With the introduction of the new fees regime in UK universities, an increased emphasis will be placed on the overall student experience. It is predicted that students will become more demanding, wanting a better ‘customer service’ from their lecturers and their university as a whole.
Because this is one of the key issues facing higher education at the moment, it is important that you as a jobseeker can show that you have thought about this and can enhance the offering of the department to which you are applying. Here are some things to think about regarding your own practice.
This is a constant complaint, especially among students in the Humanities sector, that as fees are going up, they see their lecturers less. It is important to be aware of these complaints and to know that universities are trying to address these issues by standardising contact time across disciplines and trying to ensure that staff are available for regular office hours and are not away during term time unless on pre-arranged leave.
It’s also important to recognise that many students demand more contact time because they have been used to this at school. At university level it’s our job to show them how to undertake independent learning, so being available for students whenever they need us is not always a good thing either. Achieving a balance will be increasingly challenging.
Many potential applicants to your university will be interested in learning about the support that might be offered to them. You need to be aware of the importance of the personal tutor system, the complaints procedure, student support provision such as training to provide essay or exam skills and the support offered to students with special educational needs. As a jobseeker your employability will be enhanced if you can demonstrate that you have experience in the provision or planning and design of these sorts of programmes.
Increasingly departments are being forced to think more broadly about offering a ‘value added’ experience to students to prove to them that a university degree is worth having. This can take the form of extra activities outside the classroom for pedagogical or employability purposes. It also involves running detailed induction programmes for newly arrived first years that combine practical orientation exercises as well as more social ‘get to know you’ meetings.
Many American universities are ahead of UK ones in this area by, for example, advertising their subject-based and alumni societies to potential applicants. These societies not only provide a social and educational aspect, but also can offer peer and mentor support when students move on into the world of work. Although academic staff rarely get involved in the day to day running of such organisations, it’s important for staff to realise that such offerings tied to their department will enhance the prestige and popularity of that department and so supporting student endeavours to develop societies is vital.