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Education

Gold and silver for Aber Uni

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ABERYSTWYTH U​NIVERSITY has won the Postgraduate category in the What Uni Student Choice Awards 2018.

For the second year running, Aberystwyth also picked up a silver award in the International category at the What Uni awards ceremony held in London on Thursday 19 April 2018.

As well as the Postgraduate and International categories, Aberystwyth University had been shortlisted for a further five awards including University of the Year, Accommodation, Clubs and Societies, Course and Lecturers, and Giving Back.

Aberystwyth University also featured in the top 10 in the UK in all the categories for which it was shortlisted, including 5th overall for University of the Year.

More than 36,000 student reviews were collected and more than a hundred universities were visited in order to compile the shortlist.

For the 2018 awards, 43 higher education institutions were nominated across fifteen categories, recognised by their students for offering an incredible university experience.

The What Uni awards are based on averages taken from tens of thousands of reviews submitted by students and published on What Uni.com.

The annual survey also showed that Wales hosts the happiest students across the United Kingdom.

Now in their fifth year, the awards provide prospective students with an unbiased, student-led alternative to traditional university ranking systems.

Professor John Grattan, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Student Experience at Aberystwyth University said: “We are absolutely delighted to have won the top place in the Postgraduate category, the Silver award for International and to have been shortlisted in a further five categories. We know that Aberystwyth offers an exceptional student experience and what’s significant about the What Uni awards is that they are based on real feedback from students. These latest awards reinforce our outstanding results in the 2017 National Student Survey, which placed Aberystwyth students amongst the most satisfied in the UK for overall satisfaction. The quality of the education and wider student experience offered at Aberystwyth is also borne out by our accolade as the UK’s University of the Year for Teaching Quality in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2018.”

Professor Elizabeth Treasure, Vice-Chancellor of Aberystwyth said: “This is wonderful news and richly deserved by everyone here at Aberystwyth University. We take great pride in the wonderful student experience we offer at Aberystwyth, and for this to be recognised by our students speaks volumes for the dedication of colleagues right across the institution who contribute so much to making Aberystwyth such a wonderful place to live and learn.”

Speaking ahead of the awards, Eleni Cashell, Editor of What Uni, said: “Being nominated for an award is a huge achievement, because the only judges at the WUSCAs are the students themselves. It showcases to both prospective students and the higher education sector that your institution offers value for money, provides a good student experience and has a highly satisfied and supported student community.”

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Education

UWTSD undergoes digital transformation

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THE MOVE to home working and online delivery means innovative thinking has been a key driver for a digital transformation at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD).

The University has recently set out a new direction of travel and embraced the opportunity to review its current academic offer and design a suite of modules across its portfolio which aim to develop students’ skills and competencies, as part of a Graduate Attributes Framework.

In the future, the University’s courses will be prepared in such a way that the delivery experience will accommodate traditional campus-based learning and online delivery for a blended learning approach.
“At every level of a university degree, some modules will only be offered through online learning and the content of our degrees will reflect the reality of the employment challenges our students will face, particularly post Covid”, says James Cale, Director of Digital Services at the University who is also leading the University’s Estates and Infrastructure Task Group, as part of its Post-Covid Transition Group.

“Whilst the safety and well-being of all our students and staff is our highest priority, we are of course also fully committed to providing our students with the highest quality study and social experience that we can.

“We have made a commitment to all our students that, through our blended learning provision, they will be able to receive face-to-face teaching on campus whenever it is safe and possible, and both asynchronous (learning the same content at different times) and synchronous (learning at same time) online teaching delivered to those students off campus, will continue to be available where possible.”
The University knows that access to academic staff is important to UWTSD’s students and that personal attention from staff is among the many reasons why the University has been voted 1st in the UK for the second year in succession for its Courses and Lecturers in the What Uni Student Choice Awards and is 1st in Wales for its learning community in the 2020 National Student Survey.

“That personal attention can also be provided through both on-campus and online via solutions such as Microsoft Teams” says James. “We will provide regular contact time opportunities both with tutors and fellow students”.

“We know that some students have concerns about online delivery of learning”, James continues. “But providing online alternatives to lectures does not mean that students will miss out on the in-person university experience and research shows that blended learning can offer more flexibility and better learner outcomes”.

Larger group teaching will be delivered digitally if necessary and where online delivery is not possible, the University will make sure these are accessible to all either by recording or streaming them.
Online teaching sessions will give students the chance to follow up and post questions online in discussion spaces and where academic staff will post answers and further explanations. This is a long-term approach that will enable the University to provide increased accessibility, flexibility, and equity.
The University has also been actively working on appropriate solutions as some students have limited access to devices when off-campus and some are in areas with limited or no broadband provision.

Working through its Student Services team, the University has invested in its bursary funding to provide support for those that need it in the form of Microsoft Surface Go devices, financial support for connectivity and access to resources for Welsh Government grant funding for areas with poor broadband connectivity.

Professor Dylan Jones, Deputy Vice-Chancellor concluded: “The strength of UWTSD is the diversity of our students and we aim to provide the very best educational environment for each individual to reach their potential. Our recent campus developments have emphasised small group and practice–based teaching, integrating physical and virtual study spaces for maximum impact. The pandemic has accelerated this approach, but the direction of travel was already determined as we seek to prepare our graduates for a constantly changing workplace in which the utilisation of technology plays a central role.”

