This conference was held on 8 November 2022 at the University of Leeds and brought together academics, professionals and students to explore, reflect on and celebrate the important and innovative Student Success work going on across sector.
Delegates and speakers also took the opportunity identify the need for challenge and call out where we must do more to disrupt and change.
There were a mixture of keynotes, panels, and parallel sessions on a variety of themes including:
- Curriculum Redefined
- How to build authentic belonging amongst our students
- Design thinking and curriculum change
- Using data to action change
- Co-creation and student voice
The programme, including speaker bios is available below and University of Leeds staff can access presentations (log in needed). If you don’t work at the University of Leeds and you would like copies of presentations, please email the Student Success team via firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note, while we have tried to make the presentations accessible, we cannot guarantee they are fully accessible. If you need an alternative versions please contact us.
I enjoyed hearing from other institutions and getting the perspective of students about particular projects and initiatives.
Although there was a unifying theme, there was sufficient diversity in the content to make it relevant to a range of institutions and programmes.
Welcome: Louise Banahene, Director of Educational Engagement, University of Leeds.
Keynote speaker: Professor Jeff Grabill, Deputy Vice-chancellor, Student Education, University of Leeds.
Curriculum Redefined: Professor Kenneth McDowall, Pro-Dean for Student Education, University of Leeds.
Panel discussion: How to build authentic belonging amongst our students: Professor Bridgette Bewick, University of Leeds, Professor Liz Thomas, University of York, David Gilani, Middlesex University, Head of Student Engagement and Advocacy.
- Theme 1. Design thinking and curriculum change. Great Woodhouse Room
- Paper 1. Staff and student experiences, and the future of learning spaces: a sociomaterial perspective. Dr Jill Dickinson and Teri-Lisa Griffiths, University of Leeds.
- Paper 2. Preparing to start your course: a toolkit for transitioning students to higher education. Ella Hatton and Tom Hatton, Arden University.
- Paper 3. Design sprints. Co-creative course design to enhance the student experience. Stephanie Hargreaves and Diana De Butts, Nottingham Trent University.
- Theme 2. Using data to action change. Beechgrove Room
- Paper 1. Joining the dots: synthesising student voice and feedback to enable data informed learning design. Dr Richard de Blacquiere-Clarkson and Dr Saad Mufti, University of Leeds.
- Paper 2. What can we learn about student belonging from lockdown data? Professor Alison Voice and Jess Davison, University of Leeds.
- Paper 3. Step Up, Stand Out. Supporting international taught postgraduate students to make the most of their year in Leeds. Clare Wright and Alison Leslie, University of Leeds.
- Theme 3. Co-creation and Student Voice. St. George Room
- Paper 1. Hidden histories. Embedding the voices of under-celebrated scholars into the curriculum fosters students' sense of belonging. Ellie Davison and Thomas Hobson, University of Lincoln.
- Paper 2. Stop! Collaborate and listen - Mature Student Advisory Board. Lauren Huxley and Laura Conroy, University of Leeds.
- Paper 3. Co-design, reverse mentoring and academic personal tutoring: building authentic staff/student partnerships. Rachael O'Connor and Sophia Lambert, University of Leeds.
Panel discussion: Institutional co-creation and student voice panel discussion. Professor Catherine O'Connor, Syra Shakir, Professor Fiona Shelton, Rozeena Allen, Paige Wong and Kelly Gaughan from Leeds Trinity University
- Providing a voice to the under-represented. understanding diversity and LGBTQIA+ perceptions at LUBS. Sally Chan and Agnes Meakin, University of Leeds.
- Leveraging psychology principles to improve student feedback surveys. Dr Manoj Ravi, University of Leeds.
- Academic personal tutoring and impact on belonging. Professor Simon Lightfoot and Faijabanu Patel, University of Leeds.
- Co-creating an interdisciplinary curriculum in engineering ethics. Christina Nick, University of Leeds.
- Curriculum-in-process and BA Professional Studies. Using inclusive pedagogies to enable students to collaborate in their own degree design. Catherine Bates, University of Leeds.
- Collaboration is key. showcasing collaborative approaches to supporting under-represented students at Leeds. Jenn Coates, Plus Programme, University of Leeds
- Theme 1. Design Thinking and Curriculum Change. Great Woodhouse Room
- Paper 1. Staff perspectives and understanding of Inclusive Assessment on the Degree Awarding Gap for minority ethnic and mature learners. Sumayyah Patel and Dr Pam Birtill, University of Leeds.
- Paper 2. The Brilliant Club 'joining the dots’: how schools and universities can work together to support student transition to HE. David Jones and Graeme Pedlingham, University of Sussex.
- Paper 3. Why values matter, an investigation of sense of belonging among university students. Professor Nick Emmel, University of Leeds
- Theme 2. Using data to action change. Beechgrove Room
- Paper 1. Shedding light on the hidden role of student support in student success: student support in the School of Medicine. Dr Katy Paradine and Andrea McGoverin, University of Leeds.
- Paper 2. Success measures within degree apprenticeships. Kevin Smith and Colleen Henderson, University Centre Quayside.
- Paper 3. Supporting student success at Surrey. By Javayria Masood and Dr Mark van der Enden, University of Surrey.
- Theme 3. Co-creation and student voice. St George RooFm.
- Paper 1. The Cambridge Black Advisory Hub. Addressing awarding gaps via participatory action research. Éireann Attridge and Tyra Amofah-Akardom, University of Cambridge.
- Paper 2. The Black Mentoring Scheme. Mentoring for MBChB students of black heritage. Shakeela Brown and Professor Bridgette Bewick, University of Leeds.
- Paper 3. Piloting an Explicit Approach to Building a Learning Community. Niamh Mullen, University of Leeds.
Louise Banahene, Director of Educational Engagement, University of Leeds
Louise Banahene is Director of Educational Engagement at the University of Leeds. She provides leadership on the University’s access and student success strategy including outreach, contextual admissions and changes to structures and process to close gaps in continuation and degree awarding gaps. In 2017 she was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to higher education.
