Newcastle University’s Student Wellbeing Service has been recognised in the Outstanding Support for Students category at the Times Higher Education Awards.
The award comes after the introduction of three initiatives that aim to allow learners with autism spectrum disorder participate fully in higher education. Until the introduction of this scheme most support solely focused on academics, not on social and living skills leading some students to feel unsure about coming to university.
The new initiatives were set up with the aim of providing holistic support.
The scheme involved a transition event where early access to accommodation and events in Fresher’s Week were offered to those with autism spectrum disorder.
Alongside this, students were invited to workshops to develop independent living skills and provide further information on university – helping to eliminate the fear of the unknown.
The success of this initiative is already obvious with a 100 per cent retention rate among students who attended the first event. A social mentoring scheme allowing students to choose an event or club to be supported in by a mentor enables the student’s confidence to increase.
As they become more comfortable the mentor is able to reduce their assistance leading to better social skills and more independent participation by the student.
The judges at The Times were entsiastic about this initiative stating: “it supports the fact that clubs, societies and extracurricular activity have a huge impact on academic success.”
These schemes have helped more than 70 students - every single one of them giving positive feedback on the initiatives. Speaking at the awards Sandy Alden, Team Leader in the Student Wellbeing Service said: “This is a fantastic achievement – both for the team, and the students the scheme is helping.
She added, “It’s hugely rewarding that this has been recognised with this award.”
The awards are now in their eleventh year and pride themselves on highlighting and honouring the achievements and progress of institutions, teams and individuals in the UK higher education sector. The judges, speaking about the initiatives said they showed a “strong understanding of the aim of widening participation.”
It was a celebration of the best ideas, finest practice and best researchers and teachers from around the country. The University was also nominated for Widening Participation or Outreach Initiative of the Year but was beaten to it by Keele University with their project launched in 2012 reaching out to schoolchildren interested in stargazing with their inflatable ‘stardome’.