As the new academic year begins, the potential impact on all new students in terms of lifestyle, opportunities and choices merits consideration. Students new to higher level academic study, particularly mature or "widening participation" students, are likely to be both excited and anxious, uncertain of what the coming year might bring. The extent to which excitement or anxiety dominates is likely to be related to the life circumstances and previous experiences of new students. The student body in higher education within the UK - and we still have a UK! - is indeed diverse in terms of age, life experience, ethnicity and motivation. What most will have in common is the desire to achieve their potential, get value for money, and enjoy the time spent in higher education. So what can staff working in the sector contribute to the fulfillment of these aims? The following would seem to be worthy of consideration:
Welcome students to your institution
Be aware of diversity issues - age, gender, ethnicity, cultural background, academic experience, social confidence
Get to know your students as individuals, where possible, and know their names - especially if you are teaching them
Be clear about processes and what is expected of students but avoid overload of information in the early stages
Foster student group cohesion
Be patient and sensitive to students' concerns
Give praise as appropriate and critical guidance
Be genuinely interested in students' development and achievement.
The list could go on - but the above is a start.