Professor Jeff Grabill, Deputy Vice-chancellor, Student Education, University of Leeds
Professor Grabill leads the University's overall education strategy, ensuring Leeds attracts, excites and retains high-quality students from a wide range of backgrounds. His brief includes implementing innovative measures to ensure that students benefit from an outstanding education and excellent all-round experience, widening participation, promoting teaching excellence and innovation, and further boosting the employability of the University’s students.
Professor Kenneth McDowall, Pro-Dean for Student Education, University of Leeds
Professor McDowall joined the academic staff of the University of Leeds in 1996 after postdoctoral at Stanford University, California. He is currently Pro-Dean for Student Education and is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Biological Sciences.
Professor Bridgette Bewick, Professor in Psychological health, wellbeing, and education, University of Leeds
Professor Bewick has advanced our understanding of how to integrate sense of belonging and wellbeing into university curricula and culture. She led the development of ‘I belong at Leeds’, co-created activity that facilitates belonging and inclusion. As the founder of ‘Compassionate Curriculum Conversations’ she’s facilitated a safe space for staff and students to engage in authentic discussion around creating a compassionate and inclusive university experience. Her career has focussed on placing mental health and wellbeing at the heart of the university experience.
Professor Liz Thomas, Senior Lecturer, University of York
Professor Liz Thomas, is a senior lecturer at the University of York, and visiting Professor at Aston University. Her research focuses on student equity and success – and the role of engagement and belonging. She has contributed to national and international studies, and her research has influenced higher education policy and practice in the UK and beyond.
David Gilani, Head of Student Education and Advocacy, Middlesex University
David believes strongly in universities working together and so co-chairs the CASE Student Communications conference and leads the AUA’s Student Experience and Engagement Network. He is studying his PhD at the University of York on the topic of student belonging.
Syra Shakir, Associate Professor in Learning and Teaching, Leeds Trinity University
Syra is the university lead on race equality in the curriculum, learning, teaching and assessment. Syra is passionate about innovation in teaching and students as co-creators of their own learning in HE. Syra’s doctorate focuses on belonging and community in HE. Syra collaborated with film maker Ricardo Barker to develop a toolkit for tackling racism in higher education which has been shared with universities across the country in the fight against racism and inequality.
Professor Fiona Shelton, Professor of Education and Pedagogy at Leeds Trinity University
Professor Fiona Shelton is the Founding Dean of The Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at Leeds Trinity University. She was awarded a National Teaching Fellowship in 2019, based on her approach using the power of story to understand the human experience.
Professor Catherine O’Connor, Professor for Higher Education, Learning and Teaching at Leeds Trinity University
Professor Catherine O’Connor is Pro Vice-Chancellor for Education and Experience at Leeds Trinity University. Her research interests focus on how universities work with both students and employers to address labour market issues and how students can be given a voice as key stakeholders in HE through co-creation.
Dr Jill Dickinson, Associate Professor in Law, University of Leeds
Dr Jill Dickinson is Associate Professor in Law, University of Leeds. A former property Solicitor, and SFHEA, Jill enjoys using creative methods to develop understandings around place-making, learning landscapes, and professional development and her work has received recognition in the Emerald Literati Awards.
Teri-Lisa Griffiths (co-presenter), Senior Lecturer in Criminology, Sheffield Hallam University
Teri-Lisa Griffiths is a Senior Lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University. Her teaching and assessment activities are focussed on embedding employability. Her research interests are focussed on professional development and the student experience, including where and how spaces of personal and professional development emerge both on and off campus.
Ella Hatton, Senior Lecturer in Business Psychology, Arden University
Ella is currently completing her PhD, which focuses on participatory work-wellbeing interventions for healthcare staff. She is incredibly passionate about contemporary and accessible pedagogical practices in Higher Education, particularly how this promote employability of students.
Tom Hatton (co-presenter), Lecturer in Psychology, Arden University
Tom’s research background has included research in mental health peer support with police officers and interest in positive psychology applied to mental health & sport and the use of sport & exercise psychology principles in Esports.
Stephanie Hargreaves, Senior Quality and Standards Advisor, Nottingham Trent University
Stephanie is a Senior Quality and Standards Advisor and chair of the Student Staff Partnerships, Trent Institute of Learning and teaching (TILT) practice and scholarship group, at Nottingham Trent University (NTU). Skilled in collaborative course design, student partnerships and engagement, and previously responsible for leading student engagement and retention interventions at NTU.
Diana De Butts (co-presenter), Educational Developer, Nottingham Trent University
Diana, an Educational Developer at Nottingham Trent University, works collaboratively with academic colleagues to explore and adopt innovative, inclusive and evidence-based learning and teaching practices. Diana has a Primary PGCE, three years’ classroom experience and five years’ experience in Local Government working on a multi-organisation programme tackling cycles of disadvantage.
Dr Richard de Blacquière-Clarkson, Academic Development Consultant, University of Leeds
Dr Blacquière-Clarkson (SFHEA, PhD) has worked in HE and other educational sectors for over 15 years, specialising in inclusive digital pedagogies. He is currently an Academic Development Consultant for Curriculum Redefined and a Fellow of the Leeds Institute for Teaching Excellence.
Dr Saad Mufti (co-presenter), Impact, Monitoring and Evaluation, University of Leeds
Dr Mufti (MEng, PhD) drives management information analysis and impact evaluation of student access/success activities at the Lifelong Learning Centre, which focuses on students from under-represented groups or who don't have traditional qualifications.
Professor Alison Voice, Senior Lecturer, University of Leeds
Professor Alison Voice holds a 3 year LITE Fellowship to investigate the effect of students’ sense of belonging and engaging in making a successful transition to university. She is head of the Research Group in Physics Education in the School of Physics & Astronomy at Leeds.
Jess Davison (co-presenter), Undergraduate Student, University of Leeds
Jess Davison is a 3rd year undergraduate student studying Psychology at the University of Leeds. She was successful in being awarded funding through an Educational Engagement Scholarship for a summer internship to undertake this research and analysis, which will benefit students across the university.
Claire Wright, Associate Professor in Linguistics and Language, University of Leeds
Clare Wright's research focuses on linguistic, academic and wellbeing development during the international student experience, as showcased in talks and publications for BALEAP, Journal of Research in International Education, and others.
