further & higher education

Effectively Enhancing Student Engagement Across Higher Education

further & higher education

08:45 - 16:40

Thursday 6 June 2019

The Hatton- etc Venues, Central London

This Forum provides attendees with the opportunity to discuss the latest progress on improving student engagement across universities. Following an update from the Department for Education to expand the ‘student engagement criterion’ of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), delegates will assess a range of approaches towards raising student engagement with course materials, course quality and broader university life. Participants will also hear best practice case studies and innovative approaches which have successfully raised educational engagement.


This Forum is specifically designed for the Higher Education Sector. Typical job titles will include:

  • Student Engagement Coordinators
  • Student Engagement Officers
  • Vice Chancellors
  • Quality Managers
  • Directors of Student Services
  • Heads of Quality Assurance
  • Professors
  • Student Liaison Officers
  • Directors of Teaching
  • Student Union Officers/Leaders
  • Student Awards Officers
  • Directors of Higher Education Curriculum
  • Heads of Student Experience
  • Faculty Directors
  • Heads of Technology Enhanced Learning

This Forum is also open to the Private and Voluntary Sectors, as well as Central Government, in order to encourage debate and networking.

Key Speakers Confirmed:
  • Maureen McLaughlin, Head of Universities and Standards, The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) 
  • Cassie Agbehenu, Student Engagement Manager, Office for Students (OfS)
  • Phil Richards, Chief Innovation Officer, JISC
  • Gareth McVicar, Manager of Student Leadership Development, University of Calgary
  • Sarah Bradley, Head of Student Engagement, Oxford Students Union
  • Tom Lowe, Centre of Student Engagement Manager and Programme Leader for the PgCert Student Engagement in Higher Education, University of Winchester
  • Jenny Marie, Principal Teaching Fellow and Director of UCL ChangeMakers, University College London (UCL)
  • John Hill, Head of Digital Learning, University of Derby
  • Dr Dawn Lees, Academic Skills and Student Engagement Team Manager, University of Exeter 
  • Jenny Barnes, Head of Student Voice & Insight, University of Lincoln Students Union
  • Dr. Alison Baverstock, Director of the KU Big Read, Kingston University 
View the agenda and additional speakers


In 2017, only 51% of students stated that they spend 11 hours or more in taught study, whilst 58% of students are not working at all with staff to improve the quality of their courses. According to The National Student Survey, this led to students satisfaction rates with their course dropping for the 3rd year in a row. Further still, 60% of students do not discuss their performance with staff and 81% do not work with staff outside of classes. This, it is argued, is contributing to rising dropout rates across universities with 26,000 students dropping out of their courses in the first year, contributing to a 6.4% dropout rate.

Students are not actively engaging with their courses, to the detriment of overall course quality and satisfaction. However, policy is being directed towards this growing problem. The Department for Education, in 2018, expanded the student engagement criterion of the Teaching Excellence Framework. Student engagement, the first criterion of the TEF, was expanded to include two additional metrics about ‘student voice’ and ‘learning resources’. QAA’s Quality Code has also raised the importance of student engagement in 2018 as a pressing issue across higher education, placing it at the centre of its ‘core’ and ‘common’ practices for universities.

If action is not taken to place student engagement at the heart of university strategies, course satisfaction rates will continue to fall and dropout rates will continue to rise. With policy focused directly at this issue following the upgrading of student engagement in the latest TEF reforms there is now, however, a real chance to work together to reverse worsening trends in student engagement.

Cassie Agbehenu

Currently leading the development of OfS’ policy and approach to student engagement, Cassie has a background in student voice, representation and student access, success and progression, working in universities and Students’ Unions. Previously, she has worked on policy across both of the OfS’ predecessors, HEFCE and OFFA, with a particular focus on equality, diversity and inclusion, access and participation and evaluation.

Dr Phil Richards

Phil has a first degree in physics and doctorate in nuclear structure physics (with experiments undertaken at CERN) from University of Oxford. His early career was in e-learning, with roles at Cardiff University, University of Hull and King’s College London. He then transitioned into senior management, with positions at Aberystwyth University, University of Plymouth and most recently Director of IT at Loughborough University.

