Advocating for Advising: A cross-institutional approach to Academic Advising at Oxford Brookes University

Ben Walker (Oxford Brookes University)

Monday, April 8, 2024 4:00 PM - 4:45 PM

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Session Outline

A new Academic Advising* Policy at Oxford Brookes University was launched in September 2023 as part of its recently introduced Academic Advising Strategy 2022/23 - 2025/26. The topic of this presentation is the learning gained from this initiative so far including insights, opportunities and challenges.

This work was initiated in response to student survey results which called for greater consistency and quality, alongside external drivers such as meeting the Condition of Registration (OfS, 2022) around ensuring a high quality academic experience. A number of cross institutional actions have been undertaken in this first year including timetabling of tutorials, hours allocations, new referral processes and systems, mandatory continuing professional development (CPD) for Advisors and the appointment of Senior Faculty Academic Advisors. Initial evaluation within each faculty has taken place with positive impact so far indicated by greater clarity and consistency (conveyed by student and staff feedback), greater engagement with training and systematic scheduling of Advising activity.

With financial and strategic investment from senior leadership and involving all areas of the university related to Advising activity, including Faculty, Professional Services, Registry and Timetabling, this was a truly whole institution approach (Thomas, 2017). As such, the presentation will highlight the ‘top-down, bottom-up’ approach to change (Kift, 2009) in addition to affiliative, dialogic methods to improve Academic Advising (McIntosh, Gallacher & Chapman, 2022). In particular, it will focus on the ‘dissonant discourses’ of Academic Advising / Personal Tutoring (Brown & Thomas, 2022) which exist across a complex organisation alongside the associated challenge of interpreting and reconciling these in order to enhance the Advising offer to students. Advising can be the convenient option to try to solve structural problems, at times ignoring that numerous factors intervene in this function (Romo, 2015; Walker, 2022). The session will discuss the strategy’s intention to appreciate that Advising is equally subject to these and how such barriers may be removed. Comparisons to other universities’ cross-institutional approaches to Advising and initial evaluation findings will also be examined (Lochtie, Stork and Walker, 2022). The session will be of particular interest to coordinators of Academic Advising / Personal Tutoring who can expect to gain useful insights on the opportunities and challenges of such a project, in light of the multifaceted and complex nature of this activity. In turn, it will consider the related key issues for Advising which we must address and overcome as a community: standardisation, professionalisation, recognition (both ‘institutional’ and ‘professional’ through accreditation), status and value.

*The term “Academic Advising” is used for the activity known as “Personal Tutoring” (or variants thereof) in other universities.

This session addresses the following competencies of the UKAT Professional Framework for Advising and Tutoring
C2 - Theory relevant to academic advising and tutoring
C4 - Expected outcomes of academic advising and tutoring
I3 - HE Provider policies, procedures, rules, and regulations