Alison Leslie (co-presenter), Lecturer in English for Academic Purposes, University of Leeds
Alison Leslie is a Lecturer in English for Academic Purposes and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. She leads the pre-sessional and in-sessional provision for the School of Sociology and Social Policy. Her research interests include inclusive and global education.
Lauren Huxley, Student Experience Officer, University of Leeds
Student Experience Officer at the Lifelong Learning Centre, and Co-chair of the Mature Student Advisory Board. Lauren ensures that students studying with the Lifelong Learning Centre and mature students from across the University are having an excellent experience during their time at Leeds.
Lauren Conroy (co-presenter), Student Success Officer, University of Leeds
Student Success Officer at the Lifelong Learning Centre and Co-chair of the Mature Student Advisory Board. Laura’s work is concerned with maximising student success - retention, attainment and progression by developing targeted interventions, informed by data, and liaising with key stakeholders to help students achieve the best possible outcomes.
Rachael O'Connor, Lecturer, Director of Student Support and APT Lead, University of Leeds
Rachael comes from a working class background and was one of the first in her family to go to University. This has contributed towards Rachael’s passion for improving University experiences for students who self-identify as under-represented. The primary focus of Rachael’s scholarship is developing authentic staff/student relationships through reverse mentoring. She has won a University Teaching Award and the Stan Marsh Prize for Best Paper at the Association of Law Teachers Conference for her reverse mentoring work.
Sumayyah Patel, BSc Psychology (Industry) Student, University of Leeds
Sumayyah is a British Asian Muslim interested in improving access and success for under-represented groups in higher education. Her research journey began in summer 2022 as she embarked on a research placement by Leeds Institute of Teaching Excellence (LITE).
Dr Pam Birtill (co-presenter), Associate Professor of Psychology, University of Leeds
Dr Birtill is associate professor of psychology and academic lead for LEAF (Leeds expectations for assessment and feedback). As part of RiTPoSE (research in the psychology of student education) she has explored how to support students with access to the hidden curriculum, imposter syndrome, and student experiences on online learning during COVID.
David Jones, Director of Access and Success Projects, The Brilliant Club
A former primary school teacher, David has been at The Brilliant Club since 2015 and leads the charity’s work in student success. His team is responsible for Join the Dots, a new programme bringing schools and universities together to support student transitions.
Graeme Pedlingham (co-presenter), Deputy Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Student Experience, University of Sussex
Graeme leads a range of student success initiatives, including work on models for personal tutoring, and embedding experiential learning and authentic assessment. He has worked on student transitions into and through university for a number of years and founded Sussex's Central Foundation Years Programme in 2015.
Professor Nick Emmel, Professor of Social Research Methodology, University of Leeds
Nick Emmel is a professor of social research methodology in the School of Sociology and Social Policy. He also leads the Diverse and Averaged Student (DASE) research group; a trans-disciplinary group of scholars investigating the ways in which inequalities are perpetuated and addressed in Higher Education. At present, the DASE group is investigating experiences and perceptions of sense of belonging among students at the University of Leeds.
Niamh Mullen, Belonging Academic Lead, University of Leeds
Niamh is a Senior HEA Fellow, Belonging Academic Lead and a former LITE Fellow for 'The Academic Listening Project' - her particular area of scholarship and research focus is academic listening and the transition to academic listening for students whose first language is not English. She is also convenor for the BALEAP Special Interest Group: Developing, Teaching and Testing Academic Listeners.
Dr Katy Paradine, Associate Director of Student Support, School of Medicine, University of Leeds
Dr Paradine is a Postdoctoral Researcher specialising in endothelial cell adaptations to diabetes. She is also involved in teaching and management of both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes within in the School of Medicine, and is an APT.
Andrea McGoverin (co-presenter), Head of Student Support, School of Medicine, University of Leeds
Andrea's background includes nearly 40 years experience of cardio thoracic nursing, patient advocacy in the third sector, with the last 20 years in medical education specialising in communication skills with undergraduates and clinicians in difficulty.
Kevin Smith, Senior Lecturer and Module Lead, University Centre Quayside
Kevin has been involved with educational delivery and management for 30 years and has led and managed HE provision in Further Education in various Colleges. His research interests include curriculum development and student success factors
Colleen Henderson (co-presenter), Lead Professional Development Assessor, University Centre Quayside
Colleen initially started as an assessor for a private training provider in 2006 and has assessed and taught a range of provision from levels 4 to 6. She is presently developing CMI provision at level 7.
Javayria Masood, Student Success Manager, University of Surrey
Javayria Masood is the Student Success Manager at the University of Surrey. She manages a team of five student success advisors that provide pastoral support for students, who deal with complex casework and track the engagement of students across the institution. Javayria has worked in youth work and higher education for the last 11 years and continues to embed this learning into developing the best possible student experience for students at The University of Surrey.
Dr Mark van der Enden, Student Success Advisor, University of Surrey
Dr Mark van der Enden, an archaeologist and ancient historian by training, has been supporting student success in higher education since 2017. Prior to becoming Student Success advisor at the University of Surrey he has worked as Project Officer for Student Staff Partnership and learning developer at the University of Leicester and Peer Support Coordinator at Loughborough University.
Éireann Attridge, ESRC funded PhD Student
Éireann Attridge worked as a Project Associate for the Black Advisory Hub from February – October 2021 and sits on the current Steering Group. She is a current ESRC funded PhD student conducting a mixed methods project on the relationship between student socio-economic background and student outcomes.
Tyra Amofah-Akardom (co-presenter), Cambridge Trust and ESRC funded PhD Student
Tyra Amofah-Akardom is a Cambridge Trust and ESRC funded PhD Student investigating Black Feminist activist cultures at ‘elite’ British and American universities. Tyra was one of the original team who conceptualised and researched the Black Advisory Hub and now serves as the student co-chair of the Hub’s steering group.
Shakeela Brown, 2nd Year Medical Student, University of Leeds
Shakeela has a passion for health inequalities and would like to help tackle this in my future role as a doctor. Currently she is a co-organiser of the ‘Where are the black doctors’ I belong series.
Sally Chan, Lecturer in Marketing, University of Leeds
Sally Chan is Lecturer in Marketing at Leeds University Business School. Her research interest lies in racialized constructions in British television commercials and the use of advertising archives in understanding colonial representations of ‘the Other’. She is also Trustee and Board Member of the History of Advertising Trust.
