A MUSAF PRESENTATION TO MASSEY UNIVERSITY REGISTRARS
Student Services: Student representative’s perceptions of student need
This document intends to feed into the discussion concerning the priorities of the student services levy. This discussion is prompted by the agreement that student representatives and the university registrar engage to establish priorities for improvement in student services funded by the levy. (Ref. Council minutes Aug 2010.) This document supports and expands the existing Student Services Levy Proposed Programme of Work.
Following engagement with students, student representatives have identified priorities in two broad groups: the services themselves and student awareness of services.
Service priorities include: postgraduate academic and pastoral support, pre-reading services, academic consultations, early intervention (of at risk students) initiatives, improving regional support for distance students, provide access to mentors for students, improving course advice through digital means and widening the PASS programme to capture ‘barrier’ papers.
With regard to the awareness of services, it is felt that students lack an understanding of what they are entitled to and that this has a relationship with a lack of agreed standards for services. E.g. Stream sites; here we see a range of offerings but no clarity of what a minimum standard may be. Students may complain about not being able to submit assignments electronically but without a service standard their complaints are not considered valid. It is recommended that service entitlement and standards are clarified and published widely.
There are also services that students felt were important but fell outside the traditional definition of student services. These include a system for low level issue resolution (class reps) and an advocacy system that is independent from the university.
It is noted that many of these services or initiatives already exist in the Student Services Levy Proposed Programme of Work. This document may support the service, suggest a strategic expansion or suggest the raising of awareness of that service.
In this discussion the service itself is identified and improvements or solutions presented.
Postgraduate academic and pastoral support
Clarify and publish entitlements for students. Provide online pre-entry tools. Provide more funds for unexpected academic costs and initiatives. Develop a communications network that is accessible and relevant for all postgraduate students. Provide opportunities for both being and having a mentor. Provide study skills seminars on DVD. Introduce benchmarks of service level.
Strategically expand pre-reading service to deliver on service levy goals.
Choice in style of delivery of study material
Offer students the choice of hard copy or digital study material.
Early intervention (of at risk students) initiatives
Clarify and publicise the system and the limits for interventions. Ask students to agree to receiving support as a part of the student contract.
Improving regional academic support for distance students
Provide individual skype sessions for students who seek academic support. Provide podcasts and video tutorials. Provide written resources on request. E.g. the Academic Writing Guide which could be limited to one per student for their lifetime of study. EXMSS would be happy to organise distribution.
Provide access to mentors for students
Formalise a system of mentorship for students. Trial a regional mentor scheme for Maori students (Joint project using Ako Aotearoa funding: EXMSS and PVC Maori/Pacifica).
Improve course advice through digital means
Provide video clips of lecturers introducing their courses. Support Review It and link it into the new EMS.
Widening the PASS programme
Offer an online version of the PASS programme for distance students.
Provide a cultural aspect to campus orientations
Offer the option of a Maori induction onto each campus e.g powhiri onto marae, meet staff and learn about services, kanohi ki te kanohi, whakawhanaungatanga.
Reduce impact of barrier papers
Look for papers that have significantly high fail rates. Introduce measures (including PASS programme, increased offerings, review of introductory literature) that will improve outcomes.
Clarification of entitlements and standards
Produce clear, student-speak literature that describes what undergraduate students are entitled to. Disseminate widely using student association and Massey systems.
Commissioning advocacy reporting from independent student advocates
Define the needs of the university with regards to information about the activity of the student association’s issue resolution processes. Request an annual combined report from MUSAF that details this activity and suggests trend and areas of improvement. Commit to responding to these issues.
Supporting low level issues resolution (class reps)
Provide support for improvements in class rep systems that ensure continuity and effectiveness regardless of the student representatives changing nature.
Provide for high quality engagement with student representatives
Support improved systems for ensuring student representatives are trained, inducted and supplied with the information they need to be effective in their roles.
Support for many of the existing initiatives was also voiced by students. Positive comments were received regarding: the SAP fund, the provision of the doctor/nurse, counselling (especially culture specific counselling) and careers advice. The Let’s Get Going programme and orientation events are also seen by students as having a positive impact on their overall experience. Extension of the regional meetings to the far north was mentioned as well as providing a list of discounts and benefits students can access with their student ID card. An area of emerging need is providing support for international distance students.
Massey internal and distance students, student representatives, student advocates.
New services may not be the answer to improving the academic outcome of students. The suite of services currently on offer with a few strategic additions may be well suited to satisfy the goals of the student services levy. The current framework suggests that much of the student lifecycle has services in support; specific service enhancements and improving awareness and uptake are therefore seen as priorities.
Student services represent an opportunity to get the best outcome from students. A lower than ideal uptake in services will reduce their overall effectiveness. Underpinning the level of uptake is the issue of understanding entitlement. Connected to the understanding of entitlements is how students perceive the benefits of using the student services. By clarifying the entitlements and the benefits of using the services it is felt that improvements in success completions and excellence can be achieved.
 It is noted that there seems to be a lack of strategic goals and benchmarks provided to student representatives for the overall student services strategy.