Clare Mackie in conversation with Aula


Rachael: What does it mean to you as the Deputy
Vice-Chancellor (Academic) for students to be engaged? Clare: I think for students to be engaged – I think there’s been a saying at universities for the
last decade that we should try and support students to get sticky feet
whilst on campus: retain them on campus for as long as we can, to give them a
rich environment. And then we should top that up with extra-curricular activities –
so if there is a two-hour gap between lecture and seminar, fill that in the
timetable with some activity that the student themselves would sign up for. And the second state is actually empowering them, to take
that engagement piece further and it might be there are certain things that actually they’d rather do the self-study for and let them opt out of what’s
happening in the classroom for that bit because in actual fact, in self-directed
study they’re still managing to make it make it work for them. So I think that to
me, that’s personalised learning. It’s not saying that everyone’s 100% on a rigid curriculum,
it’s actually building the curricula, the extra-curricular, and let’s
work out what’s right for that individual. So my focus for the new
strategy is not looking to see where we think there’s necessarily an
academic failure but to actually re-look at everything with a different
lens: one of inclusion, in every sense of the word, rather than disadvantage. I
think if we become more inclusive and holistic, I think our students will be empowered to succeed. Rachael: If you were interviewing
yourself, what question would you ask you? Clare: Oh, I would say, “What’s the motivation, why do you do it?” I mean, about 70 percent of our students are the first
generation in their family to go to university, but if we fail them, if they
drop out, that has a negative impact on the whole family and the siblings and
the associated wider family groupings would be – oh my goodness.
Whereas the positive impact, I mean, 97.4 % of our
students that graduated in 2017 were in work or further study six
months after. It’s actually that we’re managing to transform them while they’re here and enable them to get jobs. And to me, that’s that’s worth all the extra hours and
extra effort that’s needed. So I’m really on a mission here. Rachael: And can I ask how Aula fits into that for you? Clare: Well I think that one of the
challenges we have with our students is how we communicate with them and I
think email – I know myself, I’ve only been here since January and I’ve got
about 48,000 emails in my email inbox and that’s that’s only nine months… And in actual fact for students they just don’t like communicating through
email. I work with Aula for two reasons:
one is to get a closer connection to our students, to make sure we get that to
be two-way communication going, but also because I know that email’s going. And I
think also because you’re a startup company, the energy and vibrancy you bring into it – so I think for that respect it’s the energy, the motivation, everything
that gives us that’s beneficial to it. It’s fantastic.

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