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The rise of the student experience officer

The past few years have seen a mushrooming of roles around student experience at universities. Even before the global pandemic brought student wellbeing and mental health into such sharp focus, universities were hiring for relatively new roles that may not have existed a decade ago.

The importance of the ‘service level’ students receive is increasing, according to Studyportals. Photo: pexels

"Universities face increasing competition for top talent and student expectations are rising along with tuition fees"

As these roles emerge and evolve, individual job postings and roles look quite different. Even the approaches to student experience between departments at the same university can vary widely.

According to Laura Stubbs, student experience officer for Accounting and Finance at the UK’s University of Bath, as a concept, student experience is “really hard” to define.

“It covers everything from making sure the students don’t have to queue too long at the bus to get to university all the way through to that degree attainment, and it’s very wide ranging.”

Stubbs said that university management have come to value that student experience professionals have the inside track on what students are thinking.

“By just hearing what they have to say you can have so many easy wins. And we’ve made so many smallish tweaks that haven’t really cost anybody anything, but they’ve made a massive difference to the students.

“Like this year, we introduced the reading week, because just the pressure of online learning was completely overwhelming. And they really appreciated it. And they felt listened to and valued.”

Universities face increasing competition for top talent and student expectations are rising along with tuition fees.

“Students are definitely expecting more year on year”

“Students’ options are increasing and so is the importance of the ‘service level’ they receive,” Edwin van Rest, CEO of Studyportals said.

“The war for talent is fierce and funding for higher education increasingly relies on private sources. Student centricity will become a key component to determine the future of any university – even those traditionally focused on research excellence.”

“Students are definitely expecting more year on year,” Helen Murray, student experience manager, College of Arts and Law, University of Birmingham, added.

“The amount of money that you spend on a student experience officer equates to maybe, one student going through the university. If they have a real impact and boost satisfaction, then it kind of pays for itself quite quickly.”

This trend runs alongside the increasing recognition of the importance of student experience at every point in the student journey.

And it is not just a bookend with a chasm between orientation and graduation, explained Christopher Connor, assistant dean and chief enrollment officer for Graduate Education, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, University at Buffalo.

“The funnel has exploded. There are many, many checkpoints in the funnel now. I think you’re seeing globally; student experience and student success are becoming visible as the driver for successful recruitment.”

Studyportals’ Global Student Satisfaction report 2021, due to be published in October is the only student-powered global university overview.

“With more than 60,000 university experience reviews from students across the world, all education institutes should be listening,” added van Rest.

This is a sponsored Studyportals post, written by the company’s Senior Editor, Cara Skikne.

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