Contemporary Academic Advising & Mentoring (CAAM)

Dr Heather Gray, Shiv Shanmugam (SHLS), Paul McKenna (SEBE), Siobhan White (GSBS)

This Scholarship project focuses on the challenge of improving Student Engagement and in particular the 2020 Strategic Indicator of achieving 90% Student Satisfaction in the NSS. Academic Advising can be key to increasing student satisfaction and the project proposes a series of activities aimed at enhancing current Academic Advising activities across the University.

The project will adopt a research based approach with an initial review of existing literature being used to inform subsequent scoping of existing practice and consultation with stakeholders to identify local requirements. New approaches to Academic Advising will be formulated and presented to stakeholders for approval. Additionally, the project proposes to scope software options to support Academic Advising and how they might be integrated with existing systems.

The project team includes LTQ Leads from across the University. The project makes provision for consulting GCU London and SWBE will be able to participate in local consultation workshops.


  • The key output of the Scholarship project will be an enhanced Academic Advising Policy and Guidance facilitating transmission of good practice across the University.
  • An enhanced approach to Academic Advising is expected to impact NSS ratings and other external benchmarks of student satisfaction. Over time this would be expected to lead to an improved position in league tables.
  • For students, a new approach to Academic Advising should foster an enhanced sense of belonging and sense of community, which in turn should lead to: improved student retention and progression – particularly for widening participation students; improved transitions through University; and improved employability of graduates.


Enhancing the GCU Online Student Experience

Dawn Anderson, Claire Macrae, Karen McFarlane Jane Burt, Siobhan White, Wendy Mazzucco (all GSBS), Colin Raeburn, Maria Filippopolou (SEBE) and Jane Guiller (SHLS).

This project focuses on the theme of Student Engagement, particularly on the challenge of delivering an excellent student experience to online learners. The project aligns with the GCU Strategy 2020 which commits to developing our digital education environment and to scale up our online and distance learning offerings. The research seeks to provide practical guidance for staff involved in design and delivery of online modules and programmes which will help operationalise these strategic objectives.

The project will use a range of methods to collect data from existing GCU students in a variety of online contexts to build an understanding of the entire online student journey and to define student engagement in online learning. The research will also examine potential barriers to engagement online and establish the extent to which context drives the approach to online engagement. An evidence based set of guidelines and exemplars for the use of online learning and for appropriate tuition and feedback in online programmes will be produced.

The project was developed jointly by staff in GSBS and SEBE and the team includes staff who are involved in developing and delivering UG and PG modules/programmes as well as content for ALC ensuring that a range of contexts are reviewed.


  • The key output of the Scholarship project will be an evidence based set of guidelines and exemplars for the use of online learning and for appropriate tuition and feedback in online programmes within each school.
  • A common framework that underpins online provision across the University will provide a strong foundation as the University expands its online portfolio.
  • Evidence-based online course frameworks and guidelines will enrich the learning experience for online students, which in turn should lead to: improved student satisfaction and retention, and improved employability of graduates.



HEEPs of support @ GCU (Higher Education, English for Academic Purposes)

Kim Williams, Deborah O’Neill, Calum Nielsen, Frances MacInnes, Birgit Schroeter (SHLS), Jessica Hancock (GCUL).

This project addresses the particular challenges of supporting International Students as they study at GCU. As the University seeks to increase its recruitment of International students (from 9% in 2016 to 15% in 2020), it is important that we understand the needs of this student group and provide appropriate support for them.

This research explores the experience of a range of International students (INTO, ERASMUS, GCU London), developing resources to identify the challenges they face and support their needs, particularly with regard to English for Academic Purposes. The findings will be used to specify the development of new resources that meet the needs of this student group. To complement this, the project will aim to highlight the current initiatives and resources available to students with English as a second language throughout the university, via a bespoke marketing campaign, promoting increased student engagement with these resources.

The project will involve work across schools (with feedback and advice provided by partners in SEBE and GSBS), seeking the expertise and knowledge of INTO and the Learning Development Centres within the university to ensure consistency in the provision of academic development for international students, and in particular English for Academic Purposes (EAP). The project is led by staff in SHLS and GCU London are involved as a core partner.


