The Interview UK
Aberystwyth University
Director of Student Services

Ian Munton

Every university offers its prospective students something different, both in and outside of lectures. As such, institutions need to consider the nuances that affect their student experience when building policy and setting up support services. This is particularly important for Ian Munton, Director of Student Services at Aberystwyth University. 

Ian took the time to chat with Max Webber, Co-Host of The Interview, to explain how Aberystwyth University’s unique geographical position and relationship to the local town shape his team’s approach to student wellbeing. 

Ian's Journey

Max: Let’s start with a brief introduction to yourself and your institution.

I’m Ian Munton, Director of Student Services at Aberystwyth University. It’s a fairly broad role, from mental health and wellbeing services to careers and employability. In terms of the institution, Aberystwyth is a small town of 18,000 people on the mid-Wales coast, so the university and its 9,000 students have a unique relationship with the local community. The university also celebrated its 150th anniversary last year, so we have a very long-standing and proud tradition, especially around the international politics and natural sciences courses that were pioneered here. 

Max: What first drew you to the world of student services? 

I had some experiences during my time at university that really motivated me to get involved in this sector, particularly when I was a Warden in Halls of Residence during my Masters at Leicester, which gave me an understanding of the profound difference that simple changes can make to students’ lives. Early on in my career, I had really good mentors and managers who instilled in me the importance of being involved in professional networks and  not being afraid to try new things. This showed me just how varied and embracing the role can be. As challenging as it is, it’s also really good fun, so I can’t think of anything else that I would rather do. 

Max: How do you create a sense of belonging across Aberystwyth’s campus?

Creating a sense of belonging at Aberystwyth, or indeed any University is about being truthful to who you are as a community. We’re not a metropolitan, city university, but a remote university located in a small, coastal town, and we have to be forthcoming about how that shapes our student experience. However, we have a unique interconnection with the local community – we’re blessed to have an Arts Centre that regularly welcomes local families and community members to campus, and fostering that connection has led to a distinct sense of belonging for many of our students who, after they graduate, often put down roots in town and become staff members. 

Max: What are you currently working on with regard to student safety and sexual harassment prevention?

Student safety has been important to me throughout my career, but I’ve had to recognise the need for evolution in that practice because, if you go back five years, some of the infrastructure and Sexual Violence Liaison Officer roles we’ve created wouldn't have been possible before now. To foster that evolution, through a strategic relationship with New Pathways, a sexual assault support service in Wales, we’ve recruited an independent sexual violence advisor who enables us to have a comprehensive safety infrastructure between the police, our support services, and an independent member of staff. That, alongside the work we’re doing campaigning, awareness raising, and training in consent and positive bystander intervention, is crucial because it’s the foundation of safety for our students, especially in the context of sexual harassment. 

Max: What’s your approach to engaging students with these topics?

There are times when we think we’re pestering our students, but then we find out that they didn’t hear about initiatives and policies because there’s so much going on in our community. To combat that noise, we’ve focused on creating an integrated, two-way relationship with students, talking about those challenging subjects that link to policy prior to their arrival here. That’s involved refreshing our induction and transition processes, deploying a series of webinars, and creating a ‘how to be a student 101’ module with built-in tasks, so we can make sure students are engaging with our policies before they even arrive. If there is ever an incident, we try to trace whether we gave the student involved enough engagement opportunities, and how that influenced their behaviour. It’s an ongoing process, but it starts with building an infrastructure that makes it easy for students to engage with these topics. 

Max: How do you best prepare teams at the university to handle fast-paced change and engage with new ideas?

After working in several universities I’ve found that it’s about culture, and that takes time to evolve. We have to make time to understand the community within which we’re working before we start making judgements or undertaking change. Following that, it’s about developing and investing in our people, involving them in vision-setting so they feel they're a part of the process from start to finish. Across our projects, we try to foster effective and open consultation with staff and students at the earliest possible point, ensuring they have an opportunity to reflect and offer feedback. A key thing for me is credit; if staff and students are involved in a project, then I as a leader need to broadcast their involvement. When individuals know how valued and valuable they are within our strategic approaches, fast-paced change is much easier to bring about. 

Max: How do you tackle issues like the attainment gap?

Historically, there’s a reluctance to have challenging conversations about where an attainment gap stems from, so our priority is gathering feedback in relation to data. We ensure that we’re not just deriving issues from data because we need to understand the real-world narratives behind those issues. In line with that aim, we give our students ample opportunities to provide us with their opinions on issues and initiatives, mainly through Your Voice Matters, a platform they can use to come forward and talk about their experiences, and we commit to replying within two days. On an annual basis, they get to see the developments we’ve made, developments that they’ve had a hand in bringing about, to tackle challenges like the attainment gap. 

Max: What is the best piece of advice you’ve received during your career?

Never say no to something. Of course, you can say no, but never turn something down just because it’s easier not to do it. Take the time to reflect on what an opportunity might bring, the connections you can make, and what might come out of it, because often it will lead to something significant and profound. 

Curious to see what the future of training looks like?
Max Webber
Max works closely with people leaders and change-makers in our professional services markets. If you're looking to feature on The Interview, or simply want to learn more about GoodCourse, then get in touch at

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