Swansea University is set on two beachfront campuses either side of Swansea’s bustling city centre, offering students the perfect combination of study and seaside living. The university provides outstanding teaching, learning and positive outcomes for its students and was awarded a gold TEF rating in 2018, a reflection of its strategy to deliver an inspirational student experience. More broadly the institution is keen to increase student participation, especially amongst under-represented groups, and to create a supportive and enriching learning environment. Listening to the student voice is essential to achieve these aspirations.
Swansea University had identified multiple work streams around the theme of Student Engagement. In particular there was a need to improve the student rep system to make it more effective, to better use informal feedback and to close the feedback loop by demonstrating that student concerns are responded to. This also meant that work was needed around feedback structures and processes.
A student consultation noted the following student comments:
In addition, a key question posed was “How can we ensure the authenticity of the student voice?” As written in a paper by a staff member from Swansea University, “traditional mechanisms of engagement rely on highly motivated students, not always providing a true reflection of our students’ experience. Issues have been filtered and diluted when passing through the system, with student comments often having lost context upon reaching Senior Management. Timely feedback on progress also presented a challenge.”
In 2015, Swansea University requested Jisc to undertake a short overview appraisal identifying suitable options to address their student feedback challenges. Out of a number of options they felt Unitu was best suited to support them in achieving their student experience goals. As explained by the University, “Unitu supports the University’s strategic aims for delivering an inspirational student experience and supports the following commitments:
Following several small pilots, in 17-18 Swansea University rolled out Unitu. Students post and comment anonymously on College and University wide boards, allowing staff to respond, facilitating meaningful discussion. Over 14,000 students have access to the system and in 17-18 there were over 70,000 interactions from the students.
Our NSS scores on Student Voice were fantastic this year, I think Unitu has played a big part in that as the change was biggest in our college where we use it most actively.
“Unitu provides an excellent opportunity for students at Swansea University to give their feedback within their subject areas and colleges. The platform allows students to anonymously submit their feedback about all aspects of university life, making feedback more honest and accurate. We have been able to make many improvements within the Students’ Union based on feedback received on Unitu and more importantly been able to use the feedback received to lobby the University for change.”
The Institution has been delighted with Unitu, describing it as transformative and praising the way it challenges the cultural norms around feedback, positively disrupting staff and student views of how to engage with each other.
Unitu has also been instrumental in providing a voice for students who are often hard to reach. The platform has allowed for stimulating student-led debates on topics such as gender equality, effective learning and assessment and has hosted articulate and impassioned requests for change. As mentioned at the TSEP Conference, both Dr Patricia Xavier and Debbie Ricci-Jones explained that “Unitu has been an ally in driving positive campus changes, from student wellbeing to catering and from sustainable transport to study and social spaces. It has also helped to increase NSS metrics, with improvements seen in the Learning Community and Student Voice categories.”
We have worked closely with Unitu to develop and inform platform enhancements.
Run and self-moderated by the student representative community, who respond as well as provide updates on progress, and supported by both academics and administrative staff. Unitu facilitates a transparent engagement process allowing students to connect and share their views, helping to support the learning community ethos. It creates an ideal platform for student reps to reach out and engage with their peers in a student only environment, before moving topics into the University domain, enabling them to run campaigns to effect change in an engaged environment that they know the University is responsive to.
The success of Unitu has been apparent across much of the University, providing an expedited platform for student feedback feeding in to the operational and strategic development of the University, supporting communications in Student/Staff Forums and underpinning quality processes. It has also led change to learning and teaching environments and the wider student experience, whilst providing a space to celebrate success and promote good practice.
“Unitu has been an ally in driving positive campus changes, from student wellbeing to catering and from sustainable transport to study and social spaces. It has also helped to increase NSS metrics, with improvements seen in the Learning Community and Student Voice categories.”
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