Education officers have a vital role in shaping the learning experience in universities. This is especially the case at a time of dramatic change, as recent years have seen, and therefore support to such officers is a crucial process to which sparqs can contribute.
This means, initially, that induction for such officers requires a clear approach at institutional level, shaped by staff in quality, management and student engagement roles plus of course outgoing education officers. During the pandemic we developed a COVID-19 briefing note on inducting education officers which was hopefully of value to universities and students’ associations as they looked to equip such officers to engage with a rapidly changing learning environment and decision-making process.
Each summer our annual induction and training event That's Quality! helps officers to understand their role, learn about the wider sector landscape and Quality Enhancement Framework, and meet each other. Evolving each year, That’s Quality! is now split into three parts and delegates are required to complete all three elements. The first part is a one-day online event, which is sector-specific. The second part is an online self-study module, which will provide a more detailed overview of quality in Scotland, which is designed to be used throughout an officer’s time in office. Finally, attendees come together with college delegates to attend a joint, two-day, in-person, residential training event. The joint event is an opportunity for interactive group activities which will allow attendees to explore what they have learnt in practice and to network with colleagues from across the tertiary sector.
We continue to support education officers throughout their year, for instance through our National Education Officers’ Network (NEON), which provides a forum for learning, sharing and networking. NEON normally meets three times a year, involving sessions highlighting institutional and sector practice, developments in quality arrangements, and consultations on topical issues. During the pandemic NEON meetings have been on a monthly basis, to increase networking and support opportunities.
At the end of the year, we also support education officers to reflect on their skills and experiences in the context of what they can bring to the world of work and voluntary governance roles, and have developed an “outduction” resource in conjunction with the College Development Network, Advance HE and the National Union of Students, consisting of a list of opportunities for education officers and a toolkit for staff who support them in their duties and in their personal development.
Education officers also have opportunities to get involved in various activities at the national level, including sector committees, the Enhancement Themes, sparqs’ own University Advisory Group, and the work of national agencies. sparqs’ key contacts will also be in regular touch with education officers and colleagues to discuss our ongoing support on building partnership within institutions.