Before you produce your submission, we recommend that you gather some information. We suggest that you:
1. Read your university or college's 2019-20 access and participation plan
You should read your university or college’s 2019-20 access and participation plan. Most 2019-20 access and participation plans follow the same structure, with six main areas listed below:
- assessment of current performance
- ambition and strategy
- access, success and progression measures
- provision of information.
We suggest that you focus on the following areas and consider the extent to which your university or college has made progress against them:
- ambition and strategy
- access, success and progression measures.
The targets section outlines the milestones that your university or college aimed to achieve in the year 2019-20. A copy of the targets is also available at the back of the plan. Targets should be focused on areas where your university or college has identified an equality gap in relation to access, success or progression. For example:
- Where a university or college has identified that more disabled students are dropping out than students with no known disability, you may see a target aiming to close the gap in continuation between disabled students and students with no known disability
- Where a university or college has identified that fewer black students are progressing into highly skilled employment or further study than white students, you may see a target aiming to close the gap in employment outcomes between black and white students.
The access, success and progression measures section of the plan outlines your university or college’s planned activities for 2019-20 to support it in achieving its targets.
- To use the first example above, where a university or a college is aiming to close the gap in dropout rates (continuation) between disabled students and students with no known disability, it might deliver activities such as specialist welfare and disability support, lecture capture to enable students to catch up on lectures if they are not able to attend in person, or an early arrival induction week to better support disabled students.
- To use the second example above, where a university or college is aiming to improve the employment outcomes of black students, it might offer activities aiming to connect students with role models in the alumni community, or deliver targeted careers events, interview workshops and CV clinics.
Your university or college may have made commitments to work with its students on the development and delivery of its plan. Information about student consultation and involvement can usually be found in the ambition and strategy section of the plan, and may include activities such as committing to creating a student advisory panel, involving students in curriculum design, or forming focus groups for each of the underrepresented groups.
2. Canvas opinions from a diverse range of students
In gathering information, you should aim to draw on the experiences of a diverse range of students. Ideally you should ask underrepresented groups and all year groups to participate.
Although the student representative submits the report, it should represent the experiences of the student community at their university or college.
To canvas the opinions of different students, you could approach your students’ union if you have one. They may be able to help by contacting other students who want to take part.
If you do not have a students’ union and you are struggling to get in touch with other students, you could ask the person responsible for your university or college’s access and participation plan to put you in touch with other students. If you’re not sure who this person is, you can email [email protected] and we can ask the person responsible to get in touch with you.
It may be useful to hold a focus group where several students can talk about the access and participation plan and give feedback. You may also put together a short survey and send this out to other students.
All the activities below can be delivered face-to-face. However, there may be circumstances which mean it is safer or more inclusive to conduct these virtually through video conferencing software such as ‘Zoom’ or ‘Microsoft Teams’. Please consider which would be best for all students who want to take part.
Hints and tips for canvassing student opinions
Gather a group of students to talk about your university or college’s progress. This will allow you to bounce ideas off one another and gain detailed feedback. You will be able to confirm or challenge each other’s perceptions and think about what you want to write about in your submission. You could ask your students’ union to help you arrange focus groups with a mix of students. Remember:
- You will need someone to lead and structure the session (this might be you), to make sure everyone’s voice is heard.
- If you want to include a diverse range of students, you will need to think about how you advertise these sessions. For example, can you contact student societies and networks and ask them to help you get the word out?
- You should have a clear idea of your goals for the session, and you will need to explain these at the beginning for those who attend.
- It would be helpful to share an agenda in advance so those taking part will have a chance to prepare. You might want to look at the questions you will be asked to answer in the student submission to help you decide on your agenda.
- You could also encourage those who plan to attend to read your university or college’s 2019-20 access and participation plan, if they have the time.
- You may want to set some ‘ground rules,’ for example that those taking part shouldn’t speak over each other and that everyone’s contributions are equally important.
- Those taking part will feel more comfortable if they can introduce themselves at the start of the session.
Although surveys will allow you to reach more students, you may get less detailed feedback. But surveys do allow for anonymous feedback, which may encourage more students to get involved and to be honest with their responses. You could send out a survey as well as holding some focus groups. Remember:
- Have a goal in mind – what do you want to find out using the survey? We encourage you to ask questions based on what your university or college has said in its 2019-20 access and participation plan.
- Consider looking at the questions you’ll be asked to answer as part of the submission to help you decide what to put in the survey (particularly sections 3 and 4).
- As well as asking specific questions, you may gain more insight into student experiences if you also include a box asking for additional thoughts.
- Try to avoid jargon – the students you send the survey to will probably not have read this guidance or your university or college’s access and participation plan.
- You will need time to read and consider the responses after the survey has been completed.
You could share your university or college’s access and participation plan with other students and run drop-in sessions to talk about this.
These drop-in sessions could be held virtually, or you could book a room on campus and hold them face-to-face depending on the coronavirus restrictions in place at the time.
As with surveys and focus groups, it is important to have a clear goal for these sessions, and clearly advertise what they are for.
This could be a good way of getting a wide range of students involved in this project. You could ask lecturers to briefly explain what an access and participation plan is, why it needs monitoring, and how students can get in touch with you if they want to be involved.
As with lecture ‘shoutouts’, using social media ‘shoutouts’ could be a good way to get the word out about this project. It is likely that there will be many social media pages connected to your university or college and students’ union. You could get in touch with the person responsible for social media to ask if they would be willing to advertise the opportunity for students to get involved.
You may wish to have more informal conversations with other students as this may lead to more honest feedback.