Agnes Meakin (co-presenter), Advertising and Design MA alumni, University of Leeds
Agnes has an interest in anything challenging to overcome. Outside of work, she is obsessed with culture and people to learn new things, challenge her bias, and apply knowledge. She is an aspiring strategist who wants to shake the advertising industry to be more authentic, with a particular interest in representing gender non-conformity and masculine women's visibility.
Dr Manoj Ravi, Lecturer in the School of Chemical and Process Engineering, University of Leeds
Dr. Manoj Ravi is part of the University-wide ‘Curriculum Redefined’ project aiming to make student education at Leeds transformative, inclusive and flexible.
Christina Nick, Lecturer in Applied Ethics, University of Leeds
A philosopher by training, Christina now primarily works with engineering students to explore how ethics can form an important part of their professional practice. She has a particular interest in digital education and inclusive pedagogies.
Catherine Bates, BA Professional Studies Lead, University of Leeds
Catherine Bates leads the BA Professional Studies – an interdisciplinary honours degree designed specifically for mature students. Catherine is also the SALIP (inclusion lead) for the Lifelong Learning Centre, and has previously worked as a Dyslexia Support Worker in HE as well as a lecturer in literature and Canadian studies.
Jenn Coates, Plus Programme Lead (Attainment and Progression), University of Leeds
Jenn leads on the Plus Programme’s work to support Widening Participation students whilst they are on course at the University, as well as coordinating our approach to progression out of university into careers or further study.
Faijabanu Patel, Third year Advanced Psychology student at the University of Leeds.
Professor Simon Lightfoot (Co-speaker), Pro Dean for Student Education and Professor of Politics
How to build authentic belonging amongst our students
Professor Bridgette Bewick, University of Leeds, Professor Liz Thomas, University of York, David Gilani, Middlesex University, Head of Student Engagement and Advocacy.
Student belonging is in vogue. From high profile research being led by Wonkhe and Pearson, articles in The Conversation, Advance HE reports, and a general increase in academic research… belonging is being talked about a lot at the moment.
This panel discussion featuring Bridgette Bewick (Professor in Psychological health, wellbeing, and education at Leeds), Liz Thomas (Researcher into student belonging and consultant on student experience, based at York) and David Gilani (Head of Student Engagement and Advocacy at Middlesex now studying student belonging for his PhD) will ask what we can practically do as staff working in universities to help build authentic belonging amongst our students.
You’ll hear about recent research from Middlesex University - based on a series of interviews with programme teams about their practice to build belonging within the curriculum - initiatives taking place at Leeds University to build a wider sense of belonging amongst students across the University, and interventions developed as part of the #Ibelong project involving university partners in the UK, the Netherlands, Germany and Portugal.
The discussion will also give time to ask the important question: How can we develop an evidence-informed approach to building student belonging? Expect to hear about some of the creative approaches that have been used in academic research to measure changes in belonging levels, as well as steps that you can take to build your own theory of change.
You will also have an opportunity within this session to ask your own questions to the panel.
Parallel sessions 1
Design thinking + Curriculum change. Staff and student experiences, and the future of learning spaces: a sociomaterial perspective
Dr Jill Dickinson, and Terri-Lisa Griffiths, University of Leeds
For many educators within HE, the Covid-19 pandemic forced staff and students to navigate unchartered changes to teaching and learning spaces and develop their working practices. There are perceptions that the online setting may provide inferior opportunities than the in-person environment, and concerns that online working is a potentially isolating experience. Yet, some may have felt a sense of achievement in overcoming some of the challenges and may seek opportunities to learn from their experiences rather than returning to pre-pandemic practices.
The new academic year presents requirements for, and desires and concerns around, the return to campus. As such, it is a pivotal time for encouraging meaningful dialogue across schools, the institution, and the sector. It presents an opportunity to identify and share innovative practices that emerged during the pandemic and build on those to develop future working practices.
This session draws on a longitudinal case study that employed the theoretical framework of sociomateriality, and creative research methods. The study collected data through both focus groups and interviews to develop understanding of staff/student perceptions of, and responses to, the changing learning spaces presented by the pandemic. Analysis of the findings revealed key themes, including both community participation and power dynamics. Drawing on a design thinking approach, this interactive workshop will provide opportunities for delegates to hear more about these themes, reflect on their own perceptions of changes to their own working spaces, and discuss opportunities to take forward some of this learning to help inform future curricula change.
Preparing to Start Your Course (P-SYC): a toolkit for transitioning students to Higher Education
Ella Hatton and Tom Hatton, Arden University
The Preparing to Start Your Course (P-SYC) toolkit was developed by a team of Psychology lecturers at Arden university, for students who have secured a place on a BSc or MSc Psychology course but have not yet enrolled, as well as existing students. Lecturers worked alongside existing students to identify key opportunities and challenges faced by individuals transitioning into Higher Education, to co-create the toolkit.
Through this collaboration, the main aims of P-SYC included preparing students for independent learning, increasing student self-efficacy, managing student expectations of the course, allow more time for module-specific support from teaching staff, and support student continuation rates. The toolkit contains information on a variety of topics, such as the formats of teaching provision, role of lecturers, possible types of assessments and feedback, introducing necessary study skills, and what it means to be an independent learner.
This session will draw upon existing literature and issues that rationalised the creation of the toolkit, introduce P-SYC, reflect on the process of co-creating the resource with students, and its anticipated outcomes.
NTU Design Sprints: Co-creative course design to enhance the student experience
Stephanie Hargreaves and Diana De Butts, Nottingham Trent University
Nottingham Trent University (NTU) is entering its second year of designing courses through the innovative ‘Design Sprint’ approach. So far, 56 course teams have developed core aspects of learning, assessment and student experience within this structured and facilitated creative process.
This has transformed NTU course design from what was a documentation-heavy process, mainly undertaken in isolation, culminating in a high-stakes panel-based scenario. In contrast, the process is now collaborative and sustainable, with protected time to share expertise and co-create courses with students, colleagues from across the University, employers, professional bodies and academics from other institutions.
