AN innovative scheme that ensures new students get off to a flying start and make the most of their courses has earned a prestigious national award for the University of Huddersfield.
At the 2018 Guardian University Awards, it was named as winner of the Course and Curriculum Design category, after judges were impressed by a project that is named Flying Start, launched at the beginning of the current academic year.
Described as “an intense, aspiration-building, academically-challenging introduction to undergraduate study”, it consists of a two-week timetable of special sessions designed to stimulate academic interest, develop good study habits and provide opportunities for students to work and engage socially.
Flying Start students take part in quizzes and debates, subject-based film clubs, lab skills workshops, campus orienteering and special trips. They also get the chance to meet successful alumni and begin thinking about their career goals.
So far, 900 students have experienced Flying Start and it has it led to a significant improvement in their sense of belonging, engagement and confidence. Now, it is set to expand and the numbers taking will be doubled when the new academic year begins.
The scheme was conceived by the University of Huddersfield’s Pro Vice-Chancellor for Teaching and Learning, Professor Christine Jarvis, and she was one of the party that accepted the Guardian award, at a ceremony held at LSO St Luke’s in London.
Professor Jarvis was joined on the podium by two other key figures in the development and introduction of Flying Start, University of Huddersfield lecturers Jane Wormald and Katy Suggitt. But she is quick to praise the contribution made by the large numbers of academic tutors and support staff who have helped launch the scheme.
“It was so impressive how all those people got together and did this work in a very intense period over the summer,” said Professor Jarvis.
“It was quite a feat and this was recognised by the judges, who commented how impressed they were by the scale of what we have done.”
Flying Start was developed as part of a wider project that has received funding from the Office for Students (OfS). The University of Huddersfield has assembled a consortium of four institutions that has been investigating ways to overcome barriers that can prevent some students making a success of their courses.
For example, students who live at home while studying often apply to university as part of tight-knit friendship groups and this can prevent them from building new connections during their studies.
After Flying Start had been devised, a group of Huddersfield courses was chosen in order to pilot the scheme. Now, it is to be more widely rolled out, with Business School and the School of Applied Sciences implementing Flying Start across all of their first year cohorts in September 2018. In time, it is likely that the scheme will spread throughout the University, said Professor Jarvis.
“There are twice as many people want to do it this year as last year. Word has spread through the staff that it is well worth doing, even though it is a lot of work.”
The implementation and success of Flying Start has been charted by University of Huddersfield Dr Cheryl Reynolds, who is project manager for the OfS-funded consortium.
She has told how evaluations have revealed that Flying Start students, particularly males, scored significantly higher for relationship formation, confidence and a sense of belonging.
“A focus group of tutors revealed that they, too, perceived FS as developing a greater sense of belonging, enthusiasm for the subject and independent learning,” states Dr Reynolds.