School of Social Sciences

A big School needs big ideas - and your voice is helping to re imagine Social Sciences

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Annabel Kiernan, Deputy Dean

As Deputy Dean, Annabel Kiernan has been collaborating with a wide range of student forums, committees and advocacy groups. Here, she explains some of the changes and improvements your voice has helped to deliver at School of Social Sciences.

“We’re a big, diverse School, and that means there’s lots of different student groups we need to reach. Luckily, we’ve got a very active feedback culture in Social Sciences – and we’ve made a conscious choice to embed that student voice in all of our decisions.

“There are so many ways to get yourself heard here. There’s the Student Executive Forum, which is run by our own students; our new Student Advocacy Group, who are focused on addressing any larger structural or cultural issues within the School; and the CERT Mentors, who as well as providing great peer-to-peer support act as liaisons between our students and teaching colleagues. Effectively, they’re consultants – working to help shape the School’s direction and future from a student perspective.

“The ideas and suggestions we’ve received are invaluable. Because of that feedback, we’re now looking at the integration and experience of our international students, and how it can be improved even further – we’ve just held a bespoke international postgraduate welcome event for the first time. We’re looking at achievement gaps, by making sure that everyone has equal access to our opportunities: we want to make sure that groups like mature students, students with care responsibilities and commuting students are included in the conversation. And we’ve got a whole range of School-wide projects, where students from different disciplines now have the chance to work collectively on individual themes. These are all things people have asked us for.

“Some of the changes have been big. Others are smaller and more specific. We’ve made significant changes to our Health and Social Care course, for example – we piloted a lecturing / teaching internship, and the original idea for that came from a student who wanted to progress in teaching, but wasn’t sure how to get the experience. The academic team set up shadowing internships within their own course, and now that opportunity has really taken off, benefitting lots more people.

“We’ve also made some really significant changes to our timetabling policy. The latest NSS results showed that our students wanted more flexible timetabling, to allow for changes in their own circumstances – whether that was their work/life balance, a health issue, living and travel commitments, or a change in their career path. We’ve managed to approve over 200 requests this year, which speaks volumes.”

“We’ve learned from our students that professionally, not everyone wants to do the thing that’s named in their degree. With subjects like psychology, for example, not all of our students are going to want to be psychologists. For some of them, the subject’s just a great base to work from. So part of our job is to expand the range of opportunities, and broaden the horizons of what’s possible – what kinds of things they might go on to do, by harnessing their own entrepreneurial spirit and transferrable skills. And in that sense, new initiatives like our Enterprise Offer – again, based on feedback – are going to be a really exciting step forwards.

“We’ve also really engaged with the Alumni Fellowship Scheme, which is something our students were very keen on. Every time we’ve had our alumni in a classroom or at an event, it’s been great – the way they engage is just different, and there’s constant demand for more speakers. We invited some of our graduates to Matriculation this year, and it worked really well. Our new students love hearing their life stories, and it makes the whole thing a bit more real – just to have someone in the room saying ‘I remember when I was you, and here’s what I did’. It helps to bring the whole journey to life. It’s inspirational, and aspirational too.”

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