Nurturing relationships with groups inside and outside of your institution is vital to enhancing what can be offered in terms of student experience, and teaching students about the value of collaboration. This is something that Anna Sendall, Academic Registrar at the University of Plymouth, knows all too well.
She sat down with Kira Matthews, GoodCourse Community Engagement Lead, to discuss how Plymouth has emerged from Covid, how she works with the SU, and much more.
I’m Academic Registrar at the University of Plymouth. I’ve been in HE a long time, and my first ‘proper’ job was here. The employment market was really challenging when I graduated, so this is something I fell into I suppose. I do really enjoy it and it’s feel special to be part of an altruistic mission.
Academic Development grew out of Academic Quality — its gone from something quite stale to actually joined up with other things. So I was looking after the Quality Assurance Architecture and the framework around that. I think linking the two things together has been really beneficial, and what we’ve learned is that if you can really focus on things that add value like curriculum design, ensuring appropriate resources are channelled to the right places, and accessibility — then it’s really important.
Universities have also become much better at incorporating the student voice into what they do — co-designing and co-creation of the curriculum for example. It tends to be the same students that put themselves forward, so we have to work with the SU to hear a broader range of voices.
It was a big challenge over Covid, but the delivery of online learning and resources made a huge difference. It’s even changed the dynamic of how we run internal meetings, I think women feel much more at an even keel, and in some ways its a more comfortable environment. Physical spaces can be quite intimidating, but online less so, so that’s a benefit.
It’s much more normal for students to find out about support services online rather than traipsing around campus. There’s been a lot of opportunities and we’ve learned to be a lot more flexible in the way we provide opportunities.
The big thing we’ve done is the connections with the students unions, and nurturing that relationship. We work with them to engage external agencies in the city of Plymouth. Because we’re a civic institution, we can pick up those relationships and make them stronger.
We did some work with the NHS and local providers of health support which tied them together and provided a single access point for students. We’re developing that alongside the safer streets project.
Our welcome week has been completely overhauled. Our Associate Dean for Education has such passion and has been key to transforming the way we welcome students. Something we do that’s quite unusual is our graduations in the same week as welcome week. It’s inspiring for students coming in to see others coming out the other end.
Something we do that’s quite unusual is our graduations in the same week as welcome week. It’s inspiring for students coming in to see others coming out the other end.
Something that’s critical for all HE practitioners going forward is making sure that we’re understanding how the university functions and is experienced from all vantage points, especially as cohorts diversify.
In both universities I’ve worked at setting up the student hub has made the biggest difference to the student experience at both institutions. It’s an area that has endless possibilities of improving the student experience. Anything I’ve done to reduce the burden of Quality Assurance on academic staff — I do want to make life easier for academic colleagues, and streamline academic quality processes is a joy when you know it helps others.
When I came to Plymouth they had no academic registry, and there hadn’t been one for 6 years. So it was a brilliant opportunity to re-establish that, appoint a team and fix problems that had arisen.
Be flexible. It’s such a dynamic industry, and it wasn’t 20 years ago. It changes almost monthly! I find that really exciting, so if you like change, it’s for you.
Professor Justin Champion, a historian at Royal Holloway. He was a remarkable individual, and he’d appear on In Our Time quite a bit. He always championed the voice of everyone and was a huge advocate for the voiceless. I’ve never met anyone like him.
I can’t remember the title! I was lent it by someone in the chair of the audit committee and I passed it on to someone else.