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Integrated student support

From the student's perspective, support needs to be both concentrated and integrated. Tensions in the current organisation of support have been identified and there is often an unhelpful distinction at present between academic and non-academic units, and it is argued that academic staff need more training in working with students. Find out more about how procedural, functional and geographic consolidation can be achieved if the recommendations and proposals were addressed.

Research shows that students' views on support services provision differ considerably and are frequently conflicting. Another issue is how to get students to access support even when they know it is available. The idea of student engagement in specialised roles as peer support to other students within Student Support Services is explored with a case study of the University of St. Andrews' SupNet programme.

A slightly different kind of student to student support is provided at the University of Aberdeen where the Learning How to Learn course is undertaken by Bachelor of Education (BEd) students within the School of Education. The aims of this course are to help students to develop their understanding of theories of learning and use these to enhance their understanding of themselves as learners.  These aims are achieved through the exploration of the individual as a lifelong learner. Personally held assumptions, values and beliefs about learning are challenged as part of a process of shared enquiry. The supportive relationship that develops between staff and students forms an effective community of learners, which operates to their mutual benefit.

Krause's first year in higher education initiatives: Coordinate, Communicate and Connect idea is explored in more detail diagrammatically and shows the elements of institution-level development processes in first-year HE initiatives in Australia.

The Responding to Student Needs Theme argued that the importance of support services in the first year demand that resources are disproportionately distributed in that direction.

There was also a recognition of the need to coordinate the approach between and across services and that cross-unit employment might be a way forward.

Key issues that emerged from further exploration were:

  • coordinating student support between academic departments and centrally provided services/academic support
  • establishing good working relationships within teams
  • integrating academic and student support issues into policy development and strategic planning
  • ensuring timely, targeted communication(s) between the central services, academic departments and students
  • engaging students in the enhancement of student support services and academic support mechanisms within the university
  • tracking the use and impact of support services/academic support.

Source:  Responding to student needs outcomes

Another suggestion was that the Change Academy or Ed Dev units could be used as cross-fertilisers of ideas and practices.

"Vehicles to promote collaboration between staff and student association practitioners include reciprocal invitations to present research findings, attending conferences together and holding periodic joint meetings. In addition, the Change Academy methodology (initiated by the American Association for Higher Education in the USA, and subsequently run by the HE Academy in the UK16) could provide a useful model for taking forward institutional change through a team-based, externally facilitated, approach".

Source:  Responding to student needs outcomes

A further suggestion was the introduction of US style media centres that combine library, technology, study and training facilities with students employed in support roles such as student technology assistants and library assistants.