University Answers Roundtable Questions

Wednesday 23-06-2021 - 12:01

Here are the University's answers to the student submitted questions for the Graduate Atttribute Modules Round Table. 


1. In a letter from the Provost, it states that the students of Lampeter were informed about the new ‘common modules’ via a letter but there is no recollection of this? What do you have to say about this?

The University adopted a comprehensive communication programme with existing and future students to alert them to potential changes to the curriculum, because of the pandemic. Letters were sent to all existing students in levels 4 and 5 who would be undertaking the Graduate Attributes modules at the end of August/early September 2020. Modules are explained to new level 4 students on arrival. Furthermore, news bulletins were sent out on 10th August 2020 and 14th September 2020.


2. Why has the webpage for the university not been updated? Why are subjects offered there when they haven’t been run in years? And why is there no mention of the common modules or graduate attribute modules? Is this not false advertising?

The University was responding to an evolving situation with the impact of the coronavirus being subject to rapidly changing government guidelines and varying levels of health risk and safety dangers. 

The University took several positive steps to alert both current and potential students (as outlined in question 1) of the required changes in the way that courses would be delivered whilst these risks remained. The position of individuals going through the application and enrolment process was particularly complicated as communication methods such as open days needed to be conducted on a virtual basis, however, arrangements were put in place by the University to provide for all students who participated in the Open Days to be alerted to the proposals.


3. Why weren't these modules advertised to the students who are now in their first year?

Applicants were told about the introduction of these modules over the Summer period. News bulletins were sent out on 10th August 2020 and 14th September 2020 and video presentations prepared. See also response 1. above.


4. Could you offer an apology to students that signed onto the course without being told anything about these modules and what they would entail? 

As noted in the Roundtable event, Covid-19 has transformed the workplace and accelerated the digital revolution and the need to prepare students for such a world. We have a duty of care to equip students for a post Covid world providing them with tangible, practical skills for the workplace and life in general, alongside their subject specialist knowledge. As noted, modules are explained to new students on arrival. The Terms and Conditions for applicants when accepting an offer of a place at the University includes reference to the fact that changes may occur under certain circumstances. Such changes, in response to the pandemic, would not be seen as substantial changes.


5. I have noticed that only in the past month or so you have finally updated the list of modules on the website, where future students go to look at their chosen course. Why did this take so long to update when we've been doing these modules since September 2020?

See the response to question 2.


6. Do you have any more information about how students were consulted as most students didn’t know there was any consultation at all?

As noted in the Roundtable event, student consultation was arranged through the SU and was factored into the development from the start with student representatives from across the University feeding into the creation through the writing groups, trialling the material created and through representation on the Programme Development Board.  Modules were signed off by the SU before delivery as part of the approval process. Several open focus groups have also been held during the year and feedback received through disciplines. Feedback continues to feed into the ongoing revisions.


7. Why does the university feel like they know what students want better than students themselves?

Coronavirus has, as noted in an earlier response, transformed the workplace, and accelerated the digital revolution. The University has focussed on responding to the challenges presented by the pandemic in a positive manner, through ensuring these modules cover a range of key graduate competencies. These were chosen following detailed consultation with employers and former students along with the consideration of extensive, regional, and national skills surveys.


8. Why didn't you take on board lecturers' concerns about these modules in the summer?

Lecturers know very well what students will be able to absorb and find useful (not these modules currently) as they're professionals in their field
Lecturers from across the University volunteered to write these modules during the summer as they felt such modules particularly important for students. The writing teams consisted of over 60 individuals and all Institutes and discipline areas were represented. Academic staff from all Institutes who are teaching these modules have been given the opportunity to feed their thoughts into the developments throughout the year.  

9. The agency and dignity of students has been disregarded by the less than credible actions of the UWTSD. These actions are not only destructive to the student experience but also contrary to the provisions set out by the CMA guidelines and consumer legislation. The UWTSD has ripped the heart out of our programmes and ineptly stuffed back in a cheap and insulting alternative. My respect for this institution has been undermined and I call for a return of the programmes promised to us and paid for by us.

