February 1, 2011, by Teaching at Nottingham

Supporting students in reaching their academic potential

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Robin Dollery: “Getting into a University like Nottingham is very competitive. Once we get our students here, we would like to make sure they’re successful and so we try to think about that quite carefully, and it seems to us there are a couple of very important principles within this.

“In a very large University, it can become quite impersonal and for a new student who’s maybe coming along at eighteen, nineteen, twenty or something like that, that can be quite a daunting experience. So we think it’s actually very important that the University, in all its interactions with students, can retain a personal face as well.

“Now it’s a personal face that needs to have understanding and it needs to be tuned in to that particular student person, so the quality of relationship that a student makes with any of his or her’s interfaces with the University as a whole is quite critical.

“They’ll select the staff that they find easiest to talk to and that may well be academic staff, and one hopes that it largely is, but it may also be the administrators within a department. It may also be the warden, the hall tutor, it might be the cleaner, it might be a security staff and hopefully it might also be a full range of student services.

“So first principle is, in terms of all the student support services, what we strive for is a high quality relationship which is supportive and friendly.”

Muhammad Abdul: “Because I did my A levels previously, so one thing is the pace of studying in University, it’s really quick. In my first semester it was a big shock, but the good thing is the pastoral care by the tutors, the way they look after the students, it’s really good and you need more effort from yourself to go ask questions from lecturers because if you do not, lecturers do not know that you are lost in studies in your course, Another good thing is the lecturers, they really really give their help to the students, I mean if you ask one thing they will even answer three things.”

Robin Dollery: “The second main principle, I think, is to try and think about what a student brings with them, what the demands on a student are. We’re expecting them to deal with living away from familiar surroundings. We’re expecting them to manage their money. We’re expecting them to make new friends. We’re expecting them to gain new social skills. We’re expecting them to learn a whole different way of teaching, assessment, learning.

“if we’re not careful, those demands that we make on our students are going to be greater than their resource to handle it.”

Fran Ebling: “Most staff here have an open door policy that if students want to have a private chat about any issues, whether they’re academic, personal, whatever, then they simply need to email, arrange a time and they can have a discussion with a personal tutor.”

Robin Dollery: “So we think as a University, it’s really quite important that the University provides a framework for our students to operate in and the framework is quite important because it supports students in their own development but it also provides a good safety net.

“Now part of that framework, a very important part of course, is the academic delivery and the courses that they choose and the interactions they will have with the teaching staff and with their tutors and with the admin staff in those schools. If that is a relationship of trust and if that is a relationship where a student knows where to go, when they can access people, they’re going to get sensible advice, that actually will give them confidence.”

Muhammad Abdul (School of Medical & Surgical Sciences), 
Robin Dollery (Student Services), 
Fran Ebling (School of Biomedical Sciences).

One of a series of interviews with staff that contributed to the development of the Teaching at Nottingham handbook. Produced February 2011.
This video was originally published as part of PESL’s Teaching at Nottingham collection.

Posted in Curriculum designTransition into HE