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Current strategy (2015-2017)

1. Introduction

1.1 The University of Stirling is committed to the pursuit of world-class research, learning and scholarship in order to inspire, challenge, motivate and support individuals who want to shape their world. Excellence in learning, teaching and quality enhancement is a cornerstone of the University’s objectives, strategies and priorities, and central to this is the value placed upon life-long learning and education, research-led teaching and the provision of one of the best student experiences in the UK.

1.2 The University aims to promote a partnership between staff and students that creates and exchanges knowledge, and at the heart of teaching is a commitment to producing graduates who are equipped to cope with the complexities of life and work in the 21st century.

1.3 This strategy builds on the Learning and Teaching Quality Enhancement Strategy 2010-2015, and is guided by the University Strategic Plan 2011-2016. The on-going process of ambitious change and development that has been launched through the Transforming the Student Experience programme will continue throughout the lifetime of this strategy and will provide ongoing opportunities for the enhancement of the student learning experience.

2. Current Context

2.1 The University is ambitious in terms of its objectives, and continues to achieve success. The Enhancement-led Institutional Review (ELIR) that took place in 2011 was positive and further progress has been made since the review across the range of institutional priorities.

2.2 Success has been recognised through a number of avenues such as student feedback, awards and rankings. Key indicators of success include:

  • The 2013/14 National Student Survey (NSS) results indicating that 87% of Stirling students were satisfied with their experience;
  • The 2014 Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES) results indicating that 89% of Stirling students were satisfied with their experience;
  • 98% of our postgraduate students are in employment or further study within six months of graduation (Destination of Leavers from Higher Education, 2015/16);
  • Winning the ‘Most Improved Student Experience’ award at the 2013 Times Higher Education (THE) Awards;
  • Ranked as 1st in Scotland for good sports facilities, environment on campus and library (Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey 2015);
  • The Making the Most of Masters (MMM) project also won a THE award for Outstanding Employer Engagement 2013 in partnership with Edinburgh and Aberdeen Universities;
  • The University is ranked in the QS World Rankings of the top 5% of universities in the world (QS World University Rankings, 2014); in QS Stars, the University scored 5 stars (the top rating) for Access and Inclusion, Employability, Facilities, Internationalisation and Teaching;
  • The University is ranked 2nd in Scotland and 8th in the UK in The Times Higher Education 100 ‘Under 50’ table, which ranks the world’s best 100 universities under 50 years old.

2.3 The current Strategic Plan spans the period 2011-2016 and details the University’s ambitions in terms of learning and teaching. These ambitions are to:

  • Develop graduates who are knowledgeable and skilled, critical and intellectually curious thinkers sought after by employers and active local and global citizens
  • Provide one of the best student experiences in the UK
  • Be recognised as the destination of choice for students in the subject areas we offer
  • Provide a vibrant, multi-cultural student community by increasing the international population and enriching the experience for home students

3. Internal Drivers

3.1 The University is currently implementing the ambitious set of proposals that were formulated within the Transforming the Student Experience (TSE) programme. TSE seeks to improve the student experience and strengthen the University’s student focus both broadly, and specifically, in the areas of:

a) Enhancing the Student Experience and Outcomes by:

 i. Diversify assessment approaches and improving feedback processes;

 ii. Organising purposeful evaluations of teaching;

 iii. Improving pedagogic skills;

 iv. Providing a unitary, highly visible and easily accessible student support system;

 v. Providing personal tutors for all students;

 vi. Monitoring student progress broadly, and to identify students at risk;

 vii. Improving home/international student integration;

 viii. Integrating the graduate attributes into all aspects of student engagement.

b) Academic Structure and Process

 i. Introducing professional peer or mentor-led review of teaching

 ii. Effective progress monitoring within modules, facilitating early intervention for students at risk

c) Strengthening the Student-Focused Culture

 i. Promoting student consultation and engagement through partnership and feedback

TSE will deliver significant change and development in terms of learning and teaching, and the student learning experience, and therefore represents a key internal driver for this strategy.

3.2 The University continues to value its engagement with the national enhancement themes and work in relation to the ‘Developing and Supporting the Curriculum’, and ‘Student Transitions’ themes to assist directly with learning and teaching enhancement.

3.3 Lifelong learning and widening participation continue to underpin Stirling’s programme delivery. The Scottish Government’s post-16 education strategy places the learner at the centre of education policy and provision and the University of Stirling is committed to this principle.