Phil is responsible for developing new national Jisc services including data & analytics, research data and repositories, AR/VR, and AI-driven next-generation digital learning

Tom Lowe

Tom is the Manager of the University’s Centre for Student Engagement and Secretary for the international network RAISE. Tom is the programme leader for the PG Cert in Student Engagement in Higher Education, working at the cutting edge of Student Engagement in International Higher Education. Prior to August 2017, Tom was the Project Manager for REACT (Realising Engagement through Active Culture Transformation), where he facilitated collaborative development between 16 universities on the subject of Student Engagement in educational developments. Before REACT, Tom was Vice President, Education at Winchester Student Union, representing the students of the University of Winchester.

Ellee Spencer-Boyce

Ellee is the Vice President, Education at Winchester Student Union where she represents the student voice. In this position Ellee supports students’ academic interests through advice/casework and co-ordinates campaigns relating to academic issues. Ellee leads on the organising and running of the Student Academic Representatives (StARs), as well as co-running the Student Fellows Scheme (SFS) in partnership with the University of Winchester to provide the best student experience for all.

John Hill

John is the University of Derby’s Head of Digital Learning, working across the University in partnership with staff and students to embed and support the development of digital learning.

John leads and develops University-wide strategies and policies that ensure students have the highest quality digital-learning experience while studying with the University.

John is currently leading the implementation of an ambitious institutional Technology-Enhanced Learning Strategy (2017-2021) to deliver excellence across four key areas: Digital Practice, Digital Capability, Digital Infrastructure, and a Data and Research-informed approach.  

John has experience of teaching on the subject of digital learning, including ‘effective online learning’ and ‘learning in a digital age’.

Gareth McVicar

As the Manager of Student Leadership Development, Gareth McVicar has had the great privilege over the last 11 years of collaboratively growing the University of Calgary’s student leadership programs portfolio into a nationally recognized best-practice program. Since 2013, Gareth has led the university’s Strengths-Based Campus Program, in which more than 15,000 members of the campus community have completed CliftonStrengths for Students, and learned how to apply their Strengths both inside and outside the classroom. Outside of work, Gareth is involved in Calgary’s theatre scene and volunteers at the Alberta Children’s Hospital with his West Highland Terrier Angus.

Jenny Barnes

Jenny Barnes has worked as the Student Voice & Insight Manager at the University of Lincoln Students’ Union since July 2015. She has worked in partnership with staff across the University of Lincoln to create and deliver a number of Student Engagement Opportunities; deliver a strong representation system; and co-deliver Module Evaluations. She has oversight of the Students’ Union’s in-house built CRM system (SUMS), and works collaboratively with other Students’ Union’s to enhance the platform, and effectively utilise the data within in to enhance the student experience.


Registration, Refreshments and Networking


Chair's Welcome Address

Professor Stephanie Marshall, Vice-Principal (Student Experience, Teaching and Learning), Queen Mary University London (CONFIRMED)


Morning Keynote: Understanding the Importance of Student Engagement for the Quality of Higher Education Policy and Practice

  • Placing student engagement at the heart of QAA’s very latest Quality Code for Higher Education and setting out what universities must now do to drive student engagement levels in quality assurance and content of courses
  • Releasing the Student Engagement in Quality Assurance and Enhancement July 2018 report, advising university bodies on student involvement in university policy such as through effective student feedback and understanding how staff can work best alongside students
  • Building mechanisms for student involvement in courses, including questionnaires, research groups, student membership of committees and enhancing student dialogue with staff
  • Providing students with more reward for being engaged with course content and quality assurance, such as through skills accreditation, awards and recording active engagement in transcripts

Maureen McLaughlin, Head of Universities and Standards, The Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) (CONFIRMED)


Special Keynote: Emphasising the Importance of Dialogue Between Students, HE Providers and the Office for Students; Regulator’s Perspective

