As this blog has illustrated, CAPOD’s impact emanates from a wide range of sources; workshops, coaching, 1:1s, funding opportunities, internal reviews, mentoring, and so on.
Another mechanism that can lead to impactful change is the use of the simple focus group. Back at the start of semester 1, CAPOD was involved in running a series of focus groups to dig deeper into the initial experiences of postgraduate taught students (PGTs). The PGT Pro-Dean, Postgraduate Support Adviser from Student Services, and Head of Organisational Development from CAPOD, worked together to facilitate the sessions and listen to PGT students.
The focus groups centred on four main topics: arrival and first impressions, the co-curricular and extra-curricular experience, the academic experience, and skill/career development. The students involved recounted a range of experiences ranging from a desire to have more specific Freshers’ week events,“It would have been great to have a Freshers’ week for postgrads. I would love to have had more events where it wasn’t just 17 and 18 year olds,” to wanting to be part of the College of St Leonards, “we talked about this at the PG Society meeting, and we’d like to be part of St Leonard’s college. It seems that it’s just an administrative division,” to surprise about academic courses, “I was very surprised when I saw we only had 10 hours class a week. I expected more.”
The impact of the focus groups was that the PGT Pro-Dean, CAPOD and Student Services were able to collaborate and involve other colleagues in working to improve the student experience for PGTs. Tangible improvements that happened subsequently included working with Registry, Accommodation Services and IT Services to improve the experience for arriving Masters students (Student Services will be providing a specific Post-grad programme in Orientation Week next year, and it will be made clearer that Masters students are welcome to join all student societies); making taught postgraduate students part of The College of St Leonard; improving student expectations about Masters study and amount of contact hours; improving and concentrating the MSkills development programme; removal of the ‘13.5 rule’ with immediate effect; and the creation of additional resources to help Masters students transition from UG study and to PhD study.
A second series of focus groups for PGTs will be held next week to take a snap-shot of their experiences at the end of the taught element of their degree. Again, their feedback will be used to review and further improve the PGT experience for future.