Wonkhe’s rescheduled Secret Life of Students is all about doing student experience differently. We’ll bring together the research and intel, review everything we learned about students over the past year, and ask what Covid-19 might mean for students, their experience and their outcomes.

It’s about getting beyond the stale debates and case studies and rethinking the student experience – bringing together experts, sector leaders and managers, as well as student leaders and students’ union managers, to forge a new agenda for students.

What does the government’s agenda and associated regulatory regime mean for students? What might major changes to funding, the TEF and the National Student Survey mean for universities and their SUs? If Generation Z treasures “fairness”, how can we respond to strengthen students’ rights? How is teaching and learning changing to adapt to 2020’s socially distanced students? And what does student influence and partnership mean in a world of big data and rapid online pivots?

We’ll also ask how we might get beyond reductive debates on free speech and build a culture of democratic engagement on campus. We’ll find out what happens when we listen to students on their own terms. And we’ll explore what safety means to students, and what “safeguarding” really means in the age of coronavirus.

It’s an essential event for anyone working on policy and delivery for students.

In partnership with:

Wonkhe’s rescheduled Secret Life of Students is all about doing student experience differently. We’ll bring together the research and intel, review everything we learned about students over the past year, and ask what Covid-19 might mean for students, their experience and their outcomes.

It’s about getting beyond the stale debates and case studies and rethinking the student experience – bringing together experts, sector leaders and managers, as well as student leaders and students’ union managers, to forge a new agenda for students.

What does the government’s agenda and associated regulatory regime mean for students? What might major changes to funding, the TEF and the National Student Survey mean for universities and their SUs? If Generation Z treasures “fairness”, how can we respond to strengthen students’ rights? How is teaching and learning changing to adapt to 2020’s socially distanced students? And what does student influence and partnership mean in a world of big data and rapid online pivots?

We’ll also ask how we might get beyond reductive debates on free speech and build a culture of democratic engagement on campus. We’ll find out what happens when we listen to students on their own terms. And we’ll explore what safety means to students, and what “safeguarding” really means in the age of coronavirus.

It’s an essential event for anyone working on policy and delivery for students.

In partnership with:

Agenda

Thursday 17th September

9.15am Introduction and Welcome

9.30am What did we learn about students in the year just gone?

We’re drowning in data about the student experience, but how much insight do we have? Advance HE chief executive Alison Johns and Wonkhe’s Debbie McVitty will reflect on what we learned about students in the past year, along with the questions that the data raises, and what should be done about it in the context of Covid-19.

10.45am Delivering for students in, and out of, a pandemic: where OfS goes next

Before Covid-19 hit, the Office for Students was about to move into interesting times, with a new student engagement strategy and consultations coming on harassment and sexual misconduct, admissions, student protection, student contracts and the National Student Survey – and some of that work will reappear in the autumn, along with new action on quality, grade inflation and freedom of speech. In conversation with Wonkhe’s founder Mark Leach, OfS chief executive Nicola Dandridge will discuss OfS’ work in the student interest and the role it sees for students (and their representatives) in informing and shaping its work in the future.

12.15pm The secret life of student value

The sector isn’t short of quantitative survey data on student satisfaction and “value for money” – but given it is widely accepted that students co-produce their student experience, how much do we really know about that creation process? Using ethnography to engage with and understand students, Dr Libby Farrier-Williams’ PhD gets under the skin of who students work with to create a valuable student experience – discovering who matters, and what the platforms and processes are that they use. In this keynote session Libby will discuss some of her findings and consider how they might be applied by universities and their SUs in a coronavirus context.

1.45pm A fairer student experience

Generation Z places huge value and importance in fairness and fair treatment, but do they get that as students? What should all students be entitled to? What rights should students have? When are students treated unfairly, or exploited, and what impacts does that have? Are some students treated more fairly than others? Our panel of experts will set out an agenda for a fairer student experience, identifying actions that universities, SUs and government should take.

