REACT Conference – Tina McKee


It was a great opportunity for me to attend the REACT conference on student engagement at Winchester University earlier in May.  The conference was stimulating and Winchester University was an unexpected pleasure, nestled just up the hill from the beautiful historic city of Winchester.

REACT is a multi-University collaboration working on innovative projects to promote student engagement across the Higher Education sector. There was excellent representation from Universities across Great Britain, with plenty of opportunities to share information and ideas. Many Universities struggle with student engagement, particularly with respect to ‘hard-to-reach’ students (with much debate focussed on what ‘hard-to-reach’ actually means!).  The picture that emerged was that different institutions face different challenges and that student engagement is a very complex and nuanced issue.  However, a core theme was on building capacity within the current student body to support other students and to improve the learning environment.

Some of the most interesting projects included London Metropolitan University training existing students as ‘Success Coaches’ to ‘coach’ first-year students.  Coaches are linked to eight first-year students each and work with them to help them to succeed, sometimes through attending core seminars with them, and sometimes through one to one support.  The focus is not on answering academic questions, but on coaching new students to develop their own skills as independent learners.

Winchester University and Exeter University also work with students to improve the learning experience for other students, through the ‘Student Fellows Scheme’ and ‘Students as Change Agents’ initiatives respectively.  Both initiatives enable students to design and implement projects to improve different aspects of the student learning experience.

The findings from all these projects demonstrate that there are benefits for both the specific students involved (e.g. the Success Coaches/Student Fellows/Change Agents) and the wider student body.

The conference provided me with much food for thought about how best to work with our ‘most engaged’ students to support and draw in those students who are struggling to engage.  If you have any ideas on things that might help with student engagement in Lancashire Law School or if you want to set up and run a project to improve the student experience, drop me an email at tmckee@uclan.ac.uk.

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