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Rose Alwyn: Reflections on a Collegial Tour of the UK

I have spent the past week on an enriching collegial tour through the UK, joined by my colleague Lisa Sutherland (Master of Wesley College and President of University Colleges Australia). We have delved deeply into student wellbeing, responses to gender violence, and the intricacies of the collegiate system, which is particularly resonant with Australian university colleges.



Our journey began at University College London (UCL), where we had the privilege of engaging with frontline staff dedicated to student wellbeing (led by Darren Watts). Our time with Professor Michael Spence AC, Provost and President of UCL, was especially enlightening. Drawing on his extensive experience at the University of Sydney and UCL, Michael’s perspectives on Australian university colleges were both affirming and thought-provoking.


Durham University, renowned for its robust collegiate system akin to Australia’s, offered two full days of invaluable meetings facilitated by UCA member Dr Eleanor Spencer-Regan. Conversations with principals and senior staff at University College (Castle), Hatfield, St John’s, and St Chad’s provided deep insights into student life, wellbeing, and the diverse challenges and opportunities within their communities.


Our discussions on student wellbeing, the UK code, and gender violence were particularly impactful. Professor Wendy Powers at Castle, along with Sukanya Miles-Watson, shared their extensive knowledge over lunch, enriching our understanding of these critical issues.



At St John’s College, Professor Jolyon Mitchell and Vice Principal (locum) George Connolly gave us a comprehensive tour of their living and learning spaces, including the bar. Our dinner conversations covered the spectrum of collegiate life, exploring both challenges and opportunities. Meanwhile, meetings at St Chad’s with Dr. Margaret Masson and at Hatfield College with Professor Ann MacLarnon deepened our appreciation of the academic and social frameworks within these institutions.


Our final leg took us to Edinburgh University, meticulously organised by Jenny Riley from Edinburgh Global. The day was packed with incisive discussions with Lucy Evans (Deputy Secretary, Students), Andy Shanks (Director of Student Wellbeing), and Dr. Kathryn Nicol (Academic Policy Manager and Director of Student Conduct). A tour of Pollock Halls, where many of our exchange students begin their journey, bookended our visit. Concluding with a dynamic discussion on social learning spaces led by architect Helen Wood, the day underscored the importance of thoughtful design in fostering student engagement and wellbeing.


Key Reflections:

  • Student Wellbeing: Each institution demonstrated a profound commitment to creating supportive environments tailored to the diverse needs of students.

  • Collegiate System: The close-knit, supportive nature of the collegiate systems at Durham and Edinburgh offers valuable lessons for enhancing community within our own institutions.

  • Gender Violence Response: The discussions on gender violence were particularly insightful with opportunities to inform discussion in our own context.


The knowledge and insights gained from these visits are invaluable. We look forward to sharing these learnings and exploring how they can be applied to enrich our educational environments in Australia.

 


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