Providing a high-quality University experience for our students
At Derby we have a long-standing reputation for teaching excellence, and alongside this we work hard to ensure we provide our students with outstanding support, a high-quality learning experience and industry-standard campus facilities.
How are we ensuring students receive a positive experience?
We work closely with the Union of Students and staff from across the institution to monitor the experience our students receive and have put a number of measures in place throughout the pandemic to ensure that they have been able to have a positive experience while studying and learning through a pandemic.
Blended Applied Learning Model
The onset of the pandemic and diverse nature of our student body required us to redesign how students access teaching, learning and academic support.
Co-created with the Union of Students, an innovative but practical and interactive 'Blended Applied Learning Model’ was designed, bringing together a high-quality learning experience underpinned with a robust and fail-safe support structure.
The component of student support was fundamental to the model, aligned to blended and applied on-campus learning.
Approaches for accessible and robust student services were implemented and redesigned with four cornerstones:
- Creation of a Peer Assisted Learning scheme – offering peer-to-peer support to first year and foundation year students, aiding transition to university and academic study, through pastoral support and curriculum exploration.
- Digitisation of our Personal Academic Tutoring scheme – providing access to academic guidance and study support.
- Introduction of rapid-response Personal College Advisers – providing a co-ordinated service for student guidance at a time when students were feeling most vulnerable, facilitating our shift to remote learning.
- Design and launch of a Virtual Induction programme – an interactive tool for new and returning students to support orientation, preparation for learning, teaching styles, making the most of your student experience, Covid adjustment and being an inclusive community.
These cornerstones cemented our commitment to, and engagement with, our student community during a period of uncertainty, co-designed with students, for students.
Despite the pandemic, the Estates team has been busy developing our university sites and campuses, in order to continually improve facilities and services available to our students.
Some of these works include:
- creating “Heat & Eat” stations across our sites so that students can bring their own food to site and warm it up – a direct response to student feedback
- installing new furniture around sites to allow independent study in quieter areas, as well as new furniture and facilities in the Kedleston Road Library
- working with the Union of Students to develop the “Basecamp”, which will replace the Academy Bar at the Kedleston Road site and be operational in February 2022
- replacing the North Tower lifts at the Kedleston Road site, so that they now serve all floors, improving access for staff and students alike
- creating additional cycle storage and a cycle hub within Kirtley building (Kedleston Road) to support students with active travel.
In addition to this, the Estates team has been working to build the University’s new research and innovation facility, Omics Research in Metabolism (FORM), which, when complete, will provide state-of-the-art facilities for research within the College of Science and Engineering.
At the University’s One Friar Gate Square site, a new police custody training facility opened to students.
Developed by Morrison Design Ltd, the redevelopment created a unique training facility for students on the University’s accelerated two-year, three-year and apprenticeship Policing degrees to experience the processes involved when booking offenders into custody.
Value for money for students
Over the course of 2020/21, the University’s Value for Money Advisory Group continued to monitor how students perceive their student experience through a value for money lens.
The group is co-chaired by representatives of the Union of Students and comprises student Officers and a cross-section of University staff from academic and professional service departments.
In 2020/21 the group led an exercise to understand how the breakdown of the undergraduate fee has changed since the data was first reported in 2019. This exercise was initiated from student feedback gathered through the Covid-19 pandemic, which says students request further detail as to how tuition fee funding was being used to deliver the blended model of teaching. This updated information is now available for students to access via the University website.
In addition, the group published the first tuition fee breakdown that shows how international and postgraduate student fees are spent, once again responding to feedback that requested greater transparency for non-undergraduate students.
The group has continued to receive regular student feedback on matters affecting value for money perceptions among students, which was vital during the Covid-19 pandemic and the disruption to normal teaching activity.
Student Officers utilised this opportunity to provide feedback on teaching contact hours, accommodation fees and access to digital learning resources. One area that was identified was digital poverty and how to best support students whose studies were affected by a lack of access to IT equipment and wifi. To address this, the University issued 770 laptops to students, limiting any detrimental impact on their learning.
Financial Hardship funding made available to students through Covid-19 has also been a focus of the group’s work, ensuring that the additional funding given by the Department of Education was directed to the students in most financial need. Student feedback was taken on the importance of ensuring student carers, part time students and international students were all eligible for the funding, which was managed by the University’s registry team. In total, just over £1.1m was distributed to students by the end of March 2021.
Throughout the year, the group received regular updates from the Careers and Employability service on its work to support high graduate outcomes. The team focused on offering a supportive process detailing what work can be undertaken by students to improve their career paths and employment opportunities while studying at the University. A dedicated finalist campaign was also created to offer final-year students more information on the University’s three-year career promise that gives students support in terms of advice, CV tailoring and transferable skills.
Professor Keith McLay appointed Provost – Learning and Teaching
To drive forward the University’s ambitions to provide excellence and opportunities for all students, the University appointed Professor Keith McLay to the position of Provost – Learning and Teaching.
Professor McLay joined the University in January 2018 as Pro Vice-Chancellor Dean of the College of Arts, Humanities and Education from Canterbury Christ Church University, where he was Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Humanities.
His role now involves leading the overall development and delivery of a dynamic and ambitious Learning and Teaching strategy across the whole university. He will also build on Derby’s long-standing reputation for teaching excellence, ensuring the development of sector-leading ﬂexible, integrated learning that aligns to the needs of learners, not just now but in the future.
University wins two Blackboard Catalyst Awards
The University was awarded two 2021 Blackboard Catalyst Awards for Optimising Student Experience and for Training & Professional Development.
The awards recognise and honour innovation and excellence in the Blackboard global community of practice, where millions of educators and learners work every day to redefine what is possible when leveraging technology.
The University won the Optimising Student Experience for the creation of a central, online Virtual Induction, hosted in Blackboard, to welcome both new and returning students. It was developed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic during the summer of 2020 and scaffolds induction from results day throughout the first semester.
The Training & Professional Development award recognises those who use Blackboard programmes to support and enhance professional development within or outside of their organisation. The University’s award entry showcased this through the delivery of an academic staff development programme during summer 2020, to support colleagues to deliver a high-quality blended learning student experience.
Open Day Live
When Covid-19 forced widespread campus shutdowns, universities were forced to innovate.
Traditional on-campus open days were not feasible. So, in order to give prospective students a real insight into what the University of Derby has to offer and what life as a student is like, we hosted a virtual open day with a difference.
In September 2020, the University launched ‘University of Derby presents…Open Day Live’, hosted by one of TV’s most recognisable rising young stars, Radzi Chinyanganya.
Presented in a magazine style format, the virtual event was packed programme featuring roving reporters, live links to interviews with students and staff about studying at Derby, Q&As, and films of Radzi and students exploring the campus and facilities.
The focus was on promoting the whole university experience. This is something that prospective students were missing due to not being able to visit universities in person.
In July 2021, the University opened its doors and welcomed prospective students to Derby for Open Day Live, its first on-campus open day event in over a year.
Following the success of the University’s virtual open day in September 2020, the event was also live streamed, so anyone who was unable to make it to campus on the day could still enjoy the full open day experience online.
As a result of the sector-leading Open Day Live events and the innovative work it involved, the University was shortlisted in the 2021 Times Higher Education Awards in the Outstanding Marketing and Communications team category.