  • Bringing student engagement into the Office for Student’s Regulatory Framework to raise the importance of close student-university relationships to improving course quality
  • Releasing the OfS’ Approach to Student Engagement in March 2018, which ensures that the OfS are supporting universities with the generation and delivery of student engagement strategies
  • Engaging students further in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) by involving them in the consideration of TEF data, contributing to submissions and acting as TEF panel members
  • Incorporating student engagement into the OfS’ own structure through the Student Panel, which advises the OfS board on strategy and activity
  • Ensuring that student engagement includes, but is not limited, to close student union participation in university policy

Cassie Agbehenu, Student Engagement Manager, Office for Students (CONFIRMED)


Case Study: Building Student-Staff Partnership Projects to Raise Student Input Across the University

  • Running the first Student Fellows Scheme, which recruits students to work in partnership with Academic Quality Development Officers and the Vice President of Education on educational development projects
  • Encouraging students to take part through a £600 bursary and HEAR accreditation for everyone who is actively engaged in the projects
  • Launching the Centre for Student Engagement to drive research-backed projects, such as the ‘Get Involved Button’ which signposts over 160 student engagement opportunities
  • Leading the Realising Engagement Through Active Culture Transformation (REACT) project, the first project to tackle engagement within “hard to reach students” such as commuters
  • Introducing the Postgraduate Certificate (PgCert) in Student Engagement in Higher Education, the first student engagement academic programme in the world

Tom Lowe, Centre of Student Engagement Manager and Programme Leader for the PgCert Student Engagement in Higher Education and Ellee Spencer-Boyce, Student Fellows Lead, University of Winchester (CONFIRMED)


Questions and Answers Session


Refreshments and Networking Session


Case Study: Tailoring Academic Support to Individual Needs Through Personalised Appointments

  • Building an Academic Skills and Student Engagement Team which ensures that lectures, workshops, study zones and peer support are rewarding, engaging and tailored to the needs of students
  • Launching an innovative Study Zone in 2018, where students can gain personalised 1-1 appointments with staff and develop personal learning strategies alongside trained advisers
  • Employing Academic Skills Advisers to give bespoke, personalised workshops which have enabled students to engage with university staff beyond core lecture material
  • Building a Peer Support programme by appointing students as Peer Mentors who constantly provide timely feedback to staff on courses, ideas, learning and issues
  • Running the Students as Change Agents and Partners programme, which gives students a unique opportunity to propose changes and also lead projects with a core purpose of implementing these changes

Dr Dawn Lees, Academic Skills and Student Engagement Team Manager, University of Exeter (CONFIRMED)


Sponsor Session: Memory: What You Can Expect in the Classroom

  • Developed an interactive platform used by more than 80,000 tutors to boost class interactions and engagement
  • Measuring the understanding of students, in real-time, through the use of smartphones, all in all to improve the learning process
  • Collaborating with neuroscientists, educational engineers and professors, and has the particularity to interconnect with Moodle, PowerPoint and other platforms used by teachers

 Awarded Innovative Startup of the Year by Innoviris

Joséphine Misson, Customer Success Manager, Wooclap


Case Study: Giving Students a Central Role in the University’s Quality Review Processes

  • Promoting student partnership through a Students as Changemakers programme, which places students at the centre of quality enhancement processes as part of the UCL Education Strategy (2016-2021)
  • Appointing dedicated Student Quality Reviewers, which attracted thousands of applications via a £150 stipend for students to work closely with staff in reviewing teaching practices
  • Building a UCL Student Experience Panel, which uses reward vouchers to encourage over 1,000 students to engage in feedback-based focus groups and town hall style meetings
  • Implementing a wide-range of surveys, including the ‘New to UCL’ survey for new students and ‘UCL Student Experience Survey’ to gauge satisfaction with student services and courses

Jenny Marie, Principal Teaching Fellow and Director of UCL ChangeMakers, University College London (UCL) (CONFIRMED)


