Professionalizing UK Student Services

Enhancing the student experience.

August 4, 2016
When organizations set their staff up for failure

"Student Affairs" isn't really a thing in the UK. Instead, most universities in the UK have a student services department.

Unlike their US counterparts, the majority of student services professionals do not have masters degrees in higher education administration / student affairs.

Recently, whilst perusing a student affairs job listing for a UK university (which is precisely why it caught my attention), I felt an uncontrollable urge to shake my head. The position showcased just how little this particular institution seemingly cared about the student experience. The job was a set up waiting to happen. An epic fail playing out in a position description.

This particular job ("Student Affairs Administrator") offered a salary of £20,388 (about $26,759) per year. The listed salary already included an increase due to the fact that this university is located in Central London (one of the most expensive cities in the world).

Essentially a generalist role, this job has a ton of responsibilities including the coordination of an "all-services" information desk, marketing/promotion of events, coordination of departmental finances, and maintenance of Student Affairs social media profiles.

Basically, this role is vital to the student experience at this university and the pay is terrible. Plus, it's a communications job wrapped around a customer service role with additional expectations and multiple stakeholders...and it's an entry level gig! A university degree is desirable but not essential...sigh.

In the US, student affairs is a profession. Practitioners study their craft and are paid salaries that match up with their qualifications and organizational role.

I think it is fair to say that the professionalization of UK student services would go a very long way in enhancing the overall student experience at UK universities.

Thankfully, with the leadership of student services organizations like AMOSSHE and postgraduate (masters level) programs like the Student Affairs in Higher Education MA at Anglia Ruskin University, there is tremendous progress being made for the future robustness of UK student services/affairs.

It will take time and institution-wide commitments to enhancing the student experience, but in the long-term, professionalizing student services in the UK will increase student success/engagement.

Ideally, something akin to "Learning Reconsidered: A Campus-Wide Focus on the Student Experience" [PDF] will assist with the creation of a more professionalized student services profession within UK higher education.

Finally, to whoever landed that administrator job, I hope you do a great job with what you've been handed. You'll never be able to fully realize the entire remit of the position though and it's not your fault. In fact, you may want to look at the social media job opening at your new employer. It pays better and you only have to do half as much work.


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