Access elite: Sheffield Hallam University

January 18, 2002

Academic staff: 3,138
Undergraduates: 19,028
Postgraduates: 5,368

Sheffield Hallam University attributes its success to giving priority to the interests of its students. A third live locally and almost a third study part time. Some 40 per cent of students are mature.

Phil Garrahan, pro vice-chancellor for academic development, said: "There is a staff commitment to putting students first."

Many university activities are integrated: student support stretches from raising aspirations to career planning, and teaching and research are closely linked.

Jacqui Ashmore, who works in the student service centre, said: "We have a cradle-to-grave approach to student support."

The centre arranges visits to schools, university visits by schools, summer schools, a black students' conference and open days.

It also offers existing students support and welfare services including counselling, pastoral care, support for disabled students, study skills for mature students and financial advice.

The centre advises students on changing courses and finding a career.

One person who has benefited from the centre is 20-year-old local student Jamie Flint, who is in his second year of a degree course in computing, specialising in networks and communication.

He said: "I didn't want to come to university but I was persuaded. I did a year in industry before, and I liked the look of a sandwich course as it gave valuable experience.

"I was on an HND but I wasn't happy, so I arranged to transfer at the end of the first year. I didn't find out I was dyslexic until just before I came here. The university gave me a computer and proof reading is available."

Students have access to the university's innovative learning centre. It comprises a library open 24 hours a day with quiet discussion areas, computers offering access to databases, multimedia production facilities and a publishing house. The building also houses the Learning and Teaching Institute - a professional centre for lecturers that conducts research into learning and teaching.

There are a couple of dedicated research centres, including the materials research institute, which gained a grade 5 in last year's research assessment exercise.

Outside these centres, staff conduct teaching and research.

Roger Hilyer is director of the school of cultural studies, which secured a grade 5 for history and for art and design, and a 4 for English.

He said: "Star researchers teach first-year students. We have avoided the trap of saying that it is in the third year that you have contact with the specialists and that it is in the third year that you have teaching informed by research."

Guide to THES access elite stories

   Scaling the heights: THES access elite table
  Poor face a steep climb
  Jacks of all trades pave the  way to participation
  Leader: Institutions hold trump cards in widening access
  Strathclyde university
  Stirling university
  Institutions attacked for bias against poor
  Hard-up white men continue to elude recruiters
  US offers cash to lure poor to college

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