During this 15-minute session we will introduce you to the function and aims of Design Sprints, the challenges we have faced and how you can implement Design Sprints in your own institution.
Using data to action change. Joining the dots: synthesising student voice and feedback to enable data informed learning design
Dr Richard de Blacquiere-Clarkson and Dr Saad Mufti, University of Leeds
Effective curriculum design requires working in partnership with students to understand their needs and preferences regarding educational experiences, particularly during periods of change such as the rapid and unforeseen shift to remote then hybrid learning early in the pandemic. Most students at the Lifelong Learning Centre (LLC) are from disadvantaged backgrounds, and often balance their studies with employment and/or have caring responsibilities, so asking them to engage with additional consultation such as focus groups would have been inappropriate under the circumstances. Therefore, all existing sources of student voice and feedback gathered across the School - including module evaluations and staff student partnership forums - were synthesised, revealing new actionable insights without placing any additional burden on students.
A notable discovery from this synthesis was that our students valued interactivity above all else, in particular with peers and in small groups, with quality of online resources the second most frequently mentioned topic. A substantial minority strongly opposed remote delivery despite often being very complimentary about efforts made.
Key findings influenced hybrid delivery in the second semester of 2020/21 and in 2021/22, contributing to excellent feedback from students and external examiners; e.g., in the 2022 NSS, ~90% of LLC students agreed on overall satisfaction, well above the University average of ~80%. We suggest that a similar approach could be equally effective in other Schools across the University, and will offer some recommendations for further development, for instance contextualising using institutional key performance indicators.
What can we learn about student belonging from lockdown data?
Professor Alison Voice and Jess Davison, University of Leeds
Finding friends and feeling you belong on your course is the necessary starting point for academic success (Thomas 2017). But how could this happen when all study and some living was remote and isolated?
In this talk we present analysis of student survey data and staff interviews taken from 7 disciplines in 2020-21. The COVID restrictions on social activities forced students, and staff, to focus on the key elements that really matter for effective learning and raised the profile of what motivates and supports students to engage.
This ‘once in a generation’ situation has illuminated the features that should underpin our teaching at all times to help our students find friends, belong and succeed.
Step Up, Stand Out: Supporting international PGTs to make the most of their year in Leeds
Clare Wright & Alison Leslie, University of Leeds
This session will introduce our 3-year LITE project (2022-25), addressing current academic literacy provision and associated student success for International Postgraduate Taught Students (IPGTs).
Our project takes forward evidence (e.g., from the recent PGT Student Experience commission) of complex challenges facing IPGTs at Leeds whether linguistic, academic or cultural. The project aims to foster a stronger sense of belonging and inclusion, in line with the University Vision of students feeling “valued for their unique contribution.... equipped to make a difference as true global citizens" and being supported "to be successful in ways which are meaningful for them”.
For this project we will work with IPGTs as co-creation partners in evaluating and improving the suitability of selected para-curricular resources such as the University's Step up to Masters self-study pack and Introduction to Critical Thinking MOOC in embedded academic literacy sessions in two selected schools. Student data will also be used to suggest future improvements in para-curricular provision, to run in the second and third years of the project, drawing out implications for tailoring resources and streamlining communications with IPGTs more broadly.
Outcomes will have university-wide relevance in finding effective ways to build IPGTs’ confidence, autonomy, resilience and motivation in stepping up to make the most of their time at Leeds academically and personally and standing out as valued members of the University community.
Co-creation + student voice. Hidden Histories: embedding the voices of undercelebrated scholars into the curriculum fosters students' sense of belonging
Ellie Davison and Thomas Hobson University of Lincoln
The voices of scholars with diverse gender, sexuality, ethnicity, dis/ability and cultural backgrounds have historically been underrepresented in teaching curricula, excluding many students from identifying with teaching resources and activities.
The Hidden Histories project aims to diversify the narrative through a staff-student partnership to embed the contributions of undercelebrated scholars into the curriculum, through the co-creation of interactive seminar resources.
Whilst still in its infancy, evaluation of the project so far has revealed a striking impact on students’ awareness of thinkers from marginalised backgrounds, their appetite for deeper engagement with inclusive teaching and learning and, crucially, their own sense of belonging in STEM.
Stop! Collaborate and Listen
Lauren Huxley and Laura Conroy, University of Leeds
Transforming Student Voice into Institutional Change. Hear how the Mature Student Advisory Board have turned feedback into action through collaboration.
We'll be exploring collaboration as an impactful tool for change between staff and students and at a local and institutional level, reflecting on the question "How do we ensure that Student Voice remains at the core of our decision-making processes and feels meaningful for everyone involved?"
Co-design, reverse mentoring and academic personal tutoring: building authentic staff/student partnerships
Rachael O'Connor and Sophia Lambert, University of Leeds
This session will critically reflect on the first year of Rachael’s on-going LITE fellowship project, focusing on research conducted with a student consultation team of 15 UG students who self-identify as under-represented from a range of disciplines.
The project is focused on amplifying student voices to improve staff/student relationships, particularly in the area of academic personal tutoring. As a team, we co-designed a reverse mentoring scheme between staff and students which will run in 2022/23, building on my previous pilot study (the first published staff/student HE reverse mentoring scheme).
This is an innovative study wherein the student consultation team were responsible for designing an intervention aimed at providing a platform for student voices across campus, empowering students and supporting staff to improve their knowledge and practice as academic personal tutors (and more generally) when working with historically excluded students. Sophia Lambert who worked with Rachael this summer as a student research experience intern will also reflect on her critical involvement in finalising the project, as well as her own primary research stemming from the LITE project relating to under-represented students’ experiences of academic personal tutoring.
A key aim of the session is to encourage peers to consider meaningful engagement of students in their own initiatives and to understand the importance of including a diverse range of student voices in key decisions and policies, including academic personal tutoring.
Professor Catherine O'Connor, Syra Shakir, Professor Fiona Shelton, Rozeena Allen, Paige Wong and Kelly Gaughan, Leeds Trinity University
This panel will give an overview of an institutional approach to co-creation with students to ensure a sense of belonging, to give space to the student voice and to embed approaches which create an embedded ecosystem, through the curriculum, decision making and shared endeavours.
