Mark Rawlinson focused on helping students succeed

Posted by rmt22 at May 30, 2017 03:30 PM |
Our new Dean of Students talked to us to spell out his vision for a role which acts as a vital link between student needs and University procedures.

Dr Mark Rawlinson has been with the University for a while, he can usually be found up to his elbows in papers, dissertations and his own research into 19th and 20th Century English Literature, but since the beginning of the year he has had a new role as Dean of Students.

But what does this seemingly honorary title actually mean? Mark explains that the post was created to provide a new link between learners and educators, in other words someone who can help to align what students need from the University, and what the University thinks students need.

As notions of the student experience are redefined by TEF and a revised NSS, this new role is perfectly placed to make academic leadership work for students on the most fundamental level. The Dean works with the Students' Union, academics and administrators to understand the realities of higher education from a student’s point of view and to develop processes which help students succeed.

One of the first projects Mark has been involved with is implementing the recommendations of the Student Discipline Working Group, which had been led by Professor John Goodwin. This, more than any other project really sums up the need for this type of leadership role which works across internal boundaries. The review highlighted the need to join up the student discipline process with student support, ensuring there is a centrally held record, and helping students understand expectations of academic and non-academic conduct.

Mark has also been working on our response to the recommendations in the QAA’s Higher Education Review. One of these is around making improvements to our personal tutoring system, which is understood not to meet everyone’s expectations, and which is delivered in different ways in different disciplines.

One other thing that Mark has been involved with, and given the manifestos in the recent SU elections, one that is of significant concern to students, is our mitigating circumstances policy, which helps students experiencing unforeseen difficulties in relation to assessment. We have around 3,000 mitigating circumstances claims every year and a set of guidelines which are in practice applied with considerable variation across the university.

Mark, working with Tara Chakraborti and Tamar Challis through the Student Lifecycle Change Programme, set up a series of workshops with people who deal with mitigating circumstances claims. These went over the principles of the new policy, and allowed participants to role-play the new decision making process using historic cases. This approach to consultation achieved two goals, to prove the concepts incorporated in the new policy, and to equip those who will be using it to implement it consistently. Clearer criteria and better communication should help us manage the expectations of students and personal tutors as to when and how mitigation can be granted.

After his first few months, Mark is keen to see this as an active role, saying: “I'm not interested in going through the motions in committees and working groups. It's important that I understand how students experience their time at University and how academic departments use their resources. The work across students, administrators and academics is all about trying to break down silos, any project needs that essential starting point of collaboration.”

Share this page: