Sussexful move from student to staff

Sonia Paganuzzi reflects on her role, Internal Communications and Engagement Intern, as it comes to end.


Setting the scene:

I started my undergraduate degree, as a bright eyed fresher back in September 2013. Fast forward a few years and I had completed my undergraduate degree in History and then my masters in International Journalism. Much like any recent graduate, I was at a bit of a loss as to what I wanted to do next, but I knew that I wasn’t quite done with Sussex just yet.

I saw a role come up with the SAAT programme, despite having no idea what the programme was, I decided to do my research and apply. Much to my delight it worked out and I was appointed as their new graduate intern. The role focused on internal communication and student engagement.

It’s always a daunting experience starting something new and my first day was an experience I’ll never forget. I had all these preconceptions as to what it would be like to work at Sussex, and they all pretty much went out the window within 5 minutes. The day started with a song. A lovely, but albeit, confusing rendition of ‘Go West’ – that was changed to ‘Go Test’, for one of the testing team members who was leaving that day. Following on from that, there was an energiser, which involved me prancing around making animal noises. It became quickly apparent that I had joined a team of very interesting characters.


FOM team dinner

My role and what I learned:

My role was varied, quick to change, and not based solely at my desk. I was asked what work I liked, so that they could give me more of it. Quickly they gave me more responsibility and ownership over projects that I enjoyed. I was able to use my experience as a recent graduate to my advantage as it helped me ensure that the student voice was captured in the development of the programme. For example, when it came to organising focus groups, I knew what questions were going to ignite a response, and I was also able to draw on my own experiences, in order to provoke conversations among focus group attendees.

Working in the SAAT team was a unique experience. Their agile and flexible ways of working encourage a positive environment in which everyone can be heard. Naturally there were ups and downs in my role. However, with every down I endured, I found a positive and came out a bit tougher. It’s been interesting to see both sides to Sussex, to be a student and then to be staff. Ultimately, I think both sides benefit from having a greater understanding of the other. Which is why the student experience conference in November 2017 was so important, as it marked a key milestone in the collaboration between students and staff.

I’ve gained invaluable experience whilst having wonderful time being a part of the SAAT team, and I would actively encourage both staff and students alike to get involved, and play a part in a programme that is creating real and exciting change for the University of Sussex.

If you have any ideas that you would like to submit for the next graduate intern to take forward, leave your idea in the comments section below, alternatively please contact:


Sonia as a student in 2016

Sonia as a staff member two years later!


Posted in Uncategorised

How we put our students at the heart of web design

Emily Cranmer, Project Manager, discusses the upcoming changes to the student web-pages


What are our students trying to do? This is the question we’re asking ourselves over and over again in one of our newest projects. We’re supporting the web team to develop new student-facing web pages which will, in time, replace the existing internal web pages. That’s a pretty clunky sentence for my first blog. You can call it an intranet, a portal, a hub, a sub-domain. You can call it anything you like. I’m calling it exciting and long overdue.

These web pages will enhance the overall student experience, and help the services SAAT has been supporting by making it easier for students to find out about and access services online. It’s a big project, so we’ll only talk about one of our approaches today: creating content based around tasks and user needs.

To do this we ask ‘what tasks are students trying to accomplish on our website?’

  • Trying to book a counselling appointment.
  • Trying to find out how to prepare for a job interview.
  • Trying to report a broken kitchen tap in their campus accommodation.

If the task is more complex, it might need to be broken down into multiple smaller tasks. From these tasks, we can develop ‘user needs’, which sound something like this:

As a final year student…

I need to find information about interview skills…

So that I can get the graduate job of my dreams.


As a new student…

I need to find out how to register with a local GP…

So that I can access health services while I’m at university.


User journeys

We will be working with the teams which deliver the services that meet these user needs. Together, these tasks will be mapped into user journeys, which helps us make the online experience quick, simple, and enjoyable for our students.

Design sketch

To do this we need to ask ‘how are students currently completing the task?’ For example, students might be completing that task by:

  • Using a search engine
  • Navigating through our site
  • Following a link from an email sent by their school office

The ‘as-is’ journeys will be improved by refining our site’s navigation, the way we lay out and present information and our search function to create new journey maps.

We’ll also be creating a list of the tasks and journeys we deliver, to help us recognize any gaps, and understand ownership.



It’s good to know what students are trying to do, but what’s more important is observing them doing the actual tasks. This allows us to understand how they perform their tasks, why they do it the way they do, and if/how they achieve their goals. As staff it’s easy for us to make assumptions like ‘students know where to go for X’ or ‘students will ask if they need Y’. Easy but wrong.

This article by references that ‘in their book User and Task Analysis for Interface Design, JoAnn Hackos and Janice Redish note that performing a task analysis…helps you understand what experiences (personal, social, and cultural) users bring to the tasks’. The only way of truly understanding our wide and varied audiences, is by speaking with them, observing them, and making changes based on what we discover.

Making sure that students can get to the information or complete the task they need easily is just one part of the battle. We’ll also be looking at how the content is written, the language we use, the design of the pages, meeting accessibility standards, how we deliver the pages on mobile devices and countless other areas.

This project will be called a success if at all times, we keep our students at the front of our minds and the front of our designs.

Posted in Web pages

For the record…

Olivia Spencer, Programme Officer, sheds light on the technology side of SAAT

As part of the transformation work and to support the new ways of working we’re bringing in a new student records system called OneUniversity. It’s an off-the-shelf solution that we’re customising to meet our requirements through a process called configuration. This will be a change from the current student records system, which has been developed in-house and grown up organically.


Where are we on the system implementation timeline? 

Our focus for the last 9 months has been on Phase 1, i.e. the parts of the new student records system which will support students from application to enrolment at Sussex. The team are continuing to work hard towards the September go-live for Admissions – but don’t worry, we won’t turn it on if we’re not absolutely sure it’s safe to do so. With the rest of the system, we’re also still working to the planned programme timeline, which will mean that for most people, the functionality they’ll be getting hands-on with will start to come online from 2019.

From May to October last year the SAAT Business Analysis team investigated and mapped as-is processes, primarily relating to admissions, with colleagues around the university. In the autumn we completed a series of verification workshops, where we determined the level of configuration required to the standard “out-of-the-box” OneUniversity system to support services for applicants and arriving students at Sussex.

Technology timeline

Following the workshops initial designs for how the system will be configured were documented and signed off by our Business Design Authority. During configuration, the Sussex team have been learning how to alter the parts of the software that don’t already meet Sussex’s requirements, and then making the alterations . For example we’ve developed custom fields and answer values for the registration form that will appear on the applicant portal, in line with the latest best practice recommendations from the Equality Challenge Unit – and will be able to change these whenever we like in the future. We’ve also been working closely with two other Universities who are implementing the same system on similar timelines. The next step will be to gain feedback on the system through the Phase 1 user acceptance testing planned for later this summer, and then re-configure where required. We’ll also be running some demos to give everyone an opportunity to view the new system (these will be advertised on the blog, but if you’d like to express early interest please contact


What’s next?

SAAT Programme timeline

In line with the planned programme timeline, we’ll soon be starting work to deliver Phase 2 – that’s all the parts of the system which will support student journeys from enrolment to completion. We will be following the same broad stages as outlined for Phase 1 above, but will refine the approach to the verification workshops to enable colleagues to support SAAT more flexibly in what is likely to be a very busy year for us all.


When will we start to use the new system?

The first phase system go-live provides functionality for business processes during application to enrolment, so will only affect those involved in these. Phase 2 go-live in September 2019 is when most staff will get hands-on and begin to use the system, as this will involve everyone providing services to students from enrolment to completion of their courses.


What involvement could I have?

One of the key principles of the programme is that change won’t be imposed, but will be developed collaboratively. We’ve relied extensively on input from colleagues to ensure that the solution is fit for purpose and delivers institutional benefits, and the programme timeline has been designed to enable this level of involvement. This approach will continue in Phase 2, working towards the go-live for Enrolment to Completion in September 2019 as planned.