It will consider the challenges and opportunities of:
- How institutions continually and transparently demonstrate that they value and utilise student voice to make a difference
- What mean by co-creation
- The conditions which support students to say they feel valued when they work co-creatively with staff and where the issue of paying students sits in this dynamic
- The potential impact that the curriculum might have upon the sense of belonging students feel, their learning and success, and wider society.
It will outline how learning from this institutional project approach is being cascaded through academic and professional services teams, how it is being used to shape action research cycles and as the foundation for teams to lead and learn from their own projects. And finally, it considers how to embed systemic change to ensure a whole institutional approach.
Parallel sessions 2
Design thinking + curriculum change
Staff perspectives and understanding of Inclusive Assessment on the Degree Awarding Gap for minority ethnic and mature learners
Sumayyah Patel and Dr Pam Birtill, University of Leeds
Degree awarding gaps persist nationally and are particularly significant for minority ethnic and mature learners. This gap cannot be attributed to any one reason but is instead a product of several complex contributing factors. Inclusive assessment practices aim to address longstanding awarding gaps by adopting principles like offering student choice, employing authentic assessment, and developing assessment literacy.
The current research is concerned with exploring staff perspectives and understanding of inclusive assessment, particularly in relation to the impact on the degree awarding gap for minority ethnic and mature students. An exploratory, qualitative study was conducted using a purposive sample (N= 8) of academic staff ranging from Associate Professor to Deputy Head of Schools at a Russell Group University. Semi-structured 40–60-minute online interviews conducted by a student researcher were automatically transcribed and analysed. Inductive thematic analysis (Braune & Clarke, 2006) revealed three core themes, (1) avoidance of discussing race, (2) staff empathy and understanding of student experience, and (3) staff endeavouring and willingness to support.
Each theme was divided into several subthemes surrounding (1) staff hesitancies and concerns on safe spaces and conversing with students; (2) the hidden curriculum, staff assumptions, and hidden student experiences; (3) staff-student partnerships, staff pedagogical philosophies, traditional vs innovative assessment formats, and discipline-specific assessment cultures.
Findings document staff lack of confidence and insight into inclusive assessment practices and student experiences respectively. School-specific difficulties were also recognised as further contributing to student barriers.
The Brilliant Club, Joining the Dots: how schools and universities can work together to support student transition to HE
David Jones and Graeme Pedlingham, University of Sussex
Disadvantage does not disappear when students walk through the door of university. Disadvantaged students are more likely to drop out of university three times likely to miss out on a 2.1 or 1st than their more advantaged peers. Supporting students during the transition into higher education - ensuring they develop a sense of belonging and have the academic skills to succeed - is key to closing these gaps; something many schools know all too well as former students return to these familiar environments seeking advice and support when they struggle to adapt to university life.
Join the Dots is a new programme piloting in 2022/23. Built on the principles of communities, connections and coaching, the programme brings schools and universities together to support students as they transition into undergraduate studies.
Co-created through collaboration between schools, universities, students and The Brilliant Club, the programme builds communities of students to identify, discuss and address shared challenges and foster a sense of belonging at university. Through one-to-one and peer group coaching, it helps students to develop key university study strategies and is a link for students to access university support as needed. Overall, this will strengthen the connection between schools and universities, giving teachers insights into transition and enabling them to build relationships with university staff.
This session will provide an in-depth overview of the pilot, highlighting the evidence base underpinning successful transitions from school to university and lessons learnt so far. It will also examine the power of co-creation and collaboration in programme design and delivery.
Using data to action change. Why values matter, an investigation of sense of belonging among university students
Professor Nick Emmel, University of Leeds
This session will report findings from a survey, which included open-ended responses, with taught undergraduate and postgraduate students on sense of belonging at a Russell Group university in the United Kingdom. The findings from this survey (n=440/375) emphasise the importance of fitting in through having the right educational skills and feeling valued in networks of students and staff at university. A knowingness about being a student is reported, suggesting the acquired dispositions discussed in other studies of sense of belonging. However, we also find that social justice is central to students’ definitions of sense of belonging: the shared social justice of communities with similar values and the responsibility of the institution to regulate and guide policy and practices to ensure social justice.
We will also identify active discrimination against protected characteristics and, reflecting a wider debate in society, groups who feel discriminated against yet for whom there is no empirical evidence of discrimination. These real and perceived experiences of discrimination frame understanding of sense of belonging too.
From this research we consider the role levelling up generic academic skills, nurturing academic freedom and innovative approaches to raise awareness of equality and diversity might play in an inclusive pedagogy and curriculum change. We also reflect on ways in which a narrative that emphasises social justice and highlights experiences of discrimination in the university may bring about change towards increasing sense of belonging.
Shedding light on the hidden role of Student Support in Student Success – Student Support in the School of Medicine
Dr Katy Paradine and Andrea McGoverin, University of Leeds
Effective Student Support is integral to Student Success. The School of Medicine has a dedicated Student Support Team comprised of Academic and Student Education Staff. Our team members draw on experience from a variety of backgrounds, including clinical medical and nursing roles, medical education, and counselling. We support students across the school’s portfolio of under and postgraduate programmes. Our largest programme, the MBChB, has >1,400 students, of which almost 20% are registered as disabled with the University of Leeds. Of those, >30% have a mental health condition, and >40% have a specific learning difficulty. In the 2021/22 academic year, we met with students encountering a wide range of issues, including mental and physical health crises, financial difficulties, adverse family circumstances and accommodation concerns. To advocate for our students, and enable them to succeed, we foster relationships with other teams within School, the wider university and external partners.
This work is largely hidden. By its very nature, the work of Student Support is often confidential, quiet, and held ‘below the radar’. The positive feedback we gain from individual students goes someway to highlighting how our work enables student success, but the only objective measure we have is the outcome of our degree programmes. This year, for example, all but one of our final year MBChB students graduated from the course and went on to work as a doctor in the NHS. Ultimately, their success shows that what we are doing must be working, but that is not enough. We continue to work with students and other stakeholders to improve our service, with the hope that we can continue to play a part in enabling students to succeed.
