A tale of doughnuts and student support

Wendy A Garnham (University of Sussex)
Katherine Kruger (University of Sussex)
Emily Baker (University of Sussex)

Tuesday, April 9, 2024 11:30 AM - 12:15 PM

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Session Outline

How can we best support our students to achieve? Historically, students could be reluctant to come forward to ask for support, sometimes because of perceived stigma in accessing support services, but sometimes because they were not sure who to approach or how to go about accessing the support available.

The doughnut model revolutionized the way that support was offered to students. The model has 5 major elements, all of which offer a different opportunity to access support, with the student represented at the centre. Students can still self-refer but rather than relying on this alone, the new model introduced a “Touching base” initiative that enabled academic advisors to reach out to students at regular intervals to check in on their experience and to use this as a springboard for referring students to specialized support services where necessary.

Rather than referring students to generic support teams, individual members of those teams were allocated specifically to supporting Foundation Year students, so that students became familiar with these people, introducing a more personalized approach. The new model included establishing the role of Academic Success Advisor to offer specialized and personalized academic support for students so that they no longer had to rely on finding time to meet with module tutors who were often time-pressured and keen to avoid any conflict of interest in supporting students to complete assignments that they would then have to mark.

The doughnut analogy reflects the interconnection between the different elements of the model. The Director of Student Experience may refer a student to the Academic Success Advisors as a result of contacting the student to query their poor attendance. An academic advisor may refer a student to the Student Life Advisor following a discussion initiated through the touching base scheme. The student life advisor may in turn contact the Director of Student Experience to let them know that a student has made contact. Where students need further mental health support or provision to diagnose and support specific learning difficulties, Academic Success Advisors refer Foundation Year students to specific partners in the Student Life Centre or Student Support Unit. This work has directly contributed to the University’s sector-leading student retention figures (recognized as University of the Year in 2021 for student retention).

Not only has this model reduced withdrawals, it has also increased progression rates, empowered more students to access support and led to the development of new co-collaboration initiative such as the lecture capture project.

The session will provide a hands-on opportunity to look at how the doughnut model works, what is involved and why a doughnut was chosen to represent this. Unfortunately, there won’t be doughnuts to eat but each participant will have the chance to make and take away a model, made by themselves, of how it might work in their own institution.

This session addresses the following competencies of the UKAT Professional Framework for Advising and Tutoring
C1 - Core values of academic advising and tutoring
C3 - Academic advising and tutoring approaches and strategies
C4 - Expected outcomes of academic advising and tutoring
I1 - HE Provider mission, vision, values, and culture
I3 - HE Provider policies, procedures, rules, and regulations
I5 - The characteristics, needs, and experiences of major and emerging student populations
I6 - Campus and community resources that support student success
P1 - Create and support environments that consider the needs and perspectives of students, and respect individual learners
P3 - Commit to students, colleagues, and their institutions through engagement in continuing professional development, scholarly enquiry, and the evaluation of professional practices
R1 - Build advising and tutoring relationships through empathetic listening and compassion for students, and be accessible in ways that challenge, support, nurture, and teach
R2 - Communicate in an inclusive and respectful manner
R3 - Motivate, encourage, and support students to recognize their potential, meet challenges, and respect individuality
R4 - Plan and conduct successful advising and tutoring interactions
R6 - Facilitate problem solving, decision-making, meaning-making, planning, and goal setting
R7 - Collaborate effectively with campus services to provide support to students