3.15pm How far should “student safety” go?

Much of the contemporary debate surrounding students focuses on safety – feeling safe is surely a prerequisite for learning – but there are significant conflicts over the approach that schools, universities and others should take in relation to being a student at university. Is the right approach to warn students about the dangers they may face? Is work for disadvantaged students sensible or virtue signalling? Should more be done than just warning people – should we help students with tools and skills to navigate those dangers – or is that victim blaming? Should we all be working together to eradicate dangers? And is it possible (or wise) for universities to offer a Covid-19 “safe” campus and experience? This session will feature a preview of research on what students mean by “safety” and give participants a chance to consider policy responses.

4.30pm Building community during Covid-19

This autumn, thanks to Covid-19, first-year students’ ability to make friends and build connections in their learning community will be severely restricted. Though universities are planning carefully how learning will be delivered next term, if students do not feel a sense of belonging they will be unlikely to be able to learn anything. In this session, developed in partnership with Aula, a panel of experts will discuss how universities and students’ unions can design community into learning, build inclusive learning communities, and support first year students to participate in the university community.

Evening: Wonkhe’s pub quiz

Friday 18th September

9.15am Round up of day one

9.30am The new normal – where did we get to, and where are we going?

Back in May we ran an event on getting to the “new normal”. In this session Team Wonkhe will review where plans to reopen have got to, think through the issues presented by reopening in the medium term, and ask what might be coming next that the working groups will need to plan for.

10.45am The secret life of students’ learning – the journey to autonomy

Higher education at its best supports students to become autonomous learners, equipped to continue to learn into employment and throughout their lives. The focus on contact hours and value for money can obscure the necessary time spent learning independently to support students on that journey.

Yet in the absence of fixed schedules and structures during the pandemic many students report they are floundering and losing their motivation to learn – and recognise the value of self-efficacy skills such as time and project management. This session, delivered in partnership with Pearson, will draw on research on students’ perceptions before and after Covid-19 to explore what students want from their universities in support of their independent learning, and how universities might help students on the journey towards autonomy.

12.15pm Don’t drop out, drop in

Non-continuation rates are one of the main ways in which the government says it will be measuring course value, and they’re embedded into TEF. And lots of people are worried about the human costs of students not making it to Christmas. Giving students clarity about what’s on offer in the autumn, building their confidence that they’ll be able to study and supporting the transition into universities during Covid-19 is only one part of the puzzle.

Once they’re through the door and registered, students will need even more help to thrive, especially when face to face contact, extracurricular activity and part-time work is severely constrained. In this session, delivered in partnership with Solutionpath, a panel of experts will discuss how universities can build a picture of student engagement, and explore what can be done to reconnect with students who are at risk of non-continuation.

1.45pm International students and their outcomes in an age of Covid-19

Now we have a clearer picture on international student recruitment, we should think about retention and experience. In this session UKCISA’s Strategic Partnerships Lead Yinbo Yu, along with members of UKCISA’s student ambassador team, will review the challenges facing international students in the year ahead and discuss ways in which providers and students’ unions might respond.

3.00pm Living the partnership

Students are often posited as objects of data – but how do we move them into the role of commissioner, user, and analyser of data? What do terms like “student partnership” and “student engagement” mean in 2020? If there is no single student experience – from which everything is handled via a deficit model approach – how can universities understand and respond to true diversity? What do we know about access and attainment gaps and how do they get closed? And how does understanding students’ lived experience help? A panel of experts will reveal all.

4.15pm Looking ahead: pandemic politics and the student experience

For many, a glance at the government might suggest some hostility towards students. Other than nursing bursaries students only got a mention in the manifesto in relation to freedom of speech – and the political chatter and post-poll analysis suggests that students were not exactly core voters for the incoming government. What will it do on “poor value courses”? How does the new administration see students post-pandemic?

