Improving Student Support Mechanisms to Enhance Student Engagement and Learning

Improving Student Support Mechanisms to Enhance Student Engagement and Learning

Dr Amudha PoobalanDr Amudha Poobalan, School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition, tells us about the focus group discussions conducted with students to understand the factors that support student success and satisfaction.

Read Dr Poobalan's report on the findings from the focus group discussions below, and download the poster.


Transitioning to and through higher education is a challenging phase for many students. Some of the challenges emerge due to transitioning from undergraduate to postgraduate studies; entering medical school through college (widening access scheme); moving to a different country and studying in a different education system. Over the years, SCEF feedback, SSLC meetings and informal feedback from students have highlighted the importance of support they have received from the University community that lead to academic achievement and high levels of student satisfaction. Formal and informal support is crucial in motivating student engagement all through their learning.


Funded by LTEP, we have conducted a project to understand the factors that support student success and satisfaction. Six focus group discussions (FGDs) were conducted with 38 participants between June 2017 and May 2018. Two FGDs were conducted with taught postgraduates (n=13), two with Science undergraduates (n=9) and one each with intercalating medics (n= 6; 4th years) and Gateway 2 Medicine students (n=10; widening access course). FGDs discussion were around how students use the various support structures and mechanisms available to them, their views of how these mechanisms help them engage academically and socially with their peers and the wider learning community.


Three main themes that emerged were Awareness and accessibility, Fulfilled but not tailored and Communication. This study showed that students acknowledged that several student support systems existed and were appreciative of the support. However, they felt that they were overwhelmed with the generic information provided, where by crucial information was missed. Simple and clear instructions prior to their arrival, about practical things such as setting of the two campuses and accommodation, things to be done such as registration with GP was perceived as useful. Students will appreciate some course information/timetable prior to arrival. While studying here, students prefer staff who are passionate about helping students and have some understanding of the subjects of the tutees as their personal tutors. PGT students would prefer some personal tutoring or mentoring system.


Based on these findings, for this year, at the conversion meetings for the Master of Public Health (MPH), I am providing simple instructions about different campuses and the bus service we provide. I am interacting more on the Facebook with prospective students regarding the course content and, we are setting up a personal development mentors for the PGT Public Health students together with Global Health programme. I will update this case study at the end of this academic year to see if there has been any impact.