We’ll invite colleagues from across the University team for their input in designing the solution which will support services from enrolment to completion. This could involve working with the Business Analysis team to map as-is processes, or testing the initial configuration of the system prior to release and providing feedback. During Phase 1 our subject matter experts (SMEs) have made decisions on how the newly designed and evolving services will be supported by the new student records system. For example, in Phase 1 SMEs have determined how automated workflows will be set up for processes such as admissions referrals.

Detailed planning for the next year is currently underway and we will share more in a future post, so be sure to subscribe for the latest updates!

If you have any questions on the technical implementation that you’d like answered, please direct them to and the team will respond.

Posted in Technology

Facilitation – as simple as that

Adam Willsmore, Service Design Officer, blogs about his experience of facilitation

Adam Willsmore

If you’ve ever received an invitation to a facilitated workshop and thought “how do I get out of this?” then you’ve possibly experienced a (bad) manager standing at the front of a room talking for hours. Good facilitation, however, isn’t about a long presentation of information, it’s a process of bringing together a group of people to reach a decision or a solution to a problem. The word facilitate is defined in The Oxford English Dictionary as to make [an action or process] easy or easier, so as a participant in a workshop the activity shouldn’t feel too difficult.

When the SAAT Programme embarked on a series of major workshops to design its new services around the student experience, it sensibly began with training the team on the skill of facilitating. Excellent facilitators know how to plan a workshop to meet a clear objective, choosing from a range of tools and techniques to lead a group to the desired outcome(s). It’s these tools and techniques that give structure and purpose to an often otherwise chaotic or confusing meeting.


The training

The two-day ‘Designing and Facilitating Workshops’ course guides participants through a five-step framework for designing and delivering any type of workshop or meeting. Through the use of a case study, there is plenty of time and opportunity to put the learning into practice including identifying and managing group dynamics as well as individual behaviors and strategies for dealing with them positively.


Find out more

So far we’ve trained over 30 members of staff in the skill and have recently established a network of facilitators across the university who are willing to offer their assistance to academic schools and professional services departments. If you think your team could benefit from help planning or delivering a facilitated workshop, please get in touch with SAAT or with the Organisational Development team.


If you are interested in training as a facilitator yourself, please let us know.

Designing and Facilitating Training Workshop (02/05/18)

Induction Planning Workshop (16/05/18)


Posted in Uncategorised

Team top tip: Pomodoro

Sara Hinchliffe shares her top tip for staying focused

I’m experimenting with the Pomodoro technique to manage tasks which need a bit of consistent attention. All you need is a plastic kitchen timer (in the shape of a tomato).

The technique

You set the timer for 25 minutes; when it rings you have a 5-minute break. That’s a pomodoro. After 4 (or 3, whatever works for you), have a longer break or 20 or 30 minutes. You tick a piece of paper each time you finish a pomodoro. You can either have one big task on the go – taking your allocation of pomodoros for the morning – or several smaller ones which you might allocate one or two pomodoros to.

How’s it going?

I’m finding this helps with focus – it encourages you to keep at a task without stopping to check email or have a chat – but it also encourages you to take breaks. Another benefit is that counting your ticks tells you how long a task takes you to complete. Or you can allocate a clear block of time to a task which helps with ensuring you are budgeting your time according to your priorities. This is coming in handy to help me make sure my time is focused and well-spent.

So, worth an experiment. My pomodoro cost a fiver from Amazon, and I can always re-purpose it for timing the pasta!


More information:



Posted in Team Top Tips

Service news from the SAAT team

Sara Hinchliffe, operating model lead, gives an update on the SAAT Programme and service news


Hello from the SAAT team. We’ve been inspired to revitalise our blog and will be posting regularly, including updates on services and technology. We’ll also be including ideas and tips from the team.


Service news

Many of the service teams have just completed the first set of improvements identified by the teams in their design workshops. We’re calling these ‘service version 1 – SV1’; and teams are going on to review and prioritise their next set of improvement actions ready for students’ arrival for the next academic session.

Below some of the service leads talk about their teams’ work: feel free to contact the service lead, or the SAAT team to find out more.


