Students and Universities - Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee Contents

Memorandum 94

Supplementary evidence from Professor Paul Ramsden, Chief Executive, Higher Education Academy, following the oral evidence session on Monday 9 March 2009

  Thank you for the opportunity to give oral evidence to the Committee's inquiry into students and universities.

As time was short I thought it might be helpful to provide some brief additional information in response to two of the questions put to me by Mr Gordon Marsden MP.


  I am confident that the Academy has made a positive difference to the quality of the student experience in UK higher education. Perhaps our greatest strength is that we can work right across the sector and do things that no university or college could do on its own. The Professional Standards Framework is a good example of where we have been able to develop criteria for teaching and supporting student learning that apply across the whole of UK undergraduate higher education.

  We provide a focal point for raising the status of teaching—through our fellowship schemes, through accrediting universities' and colleges' approaches to initial teacher training and CPD, and through our research activities. We celebrate excellent teaching through the National Teaching Fellowship Scheme (England and NI) and through our fellowship scheme, which is available to academic staff who have achieved the criteria set out in the Professional Standards Framework.

  We support networks of academics at subject level, providing resources for individuals and departments to enhance the student learning experience. Overall our subject centres have contacts with around 85% of academic departments.

  We bring together and into the open successful approaches for improving the student experience, allowing universities and colleges to learn from each other.

  Specific projects have brought about changes in many institutions and we have case study evidence relating to, for example, the NSS, first year experience report, our post graduate research and post graduate taught projects and Change Academy.


  The Academy involves students in its work at all levels—from membership of our Board, to strategic partnerships with the NUS, to work with individual students in our subject centres. Examples include:

Policy level

    — The Academy is an active partner in SPARQS (Student Participation in Quality Scotland)

    — The Academy participates in the Cross Sector Group including members from DIUS, HEFCE, UUK, GuildHE, NUS, QAA

    — We contributed to the development of DIUS's response to the National Student Forum's first annual report

Institutional level

    — Change Academy's institutional teams must include a student

    — We have launched a project to further the involvement of disabled students in higher education by increasing the level of meaningful engagement of disabled students in institutional quality mechanisms.

    — Our assessment team has worked with institutional teams comprising students and staff to enhance institutional assessment strategies.

Discipline level

    — A collaboration between SPARQS and Subject Centres has initiated five discipline-specific student networks in Scotland. On the basis of the experience gained, we are planning the first UK wide discipline student network.

    — Subject Centres deliver student specific events, which have included:

    — weekend residential organised by the UKCentre for Materials Education (UKCME) for class reps focusing on students as change agents

    — workshops to develop professionalism in teaching for postgraduates who teach eg Psychology, Maths Stats & OR

    — Student survey by Economics which attracted 2000 replies from 56 HEIs

    — Subject Centre projects engaging students:

    — The Centre for Education in the Built Environment is working with a cohort of 3rd year students to design their own curriculum

    — UKCME is supporting the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy at the University of Cambridge in establishing practices for using students as "curriculum developers" to work alongside academics to produce electronic-based teaching and learning packages.

    — Student-focused resources (such as the Employability guides developed by Philosophy and Religious Studies)

    — Subject Centre student essay competition

Formal engagement of students in the Academy's structures and mechanisms

    — Student representatives on the NTFS individual and project strand panels.

    — Research and Evaluation Advisory Group and Senior Fellowship Committee includes an NUS representative.

    — We are committed to increasing the number of Subject Centre Advisory Panels that include a student representative.

    — The Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences and Economics subject centres have successfully hosted student interns.

  I would be happy to provide any further information you may need to assist your inquiry.

March 2009

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