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Education

Virtual graduation for Class of 2020

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UWTSD is looking forward to hosting a series of online events to celebrate the academic success of the ‘Class of 2020’.
With formal degree ceremonies due to be held at a later date, UWTSD organised a series of digital celebrations that will take place on Tuesday, July 21, Wednesday, July 22, and Thursday, July 2.
Providing students with an opportinuty to celebrate their academic and personal achievements, the digital events included video messages from the Vice Chancellor, the Provosts, Universty Fellows as well as staff and fellow students.
“The Class of 2020 digital celebrations allowed us to come together – as family, friends and members of the University community – to mark our students’ academic achievements,” says Professor Medwin Hughes DL, UWTSD Vice Chancellor.
“These have been very difficult times for us all and yet students have succeeded, and these digital events help us to celebrate that academic achievement. Indeed, I would like to thank our students for the way in which they’ve responded to this pandemic and the way in which they’ve worked with the University. These celebrations were an opportunity for us to wish our students well for the future and to celebrate their hard work and success.”
Gwilym Dyfri Jones, Provost of the University’s Carmarthen and Lampeter campuses, said: “These virtual celebrations were an opportunity for the University to congratulate its Class of 2020 and to show that it is thinking of each and every one of the graduates at these unprecedented time,.
“It is also an opportunity for us to share our gratitude with the students for their valued contributions to the life of the university and its various campuses during these last few years,” he adds.
“We are proud of our graduates’ achievements and relished celebrating their successes with them in a virtual environment next week.”
Professor Ian Walsh, Provost of UWTSD’s Swansea and Cardiff campuses is immensely proud of the graduates’ achievements.
“During this difficult final term, the students of UWTSD have demonstrated the true meaning of the phrase ‘the best of us’,” says Professor Walsh. “It is fitting that the University takes a moment to celebrate the striking success of the class of 2020.
“Their hard won achievements demonstrate that this generation of UWTSD graduates possess all the necessary resourcefulness, resilience and determination to overcome the most challenging circumstances. In the process they have made their families, friends and lecturers extremely proud.”
James Mills, Group President of the Students’ Union at UWTSD also acknowledges the unprecedented challenges faced by the Class of 2020 and echoes the pride felt by all at UWTSD: “On behalf of everyone here at your Students’ Union we are incredibly proud of the hard work and success of our students over the past few months under incredibly difficult and challenging circumstances and adapted well to online learning.
“We also look forward to welcoming our students back in the next year for their graduation ceremonies on their respective campuses,” he adds.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, UWTSD – like all other Universities – had to respond swiftly to the lockdown restrictions with teaching moving on-line and celebrations such as graduation, being postponed.
However, UWTSD has already announced that its campuses will be open and ready to start teaching at the beginning of the new academic year, subject to government guidelines. The University is planning a blended delivery pattern for its programmes in Wales which means a combination of online delivery and on-campus teaching, when it is appropriate to do so.
The University is working to a detailed plan which anticipates various scenarios around the coronavirus context and government directives, much in keeping with the Welsh Government’s traffic light system.
It aims to ensure the safe return of students and staff to the campuses whilst also enabling as much face-to-face teaching as possible in order to ensure that students can enjoy an academic and social programme.

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Education

BAME advisor appointed to education post

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PROFESSOR Charlotte Williams OBE has been appointed by the Welsh Government to lead a new working group to advise on and improve the teaching of themes relating to Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities and experiences across all parts of the school curriculum.
Professor Williams accepted an invitation from the Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, to chair the new ‘Communities, contributions and cynefin: BAME experiences and the new curriculum’ working group.
In 2007, Professor Williams was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List for services to ethnic minorities and equal opportunities in Wales.
Professor Williams said: “I’m delighted and honoured to be leading the working group in advancing this step-change towards integrating Black and minority ethnic history, identity and culture into the everyday learning of every child in Wales. The goal is that the new curriculum will become a shining example of resourcing and enabling broad engagement in learning and teaching with BAME contributions past and present.
“The challenge is to ensure that Black and minority ethnic peoples have a presence across the new Welsh curriculum so that within all of the Areas of Learning and Experience we can hear the sound of their voices, know of their experience, history and contributions, past and present.
“This requires appropriate resourcing because we want all teachers in Wales to be able to rethink their materials and feel confident in the ways of delivering them to reflect this presence. It’s a very exciting prospect. In this way, our curriculum in Wales will ultimately be reflective of our common experience of a vibrant, inclusive, multicultural society.
“We have a rich history in Wales, built on difference and diversity.
“This isn’t about adding an element of Black and minority ethnic history here and there in the new curriculum, but about reimagining learning and teaching across all the elements of the curriculum so that it reflects a Wales that is, and always has been, ethnically diverse, internationalist in its outlook and progressive in its aspirations.”
The First Minister, Mark Drakeford, said: “Our diversity is one of our strengths as a nation and our many histories have combined to shape Wales today.
“I’m delighted Professor Williams will be leading this important piece of work and I look forward to seeing the group’s recommendations.
“The working group will complete a review of learning resources currently available to support the teaching of themes relating to BAME communities and ‘cynefin’ across all parts of the curriculum. The group will also review associated professional learning opportunities and resources. The group will be closely aligned to the review of Welsh history by Estyn, the education inspectorate.
“The Welsh word ‘cynefin’ loosely translates as ‘habitat’ or ‘place’, but also conveys a sense that all human interactions are strongly influenced and determined by both personal and collective experiences, such as through stories or music.”
The group will present their initial findings in the autumn, and a full report in the spring.
Education Minister Kirsty Williams said: “I’m very pleased Professor Williams has agreed to chair the working group.
“I look forward to receiving the group’s recommendations on learning resources to support the teaching of themes relating to BAME communities.
“Wales is made up of a multitude of stories. We must understand and analyse our own cynefin, and make those connections across our communities, nation and the world. It isn’t just about history as a subject, it’s language, literature, geography, and so much more.”
The group will oversee the development of new learning resources in advance of the phased introduction of the new Curriculum for Wales in 2022.

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