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The student experience

Jon Wakeford, Director of Strategy and Communications at UPP, talks the student experience

Posted by Rianna Newman | September 23, 2017 | People

Are we doing enough to ensure that international students have the best possible experience? Are the potential effects of Brexit for our European students any clearer now?

With the numerous political and economic upheavals taking place in the UK and beyond, there remains uncertainty both in terms of the future landscape and in the changing needs of students. Universities are currently doing a very good job of tailoring their offering to the needs of students, but increasingly those that continue to attract the brightest and best can’t afford to neglect to reach out to international students, too.

In seeking to create the best experience for international students, assisting a student before they enrol must be part of their student journey. We need to start with the formation of that relationship for it is here that the relationship is cemented; founded in communication and the management of expectation. For example, the introduction of the Teaching and Excellence Framework may be particularly helpful to international students when considering the university they wish to study in and about what to expect.  

Whilst the potential effects of Brexit on European students may still be unclear, it’s worth noting the extent to which this is impacting on some domestic students. According to research as part of our annual Student Experience Survey, almost half of first year students and applicants (45%) say they would be disappointed if there is a reduction in EU and international students at their university. Overall, our research has found that meeting a variety of people at university is an important part of a good, non-academic experience for 43% of first year students and applicants. These results show that students value the opportunities universities offer to expand their horizons, and that, clearly, meeting with students from different countries with varying backgrounds forms a significant part of the student experience.  

With tuition fees continuing to rise, how might students’ expectations change?

Student expectations are increasing and not only regarding the quality of provision. More and more - and correctly in my view - there is an expected return on investment. This is pitched alongside a desire for premium, high-quality, affordable accommodation. UPP’s model remains one of providing affordable, high-quality accommodation at the heart of university campuses. Our focus will remain one of supporting universities to achieve their ambitions and ultimately improve the experiences of their students.

Finally, how would you sum up the best ‘student experience’?

For the last five years, we’ve been asking students what they want from their student experience. For them, making new friends and having a good campus atmosphere continue to be the two most important aspects of a good non-academic experience.

Additionally, in seeking to create the ‘best’ student experience, ensuring that each element of that journey is focused on resolving the key issues faced by students, remains critical. The phases of the student journey should not be properly discrete, rather they should ideally be fused together, with the infrastructure of services supporting teaching, flowing in parallel.

A great student experience should therefore be one which establishes a relationship for life. This includes: assisting in the process of becoming a student; providing innovative approaches to the delivery of teaching and research whilst the student is enrolled; and one that maintains that relationship with the student and the local economy to the benefit of all parties. 


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