Nicola Andrew and Ruth Whittaker
Promoting individualism and retaining identity in mass
higher education: academic advising for the 21st Century
The United Kingdom (UK) National Union of Students (NUS 2011)
report that personal academic advising is seen by many students
as the cornerstone of academic progression and highlights a
general UK wide dissatisfaction with both the quality and quantity.
The NUS maintain that there is a clear divide between
institutional provision and student expectation.
In March (2012), a consultation exercise undertaken by Glasgow
Caledonian University identified the dimensions and process of
academic advising across the institution. The consultation involved
key academic and support staff working in partnership with the
University Student Association. The outcome and output emerged
as a new institutional standard for practice.
Personalising the student experience
The ‘Building student engagement and belonging in Higher Education at a time
of change: final report from the ‘What Works? Student Retention and Success
programme’ report (Thomas 2012) identifies ‘belonging’ as a key theme in
student support, suggesting that it is closely aligned with concepts of academic
and social engagement. At the level of the individual, belonging recognises;
‘students’ subjective feelings of relatedness or connectedness to the institution’
(p12). Belonging in institutional terms may be arrived at through the students’
sense of being ‘accepted, valued, included and encouraged by others’
(Goodenow 1993 p25).
Personalising the student experience
Social and personal transition is highlighted in the literature (Whittaker, 2008).
Blic et al (2011) suggest that by broadening out the literature to include social
identity dimensions and the way that these dimensions influence student
Andrew et al (2007, 2009, 2011) explored the construction and sustainability of
undergraduate nursing communities through an adaptation of the Senses
Framework (Nolan et al 2002, 2004). Six senses are identified:
security; continuity; belonging; purpose; achievement and significance
Relationships within the context of care and service delivery
security; continuity; belonging; purpose; achievement and significance
Personalising the student experience
The Senses Framework is linked to respect for personhood, acknowledging that
the individual is at the center of a complex network of relationships with others.
All senses speak to the need to be recognised as an individual and valued for
your contribution in academic, social and professional arenas. Achieving this in a
system of mass higher education is a challenge. Academic advising offers the
opportunity for the institution do just this and provide continuous personalised
engagement throughout the student lifecycle.
Developing an institutional view of academic advising
The ‘what works’ report (Thomas 2012) found that students may not
automatically engage with the institution, recognise the value of engagement,
or have the immediate ability to engage. Institutions should provide a range of
opportunities for engagement and these should be broadly reflective of their
distinctive student population. Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) operates
an inclusive approach to learning rather than only targeting support of ‘at risk
groups’. The university has a strong social mission and is committed to access to
higher education regardless of economic or social background.
Developing an institutional view of academic advising
GCU has a commitment to access and inclusion and an excellent track record of
widening participation, actively recruiting students from socially and
economically disadvantaged communities (34%), successfully engaging those
who are ‘first in family’ (73%), mature students (49%) and those who transition
and articulate from the college sector (18%).
Developing an institutional view of academic advising
GCU is committed to improving retention especially that of students from
the most disadvantaged backgrounds; care leavers and articulating
students. There is up to a five percent gap between the progression of
students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds and those that are
not. This is a gap that the university actively seeks to address.
Developing an institutional view of academic advising
In 2012, an institutional consultation exercise undertaken by GCU
engaged a range of individuals from Academic Schools, Support
Departments and the University Student Association. They were
asked to reflect and comment on the purpose of advising and role
of the advisor. The resulting findings re-enforced the primary
purpose of the advising meeting as a dialogue between student
and advisor about academic performance, however the need to broaden the
definition of advising was identified.
GCU PPACT Standard
Lines (2010) maintains that the most effective form of student
support is ‘concentrated and integrated; an approach that does not
distinguish between academic and non academic units’ (p9).
The GCU PPACT Standard
Academically informed
GCU Academic Advising (Staff Pack)
THE GCU PPACT Standard- (Personal, Professional, Academically informed, Consolidated, Transitional)
grounded in
action plan
planning and
The new standard is focused on student engagement and staff
satisfaction within the wider context of the transition and academic
support framework. It spans the student lifecycle (including key aspects
of pre-entry) and encompasses academic, social and professional
domains. It is underpinned by collaborative, student centered strategies
designed to build academic, personal and professional growth

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