The above was covered in the Roundtable event. The Graduate Attributes modules will remain in the curriculum for the reasons cited. CMA guidance states students should be advised of any changes ‘as soon as is reasonably possible’. This was undertaken through the usual channels as emphasised in previous responses.


10. How can the university justify pulling 12 hours of contact hours a week to replace a block with only 3-4 hours a week?

The importance of independent learning from a skills perspective and changes in light of the ongoing pandemic were highlighted in the Roundtable event. The University believes that the interactive content designed as part of the module is equivalent to a portion of the contact on the course. Due to the different circumstances of students, it was felt that flexibility needed to be built into these modules to allow students to learn in the time that suited them most. This resulted in focused guided learning and reduced specific contact time to allow for this flexibility. For most students, this has been well received. 


11. Many level 4s have stated that they only have 11 hours of subject specific content for the whole module. How is this acceptable? Are our course options not respected?

The expectation is that the split between online asynchronous learning and synchronous tutor-led learning should be 32/16. This will include a tutor- led introduction and assessment preparation.

The modules have been designed so that all activities and tasks should be related back to the student’s subject area. Where this is not apparent for the student, it should be raised with the lecturer who can explain the contextualisation.


12. Do you think it’s acceptable that students are having to basically teach themselves? 

The ability to study and learn independently is an important skill to develop and has always been an essential part of the curriculum. Equally important, in light of the pandemic and individuals’ wider commitments and responsibilities, is the fact that online independent learning enables students, for certain modules, to have the opportunity to study when it is convenient for them and at a speed that suites them.


13. Why are there so many PowerPoints to view rather than actual lectures?

The focus of the modules is deliberately small bite-size topics which enable further research and independent learning.  Bite-size sections ensure students do not need to spend a prolonged period focussed on an activity and are flexible enough to allow students to stop and start according to their needs. Lectures will not be included in the modules moving forward for these reasons although several revisions have been made in light of staff and student feedback.

The University believes that successful learning and teaching takes a wide variety for forms, and as outlined in the benchmarking statement for Philosophy, this can include: “online teaching and learning resources (including virtual learning environments), including the employment of message boards and online discussion forums, live or recorded audio-graphic tutorials or lectures, video conferencing, and wikis”.

14. If the common modules were added to better cope with covid, then why do the people who created the course content think it is acceptable to make students do group work?

Both team working and independent working are important skills required by employers and both are possible through an online or blended approach. By ensuring group work was embedded into the modules, the University was trying not to disadvantage students as evidence of effective team working is so critical to the modern workplace. These skills are also an essential part of the benchmarks against which courses are designed.


15. Many students feel like the common modules are being made up as they go, why does the university think this is an acceptable way to teach?

As noted in an earlier response, these modules were created by academic staff during the summer period following extensive consultation. The modules are not being made up as they go, reflection and revision are naturally important elements of programme design in general. 


16. How is it acceptable to be told to watch YouTube videos in the common modules yet students are not allowed to use them as a reference in an essay? Isn’t this double standards?

The purpose of YouTube videos in any module is to provide a quick overview or summary to aid understanding and enable more detailed academic analysis through taking advantage of reading lists etc. Different mediums provide different types of learning opportunities similar to real life scenarios. In the same way that students would not normally be expected to reference in-person lectures in an essay, the ability to demonstrate wider reading and analysis beyond the content presented as part of the module is an essential skill.


