Earlier this year, we explored the four themes of a newly introduced Student Experience Framework: Engagement, Belonging, Wellbeing and Partnerships. At the core of this university-wide initiative is student success: a student achieving academic and personal goals through their university study. Its aim is to shift our focus to long-term programs of work with coordinated oversight that are rigorously evaluated to lead to consistent improvement of the student experience at UTS. 

Our aspiration is to be sector-leaders in student success. The Student Experience Framework (SEF) is how we’ll get there together. 

Kylie Readman

Throughout 2023, the SEF was socialised by Professor Kylie Readman (Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Education & Students) university-wide in order to seek and incorporate feedback.

As a result, the diagram representing the framework has evolved, repositioning Academic Engagement as directly supporting Student Success, sustained by the three foundational elements of Wellbeing, Belonging and Partnerships. The themes are also now more visibly interconnected, as the intersections are just as important as the substantive elements – improvement in one area can have a positive knock-on effect for other areas.

Academic Engagement: connects to learning, curriculum and careers; Belonging: connection to people course and uni; Partnerships: relationships of respect, collaboration and engagement; Wellbeing: overall life satisfaction, with Student Success in the centre.

SEF engagement from the Learning and Teaching community

Engagement with the SEF by academics has been evident in the Learning and Teaching Forum, the FFYE Grants and faculty-specific strategies.

Learning and Teaching Forum

Our annual, end-of-year forum provides a space to share learnings from our current practice and innovations, explore new ideas and discuss how we respond to new imperatives.

The ratio of featured SEF framework themes being addressed  in the many L&T forum presentations: Engagement (37), Belonging (22), Partnerships (20), Wellbeing (8).
The ratio of SEF framework themes being addressed in the many L&T forum presentations: Engagement (37), Belonging (22), Partnerships (20), Wellbeing (8).

Academic Engagement was understandably the most common theme, but the other themes come through strongly in key presentations, such as:

  • Wellbeing – Sonal Singh and Sarah Ellis show the way towards a financially inclusive higher education experience at UTS
  • Partnerships – Marc Carmichael’s hacky software allows students the opportunity to work on genuine, industry-linked projects
  • Belonging – Business academics support students’ success through personalised feedback in a large enrolment subject

FFYE Grants

The SEF themes were also connecting points for this year’s FFYE Grants – with Belonging being the theme at the forefront. Projects included:

  • building a communication hub for first-year International students by following a ‘students as partners’ approach
  • using co-design to understanding the causes of first-year student attrition
  • addressing the needs of second-year students who may miss out on transition opportunities and go ‘under the radar’
  • improving the transition of diverse students into transdisciplinary learning environments by identifying key issues via focus groups and co-design with students

Faculty snapshot: mapping to the SEF in Health

The Faculty of Health has been mapping all Learning and Teaching operations and activities to the UTS Student Experience Framework.

Through the lens of the framework we are considering what we do (or perhaps don’t!) to support student belonging, partnerships, wellbeing and engagement. The guiding principle underpinning this initiative is the desire for continuous improvement alongside a commitment to providing quality experiences for students throughout their learning journey. This has been a valuable exercise in collaborative self-reflection and has provided opportunities to think innovatively about how we ensure we place students at the centre of everything we do. It is our intention to showcase this work in 2024.

The Faculty of Health Teaching and Learning Leadership Team

Where to next?

Across the sector, the focus on supporting students, keeping them safe and ensuring that each student has every opportunity to succeed has come to the fore in 2023. The Student Experience Framework provides UTS with a shared language to help us understand the many activities we currently engage in to support a positive student experience and success.

Next year, the full operationalization of the framework will begin. A new SharePoint site is under development and will be shared in early 2024. This will be home to the latest information and inspiration on how to connect to and engage with the framework, so look out for the launch.

Evaluation of impact will be critical as we ask ourselves which of our activities have the biggest impact on student experience and success, so we will use the learnings from a range of evaluation frameworks (such as our own Social Impact Framework) to develop a shared methodology. Additionally, we need to think about how leadership of student experience can be shared and distributed so that the goals of the student experience are mirrored in the staff experience. 

Together, we can strengthen what we are already doing well. We have a framework to empower us to take things further and, most importantly, a shared goal of centering the student experience that will improve outcomes for everyone at UTS.

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