Student visa services – led by Alice Robertson

‘We have established a single student-facing entry point (on the web) for student queries, with appropriate escalations for complex questions. We’ve mapped communications to students and identify key and clear contact points. This will support students who aren’t clear where to go for help.’


My potential – led by Andrea Wall

‘We have improved our webpages to include coherent, accessible and relevant information on working at Sussex under a clear My Potential banner, to provide students with a smoother and more transparent experience.’


Research student services – led by Miles Willey

‘We have improved single team working across research services as a whole by initiating a project to clearly define and communicate roles and responsibilities across RSAOs, RECs, the Doctoral School and other central departments. We have collated a consistent and widely shared document highlighting key dates and periods across the research year so that the various departments know when to expect more enquiries and can flex to support the needs of the students.’


Digital skills – led by David Walker

‘The Digital Skills team have designed and piloted a new series of workshops, branded as Digital Tuesdays. These are aimed at students and staff to support the development of a broad spectrum of digital capabilities. The Digital Skills offering is being promoted through consolidated information on the web, pop-up stands in the library, and through the network of Library Ambassadors. The SV1 will define the role description for Digital Reps with a view to establishing a dedicated team in the new academic year.’


Scholarships – led by Amy Andrews

‘We have published the new scholarships database to our external website which will enable prospective students to quickly and easily search for scholarships and funding based on their eligibility.’


Reasonable adjustments and exceptional circumstances – led by Christine Clark

‘We have reviewed our current procedures and guidance notes, including terminology, to ensure they are consistent as well as planned an induction for new staff. We have introduced some new processes, to reduce duplication and ensure that information is shared appropriately on CMS.’


External examiners – led by Carmel Oxley-King

‘We have reviewed the presentation of the external examiner nominations and appointment process to ensure that processes are clearly laid out, and that a new nominations checklist is available to support staff. We have clarified roles and responsibilities in communicating with external examiners to ensure that communications are timely and effective.’


Curriculum design and management – led by Frank Melmoe

‘We have designed and run training sessions for staff on consumer legislation as it relates to curriculum design. We have piloted new timescales and processes (including quicker formal approval for agreed proposals) to support speedier curriculum development and approval. We have established a curriculum design community, initially focusing on staff, but in September launching to the student community.’


Student academic integrity – led by Carmel Oxley-King

‘We have published revised toolkits for staff to ensure that they are aware of the rules and processes for managing student academic integrity. We have reviewed the processes for marking up scripts suspected of misconduct. We have reviewed the presentation of student material – including presenting materials in various formats, such as video.’


We’ll update you on the progress of other service improvements as they emerge – they are happening all the time.


Posted in Service updates

Team top tips

Dean Collins shares his top tip for staying organised 

In a world where most people have a smartphone, there are many tools and apps to help us stay organised. However everyone is different, and what’s useful for one person might not be as useful for someone else.

Enter the bullet journal. The bullet journal is a quick and simple way of keeping track of all of your to-do lists, habits and things you need to remember. It’s creative, you can personalise it and best of all its paper based.

Bullet Journaling is a really simple way to keep on top of the small things:

  • Each day (whatever time works best for you) simply tick off tasks that you said you’d complete, or move tasks to a different day
  • A Future Log will help you organise all of your tasks and keep them organised months at a time
  • You may also like to keep track of habits each day (for example exercise, meditation or drinking water)
  • An Index page at the beginning of your journal will make sure you can always find the information you need.


You can present this information in any way you wish: tables and graphs, pictures or even comic strips! If you’re looking for inspiration, take a look at the Bullet Journal website or a scroll through Instagram.


To start creating your own Bullet Journal, Buzzfeed have a helpful step by step here or some useful ideas you might like here.


Here’s an example from Sophie’s bullet journal:


Posted in Team Top Tips

What you need to know about verification

Where we have got to with the programme

It’s hard to believe that 2017 is nearly finished, and interesting to look back on all that we’ve accomplished this year. We have nearly finished with the design of SAAT services, and for some have started service transition to turn them into reality. Alongside completing the design we have made major strides towards bringing in the most important new tool we have to support our new operating model – the new student record system. This summer we decided to procure TechnologyOne’s OneUniversity system to support our new ways of working. We are one of the first three universities in the UK to implement OneUniversity, which we chose because of its modern architectures and interface, and because it best suited SAAT’s transformation objectives – including that it is mobile device-friendly and will support more flexible ways of all users dealing with the system. Now that the contract has been signed we are well underway with the work to implement our new tool. In October we kicked off an exciting, important, and challenging stage for implementation – verification, which the rest of this blog post describes in more detail.

