Over the last few months I have been working with colleagues to develop a template for a harmonised Student Handbook. Early last year, I undertook a full review of the range of handbooks currently produced across the University. There is currently an inconsistent approach to handbooks across the University, with approaches varying between (and sometimes within!) academic schools.
I have also been exploring how other Universities have approached this area and achieved a more standard approach to handbooks. In particular, I have been working with colleagues from the T-SPARC project which is funded under the same programme, who have also been undertaking work in this area. Birmingham City University have been running pilots in which they have published University level information on the web and issued School and Programme level information to students in a ‘Course Guide’. You can find out more on the T-SPARC Project Blog here: http://blogs.test.bcu.ac.uk/tsparc/2011/04/15/student-handbook-course-guide-update/
In line with the new Education Strategy for the University, we planned to take this work forward in partnership with students. We began by working with the Academic and University Affairs Officer, Cardiff Students’ Union and held Focus Groups to explore what information students want to receive, when and in what format. The students that we spoke to gave a strong steer. They wanted:
- To receive information about the University and their School in a handbook, provided to them early on in their studies;
- To receive information specific to their programme of study in a separate programme
- To receive the information in hard copy and to be available electronically;
- For the University/School Handbook to be structured around the Student Lifecycle;
Following the focus groups, we have developed a suggested template, based around the Student Lifecycle. The template has been developed based on the concept that it will contain generic information about the University, which will be provided by the Directorates and updated annually, supplemented with further information that is specific to each School, which will be the responsibility of individual Schools to provide and maintain.
This work has become more important, as we work in partnership with students to develop the Student
Charter, which will outline clearly and transparently the roles and responsibilities of the students and the University. The Student Charter will be developed during Session 2011-12 for publication in July 2012. The development of a consistent approach to information for students will be essential to support the delivery of the Student Charter and will be developed during August 2011.
The concept and approach to handbooks and the standard template was considered by ASQC in June, who indicated that this was a welcome development and resolved to endorse in principle the standard template for a Student Handbook that was presented. They asked that Registry Officers prepare fully worked examples of the pilot Handbooks and circulate to Members for further comment.