Could we be seeing an end to Freshers’ Week?

Could we be seeing an end to Freshers’ Week? LITE Fellows Andrew Mearman and Ruth Payne suggest that students need more than a brief introduction to academia and a pub crawl. LITE’s ELIXIR project is looking closely at what 21st century students want and need in their first year at university, and is offering guidance on how universities can best provide it.

Imagine being a first-year student. Perhaps you’ve just left home and you’re independent for the first time. Perhaps you’ve moved away from family and friends. You might be in a new country, or leaving the world of work to undertake study again, years after you last thought about formal education. Perhaps you’re moving into a halls of residence with people you’ve never met before. Or perhaps you’re living alone in private sector accommodation. Perhaps you’re free to do whatever you want for the first time and perhaps you suddenly have to think about how to budget for that. On top of all that, you might also be undertaking domestic chores you’ve never really thought about before.

The week before teaching typically involves everything from a series of talks on programme structure, introductory lectures and information about regulations on assessment, to events about personal safety, setting up a bank account and information about how frequently the local buses run. This is in addition to a parade of social events.

Some current approaches to induction really do run the risk of leaving students feeling overwhelmed and a little shell-shocked. Might there be another way?

The ELIXIR team is developing a set of principles that will help colleagues involved in welcoming new students to prioritise the right things and focus on what students need to know.

By drawing a distinction between a university-wide welcome and programme-level induction, we can ease the sheer weight of information students are often expected to absorb. There’s a lot of content that can be easily be moved to later in semester one, or even into semester two and this will make a huge difference to our students. And by using the first week or two to really focus on helping students to settle in and make friends, the university is likely to quickly see an upturn in student satisfaction.

Our discussions with students from different faculties clearly show that a major shared concern for new students is that they will not get to know people on their programme

In response to this, the ELIXIR project is developing a timeline that shows how some of the content from the traditional induction week can be accommodated across the whole period from pre-arrival to the end of year one. By developing this through discussion with key people in the University, the project is also gathering induction resources that can be made easily available to everyone and take the pressure of staff, too.

We have received a fantastic response to our ideas for change, with a clear appetite across the university to tailor induction activities to students’ individual needs. Might we be witnessing the end of Freshers’ Week as we know it?

A Welcome and Induction event will be delivered online on Tuesday 12th May – details to follow. If you are interested and want to know more details please sign up here.