiences of UCA teaching and learning

A Learning and Teaching project, which engaged student co-researchers in capturing student experience for BME students across campuses, has recently produced its findings and recommendations. These are to be considered over the coming months with a view to developing inclusive practices in this area. Please click here for the Full Report

The study has found that on the whole BME UCA students are positive about the way they experience the institution from the perspective of their ethnicity. One key theme to emerge from the data was that participants considered the institution to be welcoming and non-racist, and noted the emergence of an increasingly ethnically diverse student body.

However, the findings also demonstrate that the institution is not immune from the interplay of a range of macro, meso and micro level factors that can often position BME students as outsiders in Art and Design Higher Education. It is clear that any attempt to address the issues at the level of learning and teaching needs to take account of this complex interplay. Continue reading

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Some UCA experiences of HEA recognition

 I was surprised at how much achievement I felt on gaining my qualification!

It was a challenging journey which opened my eyes to a more reflective practice and allowed me to meet staff from different campuses and roles. I gained the opportunity to develop new ideas to move my practice forward by working towards  the UKSPF.

Yes, it was hard work but the experience really made me look closely at what I do and question my practice. I was able to identify and modify some of the bad habits I had slipped into without realising, and improve other parts of my delivery. It also reinvigorated my attitude to teaching in general through being able to discuss common problems and share good practice across disciplines and campuses because we all had a common agenda.

The supported portfolio route was a really good way to undertake this qualification. It helped to unpick and clarify the approaches and requirements I needed to consider; and build a portfolio of evidence I would not have otherwise included. Annamarie was invaluable with her knowledge and in structuring the sessions to do this; and the timing was really helpful with her introductory sessions early in the year and a focussed look at the actual building of the portfolio in the early summer (although I did not make as much use of the early time as I had intended at the beginning). 

I have already been polishing the skills in my teaching practice and intend to continue to develop.

Continue reading

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‘Mental health isn’t addressed properly’: students on the pressures of university


Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian

Reposted from the Guardian Higher Education Network.

With the number of students seeking counselling on the rise, we asked you to tell us about your experience of dealing with mental health issues at university Elle, 20, was studying politics but dropped out in her first term mainly due to mental health issues.

“I sought counselling at university but didn’t find the advice to be of good quality – I explained my body image issues to a counsellor, and was told ‘there’s always going to be someone prettier. Part of me thinks that I would’ve been able to see through at least the first year of politics if I had better help with my mental health.”

Read the full article: ‘Mental health isn’t addressed properly’: students on the pressures of university

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How to create a culture for valuable learning

Educational visionary Sir Ken Robinson continues his quest to put creativity back at the heart of systems of education. At the recent Big Picture Learning conference called Big Bang, Sir Ken criticised the use of conformity and compliance in education and they way in which they “undermine children’s confidence to enter the world on their own terms.”

Read the full story on Mindshift.

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