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The University of Southampton
Health Sciences

Compassionate Student Support

An update from Anne Baileff, Associate Dean Education and Student Experience

After a challenging start to the academic year I have chosen to use this opportunity to provide not so much an update but a very brief personal reflection on an aspect of education practice that I have increasingly come to see as something we as a Faculty excel in; something that I think should be celebrated. This is compassionate student support.

It is widely recognised that our undergraduate students come from diverse backgrounds and that we do more than any other Faculty to widen participation in higher education. Over 50% of students enter our programmes with alternatives to ‘A’ levels, and over 40% of our UG students are classified as mature. This presents challenges for them and us.

Mature students have additional responsibilities and conflicting priorities that are rarely experienced by younger students. Entering higher education via a non-traditional route can be accompanied by a lack of confidence and some difficulty in transitioning to University life. Our PGT students face not dissimilar challenges, almost all are studying part time, having to juggle challenging careers in the NHS and busy home lives, and the challenges faced by our international students are multiple. As a result, and more so than other Faculties, our students often require a level of support that requires us to go the extra mile. I believe that it is compassion for our students that drives us to go that extra mile.

I have seen that compassion manifested in many ways across both academic units. I have spoken with our Senior Academic Tutors and heard about the time that is being invested not only by them but also by Programme Leads, Module Leads and Personal Tutors in supporting students experiencing academic and personal difficulty. I have also seen the time that is being invested in hearing the significant number of appeals that we have to contend with and the very great care that is taken to hear these fairly and supportively. I know of the significant extra curricula work being undertaken to welcome, and support our international students in their studies and how much the students value this. I have also heard from academic staff concerned about the financial burden some students face when in practice and know that they have left no stone unturned to find out what is available to help them.

There is of course a burden associated with this degree of support and that is academic time and in some cases emotional fatigue. There is also little doubt that without it far fewer students who deserve to graduate would do so.

I am also starting to understand aspects of our practice that might benefit from a greater degree of compassion and Professor Carol Evans’ work on compassionate assessment and feedback is interesting and worthy of consideration. Carol will be providing some workshops for Programme and Module leads in the next few months when I have no doubt she will discuss this.

However, as we approach the Festive season I do not want to focus on what more we could do but to celebrate what we are already doing well, and there is no doubt that the academic and pastoral support the Faculty provides for our students is outstanding. I would therefore, both in my capacity as Associate Dean for Education and Student Experience, and on behalf of all of our students, like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who provide compassionate academic and pastoral support to our students. It is valued enormously and many students would not succeed without it.

Thank you.

Anne Baileff
Anne Baileff
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