Success Measures within Degree Apprenticeships
Kevin Smith and Colleen Henderson, University Centre Quayside
Overview and aim of research: Success measures within education have usually focused upon quantifiable outcomes, such as retention and achievement. Within Higher Education, undergraduate success is often measured by retention on programme and degree classification. While these measures have merit in orthodox undergraduate provision, the introduction of Degree Apprenticeships and the influence that employers have on these programmes suggests that new success metrics are required to make this more meaningful to the key stakeholders, including Ofsted.
Methodology: The University Centre Quayside has undertaken questionnaire research with undergraduates, graduates, and employers to establish a more holistic and impact driven approach to success measures
Initial Findings: This presentation builds upon explorations conducted by York (2015) and the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (2012 a and b). This case study presentation will produce initial findings suggesting that the use of work-related measures, based upon the impact that academic and vocational learning have within the workplace, are a more effective and accurate measure of success. Consideration of professional and personal development generates a more rounded representation of distance travelled and accentuates the student voice. Furthermore, the inclusion of an employer dimension which measures the added value that employees engaged with the Degree Apprenticeships can generate, develops a contemporary evaluation of the impact that such provision has upon key business outcomes.
Contribution to practice: The presentation aims to foster discussion around appropriate success measures within Higher Education and their application to the broader educational landscape.
Supporting Student Success at Surrey
Javayria Masood and Dr Mark van der Enden, University of Surrey
In February 2021, the University of Surrey launched its Student Success Team. At Surrey, Student Success Advisors are embedded within specific faculties to provide long-term, one-to-one pastoral support to all students. The team has a remit of improving student progression and retention, with a particular emphasis on widening participation students and those of non-traditional backgrounds. For almost two years, the Student Success Team has been at the heart of student support provision at the University.
By working one-to-one with hundreds of students we have been able to build up particular insights and expertise around what students consider success at University to mean and how this aligns with institutional drivers around student success. In this presentation we will be sharing some of those insights, in particular those coming from our students themselves and what they feel they need in order to be successful at University. The imminent introduction of Learning Analytics as a tool to support student progression and retention at the University of Surrey has raised further questions around what we mean when we talk about student success, how we measure success and how this relates to the lived experience of our students. In our presentation we will be drawing on these discussions and the resulting processes and interventions put in place to improve student outcomes.
Co-creation + student voice. Embracing the voices of minoritised and marginalised people in our approach to institutional change
Éireann Attridge and Tyra Amofah-Akardom, University of Cambridge
The Cambridge Black Advisory Hub seeks to both support Black students at the University and aid and advise staff members on how to best support Black students. This vice-chancellor-funded project was conceptualised in a conversation between friends in a student bedroom. Utilising participatory action research, this project demonstrated the innovative ideas that can occur when student experience and voice are prioritised. In this session, members of the Black Advisory Hub will reflect on its inception and creation as well as the challenges and opportunities that have occurred since. Speakers will offer practical suggestions for those looking to work collaboratively and authentically with minoritised groups, Black students in particular, in higher education to create institution-wide change.
The Black Mentoring Scheme: Mentoring for MBChB students of black heritage
Shakeela Brown and Professor Bridgette Bewick, University of Leeds
Shakeela Brown is a second-year medical student of Black-heritage at the University of Leeds. After being on placement in the NHS Shakeela asked the question ‘Where are all the Black Doctors?’
The lack of representation of Doctors from Black/Black-heritage backgrounds made me doubt whether she belonged in medicine, whether it was possible for her to succeed as a Black medical student/ doctor. The phrase ‘you have to see one to be one’ came to mind and that encouraged work in partnership with Professor Bridgette M Bewick to develop the ‘Black Mentoring Scheme’.
The mentoring scheme involves doctors who are Black or of Black heritage mentoring current Black/Black heritage medical students to help empower and inspire them and facilitate a sense that they do belong in medicine and that they can succeed despite the current institutionalised racism (Woodhead et al., 2021; Tonkin, 2022).
In this presentation. Shakeela will present findings from a scoping review which explored mentoring for students from racialized minorities. She will discuss how these findings, alongside her conversations with students and doctors who are Black or of Black heritage, helped shape the pilot of the Black mentoring scheme.
The session will also reflect on the importance of representation and visibility in creating an inclusive and equitable student experience in order to address the current ‘race’ awarding gap and ensure all students have an opportunity to succeed.
Piloting an Explicit Approach to Building a Learning Community
Niamh Mullen, University of Leeds
The University’s Access and Student Success Strategy 2025 clearly articulates that the University should be a place where all students feel like they belong. Goodenow (1993) discusses sense of belonging as ‘being accepted, valued, included and encouraged by others’ (teacher and peers). She also views belonging as linked to respect for autonomy and individuality. Studies in the field have linked sense of belonging to academic motivation, engagement, retention, success and wellbeing. However, studies on sense of belonging at the University of Leeds have found that about a small but important number of students feel that they do not belong.
Research from Rovai (2002) and others suggests that sense of community can support students’ academic success. However, my own professional experience suggests that community building is often seen as something that happens among students outside of teaching and learning spaces, neglecting to recognise the potential that building a sense of a learning community on modules and programmes could have on students’ feelings of belonging.
This session will introduce a pilot study which will take an explicit, student-led approach to learning community development on programmes. The main questions to be answered through this pilot are:
- Can an explicit approach to building a learning community support the development of a sense of community among students who are studying together?
- Do students’ feelings of membership of a learning community support a sense of belonging?
Providing a voice to the under-represented: understanding diversity and LGBTQIA+ perceptions at LUBS
Sally Chan and Agnes Meakin, University of Leeds
This session details the challenges of embracing diversity in the classroom from an academic and a student perspective.
The rationale for introducing diversity and inclusion-themed coursework in LUBS 5407 'Advertising to address ethical representations of the underrepresented within the advertising industry will be highlighted.
Reflections from an alumnus will provide insights from an LBGTQIA+ perspective in order to provide a voice for gender perceptions, in particular, how masculinity and femininity may exist outside of a binary concept. It is hoped that the knowledge and experience gained will inform inclusive strategies that enhance the student's sense of belonging, as well as raise awareness of how changing perceptions and work cultures can better reflect a progressive society.
