January 2014

Monday 27 January - Widening Participation

A key goal in the College Strategy is to ensure that our strengths and achievements receive the international recognition that they deserve. At the same time, that ambition should be complemented by a commitment to attracting the brightest and best students, irrespective of wealth or background.

Our Access Agreement with OFFA (the Office of Fair Access) is a formal agreement that outlines how we aim to increase participation and success amongst students from groups typically under-represented at higher education level.   Setting out institutional milestones helps guide the outreach activities undertaken in the College, from events like our Science Open Day to Taster Days that allow young people to experience what life is like at university.

In our most recent progress report to OFFA, we were able to show that 42% of our full time undergraduate students are in receipt of financial assistance to support them through their studies. This support, offered through means-tested bursaries, is funded directly by the College at a total value of over £2.7million.

Progress against our Access Agreement targets has been excellent.  Out of our five milestones, we have exceeded our target in three and are on track to exceed in the other two on or before the deadline agreed with OFFA.

Shortly, we will submit our Strategy for Access and Student Success, which replaces Access Agreements from 2014/15.  With rumours circulating in the media about impending cuts to the grant we get from HEFCE to support our students (the Student Opportunities Fund), this document will confirm and make clear our continued commitment to widening participation and access. 

If the rumours are true, it means we will have to work harder to ensure able students are not deterred from applying to university in general – and to us in particular – countering any negative publicity that comes from government funding cuts. 

Tuesday 21 January - Further Gains in Applications

In yesterday’s ezine message, I told you that our undergraduate applications stood at 11,319, up 4.1% on the same point in the 2013 recruitment cycle.

Following the publication of the latest SNAPPs report, I am pleased to tell you that undergraduate applications have more than trebled in the week from Friday 10 January to Friday 17 January. Applications from Home and EU students stand at 11,740, up 14.4%. Applications from Overseas students stand at 2,376, up 3%. Total applications from both HEU and Overseas students are up 12.3%

The last few weeks up until the UCAS deadline of Wednesday 15 January usually see a marked increase in the number of applications, particularly in the final week. Early indications from UCAS data show that applications across the sector are up by around 4.25%. As such, we are clearly outperforming the sector average: ten departments have seen growth in applications of more than 10%.

These statistics reflect the combined efforts of colleagues across College in making Royal Holloway a leading destination for undergraduate applicants. We now wait to see the impact of these activities on our postgraduate applications, of which more later in the year.

Monday 20 January - Undergraduate Application Increase

The passing of the annual UCAS deadline for undergraduate applications on Wednesday 15 January was a key point in the recruitment cycle.  I am pleased to tell you that our latest data show an increase in both the total number of undergraduate applications and the number of offers made in comparison with this time last year.  Total applications currently stand at 11,319, up 4.1%, and we have made 7,617 offers, up 25.2%.

Having selected their institutions, we are now focusing on inviting prospective students to find out more about the programme and department they have applied at one of our Applicant Visit Days.   We all, staff and students, have a role to play during this phase of student recruitment by helping to make these prospective students feel welcome during their time on campus. More information about arrangements for Applicant Visit Days will be available on iQuad this week.

At the other end of the student lifecycle, this week sees the launch of the National Student Survey (NSS). Now in its ninth year, the NSS provides feedback on all aspects of the student experience and allows us to benchmark our programmes and student educational support against that of our competitors. We have improved in our overall student experience rating for the past five years and aim to do the same in 2014.  If you have contact with final year students, please do encourage them to complete the survey via www.thestudentsurvey.com.

The education and support services we offer our students are shaped by feedback from the NSS which in turn influences future generations of students in their decision about where to study. It’s vital that we are open to feedback and responsive to changes in the external environment and needs of our students.  Using this intelligence, we will review and update our College Strategy to ensure we are fully engaging in the process of improving the College for all; if you don’t yet have a copy of our strategic plan, you can request one here.

Finally, as part of our response to past NSS results, we are in the final stage of preparing designs for our new library, after which we will be able to submit them for formal planning permission.  More news on this subject later in the term.

Monday 13 January - Looking forward in 2014

I hope that you had an enjoyable Christmas break and have returned to College refreshed for the start of a new term.

Last term, we paused to reflect on our achievements and successes over the course of 2013. This year, we have equally important and exciting events on the horizon.

We are already looking forward to the start of construction on the new library development this summer, which will change the landscape of campus by providing a modern counterpoint to the heritage of Founder’s. Already, as part of our Curiosity Project fundraising campaign, 35 donors have started paving the path that will link the two buildings through the Buy a Brick campaign.

Also we await with great anticipation the outcome of the Research Excellence Framework, due to be published in December. The outcome of the REF will have a significant impact on our ability to attract both the brightest students and a share of public funding over the coming years.

And in the short term there is much to look forward to as well. The launch of the National Student Survey on January 20 enables our students to tell us their views on their experience here at the College, covering everything from the course they studied to the Students’ Union. Needless to say, the feedback we receive will help us to identify what we do well, and where we should seek to improve.

Last week we hosted BBC Stargazing Live, where 5,000 members of the public, staff and students participated in an evening of astronomy themed activities. And this term, we have several more high profile events taking place, including the Science Festival in February, a week long programme celebrating science and a key part of our outreach strategy.

As we strive toward success in our personal pursuits, I hope that we will also unite under the strategic ambitions of the College: all that you do individually contributes towards making Royal Holloway a dynamic, inspirational place to study and work.

Happy New Year.

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