Pursuing a Career in Student Affairs in the UK

Questions from Across the Pond

December 5, 2018

One of my favourite aspects of being a blogger for Inside Higher Ed is getting to connect people from different institutions/countries. Having started my career in the United States and transitioned over to the United Kingdom nearly 5 years ago, my network gets more global on a daily basis.

Recently, Jeff Macias, a junior at The College of New Jersey, sent me a series of questions about his goal of pursuing a career in student affairs and higher education in the UK. Knowing that I don't know nearly enough about making the jump into student affairs work from the US to the UK, I asked Emelie Helsen, Interim Head of Student Experience at Imperial College Union, if she would take a crack at answering Jeff's questions.

Emelie has written on the topic of US/UK student affairs in the past (Tales from Across the Pond: Higher Education in the UK: Similar Trends, Different Structures ) and is quite knowledgable on SA/HE work in both countries.

What follows are Jeff's 7 questions and Emelie's answers in audio format:

Here is Emelie's introduction with the caveat that there is a lot of country-specific context when it comes to answering questions about the differences between student affairs in the US and the UK.



1. I am currently a resident advisor at my institution. I know residential education is a very integral part of US colleges and universities. How does residential education play a role in universities in the UK? Are there resident advisors, hall advisors, etc?



2. At my university, student affairs are very centralized and control many facets such as greek life, student involvement (organizations), athletics etc. Can you describe how student affairs in the United Kingdom differ?



3. There are not a lot of student affair programs in the UK. The only ones are Kingston's online program and Anglia Ruskin's program. Do you think pursuing student affairs and higher education is a viable career and/or study option in the UK?



4. I recently attended a student affairs conference and one of the speakers, Dr. Dave Eng, said that the job search for the student affairs field (in the US) is about 4 months, which is drastically longer than other fields. How hard is it to find a job at a university in the UK? And what can one do to increase their chances of landing a job there?



5. What do you think an individual who has experience in a US institution can bring to a UK institution?



6. How does working at a university in the UK differ from working in a university in the US? Also how are the campus and student culture different between the two nations?



7. As mentioned before, the options to study student affairs in the United Kingdom is somewhat limited. However, I do know that in the United States that one does not necessarily need to have a student affairs degree to work in the field. Would the same rule apply to the United Kingdom? If not, what masters degrees would you recommend to an individual who wants to enter the field in the UK?



Thanks to Jeff for his questions and Emelie for her answers. Hopefully this Q and A series will be useful for other student affairs professionals in the US who are interested in a career in student affairs in the UK.


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