New Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson recently described teaching standards as the 'Achilles Heel' of higher education. Although he was talking more broadly about the demands students make of universities today, I think he missed an opportunity to highlight the variety of additional activities we in higher education offer students which are an essential part of their overall student experience.
I agree that we should strive to provide the best teaching and learning environments for students, but this is not a new concept. Universities, especially in the UK are renowned for the high academic standards we set and the results are evident in the popularity of studying here.
A Teaching Excellence Framework as proposed by the Minister would provide a mechanism for students to judge their academic education, but it would not take into account everything else that makes the student experience so rich and varied. I am referring to the various non-curriculum opportunities for development that are today so intrinsic to what universities do. We at Bath Spa University focus all our activities, teaching and non-teaching on the student experience. Indeed, it is the core of our university strategy and I know that every member of staff has the student experience at the heart of what they do, whether they are working in academic or professional services.
Since the increase in tuition fees was introduced, universities have been adapting to the change in market conditions this created. We have enhanced our academic offerings and invested in infrastructure to demonstrate our commitment to our students. At my own institution we are currently reviewing our teaching curriculum to foster inter- and multi-disciplinary scholarship - giving our students more flexibility and choice. In so doing, we are not only responding to the changing demands of our students, but reflecting the needs of the job market, both in the UK and internationally.
I strongly believe that students who have a vibrant academic journey supported by inspiring extra-curricular activities go on to become well-rounded graduates with the necessary skills and experience to become socially engaged global citizens - and to flourish in their chosen careers.
Graduates need a diverse range of skills and experiences to thrive in the new world of work. We, as do many other universities, work in close partnership with business, especially within the creative industries to ensure our students develop the attributes required by their future employers. By the time they leave Bath Spa we want our graduates to be creative, digitally literate, internationally networked, ethically aware critical thinkers.
Scrutiny of our academic standards is something universities are firmly committed to and it is right that students have high expectations of the teaching they will receive. However, they will also expect to benefit from networks, connections and experiences beyond the university as well as within it. This, surely, is just as important in transforming students' lives.