University College London (UNITED KINGDOM)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN13 Proceedings
Publication year: 2013
Pages: 4854-4860
ISBN: 978-84-616-3822-2
ISSN: 2340-1117
Conference name: 5th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 1-3 July, 2013
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Recent radical changes in the funding of UK higher education, together with the publication of national data on student evaluation of their education, created the need to reconsider the entire student experience for our 2,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students. Students in the Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment at UCL, University College London, form a disparate body, drawn from the UK and about 50 other countries, studying a diverse set of subjects including architecture, construction, project management, facility management, planning, and related studies in energy, infrastructure and resources, space and spatial analysis, heritage, environmental design and engineering. The senior management team identified the challenge of improving the student experience as its top priority for action in 2011.

The first step was to understand what is meant by the ‘student experience’ and to establish evidence on our performance. We commissioned UCL’s internal educational experts in the Centre for Advancement in Learning and Teaching, to review our activities. We also employed a recent graduate specifically to conduct research on the topic, assemble data and engage actively with our community of students and academic staff. The researcher involved the students and staff through focus groups and interviews, hearing their thoughts on needs and innovative suggestions for change.

On the basis of objective and subjective evidence of areas needing attention, the initial action plan was devised. This focused on all stages of the student experience: before applying, after accepting a place, on entry, while studying, on and after completion. The benefits and costs of each proposed activity were assessed, and the most effective and affordable actions were selected for 2012/13. The shortlisted actions that include mentoring, greater student representation, more use of social media, and an ambassadors scheme, are now being implemented.

The paper describes in detail our four-stage process of analysis, engagement, invention and implementation of the action plan to improve the student experience. While it is too early to expect concrete improvements, we will discuss indicators of change. Insights for others wishing to improve the student experience will be identified.
Student experience, evidence-based action, mentoring, ambassadors, social media.