We’ll ask how we might get beyond reductive debates on free speech and “niche activism”, and explore what might be done next about the core student experience concerns of day to day costs, student accommodation, value for money and mental health.

5.00pm Closing remarks

Speakers

  • Nicola Dandridge

    CEO, Office for Students

    Nicola Dandridge

  • Alison Johns

    CEO Advance HE

    Alison Johns is CEO at Advance HE

  • Felicity Mitchell

    Independent Adjudicator

    Felicity Mitchell is the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education in England and Wales

  • Ann Olivarius

    Senior Partner, McAllister Olivarius

    Ann Olivarius is a Senior Partner at McAllister Olivarius 

  • Ellen Wilson

    Vice President Higher Education Services at Pearson.

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  • Yinbo Yu

    Strategic Partnerships Lead, UKCISA

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  • Jenny Shaw

    Unite Students

    Student Experience Director, Unite Students

  • Helen Higson

    Provost and Deputy Vice Chancellor, Aston University

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  • Libby Farrier-Williams

    Lecturer in Marketing, St Mary's University Twickenham

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  • Zainab Khan

    Pro Vice-Chancellor (Outcomes & Inclusion), London Metropolitan University

    Zainab Khan is Pro Vice-Chancellor (Outcomes & Inclusion) at London Metropolitan University

  • Jayne Aldridge

    Chair, AMOSSHE

    Jayne Aldridge

  • Steph Lomas

    VP Education, UCLAN SU

    Steph Lomas is VP Education at UCLAN SU

  • Sunday Blake

    President, Exeter Guild of Students

    Sunday Blake is President at Exeter Guild of Students

  • Andrew McLaughlin

    CEO, Students' Union University of Bath

    Andrew McLaughlin is CEO at the Students’ Union University of Bath.

  • Amatey Doku

    Consultant, Nous Group

    Amatey Doku is a consultant at Nous Group

  • Gordon Maloney

    Living Rent
  • Richard Gascoigne

    Chief executive officer, Solutionpath

    The enthusiastic and energetic face of Solutionpath. Richard is a co-founder and a passionate driver of opening Learner Analytics technology to all who can benefit, as he pursues the mission to support all students to achieve their full potential. His focus on the responsible use of data to drive attainment and progression is embedded in … Continued

  • Liz Thomas

    Higher education researcher and consultant

    Liz Thomas is a higher education researcher and consultant

  • Francesco Masala

    President, The SU University of Bath

    Francesco Masala is President at The SU, University of Bath

  • Ed Foster

    Head of Student Engagement and Analytics, Nottingham Trent University

    Ed Foster is Head of Student Engagement and Analytics at Nottingham Trent University

  • Meg Price

    Students' Union President, Worcester University

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  • Kwame Asamoah Kwarteng

    General Secretary, University of Manchester SU
  • Tomos Evans

    President, Cardiff University SU

    Tomos Evans is President at Cardiff University SU

  • Amy Eberlin

    Quality Enhancement Specialist QAA

    Amy Eberlin is Quality Enhancement Specialist at The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education

  • Hillary Gyebi-Ababio

    Vice President (HE), NUS

    Hillary Gyebi-Ababio is Vice President (Higher Education) at NUS. 

  • Ben Vulliamy

    CEO, York University Students' Union

    Ben Vulliamy is CEO at York University Students’ Union

  • Eve Alcock

    Former President The SU, University of Bath

    Eve Alcock is Former President of The University of Bath’s Students’ Union and a HE policy enthusiast.

  • Patrick O’Donnell

    President, York University Students' Union

    Patrick O’Donnell is President at York University Students’ Union

  • Jim Dickinson

    Associate Editor, Wonkhe
  • David Kernohan

    Associate Editor, Wonkhe

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  • Debbie McVitty

    Editor, Wonkhe

    Debbie McVitty, Editor, Wonkhe

  • Mark Leach

    Editor in Chief, Wonkhe

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