17. What purpose do blogs have? How are they relevant to humanities students?

It is important that individuals have opportunities to write in a range of genres, concise yet reflective writing is an important skill to master regardless of the discipline.  As in many of the activities in the Graduate Attributes modules, it is important to look beyond the task itself, to the transferrable skills it develops, whilst not forgetting their use in a range of work contexts.
All subject benchmark statements within the humanities specify the use of e-learning and its use in assessment and course design, for example the Subject Benchmark Statement for History (QAA 2019) points to the use of “mobile technologies as a teaching tool and guide students in the use of internet sources for the gathering, analysis and dissemination of information as part of their historical studies. A wide range of abilities, such as the critical use of written and non-written internet resources, the capacity to design websites and create multimedia presentations, and the creation and investigation of complex historical databases, may then be cultivated through a well-managed process of progression.” 


18. You state these common modules are ‘inclusive’ and ‘diverse’ then why do they ignore the needs of humanities students?

Humanities students, like all other students, need to be appropriately equipped with the graduate competencies required by employers, particularly in a post Covid competitive world. The graduate competencies expected through the modules are also expected as part of the subject benchmarking of all humanities courses. 


19. The level 4s had to basically ‘fight’ to get the option they wanted in the latest common module block. People did not manage to get subject specific questions due to not being quick enough or busy when the options opened. Is this not taking away from students' education? Why should they have to fight for the subject they applied to university for?

This question is unclear – any discussions re limitations in options should be discussed with the discipline. In relation to the Graduate Attributes modules, cluster tutors have autonomy in relation to certain assessments to ensure appropriate contextualisation. Such assessments should be available to all.


20. The word count for creative writing essays is too short. Can this be corrected?

This question appears unrelated to the Graduate Attributes modules. There are standard assessment lengths across the University dependent on the percentage weighting of individual assessments.


21. Why are we paying £9000 to be asked to make origami?

The purpose behind the origami crane exercise and others was discussed in the Roundtable event. As noted previously, it is often important to focus on the wider purpose of a particular task, not the task itself e.g., problem solving in this instance, a key graduate attribute. This is an important transferable skill, in fact creative writers are expected to “adapt to different demands and tasks and be able to look beyond the immediate task to the wider context, including the social and commercial effects of their work.” In light of feedback however, this particular exercise has not been included in the module concerned moving forward.


22. Why are we being told that the common modules are enriching specialist knowledge when we are learning more about business than out actual subjects?

As previously noted, the focus in the Graduate Attributes modules is on skills and competencies valued by employers, with contextualization opportunities, including through assessment, also enabled. This is balanced with specialist subject related knowledge enabled through other programme modules. 


23. Swapping out two entire blocks of teaching a year for this is cannot in any way shape or form be beneficial to our employability. Why are students not being heard when they are saying they feel short changed?

Approximately 50% of graduate opportunities do not require a subject specific degree, but all graduate opportunities require certain key transferrable skills. These are highlighted as key aspects in all UK Subject Benchmarking Statements. The Graduate Attributes modules focus on the skills they require from graduates at a time when every graduate is likely to have on average at least 12 jobs in their working life.


24. What jobs do these modules help with? Humanities students do not see the relevance and how they relate.

See above. Such transferrable skills are relevant to a wide range of roles relevant to all disciplines, recognising also that very many jobs are not discipline specific, but skills specific. 


25. What practical skills for later life are we getting out of these blocks?

The University has taken on board the impact that new and emerging technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence, will have on future employment and careers. As a University with the wellbeing of its students at its heart, we believe strongly in developing the resilience of all students, to prepare you to the best of our ability for employment, the key to your future prosperity. The Graduate Attributes modules focus on equipping you with core competencies to aid your ability to thrive in an ever evolving, increasingly digitally enabled workplace, where the flexibility to cope with significant change in career paths will be key.