What is verification?  

Verification is where we begin to ‘make things real’ with the new student records system, OneUniversity. We do this through a series of workshops (yes, more workshops!) to review the functionality of OneUniversity against the requirements we developed during the tendering process, service designs, and work of our business analysis team. So far we have run five of the eight series of workshops which comprise ‘Phase 1’ of verification. Some of these have been ‘building blocks’ sessions which are defining the foundations of the system, such as how the curriculum will be structured, and how student data and fee information will be held. Others have then focussed on how we will use these building blocks to manage our work at the university through to the point a student is ready to enrol, such as our Admissions, and Scholarship and Funding Applications. We are very grateful to all of our subject matter expert participants (SMEs) for their time and contributions to the sessions we’ve run so far.

Why it’s exciting

We are getting a tangible sense of what it will be like to use OneUniversity (and often, how it is going to make life better!), developing a detailed understanding of what functionality is available ‘off the shelf’ and identifying where we may need some configuration. As Adam Willsmore, one of the SAAT Service Design Officers, observed, ‘We’re beginning to understand how the new technical solution will meet the high ambitions set out in our service design workshops over the past year.’ It is exciting to uncover seemingly small things, too, which will benefit the University – for example, during our Direct Admissions series we determined that it will no longer be necessary for the PGT Admissions team to manually enter the fees students will be charged onto their offer letters. This removes the need for a very labour-intensive process and will free up time for the team to focus on other activities.

Why it’s important

While there are many cases where the new system will make life better, it will also make life different, and for a little while, whilst we get used to using the new system, possibly uncomfortable. Verification is our opportunity to have honest and direct conversations about how we do things (or plan to do things) and why, and understand where the trade-offs will be. Whilst these conversations are not always easy, SAAT Business Analyst Sam Elmer noticed, ‘The outlook of our SMEs is a big asset for the programme – they have been very open to and accepting of the need to do things differently, which is not always the case on projects bringing about such big changes.’

Why it’s hard work

There are some new and exciting opportunities for the University, but trying stay in a ‘future’ mind set for extended periods of times is hard work and can be tiring. It is also a tough balance to be thorough and think through a comprehensive set of situations that teams might deal with, without trying to account for every single possibility.

What’s next?

After we complete our Phase 1 workshops, we’ll validate the documentation of the workshop discussions with the subject matter expert participants who joined us. The SAAT Programme Business Design Authority will then take their recommendations and sign off the documentation, which will pave the way for configuration and user testing to begin, moving one stage closer to implementation! Phase 2 verification will begin in early 2018, and run until December 2018 – it will cover the remainder of the student life cycle.

Posted in Verification

Post-its, progress, and positivity – My experience being seconded onto the SAAT programme

Nicola Trathen blogs about her experience being seconded onto the SAAT programme

I decided to apply for a secondment on the SAAT programme after I attended a blueberry morning with the SAAT team where we worked in groups to look for ‘quick wins’. I was amazed at how positive and enthusiastic the team were but more than that, I could see that this was a way that I could genuinely affect change in a meaningful way. I went back to my office after that workshop feeling inspired, energetic and genuinely excited about what we could achieve, so I started filling in an application form for a secondment on the SAAT service design team. Read more ›

Posted in Uncategorised

Welcome to the SAAT blog!

Spring is well underway and we’re already beginning to feel the seasonal transition. It’s a new phase for the year, the University, and for the SAAT programme.

Read more ›

Posted in Uncategorised

About our blog

The SAAT blog is the place to come to find out the latest developments in the SAAT programme. Here we’ll be posting news and events, updating with progress from the service teams, and keeping you up to date with the latest on the SAAT team’s activities.

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