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If you don't feel you belong, how can you succeed?

A university can only be as good as the people it’s made of, staff and students alike. Learning and teaching is a shared enterprise, one which relies on challenge and engagement to be successful, but also a sense of partnership and community. If you don’t feel you belong, how can you succeed?

A number of course leaders have tackled this question, looking for ways to ensure their students develop a sense of belonging so they can go on to engage and achieve.

Sheridon Easton, course leader for Events, starts working on this in induction week along with his whole team. There are games and activities for the students with prizes up for grabs, as well as a chance to complete an assignment early on, get feedback and see how they can improves.

It’s important for students to get to know each other, as they are going to be colleagues in the future: a point that Giles Barkley, course leader Yacht Engineering, emphasises. Carolyn Cummings-Osmond makes a point of learning all her students’ names and finding out what they feel passionate about in relation to literature. They’ve signed up for her course and she wants to know why.

You know your students; they know each other. What next?

For Giles Barkley, students will engage with a course if they can see the relevance of what they’re learning. His students are taught the very latest research by experts from across the sector, and all the work they do is work-based so they can understand why they are learning it.

Carolyn’s English Literature students have the opportunity to see their work in print and take trips abroad on a literary grand tour. In return, they are also expected to read widely and deeply.

Essentially, that’s what it comes down to. It’s about expectations, on both sides. Pete Wilson lays out the standards from the start on the Popular Music Performance course so everyone knows what they’re going to get. It becomes aspirational, something to reach for.

Devon Campbell-Hall tells her students that what’s behind them isn’t important – it’s where they are now that counts. She wants to know what it will take for them to achieve their potential and then she looks for ways to push them beyond it.

With that kind of forward momentum, there really is no looking back.