In-line with the University’s Learning and Teaching Strategy, Swansea University will enable access and ensure that all potential, current and graduating students, whatever their educational, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds and/or protected characteristics, have the opportunity and support to progress and succeed.
Under Student Professional and Academic Development, the strategy aims to:
‘Embed within the curriculum the academic, personal and professional skills that will help our students make an impact in business, organisations and industry’.
To meet the aims of the ‘Swansea Graduate‘, our teaching needs to satisfy the needs of students, society and employers. This includes developing skills such as critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration which are valued by employers. Therefore, it is important we ensure our teaching, learning and assessment methods reflect these needs and fast-changing requirements for skills and knowledge.
CASE STUDY – ECONOMICS
Swansea University’s Economics Department have recently redesigned their final year undergraduate delivery to ensure students professional and theoretical knowledge make them industry-ready on graduation.
During the final year of study, students can choose to take modules in ‘Digital Economics’, ‘Digital Media’ and ‘Data Analysis Techniques’. Designed to embed academic skills, such as research, into delivery, theoretical understanding is supported through consultancy projects and industry-focused software, such as Python. As a piece of software, the sector as of 2020, is moving over to Python software with high reputed areas such as Wall Street (USA), London and Frankfurt, all moving towards it.
Therefore, the modules give students both theoretical expertise, through consultancy research projects, but also, through the use of Python, skills which are not only contemporary but also ahead of the sector. Particularly through research elements, students can often identify new areas of research, or anomalies in data sets, which can both enhance their theoretical and professional knowledge but also drive industry-specific developments.
University's Role in Student Professional & Academic Development
1) Access – enabling individuals from underrepresented groups to enter higher education
To increase access to opportunities, for underrepresented groups to study at Swansea, the University aims to provide access to opportunity for all.
In relation to student personal and professional development, widening access for individuals from underrepresented groups will create a more diverse student population and, through educational and professional opportunities, an equally diverse community and workforce within Swansea.
Like many other institutions, we are working to increase participation in and widen access to higher education by students with no previous family experience of university education and from disadvantaged groups.
More details are available in the University’s Admissions Policy.
2) Retention – supporting students to continue study & complete their programmes of study
In-line with the University’s Student Support service, our aim is to serve all students through practicing excellence in our support and training provisions. We will achieve our mission by fostering a professional, collaborative, caring and unique student experience.
Through tailored, coordinated and quality services, those students who face challenges in continuing their studies, or require support in other areas of life at Swansea University, will receive the most positive, inclusive and student-focused support possible.
As a commitment to student retention, and to student partnership in their University experience, Swansea University participated in a Higher Education Academy peer-mentoring enhancement programme ‘Transition, Retention & Attainment’. The aim of the project was to empower staff and students to manage more effectively the transition to and within university at all stages. The e-toolkit is now available, as a best practice approach, via the HEA link above.
More information on inclusive student support is available from the Student Support Services page. The SAILS Inclusivity Academy also provide toolkits for student to student mentoring and offer Peer Mentoring Awards to recognise students who have contributed to the academic and personal growth of their peers.
3) Progression – ensuring that students have the academic and pastoral support to progress from level to level
To support delivery of the Progression and Awards policy, the University must ensure all students have the required academic and pastoral support to achieve the desired outcomes at each University level.
Academic Mentors play an important role in supporting students through their learning experience. The key aims of an academic mentor are:
- Reviewing student academic progress;
- Ensuring students who require it have access to both academic and personal support e.g. with welfare issues;
- To Assist students in understanding the exam and assessment system;
- To provide academic references for placements/ job applications;
- To answer any questions students may have or recommend where to best seek advice.
Additionally, whenever required, Student Support Services are available to support students with a variety of academic or personal issues.
Inclusive learning experiences play a pivotal role in student progression. The University’s Module Development guidelines and Swansea Academy of Inclusivity and Learner Success (SAILS) provide guidance on inclusive approaches to all areas of academic delivery.
Success – providing the opportunities for all students to achieve the best degree and employment outcomes that they can.
