The Interview UK
University of Winchester
Director of Student Support and Success

Lesley Black

There can be this idea that some students are hard to reach. But what if the problem is actually our approach? If we challenge the narrative of student disengagement, we can instead focus our efforts on building understanding and developing new, more engaging ways to communicate with diverse student communities.

Max Webber, Co-Host of The Interview, caught up with Lesley Black, Director of Student Support and Success at the University of Winchester, to speak about creating a culture of belonging and inclusion from the student orientation phase and beyond.

Lesley's Journey

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

I’m Lesley Black, Director of Student Support and Success at the University of Winchester. Our values centre on delivering high-quality, transformational education experiences for all students. We have a high percentage of our student population with disabilities, which also helps shape the university’s ethos around educational accessibility.

Max: What’s most important when building a sense of belonging and inclusion?

People need to see themselves within the community to explore and develop their identity. A sense of belonging and community often develops at the faculty level; students connect with like-minded people through their programme of study but also engage with others from different backgrounds and experiences and this helps to enrich the learning experience. With a strong foundation built through their faculty experience, students can then create communities beyond their studies to further bolster their sense of belonging.

Max: How do you engage all students in creating an inclusive environment?

We’re a welcoming institution; people often talk about the Winchester family, not in terms of parents and children, but rather togetherness. We’re doing a lot of iterative work to reconsider our transitions program to support students through and beyond orientation. We are keen to have students on campus to join in-person welcome events, but we also ensure that there are equitable opportunities for students who perhaps are not on campus as often, such as commuting students or apprentice learners. We want to enable students to make connections and build their sense of belonging within their cohorts and beyond. We also offer preparatory webinars and pre-arrival modules to educate students on navigating personal differences with their peers to foster inclusivity.

Max: How do you keep belonging and inclusion front of mind for students as they move beyond the orientation phase?

This can be difficult; students often get caught up in their studies. We share information progressively to avoid information overload. This year, we ran themed weeks timed with the academic calendar to cover topics like health and well-being, academic skills, money management, and so on. We hope that by delivering meaningful and relevant information to our students, we can maximise engagement and reach students with key messages around belonging and inclusion. We also need to be aware of self-selection; some students will miss these opportunities. This means resources must be accessible at any time when students are ready to engage with them. 

Max: How are you looking to reach students who may be disengaged?

There’s a mentality that some students can be hard to reach; I believe it’s actually that we’re not talking their language. We need to change our approach and take time to learn about our student body. We can’t give up on one approach if it doesn’t work for everyone; we need to try something else. We’ve set up a program called Student Collaborators to explore key themes intended to attract marginalised groups of students to come forward and share their feedback. We also leverage various media to reach students in ways they feel most comfortable.

Max: What’s your most significant focus when it comes to student safety?

We take a whole institution approach to student safety. Our Student Support and Success team works closely with our security team and Student Union to develop students’ situational and safety awareness. We also run social media awareness-building campaigns on topics like consent, spiking, and domestic violence.

Max: How are you working to ensure students of all backgrounds can succeed at university?

We’ve just started exploring ways we can support students who are just passing and we are developing new ways of meaningful interventions to upskill students and narrow attainment/awarding gaps. Other factors may impact their academic results, such as personal challenges which impact attendance and engagement, financial challenges, and so on – we need to consider the whole student in our approach to cultivating student success.

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

A former boss shared their wisdom with me – it’s not about what you do, it's about what you leave behind. As someone who leads a team, it's about giving them room to grow and enabling them to excel at their jobs. I think that’s really important in a student services role – it’s not about me; it’s about the broader landscape of serving students.

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

The future of training is here, are you ready for it?

Tired of chasing your learners to complete dull training? Let's speak today👇
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.