05 SES 09, Combating School Droput
This paper examines the working relationship between academic researchers and support professionals working at the Success at School (SAS), EU funded project, within a higher education institution. The SAS project (www.successatschool.eu) addresses the EU benchmark of less than 10% of early school leaving by 2020 (EU 2000) by developing and experimenting an pedagogical strategy involving volunteering and mentoring of young people aged 14-20 who have abandoned their education or at risk of doing so. Located in 6 European countries –United Kingdom, France, Portugal, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Italy-, the project combined both academic and stakeholders’ input. Amongst the stakeholders, the University Centre for Employability and Engagement (UCEE) has been a key player in the development of the mentoring programme, and the training of mentors - students enrolled in the institution - and the young people as volunteers. The work that UCEE does articulates the new EU2020 strategy as enhancing Higher Education, working with young people, youth unemployment and volunteering are at the very heart of it.
Within the university, UCEE has a remit to provide a range of services which reach out into communities, primary and secondary schools, enhance the student experience, and improve graduate employability by engaging with staff in all parts of the university. Funded as part of the University’s Office for Fair Access Agreement (OFFA), everything UCEE does has an impact in widening participation, improving access to HE to underrepresented groups, improved attainment and retention levels, and enhancing student/graduate employability. It also provides a pivotal role in bridging the university and its students with communities and business. The development of these relationships opens up many new and unique opportunities to the University’s students, for academics engaged in research, and for UCEE to add real value to the ‘Experience’ element of the students’ CV.
Recently, the University has been designated an Ashoka U Changemaker campus in recognition of the University’s commitment to, and activities related to Social Enterprise, the promotion of Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship. This designation requires that continuous improvement and development in these three areas are evidenced and that they are developed with student experience and attainment in mind. UCEE is uniquely positioned to embrace the “Changemaker” values for the University, by being the leader in implementing the values and principles of Ashoka U Changemaker, thus ensuring that the ‘Changemaker’ difference is experienced by every student and stakeholder.
The mission of UCEE ‘Inspiring the leaders of tomorrow’ picks up the ‘inspirational’ nature of what and how we deliver, and that it is about ‘the development of ‘leadership’. In this context, ‘leadership’ reaches out into the community, engagement with business, students, and primary and secondary schools. We work with all stakeholders in a way that adds value whether that is through the development of personal leadership, community leadership, or competitiveness in the work place.
In building and maintaining effective internal and external stakeholder relationships, a relationship management function is critical. Whitchurch (2008) describes four categories of professional relative to the space they occupy and the knowledge, relationships and legitimacies that they construct. Recent development of internal relationships between professional and academic staff indicate the emergence of a space in which less bounded professionals work alongside academic colleagues, sharing networks and contacts as well as alternative ways of working that have been developed through experience acquired in connecting environments such as the voluntary and community sector. The professionals and academics involved in this project have developed a mutually respectful relationship, sharing knowledge, key contacts and resources to ensure that the project is a success for students and young people in the community.
Irwin, W., (2014) University Centre for Employability and Engagement (UCEE) Development Strategy (Executive Summary) Whitchurch, C., (2008) Professional Managers in UK Higher Education: Preparing for Complex Futures. Research and Development Series. London, England: Leadership Foundation for Higher Education
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