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School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Science

"It's a very transparent, trusting environment": how your voice is being heard at Brackenhurst

Iain Barber
Iain Barber, Deputy Dean

Deputy Dean Iain Barber explains some of the recent improvements your voice has helped to deliver in the School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Science.

“Our students have so many ways of getting their voices heard here. What’s great for me personally is that as well as being Deputy Dean, I also teach and supervise undergraduate research – and that’s really important, because it gives me a chance to interact with our students every day, keeping me informed of exactly what’s on their minds.

“There’s an intimacy to Brackenhurst. The relatively small number of students on campus promotes a really tight-knit community of learners, drawn together by common values and a shared interest in the natural world. There’s lots of interaction between students and staff, and a constant exchange of ideas. Those ideas could come from a course meeting, the HE Student Forum, a conversation in a corridor, or a sit-down chat in a breakout space like the Orangery – but it’s the closeness that’s key, and it really helps us engage. It’s a very open, transparent, trusting environment at Brack.

“There are so many examples of student feedback being acted upon. A really high proportion of our students go out on year-long placements, and we’re really proud of that. But based on their feedback, there was a sense that some felt they’d been out of the academic loop for quite a while by the time they returned, and had lost touch with certain things – core academic skills like referencing, statistics and quantitative methods, for example. Our solution was to run bespoke returners’ induction sessions for those students, who’d expressed a desire to be treated a little differently in order to get back up to speed. And I think the feedback so far has been really appreciative. People know they’re being listened to.

“We’ve acted on feedback specific to our BTEC intake, too. We’d noticed that a number of our students weren’t performing too well in modules with exam components, and while our BTEC students really tend to shine with coursework-oriented assessments, exams can be a bit unfamiliar and intimidating for them. So in order to bridge that gap, we’re now offering sessions to help build up their exam skills and techniques. We’re being proactive and working really hard to level out the assessment playing field.

“Another success story is our increased investment in Student Support Services, with recently expanded capacity to ensure that students have access to the support they need, when and where they need it.  Accommodating and supporting mental health and anxiety-related conditions is something we take very seriously, especially given the diversity of our student community. At the HE Forum, our students flagged the fact that demand for on-campus appointments was increasing and that it was really vital we provided more local opportunities, rather than asking our students to trek over to the City Campus. Based on these discussions we were able to extend the service, and increase that local availability, and that’s been really well received by our students.

“I take my responsibilities to our students very seriously. We all do. My door’s always open, and it’s the same for my colleagues. We’re working hard to create and maintain a supportive and encouraging system for feedback here: it’s paying off every day, and we hope that it continues to pay off in the future!”

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