What we’ve learned in our first year as Arden University
Deputy CEO Victoria Stakelum reflects on an exciting 12 months of change, challenges and achievement
By Victoria Stakelum, Deputy CEO of Arden University
A flexible approach is key
One of the most important things we’ve learned this year, as a university that offers an alternative route to higher education, is that people have individual learning needs that we must cater for.
The traditional higher education offering can adopt a one-size-fits-all approach, but we’ve learned that our key strength lies in being adaptive to suit our students’ needs. Where one person learns best within a flexible format, another person, who is just as intelligent and just as able, may need structure and help with how they approach their studies.
Our blended learning students get the structure of university study but with the flexibility of online learning. Three-year undergraduate courses involve two days in the classroom a week, alongside 24/7 online learning – or four years with an integrated foundation year. The planned part-time MBA courses involve one night class per fortnight, plus the same full support online, over two years.
These courses match what a lot of people want out of university, which is an approach that empowers student learning by giving students structured support, but also providing access to education that is tailored to their individual lifestyle, personality, and needs.
Never underestimate what people can achieve with the right support
We should never underestimate how far people can come with the right support network. Millions of people suffer from anxiety and self-doubt in everyday life, and especially when experiencing the pressures that come with studying and university. Students suffering from mental illness often very much benefit from the advice, reassurance and guidance provided by our team of dedicated student support professionals.
At Arden, we have witnessed the remarkable transformations and complete turnarounds from students, personally and in their learning, which goes to show that when given the right help and direction, people can achieve truly amazing outcomes – often well beyond their expectations.
We should never underestimate how far people can come with the right support network.
Be inspired by what you are achieving
It is easy to forget that people have day-to-day barriers that they must overcome in order to access education. These could be financial, illness, or family orientated, and there are many cases where people struggle to find time for themselves, let alone time for an education.
Some of the stories of determination and personal strength that we have seen and heard from our students and what they have overcome to access an education is inspiring. It is a privilege for me personally and for us as a university, to provide the platform and opportunity for individuals to access an education that they otherwise may not have had.
Working with a passionate group of people daily is inspiring, and at Arden everywhere I turn I see talent and passion. This year, I’ve found that sometimes we need to dig deep to find talents hidden in students that they themselves did not know they had. The ability of an individual is not always immediately visible, but it rarely takes much to find hidden potential.
Celebrate the successes – it’s only just the beginning!
Over the last year, we have witnessed broad discussion about changes in the way people now go to university. Too many people have been locked out of higher education, and the fact the Social Mobility Commission’s most recent annual State of the Nation report found that disadvantaged young people are 65 percent more likely to go to university than they were a decade ago is a cause for celebration.
As an online and distance learning university, we believe we are now at the tipping point of British higher education, and that widening access to HE has been a British success story. More people are now considering apprenticeships, online and part-time courses as a more accessible way to gaining a qualification.
We are also seeing a shift in psychology as more people are rethinking going off to university due to the burden of debt, and we believe that we will see an even more significant change in people’s attitudes to traditional university during the years ahead.