National award for teaching excellence is a whole team effort!

The recent announcement that the Central Foundation Years Programme won a national Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence (CATE) by AdvanceHE seems like the perfect time to share with colleagues more about the Programme and the reasons why Advance HE chose to recognise us. If this inspires your team to apply for an award in the near future, all the better!

In case you don’t know, there are many colleagues in the Business School who have contributed to the success of the Foundation Years in many different ways, particularly Alison Bailey, Michael Barrow, Annie Bresh, Mark Clark, Mark Fisher, Dawn Howard, Olive Nsababera, Barry Reilly, Hannah Sam, Debbie Sperring and many others that have made fantastic contributions over the years. (from offering lectures, to providing academic advising)

However, one of the key reasons for the Programme receiving this Award is that it is a genuine cross-disciplinary collaboration, spanning a majority of the Schools in the University, led by Graeme Pedlingham as Head of Central Foundation Years and vitally supported by an excellent team of professional services staff in the Foundation Years Office. Everyone has worked with passion, expertise and determination to make the Programme successful.

The Central Foundation Years, which is not to be confused with the similarly titled International Foundation Year run at the ISC, started in 2015. The aim primarily is to attract UK students who for various reasons are not able to join the first year of their chosen degree; the cohort is more likely to include students from less represented demographics or those who have experienced an element of disadvantage in their prior education. On the Business course last year over 40% of students classified themselves as BAME, well-above the average for the University.

The Programme quickly established itself by attracting c.240 students in its first year. Thereafter, year on year growth has been significant, and in September 2018 over 700 students enrolled on courses in Arts & Humanities, Business & Economics, Psychology or Social Sciences.

The proudest achievements of the Foundation Years team have been in terms of student success. We have ensured a high student progression rate of 85-90% entering Year 1 each year, and in the Business School last year around 200 FY students progressed into over 20 different degrees in Accounting and Finance, Business and Management, Economics and Marketing. If you have been teaching UG of late, you are likely to have taught progressed FY students. The greatest compliment to us, and them, is that you probably would not have noticed this, and they are likely to be amongst your best students. Our data shows that FY students in the Business School at least match Year 1 direct entry students in terms of grades, and more than 50% outperform direct entry students at each stage of study. In July, we had our first graduates. It was thrilling to see students we first met in Autumn 2015 celebrate their success and being greeted on stage by Sanjeev!

So what is the CATE award and why this team?

As the name suggests the award recognises the importance of teamwork in delivering demonstrable excellence in teaching and learning. In our case, the feedback highlighted the interdisciplinary nature of the course. For instance, business students take core modules in Business and Economics but must also take electives by choosing a module offered in another School, for example Law, Politics and Sociology, Social Psychology, Reading Literature, a language and many others. Equally, students on any other Foundation Year can take modules in the Business School. All students also study the core Academic Development modules to develop the skills required for onward success. This collaborative approach embedded in the management and teaching structures, with cross-disciplinary pedagogical development.

The award also recognised the more innovative work done on the Programme to support student transitions, such as developing a Canvas resource site that is available for students before they arrive. This enables students to interact with us, and each other, around their learning, well before Welcome Week. The Programme also provides strong mentoring support for students. For instance, students struggling with Maths in the Quantitative Methods for Business and Economics (QMBE) module, can access support from more advanced students (they receive training and payment), who are often a progressed FY student. Our ‘Masterclass’ scheme, which recruits PhD students and supports them to turn their research into a short extra-curricular course for Foundation students, was received positively as innovative given the vertical learning opportunities offered to all involved. In the Business School, for example, Kate Yi-En Zeng ran sessions on developing strategies for overcoming cognitive biases in business decision making.

Overall, however, perhaps the judges simply picked up on the sheer commitment and passion the team has for providing engaging, student-centred learning: it is something, which runs through everything we do like DNA.

Advance HE’s decision to recognise our efforts for a national excellence award at this time will serve to spur the team on to delivering even more success for our wonderful students, of that, we are sure.

If you are a part of a great, collaborative team, why not think about applying for an award of your own.

Useful links:

CFY Business course at Sussex:

Advance HE, CATE Awards:

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