What the strategy means to me – Education & Student Experience

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Sarah Speight, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education & Student Experience writes about the university’s new Strategic Delivery Plan for Education & Student Experience.

The image that tops this blog attempts to signal three things. First, it signals our collective ownership of the Education and Student Experience Strategic Delivery Plan – the ESE SDP.  It is very important to me that the ESE SDP ‘speaks’ to everyone in our community. While it has not been possible to get everyone directly involved in its development, its articulation to our University Strategy, and to our other Strategic Delivery Plans, means that it should provide a meaningful ‘touchstone’ for Faculties, Schools, Departments and Professional Services. I hope that everyone who reads it can recognise how it connects to their own area of work, and how their work contributes to its realisation.

Secondly, the image signals the co-creation of the SDP and represents a selection of the people involved. Looking at the photographs, I can see colleagues from our campuses in China and Malaysia, I can see the Student Union Sabbatical Officers, colleagues from the University of Nottingham International College, and colleagues from all of our faculties, professional services, and all job families. Expertise and insight from these areas has enriched and challenged the thinking behind the plan and hopefully resulted in a plan that is both realistic and ambitious.

Thirdly, the image signals our ways of working during the Covid-19 pandemic. We have worked hard and we have worked long. Staff and students have faced unprecedented challenge and change. It is important that the plan acknowledges the impact of Covid-19 upon us all.  Indeed, this is why one of the five priorities is to ensure that our learning from 2020 and 2021 informs everything that we do next, and that we have a focus upon reduction and rebalancing of administrative workload.

Our University Strategy was published in 2019. It sets out 7 goals: solving problems and improving lives; supporting potential; developing the campus experience; cultivating a global mindset; fostering creativity, discovery and experiment; contributing to the sustainable development goals and embedding collaboration in all that we do. 

The ESE SDP is a key vehicle through which the University Strategy is implemented. It aligns to the 7 goals through its priorities, its actions, and through our underpinning values of inclusivity, ambition, openness, fairness and respect. At the heart of the ESE SDP is the understanding that our students and staff construct meaning from all ‘touch points’ within their UoN experience.

The ESE SDP is informed by two key relationships.

The first is the relationship between the education that we provide, and experience of our students. The broader experience of University life (health and wellbeing, personal growth, citizenship, friendship) is just as important as the achievement of academic potential.

The second key relationship is that between ESE and Research and Knowledge Exchange (RKE). We are proud to be a research-intensive global university. Our ESE is research-engaged and multi-disciplinary. It offers transformative and authentic learning experiences that provide our students with unrivalled breadth and depth of personal development opportunities in and beyond the curriculum.

What are the priorities for ESE?

The ESE SDP has 5 priority areas.  These are high-level areas that will guide action plans and activities across our three campuses in the UK, China and Malaysia. The priorities acknowledge our current state alongside our ambition and are therefore divided into two groups: Foundational, and Ambition.  


  • Priority 1:  We will continuously reflect on, listen to and learn from, the experiences of our students and staff through and beyond the Covid-19 pandemic to ensure that our education and student experience is inclusive, agile and responsive, that it is built on good practice, enables potential for both students and staff, and that our degree standards are maintained.  (COVID+)
  • Priority 2:  We will create an empowering physical and virtual estate that meets the needs of our students and staff now and in the future. This will include the progression of major data-driven initiatives to improve our core student record management systems, welfare and engagement processes.  (INFRASTRUCTURE)


  • Priority 3: We will work with students, alumni, employers and professional bodies to co-create curricula (academic, co- and extra-curricula), that embeds our university values, supports good mental health, develops professional competencies and learning for sustainability. We will support students to achieve their academic and professional potential through an inclusive and digitally-enabled education of the highest quality and relevance informed by pedagogy, evidence-based practice and scholarship.  (CURRICULUM)
  • Priority 4: We will put student experience and student wellbeing at the heart of all we do, ensuring that all students, irrespective of how and where they study, quickly feel part of, and jointly create, our inclusive and global community and are enabled to build meaningful and lifelong relationships. This will include facilitating opportunities to engage locally and internationally through volunteering, work experience, placements and mobility.  (STUDENT EXPERIENCE)
  • Priority 5: We will diversify our student intake, developing new entry routes and ‘non-traditional’ modes of delivery to attract widening participation and international students, apprentices, post-experience and professional learners. We will provide the best opportunities for these students to succeed through a sector-leading approach to supporting and engaging with them. (DIVERSIFICATION) 

How will we further develop our thinking?

Now that the ESE SDP has been approved by Education and Student Experience Committee, and by University Executive Board, attention is turning to the development of the action plans. The action plans itemise the projects and initiatives through which the priorities are delivered. They set out the timelines, the milestones, and the teams and colleagues responsible for leading each area. 

If you read the full ESE SDP, you will find examples of some of the work underway or planned in section 5.  For example, under Priority 3, we have already launched the ‘UoN Curriculum Project’ on the UK campus. This seeks to embed new and improved processes for curriculum approval, design and review – helping us to maintain ‘an inclusive and digitally enabled education of the highest quality and relevance’.  Under Priority 5, the UoN Online initiative is developing a high-quality model and brand for ‘online at distance’ post-experience professional development – with the School of Health Sciences leading the way with a course on ‘Evidence-based Practice’.

The foundational and ambitious work signalled through the ESE SDP will be dependent upon contributions delivered through the other strategic delivery plans – this is explained in Section 4. For example, the Estates Development Framework will help us to ‘take the new approach to life on campus’ outlined in Priority 4. Networked through the University Strategy, all of the SDPs will play their part in enabling us to implement the ESE action plans, and through these take our Education and Student Experience to the next level.

I hope you can find the time to read the full plan. It is the result of collaboration, and it is through collaboration that it will be achieved. The endeavour requires partnership working between staff, students, alumni, neighbours and employers. It requires us to form teams that cross campuses, job families and disciplines. If we didn’t know it already, Covid-19 has demonstrated how brilliantly we can work together to enrich our education and student experience.  Together, we will offer: 

An education that is more than a degree” (University Strategy, 2019).

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