Our year in review: reflections from the Vice-President of Education
Professor Wyn Morgan, Vice-President for Education, shares his reflections from the last twelve months at the University. In his review of the year, Wyn looks back at some of the key achievements in education, teaching and student experience.
There has been a great deal of really good work this year across the University as a whole in teaching and student learning. It is good to reflect back on some of our key developments, including: progress in embedding the Programme Level Approach, our commitment to Education for Sustainable Development, the development of our mental health provision for students and our institution being voted one of the best universities in Europe for teaching excellence. I am greatly encouraged by what we are achieving and where we are going.
Programme Level Approach
WM: "Over this last year, we have made real progress in the development of our Programme Level Approach (PLA), which is taking an holistic approach to programme design and delivery.
Of course there have been some challenges along the way, not least to staff who have redesigned assessments and parts of the curriculum such that the intended learning outcomes can be defined, measured and attained by the students. It is encouraging, though, to see that this is having such a positive impact.
Working closely with academic departments to improve the effectiveness of assessment and feedback practices is enabling us to provide a more coherent and engaging experience for students and to reduce the burden of assessments on both staff and students.
I am pleased with the progress departments have made in this area and I look forward to seeing the ongoing implementation, and impact, of these enhancements over the coming year. I greatly appreciate the combined efforts of all staff and students on the work supporting PLA"
Education for Sustainable Development
WM: "Sustainability continues to be an important topic for both students and staff here at the University and in September we announced our commitment to engage actively and embed Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) into the formal curriculum for all programmes.
Over the coming years we will be seeking to help weave sustainability into all our programmes. We will work closely with staff, departments and students to help develop local approaches through the PLA. This will directly inform our work on ESD, at the University level, in the future.
Our role as educators is to equip students with the knowledge, skills, values and attributes needed to work and live in a way that will bring about solutions to the urgent environmental, economic and social challenges that we all face. Students will experience this through the lens of their own discipline."
Mental health provisions for students
WM: "Achieving good mental health and well-being is something I feel very strongly about. The work we have undertaken this year to provide more support for our students is extremely positive and is having a direct impact on those who seek it.
For example, the University Counselling Service has worked with the NHS Improving Access to Psychological Services (IAPT) team to develop a range of student-specific group sessions that are delivered on campus. The group sessions cover topics including managing mood, depression, stress and anxiety.
There are a range of further developments in the service provision being rolled out around well-being and colleagues continue to work closely with students, the NHS and the University Health Service to inform and improve our support for students."
WM: "I am delighted that the Times Higher Education (THE) Europe Teaching Rankings place us at 22, one of the best universities for teaching excellence, and among Europe’s top 50 most international universities.
This recognition highlights our forward-thinking approaches to education and teaching and I am grateful for the contributions of staff and students over the years.
Alongside this, Sheffield Students' Union was ranked No1 in the Times Higher Education Survey from 2009 on-wards, and was ranked No 1 by Whatuni for the third consecutive year."
Teaching Excellence Framework
WM: "An area of specific focus this year has been TEF. As a University we have a strong collective sense of what we believe excellence to be within the context of what we are trying to achieve. Crucially this incorporates the views of the students with whom we share our work.
It is not simply about chasing the metrics and seeing whether these are “right” or not; it is more about defining what we believe to be excellent and why, so that we can be confident in what we are doing.
This year we made a submission in the Year 4 Teaching Excellence Framework. The University metrics, supplemented by the submission, indicate that our students achieve excellent outcomes. Levels of student satisfaction with teaching on their course, assessment and feedback and academic support are all consistent with our benchmarks for all students. The University has high rates of full-time student continuation and it is above its benchmark for progression to highly skilled employment or further study.
As a result of the hard work of colleagues and students in achieving these outcomes, the University was awarded a Silver rating. The analysis undertaken for the institution will help shape our work for the future potential subject-level TEF."
National Student Survey
WM: "As a University we strive to provide the best outcomes and experiences for our students. The National Student Survey (NSS) is one of the key feedback tools we use to understand our students’ experiences and to help and enhance what we do to support their learning.
The latest NSS survey ranks our University second in the Russell Group for overall student satisfaction. This year our response rates have increased from 58 per cent in 2017-18 to 68 per cent in 2018-19 and overall student satisfaction was 88 per cent, a three per cent rise from last year and four per cent higher than the sector benchmark.
This is a really good example of how our hard work and commitment to improving teaching and support for students in Sheffield is making a real difference.
We had more than one thousand students who volunteered as academic representatives in 2018–19. 85 per cent said they believed they’d made a meaningful contribution to their departments and faculties.
The NSS results bear this out: we saw a four per cent increase in satisfaction in the category of Student Voice, in the NSS and a two per cent increase in effective representation by our Students’ Union, making our University a leader on student voice in the Russell Group and nationally."