The St Andrews Experience
Staff and students at the University of St Andrews are hosting a week-long series of events aimed at celebrating what makes the University special.
Consistently popular and nominated by students as the top mainstream university in the UK, the University community has pulled together to create a one-off special event which will both encapsulate and examine the `student experience’ at St Andrews.
Student Experience Week (6 – 12 October 2007) involves working with students to plan their St Andrews experience for the next decade. Several weeks in the planning, the event involves around 40 staff and thousands of students and graduates from all over the world.
Organisers have just held a Past Student Presidents’ Seminar and are, this week, holding forty-two focus groups, and canvassing the opinion of 7,000 current students and 12,000 alumni. It is the largest scale opinion-forming exercise ever undertaken by the University.
Chris Lusk, Director of Student Services and The Student Experience, said, “Most students at the University consistently rate the St Andrews experience very highly. According to the recent National Student Survey, our students are the most satisfied in the country when compared to other mainstream universities, while the Times Higher named us third in the UK for Best Student Experience. We consistently have among the lowest dropout rates in the country. This indicates that we have something special to offer here, but we are acutely aware that we can’t afford to be complacent. We have to use our strong position, and our close relationship with our students and alumni to harness that `something’ to plan for the future. Articulating what each student experiences is, however, a complex task because it is incredibly varied and personal to each student.
“The aim of Student Experience Week is to bring together people with ideas and experiences that matter, to quantify and distil the essence of the St Andrews experience, and develop it for the future. It is a challenging task, and as far as we are aware, no other university has tried to do it in this concentrated format before.”
The event is run by staff from the Student Experience Office, a unique initiative established in December last year to engage with and nurture students while at St Andrews.
Chris continued, “What we already know is that students feel part of the community here; that an offer from St Andrews is an offer for life. Life here has, at its core, a fundamental teaching system of an excellent standard, but it is the additional experiences that can give the added extra. Being a small university, students have a real chance to interact with the staff, integrate with each other and to feel a sense of belonging. They are active in politics, in volunteering locally and in playing a governance role in how their services are run.
“We celebrate our student diversity, with more international countries represented than any other Scottish institution. We know that this is a very special community and we do not take it for granted, but without focusing on just what it is that makes St Andrews successful, we risk being able to protect and develop it. We are determined to meet the needs of students in years to come,” she said.
The multi-faceted fact-finding mission has already involved the harvesting of opinions of all sections of the student body as well as prospective students.
The second strand to the week involves a series of events offering an opportunity for academic staff, townspeople and members of University Court to celebrate the experience of students outside of the classroom. Students from every corner of the University, from those who volunteer locally to those with sporting achievements will demonstrate their skills.
Representatives from the 110 student societies – the largest number in any university in Scotland – will showcase their talents and efforts in a special night to thank those around the University who help them throughout their experience, including secretaries, cleaners, janitors and tutors. The week will end on Friday (12 October), with students from 105 countries gathering in town in a celebration of the international flavour the University brings to Fife.
Chris continued, “It will be an exciting and fun week, but it has a serious core: we must find out what our students value about being here. We believe that if, as a student, you are happy in your living environment, if you feel integrated socially, if you have clear expectations which are met and feel supported throughout, then you will go on to expand your learning much further and ultimately fulfil your academic potential. You will live the student experience here and will take away with you a time in which you have gained life skills, lifelong friends, social contacts, and confidence, with a love of learning to carry with you throughout your life.”
Student Experience Week is held in venues throughout St Andrews all this week.
NOTE TO EDITORS:
Last month, The National Student Survey named St Andrews top mainstream university in the UK for satisfied students (second to The Open University).
The Times Higher Awards 2006 named the University of St Andrews third in the UK in the Best Student Experience Category. The University was praised for its campus environment and student societies.
Events include: Gathering of student volunteers (Wednesday 1pm, Kinburn Park)
Student Experience celebration (Thursday 7-9pm, Lower and Upper College Halls)
International student event (Friday 1.45pm, Madras lawn)
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Issued by the Press Office, University of St Andrews
Contact Gayle Cook, Press Officer on 01334 467227 / 462529, mobile 07900 050 103, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Ref: Student experience 081007
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