12 Jan 2024

New year round-up and team news!

Happy new year from the sparqs team! We hope 2024 has started well for everyone and look forward to working with you all again during the coming year!

2023 was a busy year for us, following our usual hectic summer training period, we marked the 20th anniversary of sparqs with a celebratory event on Thursday 5th October. Preceded by a planning meeting for the year ahead with JAG, SESN and NEON in the afternoon, the evening event reflected on and celebrated the progress Scotland has made over the last 20 years in student engagement, bringing together over 100 guests who have helped shape, and continue to shape, student engagement and sparqs' work over the years.

A highlight of the evening was the 2023 Student Engagement Awards ceremony. The awards acknowledged the last 20 years and challenges of the pandemic, and reflected on developments in student engagement and partnership, not only in the past two years, but also across the two decades of sparqs’ existence, since our creation in 2003.

At the end of the event we were delighted to launch our new Student Learning Experience model, developed as part of the single tertiary approach to quality for colleges and universities. The new model seeks to put the experiences of students at the centre of the sector’s approach to quality. The model was commissioned by the SFC, following publication of their Review of Coherent Provision and Sustainability report. It was developed by students in partnership with staff across the sector, in order to be focused on what matters most to our students. The model is designed to sit at the heart of conversations with students, enabling students and staff to work together to identify priorities to enhance the quality of learning. It plays a key role in Scotland’s quality arrangements and will continue to evolve alongside the tertiary approach to quality.

More detail on the above, as well as other recent news, can be found in our batch of news articles from mid-November….

Team news

Looking forward, we begin the year with some exciting team news…. we are pleased to announce that Megan Brown has recently been promoted to the role of Senior Development Consultant. Appointed in her new role in mid-December 2023, Megan will help steer us through the current interim period, as we work with the sector to develop our next strategic plan. We are also pleased to welcome back a former sparqs’ Development Consultant, Megan McHaney, on a temporary consultancy basis, to progress some specific pieces of work and provide additional capacity, while the team is at reduced staffing levels. We know you will all join us in congratulating Megan Brown on her new role, and welcoming back Megan McHaney!

Following our recent staff changes, see the updated contact list if you need to check your sparqs' contact.

The year ahead...

While the team is at reduced capacity, we are working to an interim workplan, maintaining our 'business as usual' activity such as CRT, monitoring rep diversity and officer training, while looking at creative ways to enable us to provide institutional support where required. A key piece of work for the coming year will include working with the sector to embed the SLE model within forthcoming quality arrangements and to create supporting guidance for students’ associations and institutions to use the model across a range of activities. We are also developing a Student Partnership model which will be designed to provide a shared understanding of what partnership in the quality arrangements is and the values and principles around partnership. Already using the new SLE model in practice, at our summer training we asked officers to organise their priorities under the 9 building blocks of the model, allowing us to gather a national picture, enabling us to look at how we can pick up these issues at a national level.

As always, both NEON and SESN remain key opportunities for updating staff and officers on such national sector developments and allowing them to contribute appropriately. Our first two network events of the new year for both networks are now open for bookings....

Student Engagement Staff Network (SESN)

  • Tuesday 13th February 2024 – online, 10.00am-1.00pm
    - see the event booking page for details and to register to attend.
  • Tuesday 19th March 2024 – online, 10.00am-1.00pm
    - see the event booking page for details and to register to attend.

National Education Officers' Network (NEON)

  • Thursday 15th February 2024 – online, 10.00am-1.00pm
    - see the event booking page for details and to register to attend.
  • Thursday 21st March 2024 – online, 10.00am-1.00pm
    - see the event booking page for details and to register to attend.

Our College and University Advisory Groups (CAG and UAG) continue to meet jointly during this academic year as JAG. The groups are invaluable in helping to ensure that all of sparqs' work is meeting the needs of both colleges and universities and we thank members for their continued contributions and support, particularly as we work to develop a new strategic plan and interim workplans.

In December 2023 we decided to trial two national Course Rep Training (CRT) workshops online, giving reps the chance to attend CRT if they had missed the opportunity earlier in the year within their own institution. The sessions were advertised to reps from colleges and universities throughout Scotland, rather than a single institution. The maximum capacity at each workshop is 30 participants, so delivering to 56 reps from 7 colleges and 5 universities was an excellent result. The interactive workshop received positive feedback from all those who attended, with 92% recommending the training to others and 90% of participants fully understanding their role after training. One of the aims of the workshop is to equip reps with tools that they can use in their role and 80% of those who attended said that they would take something away from the training and implement in their role as a result of the training. Given these impressive stats and positive feedback from individual participants, we have decided to run a further two national sessions. The first will be on Wednesday 24th January at 10.00am and the second on Wednesday 7th February at 2.00pm. Details about how reps can book their place will be sent to institutions very soon.

Stay in the loop!

As demonstrated above, much of our work involves opportunities for sector colleagues to get involved, so please keep yourself up to date with any opportunities by reading our regular news mailings!

If you're not signed up to our mailing list, you can sign up here.

Best wishes for a great 2024 from all of the sparqs team!

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