University experience

Delivering a high-quality University experience

Inside and outside the classroom, we are committed to delivering a high-quality experience for our students, from the moment they first interact with us until they graduate.

View of the Basecamp social space
The new Basecamp social space.

Supporting our students

Working closely with the Union of Students, we ensure that all of our students feel part of the University community from day one. Following the restrictions of the pandemic, we welcomed students back on site for teaching and social events and were once again able to celebrate their success at graduation.

iconFirst in-person graduation ceremonies for two years**Around 7,000 graduates
iconCatalyst Award Winners for second year running**Optimising Student Experience
iconNew Basecamp social space

A return to campus

We were delighted to be able to return to campus and once again offer our students an in-person, on-campus experience.

From September most of our teaching was face to face on campus with plenty of opportunities for students to take part in interactive teaching sessions. To avoid unnecessary risk to students and staff, large teaching sessions were initially still delivered online, and students were supported with a range of expertly designed digital resources.

There was a buzz on campus again as facilities opened, including our specialist classrooms, Sports Centre, libraries, social learning spaces and food outlets.

The year also saw a return to in-person events for students in our halls of residence. Our sector-leading Residence Life programme helped students meet each other and re-integrate into University life. Activities included day trips to London, IKEA and Liverpool, along with a visit to the seaside. Inter-halls football and netball competitions took place at Willow Sports Centre, while common rooms in halls of residence were the setting for open mic nights, creative arts sessions and cookery events, among others. Over the Christmas period, a Christmas dinner was provided in one of our halls, as well as a festive buffet on Christmas Day itself for those who spent the period in halls. Engagement was good over the year as people were keen to socialise again after Covid restrictions.


September 2021 saw a new look to our welcome events and Freshers’ activities. The Student Engagement and Enhancement Team commissioned the Union of Students to provide the first Welcome Fest since 2019. Previously held at Markeaton Street, WelcomeFest was relocated to Kedleston Road and we were delighted to welcome over 1,000 new students. This event introduced students to the University, while a two-day Freshers’ Fair - organised by the Union of Students - featured ‘Give it a Go’ sessions, with a range of clubs and societies, cultural events and club nights in the city, plus food and drink from Campus Kitchen, the Union’s mobile food trailer. Among the events was a Freshers’ Quiz featuring a performance by Cheryl Hole, a former contestant on Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK. An estimated 4,000 students attended the fairs, with a similar number taking part in social events.

Wellbeing support

We continued our commitment to supporting our students’ wellbeing throughout their time with us. Each student is assigned a Personal Academic Tutor who is there to support, stretch and challenge students; and the Student Wellbeing Service is on hand and on site to provide support and advice on wellbeing, health, disability, funding and much more. 



After a gap due to Covid-19, our graduation ceremonies returned to Derby Arena in November 2021. Our 2020 and 2021 cohorts graduated in 19 ceremonies that took place over eight days. Around 7,000 graduates received their awards, along with seven honorary graduates including sports presenter and broadcaster Arlo White, Dr Robyn Dewis, Director of Public Health for Derby City Council, and forensic scientist Jim Campbell OBE.

Commenting at the time, Vice-Chancellor Professor Kathryn Mitchell said: “Graduation is a time to celebrate the hard work, commitment and successes of our students and we congratulate everyone graduating, particularly given the challenges they faced while studying through the pandemic.”

Open Days

Following a successful hybrid Open Day Live event in July 2021, we were pleased to fully open our doors again to prospective students from September, at our exciting, new-look Open Day. 

The fresh new approach to the event included a stage in the Atrium for interactive welcome talks featuring students and staff; flexible drop-in subject sessions; and guided campus tours with our student ambassadors, as well as accommodation tours and information stands on funding, wellbeing and societies among others. The aim was to provide a more personal experience, in line with the Covid-19 restrictions that were in place at the time and adapted to the needs of the individual visitor. Through the year we welcomed more than 5,000 prospective undergraduate students and their families to explore our Derby Campus. 

More than 250 students also joined us for Campus Tours, while events also took place for postgraduate students and at our Chesterfield site for those interested in studying there.

A group of people sitting in front of a screen and viewed from behind
Three people on a stage talking
A group of students in pink hoodies

Upgrading our environment

Welcome to Basecamp

Recent Architectural Technology graduate Ryan Wheeler was recruited to the University Estates department as an assistant project manager. One of his first tasks was to support the transformation of the tired and underused Union of Students’ Academy bar into a vibrant, inviting social learning venue. Ryan used his personal experience of the University to push the boundaries of the original brief, and his work on this and other projects won him the Emerging Talent category at the AUDE Awards, which recognise the achievements of estates professionals across the sector.

Basecamp, the new space, has become the venue of choice for both staff and students. Sustainability was at the forefront of the transformation. The contractor Overbury Plc worked with the University and the Union of Students to find sustainable solutions for the fittings, including carpets manufactured using renewable electricity and recycled materials; laminates from FSC certified sources; recycled polyester for reupholstered seating; and fabrics made from recycled materials.

Martin Beaumont, Head of Operations, said: “We put Basecamp together with student feedback at the forefront of the project plan, and knowing how passionate the student community is about green initiatives, recycling and climate change, meant that we could open the doors with a clear conscience - having worked with a dedicated team of innovative professionals to deliver a stunning, sustainable space.”

Campus improvements

Across the campus, our Estates team has been working to upgrade various facilities to enhance students’ experience and provide as many opportunities as possible for them to apply their learning. Among the projects completed this year were:


Second win at Catalyst Awards

For the second year running, the University’s Digital Learning Team won a Catalyst Award for Optimising Student Experience.

The awards recognise institutions that use technology to improve students’ experience and improve efficiency. The University won the award for its Digital Learning Baselines and accompanying staff development, designed to ensure a high-quality learning experience through the Blended Applied Learning Model. This was the University’s approach to teaching, learning and academic support developed during the pandemic.

Using a data-driven approach, the Learning Technologists evaluated the quality of the student learning experience and recommended swift interventions to address issues and improve experience for students.

University wins two Student Nursing Times awards

The University of Derby won two awards at the Student Nursing Times Awards 2022.

Community Chesterfield, a partnership between the University and Derbyshire Voluntary Action, won the Best Student Experience award, which recognises universities and providers of nurse and midwife education that put an emphasis on the overall student experience.

Faith Vargas, Lecturer in Pre-qualifying Health Care, said: “The partnership with Derbyshire Voluntary Action has enabled us to widen our students’ knowledge and exposure to the voluntary sector, it has increased their learning potential and provided them with a unique insight into the role that the community has within the health sector.”

The second award, for Outstanding Contribution to Student Affairs, was won by BSc (Hons) Midwifery student Kayty Richards.