Insights from the Annual Course Reviews

The University of Sussex’s Annual Course Review (ACR) process provides an opportunity for review, reflection and evaluation of the delivery of our teaching and is a key part of the University’s quality assurance and enhancement framework. However, the ACR isn’t just about compliance, it’s also about continuous enhancement. Here we have pulled out just a few of the enhancement initiatives that Schools reported having put in place in 2022/23 to ensure that our courses remain student-centred, engaging and inclusive. 


In the School of Education and Social Work (ESW), the MA/PGDip in Social Work has created an excellent mentoring scheme through which international and global majority home students can access independent mentoring from an experienced Black Social-work educator. The School has also been diversifying reading lists and strengthening inputs on anti-oppressive, anti-discriminatory and anti-racist issues in teaching and learning. ESW has created virtual learning and practice-development workshops on these themes and updated module learning outcomes to make this focus more explicit in assessment. 

In the Science cluster, the School of Engineering and Informatics have sought to increase female representation at applicant visit days and other external engagement activities as part of the School’s strategy to recruit more female students. Also, staff recruitment panels are now gender-balanced with an aim to enhance equal opportunities. These adaptations are intended to increase the female/male ratio in both the student and staff population, something which remains low across the sector. Additionally, the School of Life Sciences have created a BAMESci society which aims to provide support to all BAME students with as a focus on social, education, development, leadership, and communication themes. 


All of our schools reported a strong focus on improving feedback processes. The School of Psychology began running bespoke in-person training sessions on marking and feedback for doctoral tutors, while LPS have produced a document titled ‘Sussex Law School Marking Criteria Guidance’ to help students better understand what is expected with respect to knowledge and understanding, engagement with sources, analysis and application, structure and presentation, and referencing.  

The School of Global Studies are ensuring that all departments are embedding marking criteria within Canvas, as well as explained the criteria in class. Similarly, the School of Life Sciences are ensuring that students are accessing their feedback and are properly aware of all the feedback opportunities that are provided to them and how to best make use of this information to further their development. ESW saw a great improvement in the consistency and clarity of feedback, by ensuring that the feedback provided to students focuses both on strengths and areas for improvement. 

As well as enhancing assessment feedback, we also saw improvements in collecting and acting on feedback from students. The University of Sussex Business School (USBS) created a School-wide feedback series which provided opportunities for staff and students to engage in conversations in an informal setting, supporting a sense of belonging and ensuring that student voices are heard in teaching related matters. Meanwhile the School of Mathematics and Physical Sciences (MPS) have made the decision to switch to early-term questionnaires, rather than mid-term, to allow for feedback to be addressed quickly and in a way that is visible to students.  

Embedding skills 

The School of Engineering and Informatics have been working closely with the Careers and Employability team to continue embedding employability in the curriculum. Within the School, Product Design have created a fantastic independent Canvas site where they engage students and staff with employability matters. MPS run a mandatory careers component which consists of weekly seminars and coursework as part of a Year 2 module. This helps improve the employability of students and the School is considering extending this initiative into Year 1 to enhance the exposure of the students to these skills. 

In addition, Global Studies trialled offering PGT students a dedicated series of academic core skills workshops, led by Director for Postgraduate Taught Programmes, Dr Lyndsay McLean, which were well attended. This has been formalised into a zero-credit module and will be included in students’ timetables in the upcoming academic year. 

In the School of Media, Arts and Humanities (MAH) students have been offered a number of experiential learning events. Each event was designed for a particular subject area in order to foster a wider sense of community and included intensive writing groups and workshops, research celebration days, employability sessions, social events, field trips to the theatre, art galleries, performances, and archives, visits to campus by artists, choreographers, writers, performers, and people from industry, and collaborative projects such as filmmaking. Many of the events that were run had a widening participation and/or employability related aspect, and in certain cases involved students working with community, third sector and voluntary organisations.   

Curriculum changes and diversification of assessment 

Regular reviews of and enhancements to courses has been a central theme. Psychology have implemented several changes to the curriculum this past academic year, including module changes to make courses more coherent and attractive and several new optional Year 3 modules to reflect the growth in faculty numbers. USBS have strengthened the rigour of the internal course review process and are continuing to work towards a completely integrated Assurance of Learning process.  

Central Foundation Year have made a range of changes to modules which have had a positive impact on experience and performance. An example of this is the introduction of a problem-solving activity into weekly workshops that allows students to address challenges that have arisen during that week’s practical work.  

And last, but certainly not least, a number of Schools have sought to diversify the types of assessments that students experience during their studies. In the School of Global Studies, International Development have introduced blogs and podcasts as forms of assessment, while Geography have been using learning portfolios, policy briefings, lab reports, field reports, concept notes and presentations to support learners to develop transferable skills. USBS have been increasing the use of innovative assessment modes that enable students to evidence learning in various ways, this includes the use of podcasts and business reports. Finally, in LPS, Sociology and Criminology ran a series of alternative assessment workshops for staff in the department which inspired a number of changes to module assessments. 

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