Student Experience Programme update
05 Nov 2020
An update on the progress made by the Student Experience Programme (SEP) from Simon Merrywest, as work on the next steps and revised plan continues
Earlier this year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic we paused parts of the Student Experience Programme, a major change initiative working to transform the student experience through the delivery of new technology, processes, and organisational structures. Since then we have continued to share with you some of the work that has been progressing in the background, reiterating our commitment to SEP and confirming that a revised plan for the programme would be developed.
SEP so far: what is has achieved
- Involved over 450 colleagues and students in the original design and discovery phase, ensuring requirements for technology and process changes were informed by our people
- Delivered the New Leadership Model for grade 8 and 9 student experience leaders, increasing our organisational agility whilst delivering financial savings
- Launched a new version of the My Manchester platform, for students
- Released the first pan-University customer relationship management system (CRM)
- Launched Togetherall, a 24/7 mental health and wellbeing platform (formerly Big White Wall)
- Released new technology to support student recruitment and outreach, via GeckoEngage
- Designed new structures for student marketing and recruitment and applications and admissions following engagement sessions with managers from these areas
- Engaged with over 300 colleagues in the development of new organisational designs for other areas of PS, receiving feedback collated by managers from over 50 teams
- Introduced the Engagement Monitoring project, developing a system to record student attendance at learning events
- Launched new functionality to make it easier for students to view and pay their fees
- Upgraded our student records system, saving £250,000 in ongoing support costs and giving us the technical platform needed to roll out new processes
Cohort 1 (‘student marketing and recruitment’ and ‘applications and admissions’)
In March, the consultation on proposed people and structural changes across these areas ceased, although the associated Voluntary Severance Scheme continued to completion, with 38 applications accepted.
Over the summer, our student marketing and recruitment and applications and admissions staff worked incredibly hard to deal with significant problems caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and last-minute changes to A-Level results. At points, our technology and processes slowed us down, putting extra pressure on our people when they were already at capacity, reminding us of the necessity for the changes SEP will deliver.
Bridging structures have now been put into place for the short to medium term and we intend to communicate the next steps to move this forward by the end of the year with full implementation by October 2021.
Cohort 2 (areas across ‘Teaching Learning, Student Experience and Campus Life’ and ‘Postgraduate Research’)
Before the programme was paused in March, a significant amount of work had already been completed across these areas, co-ordinated by Thematic Working Groups. There were nine Theme Working Groups previously, and the detailed work undertaken by the groups, including running engagement sessions attended by over 300 colleagues who provided feedback from 50 teams, has enabled a greater understanding of our activities and operations; along with insight as to how we may best organise these activities in the future across Schools, Faculties and central Directorates.
This work has enabled us to condense the majority of these former nine ‘themes’ into two distinct areas – ‘Teaching, Learning, Student Experience and Campus Life’, and ‘Postgraduate Research’. To take forward the structural design work from this point, a number of our PS Leaders working across the student experience, plus academic and student representatives, have formed two People and Structures Working Groups - one for TLSE and Campus Life, and one for Postgraduate Research.
We are developing plans to move forward these key areas of work, reprioritising the plan in response to our changing circumstances and the ongoing challenges that presents, and will update colleagues before the end of 2020.
Some activities which were previously part of Cohort 2 will now progress in parallel:
- Engagement Monitoring: a separate project team is developing a system to record student attendance at learning events
- ‘Student communications and engagement’ and ‘widening participation’: these areas are being reviewed separately from SEP, but taking in to account the work undertaken so far, including significant engagement activity
- Digital Learning, Online and Blended: will move into a Flexible Learning Programme, separate to SEP
Technology and process
The pause to some SEP activities back in March has brought the opportunity to revise our plans to release new technologies. Whilst we were previously looking at two major releases for technologies, we will now be able to release various pieces of functionality in a more agile way, via a series of technology and process ‘drops’ across 2020-2023.
Our technology teams have been very busy working on the upgrade of Campus Solutions to version 9.2 this October, a significant milestone which saves £250,000 in ongoing support costs and gives us the underling platform we need to introduce transformative changes to our processes.
We will still have some significant technology and process releases - most notably with the full new admissions release coming in October 2021, and the core student records release. In addition, there will now be lots more coming in between, so we can make the most of the brilliant new SEP functionality at the earliest opportunity.
Following the completion of the Campus Solutions technical upgrade this October, our technology and process teams will start to develop a plan for these iterative releases, so we should have a more detailed picture of this later in the year.
I’d like to thank all of those colleagues involved with and impacted by the Programme for their continued support during what has proved to be an exceptionally challenging year. Your contribution to ensure we continue to successfully deliver a great experience for our students does not go unnoticed and is very much appreciated. I look forward to working with both colleagues and students in the future, to continue our SEP journey.
Director for the Student Experience and SEP Programme Director.