Leveraging psychology principles to improve student feedback surveys
Dr Manoj Ravi, University of Leeds
Engaging students in module evaluation surveys is an important practice in higher education. The surveys serve as a formal platform for student voice to be heard and provide staff with the data required to action change and modify modules.
Despite being vital to student satisfaction and success, the design of module surveys is mostly rudimentary and largely restricted to generalised Likert-scale and free-text questions. This presentation will explore how principles of psychology can be leveraged to improve the design of student feedback surveys, thereby facilitating collection of higher-quality data for staff to engage with.
In particular, this presentation will discuss how psychology principles reported in Daniel Kahneman’s award-winning book ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’ are of immense relevance to the design of module surveys. By carefully considering principles such as framing effects, the availability heuristic, and the difference between the ‘remembering self’ and the ‘experiencing self’, module evaluation surveys can be improved to authentically capture student feedback.
Academic personal tutoring and impact on belonging
Professor Simon Lightfoot and Faijabanu Patel, University of Leeds
This session will outline the findings of a research project that explored the impact of academic personal tutoring (APT) on students’ sense of belonging.
Using a theory of change model, the project outlined how academic personal tutoring contributes to nurturing a sense of belonging by encouraging successful academic development and signposting support to support an individuals’ learning experience.
The literature highlights the crucial role played by APTs in supporting the transition into higher education, and between levels of study and the links between belonging and success. Using focus groups, the project investigated to what extent students and staff identify this aspect of the APT experience and their thoughts on how APT works at Leeds.
Findings from thematic analysis underlined the multi-faceted role of an academic personal tutor, significance of consistent communication and the impact of meaningful conversations that are tailored to the individual’s learning experience. For instance, the importance of active inclusivity in APT is paramount to aid a sense of belonging for an increasingly diverse student body. It concludes by offering some recommendations as to how to develop APT at Leeds to further embed belonging and success.
Co-creating an interdisciplinary curriculum in engineering ethics
Christina Nick, University of Leeds
This session aims to introduce a best practice example of the way in which my students and I have co-created an engineering ethics curriculum over a number of years.
Christina Nick is a philosopher by training but, rather than teaching philosophy students, Christina delivers ethics teaching to PhD students in engineering, in particular, students from the Water-WISER Centre for Doctoral Training. They come from diverse backgrounds and often have longstanding experiences of working in the engineering sector.
There are a number of reasons why co-creating the curriculum in this context is particularly useful. Firstly, because of the interdisciplinary nature of the teaching, harnessing the knowledge of and learning from each other is vitally important to understand the ethical challenges faced by water, sanitation, and hygiene engineers in practice and the ethical solutions available to them. Secondly, by incorporating insights from their lived experience and research projects, the curriculum becomes more meaningful and relevant to students and results in a more authentic learning experience. It also empowers students and gives them the opportunity to take responsibility for their own learning and professional development. Finally, this enables incorporation of authentic formative assessment that helps students to meaningfully reflect on their projects and practices as researchers.
The session will provide an overview of what the initial curriculum looked like, the mechanisms for student co-creation – both formal and informal – built into the teaching and learning experience, the concrete changes that have resulted from the input of students, and the feedback from those involved.
Curriculum-in-process and BA Professional Studies: using inclusive pedagogies to enable students to collaborate in their own degree design
Catherine Bates, University of Leeds
This snap presentation will focus on the BA Professional Studies degree, an interdisciplinary degree designed specifically for mature students and those who have experienced inequality in their journey to access HE. It will discuss how the curriculum is designed with the flexibility for students to engage critically with their contemporary world in ways which are relevant and meaningful for them - to focus on areas of their own interest and learn from each other. This involves inclusive, interactive pedagogies which allow students to contribute through their own research and life experiences within modules, and it also involves a degree structure which allows them to choose modules for a third of their degree. Short videos and quotations from students will be incorporated to give insight into how the degree works for them.
This session will provide a short overview of some of these initiatives and encourage you to think about the benefits of collaboration and how these benefits can improve the overall student experience for under-represented groups and enhance student success.
Collaboration is key: showcasing collaborative approaches to supporting under-represented students at Leeds
Jenn Coates, Plus Programme, University of Leeds
The Plus Programme team at the University of Leeds support a range of students from under-represented groups with transition into, success during and progression out of university.
With around 6,000 eligible students each year, including those who meet widening participation criteria or who have differing personal circumstances such as being estranged or care experienced, the team facilitate a range of activities, support and funding opportunities to enhance sense of belonging, increase confidence, improve wellbeing and remove financial barriers for students.
Key to the success of our work is our collaborative approach to working with colleagues and students both within and outside the university. Partnerships with central teams such as our Careers Service, Schools and Faculties and with students and our Student Union have enabled us to undertake a range of successful initiatives which are having a direct impact on the students we support.
- Seeing is believing: the importance of diverse representation in medicine by Shakeela Brown.
- Supporting student carers to get involved with extracurricular activities by Bryony Brown. Bryony is a mature student and mother of two studying full-time at Leeds, and shared her experiences (along with other members of the Mature Student Advisory Board) in the ‘Stop, Collaborate & Listen’ conference panel.
- Inclusive assessment: Literature review by Sumayyah Patel.
- Staff understanding and perspectives on inclusive assessment practices by Sumayyah Patel.
- Reflections on a staff/student research partnership by Sophia Lambert (MA graduate, School of History, 2022) and Rachael O’Connor (Associate Professor, School of Law).
- Providing a voice to the under-represented: Understanding diversity and LGBTQIA+ perceptions at Leeds University Business School by Sally Chan.
- Perspectives on student success in Higher Education by Mark van der Enden, Javayria Masood, Sumaiyah Burnett-Forbes, Brittany Button, Eleanor Shephard & Pranay Skakya.
- What do you mean by belonging? Exploring varied perspectives of what it means to belong in higher education. By Professor Bridgette Bewick, Professor Liz Thomas and David Gilani.
- How to measure success in degree apprenticeships: Should this be different from traditional success measurements? by Kevin Smith FHEA and Colleen Henderson FHEA.
Including external speakers and participants was a great way to widen discussions beyond the ‘usual suspects’, and see examples of excellent practice elsewhere
I enjoyed the collaborative spirit and making new connections amongst colleagues. Learning how my work can fit these aims and research being conducted.