3.4 Within schools, the learning and teaching committees (LTCs), chaired by directors of learning and teaching (DLTs), and with membership including student members, support effective school and divisional level engagement in learning and teaching enhancement. These committees also facilitate the sharing of good academic practice. “School Officers”, are students that take on a representative role for all students in each school, support a learning infrastructure that proactively encourages and facilitates student engagement in learning and teaching enhancement.

3.5 The replacement of the Quality Enhancement Committee (QEC) by the Education and Student Experience Committee (ESEC) has given schools greater responsibility and autonomy in the monitoring and development of enhanced learning and teaching delivery. This has extended engagement among academic staff with the University’s quality assurance and enhancement culture.

3.6 E-learning development is important within the University’s learning and teaching provision and student learning experience, and will have an increasing impact in coming years.

3.7 The development of learning spaces and technology to effectively support contemporary pedagogy, and the student learning experience is vital. The LTQES informs such developments and the work of the Learning Spaces Group in developing a strategy for the University’s teaching and learning accommodation and equipment.

3.7 In 2013, a professor at the University became the first principal fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA) based at a Scottish higher education institution. The University wishes to extend and develop its work with the HEA.

4. External Influence

4.1 The University recognises the importance of responding in an agile way to factors in the external environment including:

  • Changing learning needs and expectations
  • Curriculum for Excellence (CfE)
  • The shifting economic landscape
  • Developments in demographics and government policy
  • The international student market and student needs

5. Strategy 2015-2017

5.1 The purpose of this strategy is to underpin the continuing development of the University as an effective and inclusive learning community in which all students and staff are both learners and active participants.

5.2 Key strategic learning and teaching enhancement themes for the period 2015-2017 include employability, internationalisation, research-teaching linkages, student evaluation of teaching, student support and accessibility, equality, inclusion and diversity.

5.3 Employability

The University’s Employability Strategy sets out the commitment to developing employable, confident graduates with the requisite skills, knowledge and experience who can contribute and succeed in an ever changing environment locally, nationally and globally. In progressing work on employability, the mission is to be ambitious in providing the opportunities for students to develop the skills and attributes that will enhance their employability.

A University of Stirling student will have the opportunity to develop the knowledge, skills and characteristics that enable them to be:

  • Scholarly and skilled within and between disciplines
  • Intellectually curious and research minded
  • Committed to personal and professional development
  • Engaged citizens with a global perspective

The University is committed to the development of these graduate attributes through the student learning experience and as such this strategy takes account of the Employability Strategy and seeks to support its success.

5.4 Internationalisation

The Internationalisation Strategy aims to strengthen the University’s established reputation for providing world-leading research and developing knowledgeable, skilled graduates through a wide range of transnational research and educational activities, and mutually beneficial collaborations. The Internationalisation Strategy promotes the institution’s core values of respect for diversity in cultures and beliefs and a pursuit of knowledge that sustains beneficial change in local, national and international society. It builds on the University’s ambitions to improve its self-reliance and strengthen its position as a pre-eminent force in Scottish education and research where ability, not background, is valued. The strategy’s vision is that all staff and students value and embrace the diversity of international experiences, histories and cultures and actively strive to be global citizens.

The links between this strategy and the goals detailed within the University’s Internationalisation Strategy are important. As such the LTQES seeks to complement and support internationalisation activity and strategic goals.

5.5 Research-Teaching Linkages

Developing excellence in learning and teaching in a research-led institution necessitates quality research-teaching linkages. The University has a commitment to strengthen and enhance the links between research and teaching, through teaching that is research-led, research-oriented, research-based and research-informed as appropriate.

This commitment is crucial as a defining characteristic of the student learning experience to enable students to develop expertise in critical thinking and synthesis of knowledge, whilst interacting with new ideas and thinking in the relevant subject area. This learning experience is progressed through the expertise and knowledge of staff, together with the associated ‘research skills’ to support and enhance student learning via the development of key inquiry, analytical and collaborative skills.

Research culture, innovation and research outputs continue to be firmly embedded in the delivery of teaching and learning in each school, and indeed, in the teaching experience.

5.6 Student Evaluation of Teaching

The current school structure provides formal mechanisms for involving students in teaching evaluation, and for sharing best practice. School officers now represent discipline or divisional student cohorts on school learning and teaching committees, and work with staff to progress improvements that are suggested by student evaluations and feedback. This work will be further supported by the new module evaluation software that was implemented in spring 2015. University strategy places students at the centre of their learning as partners in the learning community.