We will continue to develop an environment in which students are able to learn and grow, feel part of a community, have a sense of belonging and develop social capital. This will enable our students to benefit from support that is specific to their needs to help them to progress their learning and to develop their academic and transferable skills, as well as helping to build confidence and resilience.
Where can I get advice on student professional and academic development?
The Swansea Employability Academy (SEA), as well as various College/School-based initiatives, play key role in complementing student academic development with the employability skills required to be a success in their chosen field. More details will be provided in the ‘Student Opportunities’ section.
Embedding Academic Skills
What are the principles of the embedding academic skills approach?
Ensuring an inclusive approach can help to increase student engagement and support students in meeting the desired learning outcomes by helping students understanding the theoretical and practical links within a subject.
‘One of the most effective means of supporting students in developing academic literacies is through embedding academic writing programs in faculty courses. Embedding academic-writing interventions in subject disciplines is a practical way of helping students make explicit connections between the discourse variables of their subject and the particular demands of a given assignment’. (McWilliams & Allan, 2014)
The principles of embedding academic skills into learning are to provide students with the skills required to maximise their performance and efficiency in their studies. Gerrard (2019) believes ‘that many students no longer arrive at university equipped with these essential skills, raising questions about the role of the curriculum in supporting skills acquisition and development’.
Therefore, it is important Swansea University provide a supportive, inclusive and developmental culture where all students have access to the resources to grow their academic skills. This includes all academic staff embedding critical academic skills development into their modules, as well as students accessing a variety of support mechanisms such as the Centre for Academic Success.
The Centre offers a wide variety of courses, workshops and online resources – to support both undergraduate and postgraduate students – on topics such as writings assignments, understanding plagiarism, giving presentations and English language support.
How do I embed academic skills into my delivery?
One of the most effective ways to ensure students develop the necessary, for both academic and professional success, is to ensure your approaches are inclusive.
There are several simple ways that you can make your assessment more inclusive for all students. This is particularly important when designing module assessments, including:
- Reflecting on what assessment types you use and the variety of choice available to students. How can your teaching approach, and subsequent assessments, develop the variety of skills outlined in learning outcomes?
- Ensuring alternative assessment methods, which do not affect the competence standards of the module, as all types of assessment should be equally robust.
- Developing formative assessments to provide students with experience of different assessment types
- Ensuring all students, through assessment types available, have an equal opportunity to attain their best academic outcomes?
Additionally, students have the option to receive 1-to-1 support should they require it.
Please refer to our Developing and delivering effective and inclusive learning and teaching section for more guidance.
What are the Quality Assurance Agency guidelines for embedding academic skills?
The Quality Assurance Agency provides guidance on the principles which should drive the development of academic skills development for students. Guidelines are available under the Enabling Student Achievement principles.
Guidance Resources, Further Reading and Directory of Effective Practice for Student Professional and Academic Development
- SAILS Toolkits for guidance on inclusive practices
- Guidance for Students Academic Life
- Swansea University Guidance for Staff
- Swansea University Centre of Academic Success
- Swansea Employability Academy
- Swansea University Student’s Union
- Swansea University Library Services
- Advance HE guidance, and effective practice examples, on the student role in co-creation
- SAILS 2019 Conference material: An inclusive experience for disabled students in higher education?
- QAA UK Quality Code Enabling Student Achievement
- SALT Conference 2019, Paula Row & Ed Dudley ‘Top Tips for Engaging, Teaching and Assessing Students’
- SALT Conference 2018, Susan Roberts ‘Teaching sensitive topics’
- SALT Conference 2018, Susanne Darra ‘Report of a SPIN Placement: A Student-Led Programme Evaluation’
- SALT Conference 2018, Denise Hill ‘Outdoor Activities to support transition to University’
- Advance HE ‘Embedding employability in higher education’
For more examples, you can visit Academic Quality’s Effective Practice Directory.
McWilliams, Robyn and Allan, Quentin, ‘Embedding Academic Literacy Skills: Towards a best practice model’. Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 11 (3) 2014
Quality Assurance Policies Swansea University
Swansea University ‘Other University Regulations’