Vice-Chancellor's Office

Updates and events both on and off campus

Posts By: Professor Peter Lambert

Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Learning & Teaching) leads University delegation to Jordan

📥  Internationalisation, Representing the University

Last week, I was pleased to spend four days in Amman in Jordan. In the context of the current humanitarian crisis, we have made a long-term commitment to help build capacity and resilience in Jordan in terms of people and systems. This trip was designed to further develop a number of projects focussed on capacity-building that we are hoping to launch with partners in the country.

Such a University-to-country approach is unique at Bath, but then so too is the current predicament of the country: bordering Syria, Palestine, Israel, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Jordan is seen as an island of stability by thousands seeking to escape conflict in their own countries.

An estimated 40% of Jordan’s population are refugees – mainly from Syria, but also from Iraq, Somalia, and Ethiopia - and of the remaining population almost half are Palestinian – often third and fourth generation. Yet while Jordan has received more refugees per capita than any other country in the world, it has few natural resources and faces severe problems of water scarcity, poverty, housing shortages and food insecurity.

The six-person delegation from Bath represented a variety of collaborative research and teaching projects, with a focus on capacity building, whether through education, housing, water or energy.

Over the course of the four days, we met with representatives from Jordan’s four leading research universities, the British Council and British Institute, as well as key United Nations agencies, including the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) which are working in the context of the refugee crisis. Listening to Jordanian colleagues and regional experts in these meetings was crucial in helping us fine-tune and further develop our projects, in order that they will have greater impact.

The enthusiasm with which our projects were received in each meeting not only made me feel proud to be associated with such creative and committed colleagues, but also confirmed to me that our approach is the right one.

For obvious reasons, we can’t go into the details of the projects at such an early stage, but I will keep you posted as our initiatives develop. This is just the beginning of a long-term relationship based on mutual respect and co-operation.

 

Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Learning & Teaching) blog

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📥  Learning & Teaching, Messages

August is a strange time of the year on campus, with many colleagues away from the University either doing research or enjoying a well-earned break.

However, for a number of colleagues, August on campus is a very busy month – including admissions, pre-sessional classes, Moodle updates, teaching room refurbishments, timetabling, and of course, for some of us, analysis of the National Student Survey (NSS) results.

Whilst NSS scores are certainly not the ultimate aim of our learning and teaching, the survey is important in terms of our external profile and reputation, and providing us with valuable and helpful feedback from our students.

The introduction of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), the metrics of which will include certain elements of the NSS, is an added incentive to continue to focus on enhancing our learning and teaching provision.

A real team effort

I was delighted to see that we had once again achieved a very good result. 90% of our final year students were satisfied with their overall experience (the UK average for HEIs was 86%), placing us 14th in the overall satisfaction rankings, alongside Oxford and Cambridge among others.

Moreover, eleven of our programmes received a remarkable 100% overall satisfaction, and a number of our departments also received very high overall satisfaction scores, most notably Chemistry, which achieved a score of 99%.

The results are testament to the hard work of all colleagues involved in supporting our students – academics and professional services alike – and especially Directors of Studies. It is a culture of commitment of individual staff members that makes Bath so successful in learning and teaching.

No room for complacency

While I am pleased with the results, I am very aware that there is no room for complacency, there is a lot to be done and we must continue to listen to, and work with, our staff and students to make things even better.

This is especially the case in two areas: our scores on Feedback and Assessment were not good, despite the efforts by staff in recent years to improve the timing, quality and clarity of our feedback.

There are no quick-fix answers, but I will be expecting departments and Faculties to work with the proposed new Centre for Learning and Teaching, which will include staff with a specific remit of supporting colleagues with curriculum and assessment design, including feedback.

The results regarding Learning Resources were particularly disappointing, especially given how hard staff in the Library have worked to support students. This was highlighted in last year’s Students’ Union Top 10 and we have been working hard to improve and develop learning spaces, including developing a student learning zone at Manvers Street, transforming part of 6 West South into a student learning and social space and creating dedicated learning space in the recently opened 10 West and 4 East South.

More needs to be done, but we are working closely with the Students’ Union (SU), and further initiatives are in the pipeline.

Working in partnership with students

Talking of working closely with the Students’ Union, I was particularly pleased to find that the SU had improved their overall satisfaction score from last year, achieving 83%, which maintains their position among the leading Students’ Unions in the country.

I am very proud of the close and productive working relationship we have with our Students’ Union, which I think has been key to our success in learning and teaching, and hugely beneficial in terms of developing student engagement in all areas of the University.

While we promote student engagement for many reasons to do with academic, social and personal development, it should be good news for us, that from 2017 the NSS will include new questions specifically focussed on student engagement.

You can read more about the changes to the NSS online.