  • The key output of the project will be a coordinated set of resources (tailored learning materials and workshops) to support International students through their studies.
  • This project will align with the Common Good Curriculum, and build on key attributes such as student confidence and active and global citizenship.
  • As well as academic outputs, a marketing campaign to raise awareness of support provision for International Students will be established.


Improving Assessment Rubrics & Marking Guidelines

Gillian Gibson (SHLS), Ken Garner (GSBS), Dr James Paterson (SEBE)

This project addresses the challenge of providing consistent and high quality assessment and feedback, an area with weak NSS results across the university. There are a number of examples of good practice within schools but also areas where less robust marking guidelines are utilised.  With the introduction of the “Electronic Management of Assessment” policy in September 2017, developing and sharing good practice across the University is essential.

The project aims initially collate a database from all three main schools in GCU (SWBE/GCU London/ALC may also be involved) to catalogue the different types of assessment/marking/feedback used across the institution. The team would then look at the range of assessment guidelines/rubrics currently used, using peer reviewed literature, data/module performance data/module feedback to assess the utility of current practice.

The project will build on the large body of practice based literature on this area, as well as legacy efforts across the institution (particularly in SHLS) and will complement the related activities of the 2020 Student Experience Action Plan. The project will seek input from students via focus groups. Student class reps will be consulted to give specific and structured feedback on assessment in individual courses.


  • The key outputs of the project will be a database of assessment practices across the University, a report on the efficacy of these practices, and recommendations for addenda to existing policy to encourage and facilitate the use of rubrics in a robust manner.
  • Robust rubrics are shown to save staff time, alleviating workload pressures.
  • Students will benefit from more robust assessment and feedback processes that personalise the learning experience and lead to more positive perception of feedback.
  • Impact will be measureable in terms of improvement to evaluation in the NSS, ISB and other GCU surveys now being undertaken. 


June 2017

In 2018-19 we funded a further five Scholarship projects to run in the coming Academic Year. All projects are cross-University, where appropriate, and contribute to the priorities of the Enhancing the Student Experience Action Plan, and/or the current Quality Enhancement Theme “Evidence for Enhancement: Improving the Student Experience”.

Partnership Working in GCU led by Shiv Shanmugam, HLS

Although GCU has a Student/Staff Partnership Agreement, and a commitment for increased partnership working between all GCU students and staff, currently, GCU does not have an overall measure of its activity and success in this important area. This project will seek to monitor our partnership working efforts, applying an extant measure (developed by HEA) and developing an evidence based partnership strategy.

Enhancing student employability and sense of belonging through co-creating inter-disciplinary projects led by Claire Bereziat in GSBS

This project proposes to survey current inter-disciplinary and co-creation learning practice (internally, and through literature review), and to develop a toolkit to aid staff in developing inter-disciplinary and co-creation learning experiences using best practices. The scholarship is contextualised in a proposed sustainability module applicable to students in GSBS and SEBE.

Evidencing a better understanding of the learning of students with disabilities led by Rachel Mulholland, HLS

This scholarship will investigate the views, perceptions and experiences that students with disabilities have about their University journey at different levels and stages in their programmes of study.  The project is supported by a team across the University representing both academic schools and professional services. One aspect that the project will consider is the graduate employability of students with disabilities and the project team will liaise with the Careers team for this.

Understanding Student Attendance and its link to academic achievement led by Julie Thomson, GSBS

This project explores the relationship between attendance and performance, arguing that it is a key, complex and often overlooked factor, but also one where changing student circumstances may not yet be mirrored with a changing pedagogy. The project is joint between GSBS and SHLS and will liaise with other ongoing efforts to understand attendance, as well as considering emerging delivery models such as those used in the Graduate Apprentice programmes.

Exploring the benefits and challenges of developing an online bridging programme led by Karen Thomson, HLS

The project proposes to examine the challenge of teaching diverse students, using as context, the move from face-to-face to online teaching of the bridging course that potential ALC students undertake. Karen will work closely with Helen Brown, and Heather Marshall from the Sir Alex Ferguson Library, as well as ADTs from SEBE and GSBS.


In addition, we hope to support two smaller pieces of work: a small extension to the CAAM project looking specifically at mental health support in the context of academic advising, and activity to consider and highlight the implications and findings of the TransEdu project led by Steph McKendry at U of Strathclyde which explored the experiences of Trans, non-binary and gender diverse and students and staff across the Scottish HE sector.