Developing the Student Learning Experience model


In June 2021, the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) published its final report of its Review of Coherent Provision and Sustainability. One of the recommendations in the report was to develop a single tertiary framework for quality for colleges and universities.

The new tertiary framework seeks to put the experiences of students at the centre of the sector’s approach to quality. To facilitate this, SFC has commissioned sparqs to develop a shared sector reference point - the Student Learning Experience model. This model will be developed by students in partnership with staff across the sector, in order to be focused on what matters most to our students.

sparqs’ work to date

In developing this model, we will build on our existing Student Learning Experience (SLE) tool. The existing tool is used widely across the sector and is the foundation of the training that sparqs delivers to course representatives. The tool breaks the SLE into several building blocks and then facilitates dialogues with a series a prompt questions, which help students explore their experiences within each building block.

The current SLE tool [shown right] will be familiar to many across the sector. Further information on the SLE can be found in our Resource Library.

Each building block within the tool has a set of accompanying questions that support students to think about the quality of their learning.

The aim of the current project will be to review the above building blocks and their accompanying questions to create a shared reference point, which is focused on the views and needs of students studying in Scotland and shaped by a range of research and discussion between students and staff.

To develop the tool, sparqs has already undertaken a piece of desk research, exploring a range of existing sector reference points and research that explore the SLE and set out principles for the types of activity that contribute to excellence in the student experience. Reference points we have used include the UK Quality Code; Our Best Future (Education Scotland); a range of student surveys, including the National Student Survey (NSS), Student Satisfaction and Engagement Survey (SSES), and Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES); professional standards for teaching staff in both universities and colleges and some international reference points. We intend to continue adding to this scanning work and would be happy to receive suggestions of other publications that would be useful in this process. This desk research has suggested 12 potential areas which could form the ‘building blocks’ of the new SLE.

Over the summer, sparqs piloted a workshop, prior to rolling it out across the autumn/winter term of the 2022-23 academic year. We have delivered an adapted version of this workshop to colleagues at our May joint meeting of our advisory groups and networks (JAG, NEON and SESN); student officers and students’ association staff at our That’s Quality! residential; and to student rep trainers at our Associate Trainer residential. These pilot workshops served a dual purpose – to begin the data gathering exercise to shape the new SLE model, and to gather initial feedback from experienced staff and students on the workshop itself and how we can most effectively deliver it across Scotland over the next few months.

Current activity (Phase 1 – September to December 2022)

In line with the SFC’s intention to ensure this work is fully centred on the views of students, the SFC has asked sparqs to undertake a major piece of work with students studying across the tertiary sector, to explore the key principles and approaches that constitute an excellent Student Learning Experience.

In phase 1 of this project (from September to January 2022), sparqs is working with students to identify the principles and approaches to the SLE that matter most to them and narrow down and refine the building blocks and accompanying resources that make up the tool. This is taking the form of a series of workshops with student reps and diverse student groups across Scotland. These workshops have been designed to capture the views of students on what makes a good Student Learning Experience.

We envisage that many of these workshops will take place with student reps, such as course reps and faculty reps. We also want to ensure that we are hearing from a diverse range of students from different demographics and levels of study. We will therefore be running some workshops for specific groups of the student body. We would appreciate any feedback on which student groups we should ensure we hear from as part of this process.

Our news article published on 1st November 2022 put out a call to institutions to host workshops, delivered by sparqs. Many thanks to all those who have offered support with this so far!  In addition, sparqs arranged two cross-institutional workshops (one for university students on 28th November and one for college students on 29th November) to ensure all students had an opportunity to contribute to this exciting piece of work. 

Next steps (Phase 2 - January to April 2023)

In Phase 2 of the project, we will establish a student and staff expert group to take the research from Phase 1 forward and draft the model, facilitated by sparqs’ Development Consultants. The group will discuss the data collected as part of Phase 1, in order to draft a set of principles and practices for each building block of the new SLE model.

Alongside this activity, we will consult widely with the sector on the content and format of the model. Once the writing groups have completed their draft principles and practices, and we have agreed as a wider group on the suggested new building blocks for the SLE, sparqs will propose a Student Learning Experience model to be incorporated into the Framework. This will include consulting on key aspects of the model, such as how it should address the diversity of the student body, including whether one model can be used for all modes of study, e.g. FE, HE, Apprentice and PGR.

How can I be involved?

If you would like to offer to host a workshop at your institution in Phase 1 of this project, we’d love to hear from you! Please contact Megan Brown, Development Consultant, for more information and for an initial discussion –

This page will be updated with more information on the writing group for Phase 2, but if you would like to express an early interest in being part of the group then please contact Megan Brown, Development Consultant –

Student Engagement Framework

National Education Officers’ Network meeting

8 Dec 2022

This is the second meeting of our National Education Officers’ Network (NEON) for academic year 2022-23, and continues…