5.7 Student Support

The University is committed to a holistic support system that maximises the opportunities for all students to succeed in fulfilling their potential. We seek to minimise the factors that increase the risk of students having a negative student experience or leaving university early, and that maximise the opportunities for all students to succeed in fulfilling their potential. The University works with students to encourage the development of a sense of belonging and purpose through induction, student-centred learning and social integration. Moreover, we monitor student retention and success and seek to further develop integrated data management systems to facilitate such monitoring and enable early support interventions.

5.8 Accessibility, Equality, Inclusion and Diversity

The University is committed to promoting equality of opportunity and good relations between people. It is a key element of this strategy that we maintain a strong focus on supporting the accessibility and inclusivity of the University’s curricula and arrangements for learning, teaching and assessment.

5.9 Strategic Objectives

Arising from the key enhancement areas above and a wide array of feedback and input from students, staff and stakeholders, a comprehensive but none the less not exhaustive list of strategic objectives include the aims to:

  • Nurture research awareness and aptitude in students through the use of research-based learning.
  • Provide innovative and effective teaching, learning and assessment.
  • Continue the development of stimulating, innovative and intellectually rigorous curricula, providing high quality teaching informed by excellent research.
  • Facilitate a flexible and interdisciplinary approach to learning, allowing transition, retention and progression through well designed and supported international curricula.
  • Provide appropriate technology to enhance the learning experience of students both on and off campus.
  • Respond rapidly to the opportunities offered by new technologies to engage with and utilise the capacity of scholars worldwide.
  • Facilitate entry and transition through degree programmes commensurate with the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework; the Bologna Process; and the expectations of an increasingly diverse student population, including Scottish students taught within the new environment of the Curriculum for Excellence.
  • Offer excellent student support across all programmes and locations of learning to enhance and personalise the individual’s learning experience.
  • Ensure that we are accessible and welcoming to all students who can benefit from the education we offer.
  • Provide a Graduate School and a graduate education system that delivers a supportive and stimulating environment for the postgraduate population.
  • Further strengthen the employability of students through continuous review and redevelopment of module and programme provision, emphasising capacities and skills for the market place and the contributions of employers
  • Embed the University’s graduate attributes within the curriculum and as appropriate to the undergraduate and postgraduate community.
  • Maximise employment experiences, work placements and international study as integral to the student learning experience.
  • Enhance the international experience of our students through exchanges, recruitment and the internationalised curriculum.
  • Increase and raise the profile of the University’s engagement in creating and exchanging knowledge in the public domain.
  • Engage with, and contribute to, the national Enhancement Themes, and the Higher Education Academy’s recognition scheme, events and resources, to maximise opportunities for the exchange of best practice across the HE sector.
  • Work with partners in tertiary education to optimise the strengths of the university and college sectors.
  • Sustain and enhance the professional development of students and staff.
  • Develop a programme of academic staff development mapped against the UK Professional Standards Framework (UK PSF) that will be HEA accredited, and increase the number of its staff holding HEA fellowship status.

6. Action, Implementation and Success

6.1 A comprehensive action plan will be developed to underpin the strategic objectives, and linked to the ongoing actions of the enabling strategies such as Employability, Internationalisation and E-learning.

6.2 Impact will be evaluated through criteria mapped to each action, based on performance in the National Student Survey (NSS), Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES), Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES), International Student Barometer (ISM) and internal feedback surveys, focus groups and engagement. Within each impact area, we shall aim to reach or maintain upper quartile position where sector benchmarks are available.

7. Strategy Review

The University is developing a new Strategic Plan for the period 2016-2021. This strategy spans the period 2015-17 and as such an updated strategy will be developed during 2016 to take account of the new institutional plan.

In reviewing this strategy and the University’s progress in learning and teaching quality enhancement, the Faculty learning and teaching committees and directors of learning and teaching will provide key input and insight.

The University considers the Enhancement-led Institutional Review (ELIR) to be an excellent opportunity to reflect on progress within the enhancement journey. ELIR 3 will take place in autumn 2015. The preparatory work that the University has undertaken in relation to ELIR, as well as the review itself, will be invaluable in informing the development of a new strategy for learning and teaching between 2017 and 2021.

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