Questions and Answers Session


Lunch and Networking


Afternoon Keynote: Enhancing Student Engagement through Digital Experiences

  • Supporting student engagement with digital experiences through the Student Partners Initiative, which uses students to better understand how technology can enhance the university experience
  • Implementing Unitu across universities, a student voice application which can improve student engagement by enabling staff to collect and act on student feedback in real time
  • Pushing effective engagement analytics and learning analytics, which collect and analyse a range of data to understand why students are disengaged so that better engagement initiatives can be introduced
  • Building Education 4.0, which promotes personalised learning via digital platforms such as virtual assistants, giving university staff more time to engage with students more directly

Dr Phil Richards, Chief Innovation Officer, JISC (CONFIRMED)


Case study: Digital Discovery and Digital Insights, Driving Co-created Digital Change

  • Driving a digital change agenda in partnership with staff and students to deliver an excellent student learning experience
  • Engaging students and capturing their digital insights to shape the physical and virtual environments, support services, policy and strategy
  • Building a network of student ‘digital champions’ to co-create the curriculum and promote the use of digital resources and spaces across the university, with students and staff working in partnership to co-develop their digital skills
  • Implementing the Digital Capability Discovery Tool asan innovative method for self-auditing and reflecting on digital capabilities

John Hill, Head of Digital Learning, University of Derby (CONFIRMED)


International Case Study: Providing an International Perspective on Successful Student Engagement Strategies

  • Providing all students with the chance to gain crucial engagement and leadership skills through a dedicated strengths-based programme, which includes training programmes and community service-learning
  • Building graduate employability prospects by engaging students, such as ensuring participation in student councils, residency councils and clubs are recognised on their university transcripts
  • Implementing a World Cafe Concept, which gets students and staff together around tables asking what student engagement truly means to students
  • Creating a world-recognised student engagement and leadership programme, which has involved an unprecedented 15,000 students

Gareth McVicar, Manager of Student Leadership Development, University of Calgary (CONFIRMED)


Questions and Answers Session


Refreshments and Networking


Case Study: Offering Extensive Student Research Opportunities to Build a ‘Student as a Producer’ Culture

  • Working between the Students’ Union and the University of Lincoln to support students to be producers of their own education and university experience
  • Offering a portfolio of student engagement opportunities, including the Students’ Union delivering module evaluations in partnership with the University
  • Building a strong ‘rep system’ to ensure a strong student link between the Students’ Union and university staff
  • Ensuring the SU uses data and their Students’ Union Management system to gain insight into students’ lives, which drives subsequent engagement strategies

Jenny Barnes, Head of Student Voice & Insight, University of Lincoln Students Union (CONFIRMED)


Case Study: Driving Action Across the Student Union to Maximise Student Engagement

  • Working in partnership between Oxford Student Union and the Oxford Education Committee to successfully engage students through active policy and guidance across the university
  • Implementing a Staff Guide to Student Representation to ensure that every staff member across the university is actively engaging with course representatives on a weekly basis
  • Prioritising staff-student committees across all departments, named Joint Consultative Committees (JCC), which engage regularly in in-depth reviews to raise quality assurance
  • Providing individual and collective feedback through Student Barometer testing and displaying this data on the Tableau data visualisation tool, enabling close quality comparisons between departments
  • Engaging almost 8,000 students in these surveys, recording satisfaction levels with student information services of 97%

Sarah Bradley, Head of Student Engagement, Oxford Students Union (CONFIRMED)


Case Study: Instantly Integrating New Students Through the Kingston University Big Read Project

  • Running the Kingston University Big Read Project, which helps those coming to the university feel instantly welcome by creating links between them, staff and students already at the university
  • Using shared reading to build a university so that students arrive feeling welcome and integrated
  • Creating a significantly enhanced awareness of the roles and responsibilities of the entire staffing body
  • Promoting wider understanding of the subjects and levels at which students can study within higher education
  • Leading to spin off projects within our local community that have further impacted on institutional pride

Dr. Alison Baverstock, Director of the KU Big Read, Kingston University (CONFIRMED)


Questions and Answers Session


Chair's Summary and Close

*Programme subject to change


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