Cases of Covid-19 continue to rise, and universities are facing pressure to switch back to online teaching. Students are having a university experience that is more than a little different – and are coping with constraints to their social interactions, maintaining their engagement in learning and managing their own wellbeing.

This Wonkhe @ Home event will consider what the higher education sector could do to avert a possible retention crisis this year. We’ll get a picture of what’s going on on the ground – including launching brand new research on retention we’ve been conducting this month with students’ unions – and how universities are responding to the challenges thrown up by Covid-19.

We’ll ask what support students might need to maintain engagement with learning and expand their social and academic networks safely. We’ll also consider the policy implications: should there be a national scheme for “managed exit” to help students who are struggling to cope and might otherwise slip away under the radar? What might current events mean for non-continuation as an indicator of university performance? And what, if anything, should the sector ask from governments to support students returning after Christmas?


09.30 Is the sector facing a retention crisis? 

We will launch new research on student retention conducted by Trendence UK on behalf of Wonkhe SUs. We’ll hear from student representatives what they’re seeing on the ground. And we’ll explore with senior leaders what actions they are taking to identify and support at-risk students.

With: Shân Wareing, Deputy Vice Chancellor, University of Northampton; Richard Gascoigne, Founder, Solutionpath; Megan Robertson, VP Community, Bath Spa SU; Jim Dickinson, Wonkhe SUs.

10.40 Break 

11.00  What will it take to keep students engaged in learning and social activity, and maintain their wellbeing?

A panel of experts will consider the issues from the perspective of different students, and reflect on a range of interventions to support student engagement across the whole student life, from effective learning design, to building social capital safely, to managing mental health and wellbeing.

With: Ross Renton, Senior Pro Vice Chancellor (Students), University of Worcester; Emily McIntosh, Director of Learning, Teaching and Student Experience, Middlesex University; Dan Marshall, Students’ Association President, University of St Andrews; Debbie McVitty, Wonkhe.

11.45 What should be the policy response? 

A discussion about the appropriate policy response. Do we need a national “exit strategy” for students who might otherwise simply fall off the radar? And what kind of policy response should the government be considering for January.

With: Graeme Atherton, Director, NEON, Natalie Day, Head of Strategy & Policy, Sheffield Hallam University; Jim Dickinson, Wonkhe; Mark Leach, Wonkhe.

12.30 End


  • Shân Wareing

    Deputy Vice Chancellor, University of Northampton

    Shân Wareing is Deputy Vice Chancellor at the University of Northampton.

  • Richard Gascoigne

    Co-founder and chief executive, 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

  • Ross Renton

    Senior Pro Vice Chancellor, University of Worcester

    Ross Renton is Senior Pro Vice Chancellor at the University of Worcester. 

  • Emily McIntosh

    Director of Learning, Teaching, and Student Experience, Middlesex University 

    Emily McIntosh is Director of Learning, Teaching, and Student Experience at Middlesex University. 

  • Graeme Atherton

    Director, National Education Opportunities Network, UWL

    Director of NEON

  • Natalie Day

    Head of Strategy & Policy Insight, Sheffield Hallam University

    Head of Strategy & Policy Insight, Sheffield Hallam University

  • Mark Leach

    Editor in Chief, Wonkhe

    Mark Leach is the founder, Editor in Chief and CEO of Wonkhe. Mark worked in policy, politics and public affairs in and around UK higher education and founded Wonkhe in 2011 while working as a jobbing policy wonk in the sector. The first part of his career took him to the National Union of Students, … Continued

  • Jim Dickinson

    Associate Editor, Wonkhe

    Jim is an Associate Editor at Wonkhe and takes a particular interest in the student experience, university governance, and regulation – and leads our work with students’ unions. His career background is in support for student leadership. He has held senior roles at the National Union of Students – where he led on SU development, … Continued

  • Debbie McVitty

    Editor, Wonkhe

    Debbie McVitty, Editor, Wonkhe