Study Group welcomes the report of the UK Student Futures Commission

Students using laptops and laughing

Study Group welcomes the report of the UK Student Futures Commission on improving the experience of students after COVID-19

The final report of the Student Futures Commission has been welcomed by Study Group as a timely contribution to the debate about strengthening higher education after the pandemic.

The year-long Commission, chaired by Mary Curnock Cook CBE, brought together higher education leaders, policy experts and students to develop a blueprint for how to improve students' learning and experience beyond COVID-19. According to Ms Curnock-Cook, the report acknowledges challenges faced by students through the pandemic but “our proposals are resolutely optimistic and build on the extraordinary resilience and creativity demonstrated by colleagues and students across the sector during the crisis.”

Topics covered by the Commission so far have included rebuilding a sense of community and greater support for employability for international students. The most recent report identifies a further six key themes as a focus for enhancing student futures:

Support for students before they reach university.

  • An induction into university life for each year of study.
  • Support for mental health and wellbeing.
  • A clear outline of the teaching students will receive and the necessary tools to access it.
  • Activities inside and outside the curriculum that build skills, networks and communities.
  • A clear pathway towards graduate outcomes.

The Commission is also calling for new initiatives to focus on best practices in the use of digital technologies and enhanced support for positive mental health and well-being, including:

  • A new sector technology infrastructure strategy, commissioned by an independent body, such as Advance HE, to accelerate the shift to modern digital systems, ensuring the increased use of digital tools is sustainable and cost-effective. 
  • A review of online teaching and assessment, led by Jisc at a national level to establish best practices for mixed-mode and digitally enhanced delivery.
  • A new, targeted challenge fund, funded by Government and run by the Office for Students, to support student mental health and wellbeing.

According to Study Group CEO Emma Lancaster:

“The issues raised by the Student Futures Commission are of vital importance to students around the world as we come back together after the pandemic, and Study Group is already actively engaged in ensuring our students have the best possible experience in each of these areas. We are already actively embedding greater work experience and career skills into our programmes and we are drawing on sector-leading expertise to ensure digital innovations supports student success at every part of their journey with us.

“What the Commission also identifies is the vital importance of working closely with students to understand their needs and preferences, and delivering teaching, support and opportunities to engage with the student community in ways which really work for them. At Study Group we are committed to working with our international students and university partners to do exactly this, and we were pleased that our Senior Advisor Ruth Arnold was invited to be part of the Commission sub-group focused on the priorities and concerns of international students.”

The Student Futures Commission is sponsored by the UPP Foundation in cooperation with higher education policy specialists WonkHE which is considering the report’s findings at its annual conference on the student experience in London today. 

A link to the Student Futures Commission and each of its reports are available here.