VP Academic Affairs Annual Report 2011-12

As your Officer, you’re all my boss – and at Union Council, you’re able to ask me any questions about anything I’m doing. That process maybe isn’t as transparent as it should be, so we’ve all been thinking about how to improve that – and I’ve decided to post my last Council report as a blog! As the 14th May meeting is the last Council of the year, I have summarised what changes (hopefully improvements!) I have made, and the impact on projects I have had over the last 10 months in office, on top of the day-to-day tasks that the job entails, such as training and support student representatives.

This year, rather than running just with our manifestos, as was done in the past, we used them as a basis to formulate 4 key goals – because when you start the job, you undoubtedly realise some things that aren’t doable, and other things that suddenly become of vital importance. These goals were what we said we would roughly spend 60-70% of our time focusing on this year (as measurable as that is). You can see what I, and all the other Officers, put as our top 4 goals here.

This doesn’t cover ALL of what I’ve been working on this year, but hopefully it gives a good account of where I’ve been focusing my attentions. This is mostly what has happened at an institutional level or within SUSU, but there has also been a lot going on within each Academic Unit, with this year’s representatives being truly fantastic, driving real change – and I will hopefully collate all that information for another blog soon! Any comments about whether this is a good idea, or questions about anything written below – do write away!

Closing the Feedback Loop

  • With the new University Registrar, we set up a “Knowing our Students” group, which now controls all surveys going to students and receives Action Plans from each Faculty and Professional Service when data is received, so that we can better manage how, when, and even why, students are surveyed.
  • Pushed for a student-wide survey to actually understand what students thought of University here, resulting in the Student Barometer surveying all non final-year students, including Postgraduates, in early November.
  • Received the first round of Action Plans, following the Student Barometer, and now have a “You Said, We Did” campaign planned to communicate to students what is planned to change, as well as updating students on progress every few months – starting this summer.
  • An external company have been hired in to conduct online Module Evaluations, currently being trialled in Philosophy, Film, Physics and ECS this semester. If adopted across the University, there is the future potential that the data is then able to be published and made visible to students when choosing options. The reporting structure of how lecturers publish responses to Evaluation scores and how they plan to improve modules is also being discussed.
  • Introduced monthly “Rep Reports” for Course Reps to receive, highlighting the major projects that were going on around the University, asking for their opinion on various issues, and also showing how their voice had been acted upon or listened to in University-level meetings.

Active Student Representation

  • Re-designed the SUSU Education page and introduced a Find your Rep function, so that students can now login and find out who their rep is.
  • For the first time, moved elections of Course Reps online and to later in the year, so that first years had more time to settle into University life and that elections were more student-friendly – with 384 reps elected in total.
  • Re-elected reps for all years of study for the first time, to ensure all representatives were enthusiastic, engaged, and committed. Course Rep elections are currently taking place for next year now, with nominations closing on Tuesday 8th May, 12pm.
  • Introduced Joint Honours and Single Honours Course Rep positions for each course, allowing for dual-degree issues to become more visible.
  • Introduced Academic President Facebook Profiles, for students to use to see who else was doing their course, ask questions, and for Presidents to communicate key messages to the wider student body
  • For the first time, conducted a Course Rep survey, so that we can assess the quality of the current system and make the necessary improvements.
  • Implemented a three-week cycle of meetings for Presidents to maintain regular contact with Course Reps and Faculty Officer, with Faculty Officers writing reports for SUSU’s Education committee.
  • Introduced a “Course Rep Celebration Evening” for reps to receive their certificates, have a sociable evening with other reps, as well as potentially receive awards for their service.

Improving Assessment Feedback

  • Developed a Feedback Benchmark Toolkit, to allow for the better measurement of Feedback quality, with discussions ongoing about how it can be implemented within the University.
  • Conducted a research project on how students recognise feedback quality, in response to comments that students do not know when they are receiving feedback.
  • Alongside the Pro-Vice Chancellor Education, contracted and then project-managed, a SIFE Southampton Consultancy project that used over 300 students through focus groups and interviews to collect qualitative data on what students think about Assessment Feedback. This project also funded the majority of SIFE’s profitable income!
  • Worked alongside the University in developing eAssignment, an online tool for submission, marking and feedback of coursework – which can be manipulated to provide better quality of feedback through automated pre-prepared comments, as well as storing feedback comments given on all pieces of coursework in previous years
  • Inserted extra questions specifically about Assessment Feedback into the Student Barometer survey, allowing for a better understanding of what the actual problem is, and where in the University best/ worst practise can be found.

A Quality and Value-for Money Education

  • Alongside our employed researcher, wrote the Student Written Submission, a 6000-word document evaluating the quality of the student experience here at Southampton, for the University’s Institutional Review by the Quality Assurance Agency.
  • Worked with the University on various IT projects to do with the delivery of education services, such as Panopto, the video-lecture capture software, and Sharepoint, which is due to replace SUSSED imminently.
  • Worked with the University on improving its academic policies and processes, such as the “Fitness to Practise” policy, the review of “Academic Integrity” policy, and its Moderation and Proof-checking policy for Exams and Coursework.
  • Took a group of students to London for the National Demo Against Cuts in November 2011.
  • Alongside Sam, organised a local campaign to get students interested in politics, focusing on the Local Elections, with buses shuttling students to polling stations, and a Hustings event for Local Councillors.

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3 Comments on "VP Academic Affairs Annual Report 2011-12"

  1. Sasha
    07/05/2012 at 2:47 pm Permalink

    Wow, you’ve been busy!
    Are the other sabbs going to be doing a blog like this?

  2. Sasha
    07/05/2012 at 2:51 pm Permalink


    I think they are – I’ve certainly spoken to them about it, but its been such a busy time this week, I’m not certain most have written their final reports yet! I think it’s a good idea, hopefully you agree, especially seeing as no one really knows about where our reports currently go…

  3. Sasha
    07/05/2012 at 7:22 pm Permalink

    I would agree that it is a very good idea. I had never even heard of that website before. And in all honesty hadn’t heard of you until the sabb elections in Feb, when I became more interested. This is a great way of increasing transparency, something that I think SUSU greatly needs.

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