I hesitated to start this piece by looking back over the year to the first lockdown of the pandemic. The anniversary of this major change in our personal and professional lives has been well-rehearsed in the media, including the often tragic impact of the illness itself. However, as with other areas of life the impact on NERUPI and its members has been significant.
Our last face to face event was focussed on the impact of student ambassadors and mentors: Exploring and Enhancing the Impact of Student Ambassadors and Mentors taking place on 11th March 2020, just over a year ago now. Normally NERUPI members would have kept in touch informally through face to face events and the Convention but sadly those casual contacts where we all learn so much have not been possible.
However, as you know we have successfully moved our events online and, while we miss meeting each other face to face there are certainly some advantages. First, the need to travel has been removed saving us all time and money. This increased flexibility has allowed us to extend the range of activities to include some less formal half-day sessions showcasing online learning, for example. We were also able to experiment with offering a series of events to explore a complex issue in-depth, which was very successful for the important issue of the degree awarding gap between white students and some minority ethnic groups: Addressing the BAME Outcome Gap: The Importance of Research and Evaluation.
Being able to accommodate all members who wish to attend has been another advantage as we are not restricted by the size of the venue. Another bonus is the possibility of working with colleagues from across the globe, with the NERUPI Convention 2020 including speakers from the Centre of Excellence for Equity in HE at Newcastle, Australia.
We are currently planning next year’s events and informal feedback indicates a preference for a mixture of online and face to face delivery. We are keen to hear your views on that as well as suggestions for areas to explore so please complete our survey here. We have reserved the Friends House Euston for the 2021 Convention which, as well as being conveniently located in Central London, is a very airy building with two outside spaces that I am sure we will all appreciate as we return safely to social contact.
It is likely that we will continue to use the Friends House for face to face events as it can accommodate larger groups and this will be important next year. The number of NERUPI Members has increased considerably along with interest from a wider range of colleagues within member organisations including careers, student support, learning and teaching and academic departments.
Despite Lockdown we now have five working groups established. While I am sure the group members would have preferred to meet in person at least once, online meetings have been a real benefit and I am sure they will continue. We are featuring Rebecca Harland and the Uni Connect Working Group this time but will be inviting all working groups to give an outline of their activities in the coming year.
Our other major piece of lockdown work has been the development of the NERUPI online resources and question bank. Developed in response to member requests, the Toolkit Group has been working with Joanne Moore on a range of resources to support colleagues in developing their evaluation strategies. These resources are part of the Reflexive Cycle Toolkit and will be available on a dedicated area of the members' website providing capacity to add new material incrementally including case studies or practice examples from members.
NERUPI members can be very modest about their work but as so many colleagues are now using the NERUPI Framework to underpin their widening participation strategies, including their Access and Participation Plans, we hope to see more of these Practice Examples on the site. If you are interested please do get in touch as we are happy to work with you to develop them.