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Enhancing Student Belonging at the University of Nottingham

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A student's sense of belonging is intrinsically linked to their student experience. It is well established that engagement, surroundings, and personal space are key facets of fostering student belonging.

'The Strive Higher team were approachable and proactive in supporting us to develop tangible improvements at our Sutton Bonington Campus. They brought senior leaders, students and service leads on board effectively, co-designing space with us to enable and enhance a sense of belonging across the campus.' - Miriam Colombi, Head of Campus Experience

The brief:

The University of Nottingham (UoN) engaged Strive Higher to support the design and implementation of a new student hub at the Sutton Bonington campus, to address concerns regarding a lack of parity of experience when accessing services for students across campuses. The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic also had an expressed effect on student loneliness. We recognised that enhancing students’ sense of belonging at Nottingham was key to improving their overall student experience. We also know that improving the student experience involves engaging directly with students.

We recommended that a ‘one-stop-shop’ should be created at Sutton Bonington. This space combined core student service provision and student social space, enabling synergy between service provision and student-owned ‘hang out’ space.

Our approach: To gain buy-in across UoN, we facilitated a suite of workshops with Directors, Service Managers and students. We partnered with students and the Students’ Union to understand their experience of service provision and sense of belonging. To understand 'belonging’ more accurately, we utilised Strive Higher’s ‘Index of Belonging’ to map student sentiment across levels of belonging. This helped us understand how the hub could be designed to serve students and foster belonging. It also proved an effective means of engaging feedback and supporting the development of a continuous improvement model. We delivered a robust target operating model for the Sutton Bonington student hub, helping improve the student experience and students’ access to services at the campus. This work has resulted in services at the campus being provided in a student-centred way and has tangibly improved student belonging. We also supported UoN in helping teams understand how to work together effectively for the benefit of students. This new ‘culture of collaboration’ involved the development of new service level agreements shaped around the needs of students. Outcomes:

  • Students deeply engaged in the development of design principles and roadmap design for continuous improvement.

  • Robust, evidence-informed operating model for the new Sutton Bonington student hub

  • Revised service model to support an improved student experience

  • Informed how Strive Higher’s ‘Index of Belonging’ can be applied to support continuous improvement plans for any university

Read more about our Education & Student Experience and Values & Culture service offerings.


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