Much to be proud of

The slim margins between rankings in the NSS tables reflect such a fine line between the top universities that focussing simply on overall position is of limited value.

What our results do show, however, is an extraordinary consistency over the past six years in delivering high quality learning and teaching. The University can provide the support to staff and students, but the results are a testament to the commitment and efforts of all of those colleagues involved in learning and teaching.

Thank you for all your efforts.

 

 

 

Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Learning & Teaching) blog

  

📥  Learning & Teaching, Messages

With the scale of change facing the HE sector, this is a challenging time, but also one full of opportunity for Bath. It is in this context that we have been developing our new Education Strategy and looking at how we can best continue to deliver high quality learning and teaching.

I am therefore pleased to share our proposals for the establishment of a Centre for Learning & Teaching that will replace the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Office (LTEO) and be the dynamic focus for our learning and teaching support for academic staff and students.

Creating a Centre for Learning & Teaching

The proposed Centre for Learning & Teaching will develop the expertise of the former LTEO in four areas:

  • Academic Staff Development
  • Curriculum Development
  • Technology-Enhanced Learning
  • Student Engagement

A key feature will be the change to its leadership. It will have an Academic Director (0.5 FTE) with an Education and Research background to ensure that the Centre will be strongly connected to our education priorities, offering greater support for our teaching staff.

Greater alignment of services

We are also proposing that quality assurance functions and expertise be relocated to the Academic Registry so that Quality Assurance and regulation can be more productively aligned. Changes in the national quality assessment framework, the introduction of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), and the chance to introduce greater flexibility into our own practices within the University, give us the opportunity to refocus on new priorities, and take forward work which has already begun in the last few months.

A new strategic direction

Over the last ten years, the LTEO has supported learning and teaching in line with our institutional needs. Across the University there is a shared sense both of the important contribution made by LTEO colleagues and the need to enhance these contributions in a changing HE context.

The proposals include changes to staffing at some levels, primarily due to the changes in leadership and management roles and associated support. They also relocate some existing staff to other Professional Services where this will bring greater coherence to their work. Other roles will be created, mainly within new areas of activity to reflect the changing focus of our needs in learning and teaching.

Following a consultation process over the next month, I would hope to be able to give more detail about the final shape of the CLT in September.

 

Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Learning & Teaching) Blog

  

📥  Learning & Teaching, Messages

As Semester 2 begins, it still feels strange not to be welcoming students on to new units and recovering from late nights tackling seemingly endless piles of marking of Semester 1 assessments (occasionally at the same time). For the past 20 years this has been a time of final changes to handouts, last-minute photocopying and then that electric moment of walking into a large lecture theatre to meet the new class.

This year, however, the experience of the start of semester has been very different for me.

I came to Bath in 2000, first organising the launch of Spanish and Latin American studies across our undergraduate programmes, and then in 2010, becoming Associate Dean for Learning & Teaching in the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences.

Last summer, I started something quite new when I moved into the role of Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Learning & Teaching. It has a vast remit – covering the student experience from induction to employment, all aspects of learning and teaching, and specific departments such as Student Services, the Skills Centre, Careers Service, Academic Registry and the Learning & Teaching Enhancement Office.

Over the next four years I have a fantastic opportunity to work with academic staff, professional services, and students, and to build on what we have already achieved. It’s a steep learning curve, but one of the joys of this job is being surrounded by intelligent, creative, and dedicated colleagues who are willing to share ideas, views and visions – and of course point out when things are going wrong!

Today’s students are engaging with a higher education sector that is changing rapidly.

The Minister for Universities & Science (on a learning curve of his own) is now considering the results of the consultation on the Green Paper, which included the idea of a Teaching Excellence Framework. Some of the proposals – such as an emphasis on student experience and engagement – were welcome; others, including the use of metrics such as ‘learning gain’, the promotion of new (private) providers, and the possibility of universities ‘failing’, are cause for some concern. There is also uncertainty over fee levels and funding.

As we approach our 50th anniversary, we are confident that effort we put into excelling in our learning and teaching and our world-class research will bring continued success.

Yet there is certainly no room for complacency. Amid so many changes at national level we need to ensure that we remain at the forefront of the sector.  And to do this, we need to be agile, ambitious, innovative and – crucially - true to the collegial and student-centred approach that has long been at the core of the University’s shared philosophy.

Maintaining our high standards of learning and teaching, our commitment to our students, and our creativity and inspiration will be vital. So too will our continuing explorations of what we do best, of what makes us unique, how we approach learning and teaching, and what kind of university we want to be in the future.

Welcome to my Learning & Teaching blog posts. I’ll be using this space as a sounding board to share my thinking as it evolves in these ongoing discussions.