Kent wins THE Award for outstanding student support

Gary Hughes

The University has won the Outstanding Support for Students award at the 2017 Times Higher Education (THE) Awards.

This award was created to recognise and celebrate the UK institution that helps students to gain the maximum benefit from their study.

Kent won for its acclaimed Student Success Project.

The winners of this year’s Awards, chosen by a distinguished panel of judges from hundreds of entries submitted by universities from across the UK, were announced at a gala celebration on 30 November.

The judges said that Kent ‘stood out from the pack with its impressive and innovative approach to improving academic outcomes for the least advantaged students. By creating a comprehensive network of tailored support and dedicated institutional research opportunities for such students in nine pilot schools, the University has made outstanding progress in narrowing the attainment gap, and has created a model that can be rolled out across the institution’.

Kent’s Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Karen Cox commented: ‘We are delighted to have won this important award. It acknowledges the hard work and commitment of our staff, and in particular the dedication of the Student Success Project team, to ensure that all our students are given every opportunity to fulfil their academic potential regardless of background. I would like to thank and congratulate them all for this well-deserved award.’

Kent’s Student Success Project was set up to address the sector-wide issue of lower rates of attainment and progression amongst students from low socioeconomic groups, those with disabilities and students from black and minority ethnic (BME) groups.

Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Karen Cox collecting the award

Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Karen Cox collecting the award

Launched in 2015, the impact of the Project has gained national recognition. In awarding a gold rating to Kent in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), the panel described it as ‘outstanding’.

The Project combines a programme of qualitative research with the development of innovative student support interventions. Co-ordinated by a central team, this combination is pivotal to the success of the project with student demand and the nature of the academic School informing the types of intervention offered.

The project findings suggest that investing in the provision of a varied range of support activities, guided by the voice of students themselves, not only allows for flexible and adaptable interventions, but moves away from the ‘one size fits all’ approach.

Initially launched in nine pilot Schools, the Student Success Project led to the development of a Virtual Student Advisor app and a series of events to promote student equality among Kent’s own staff and students as well as those outside the University.

Recent events include a staff symposium, a student conference and a national conference for researchers, policy-makers and practitioners. The inspirational speakers programme was established to stimulate discussions on race and belonging in an academic context.

The THE awards, now in their 13th year and widely recognised as the ‘Oscars of higher education’, were established to ‘shine a spotlight on the exceptional achievements of individuals, teams and institutions’.