The Graduate Attribute modules are designed to strengthen and support the key transferable skills of graduates, particularly humanities graduates, these are also emphasised in the relevant subject benchmarking statements. For example, Anthropologists are expected to gain among other skills: 

  • the capacity to express their own ideas orally, visually and in writing, to summarise the arguments of others, and to distinguish between the two.
  • independence of thought and analytical, critical, and synoptic skills;
  • research skills in collecting and collating primary and secondary data; communication and presentation skills (using oral, visual, and written materials and information technology);
  • the ability to make a structured argument, reference the works of others, and assess historical evidence;
  • time planning and management skills;
  • the ability to engage, where appropriate, in constructive discussion in group situations and group-work skills; 
  • statistical and computing techniques;
  • independent learning and critical thinking;
  • the ability to assess and understand their strengths and weaknesses, and to take action to improve and enhance their capacities;
  • a reflexive approach to cultural assumptions and premises developed through a deep understanding of other ways of being in the world;


26. How are they even relevant most of the time?

See previous responses.


27. Has the student questionnaire for Lampeter been taken into account or even looked at?

Yes, it has been discussed and taken into account as we develop next year’s provision.


28. Are you taking into account the number of students in Lampeter who are leaving? How are you going to rectify this? Will you keep the common modules even with people leaving because of them?

Attainment and retention data is closely studied in relation to all modules and all institutes. As noted in the Roundtable event, the Graduate Attributes modules will remain in the curriculum for next year, in light of their importance in preparing all students for an uncertain post Covid future.  The Humanities may well be particularly impacted in this environment, given the lack of an obvious linear connection to a specific type of employment, job or skill.


29. Why is Lampeter being clumped with the other campuses?

UWTSD is all one Institution, and it is important that all students are treated with parity. All should have access to the same learning opportunities.


30. Why should students have to pay their full tuition fee if they are going to be taught by PhD students and not even qualified lecturers?

This question does not appear relevant to the Graduate Attributes modules. All Universities use Postgraduate students to do some teaching, it is an essential development opportunity and it closely monitored and supported. 


31. People are being shamed when asking questions. How can you help with this?

Any such concerns should be discussed with the Director of your Academic Discipline in the first instance.


32. What certificates will we get when we graduate? Will they actually meet the benchmark?

All degrees across the University meet the relevant subject benchmarks.


33. Will second years next year actually get any subject specific content?

Yes, as they do at present. Contextualization of the Graduate Attributes modules will continue, and staff will have further opportunities for contextualisation within the asynchronous units. These credits will be taken alongside subject specific modules.

34. Who is taking accountability for the vast drop in intake at Lampeter?

Several initiatives are in progress to strengthen opportunities on the Lampeter campus.


35. How much attention and money are being given to Lampeter compared to Carmarthen and Swansea?

Whilst this question is not directly linked to the Graduate Attributes modules, as noted above, investment is focussed on all University campuses.


36. Why has creative writing been so blatantly ignored and is barely a course? Why has it not been pulled from the curriculum?

This question is not relevant to the Graduate Attributes modules.


37. The university presents itself as a business so why do they feel it appropriate to not give students what they are paying for?

See earlier responses regarding the importance of developing employment – ready graduates. 


38. Why are Lampeter bringing in ‘experts’ when they have brilliant lecturers? Is it to save money?

No, additional individuals are brought into programmes to share their experiences, particularly from an employment perspective, and enrichen students’ experiences.


39. Why are you not protecting Lampeter? Why is the organised decline being accepted?

As noted, several exciting initiatives are in progress to strengthen opportunities in relation to the Lampeter campus.


40. Were the common modules put in place solely or even partially to save the university money?

No, they were put in place for the reasons indicated in the Roundtable event and as indicated above.


41. Why is it so important for the university to keep the modules when most people at Lampeter absolutely hate them?

The importance of these modules in terms of providing appropriate support and transferrable skills for student in an ever-changing work environment has been highlighted previously both in the Roundtable event and above.


42. Will these modules be throughout all 3 years?

Yes, there are two 20 credit modules at levels 4 and 5 and a 40-credit independent project at level 6. All will remain next year.


43. Are you aware that these modules have affected students' mental health and how are you going to prevent this next year? 

The Institution works closely with student support on all campuses and will continue to do so next year. The Director of Student Services is a member of the Programme Development Board and feeds into the development of the modules as do the Learning Support Officers.

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