An AQR is a document (or perhaps even a video, depending on your preferred media method) which can be used to:
- Create a dialogue between the students’ union and the institution around the issues impacting upon the student experience, both positive and negative (a highly valuable tool when the QAA’s Higher Education Review: Wales comes around)
- Promote the academic representation system
- Communicate information to the wider student body about the issues that affect them
- Promote opportunities for students to work in partnership with their institution to enhance their educational journey
- Summarise the recurring issues impacting upon the student experience, to help equip next year’s officer team.
Why create an AQR?
Students’ Unions change and evolve on an annual basis, as every new academic year brings a new set of sabbatical officers and a new cohort of course representatives; a brand new mix of personalities, ideas and creativity. This can, however, be quite challenging on three counts:
- University processes can be complex to navigate and it can take time to identify which route to take when tackling a particular issue
- Data collection about the student experience tends to only happen once a year; towards the end of term
- Once issues have been identified, resolution can be a lengthy process – sometimes longer than an academic year, due to the nature of some university administration processes
This can lead to – and often has led to – the repetition of certain issues year on year due to a lack of continuity from one officer to the next, or difficulty in finding compelling evidence early in the year. It has also proved problematic at a time of formal review (the Higher Education Review: Wales) when students are expected to produce a Student Submission, which reviews the student experience over the last six years!
The information and guidance you can access here seeks to support you in gathering evidence annually to support your own campaign work and to provide valuable long term information for next year’s team so they can build upon it. They can either continue where you left off or compare situations to see where improvements have happened and where further action is required.
This should also provide you with a powerful tool to approach your institution on an arising issue by providing you with longitudinal data – a snapshot of what the student experience looks like year on year – allowing for the identification of particular trends.
Student engagement is undergoing a cultural shift in Wales, whereby we now strive to empower students to own their unique expertise and become partners with their institution, so that they are equally able to influence learning and teaching, as well as their overall educational experience. By compiling an AQR collectively, the student body will be empowered to work collaboratively with their university to mould and shape their university experience into a bespoke, powerful education of which to be truly proud.
So what does an AQR look like?
Your AQR doesn’t have to be a long document. It’s useful for your students’ union to produce one each year to create an overview of the student experience at your institution, based on both quantitative data such as the National Student Survey and internal survey results, as well as qualitative data, such as feedback from course representatives and from students. You should use all these feedback to come up with a general outline of the student experience in your institution. The document should both review areas of best practice and opportunities for improvement.
It should be:
A flexible document
You can adapt it to suit your needs. Depending on the resources available to you, you can decide to focus on a different topic every year and to rotate year on year to cover the whole student experience. It needs to be an open document to which you can add as the year progresses, rather than a static one which you write, shelve and forget about after a few weeks.
A communication tool:
This represents a fantastic opportunity to communicate how you, and your students, feel the institution is performing in key areas or on a particular issue. Generally speaking it’s a good starting point to open a dialogue with your institution, and something the decision-makers can relate to when it comes to taking actions. That aside, producing such a document will give your arguments added strength when it comes to asking the institution for change in a particular area.
A review mechanism and a source of feedback:
At the end of the academic year the AQR would include a short table reviewing:
- Which issues were identified?
- Who did you go to with this information?
- What actions have been taken?
- What was the outcome and was it satisfactory?
- What further action might be required (if any)?
- Were students told about the outcome?