Models of student administration, responding to Data Futures, tackling sexual violence and harassment, and managing incidences of student suicides. Just a few of the topics covered at SUMS Consulting’s latest event for academic registrars and heads of student support.

Earlier this month, SUMS Consulting hosted one of it’s Academic Registrars’ Community of Practice Groups with the purpose of bringing sector leaders together to discuss some of the most pressing issues facing academic registry and student support within the sector: tackling sexual violence, models of student administration and the future of Data Futures.

SUMS’ support covers a wide range of areas related to the student experience including the student voice, timetabling and curriculum change, scholarships, and value for money; in many of these areas, SUMS has developed maturity models to help universities assess and develop their own performance.  Our own David Becker facilitated the day’s discussion, shared best practice emerging from recent assignments, and shares his key points from the day here.

Tacking Sexual Violence/Harassment and Mental Health

We were delighted to have Dr Helen Galbraith with us from the University of Keele. Helen presented a case study that highlighted some of the leading work the university has done to tackle sexual violence and harassment on campus.  You can learn more about the work being carried out at the University of Keele here.  What followed was a wide-ranging discussion about the challenges in tackling this difficult area and ways in which universities could seek to improve further.

The SUMS event took place on #universitymentalhealthday so it was fitting that we also looked at approaches to mental health with a focus on managing incidences of student suicides. ONS figures for the year to July 2017 in England and Wales state that there were 95 recorded student suicides in that time period. Our discussions looked at the devastating impact on friends and families, other students, staff and the wider university community, as well as different approaches to policy, FOI requests and release of sensitive information to the public.

Models of Student Administration

An oft-discussed hot topic amongst our academic registrars is the shape, structure and overall model of student service provision in their respective institutions. SUMS Consultant Claire Taylor was joined by Sharon Harrison-Barker from the University of Hertfordshire to present on a piece of collaborative work in this area. Sharon talked about Hertfordshire’s engagement-led approach to projects which you can read more about here, and explained how initiatives such as Data Futures were driving the need for greater levels of data competency and process consistency. Delegates took part in an interactive session to quickly map out the provision in place at their own institution, the results of which will be added to responses from the wider SUMS membership and then shared with members to inform good practice.

Data Futures

Never far from anyone’s mind, the ‘Future of Data Futures’ was another session drawing discussion and debate. We were grateful to Wendy Appleby from University College London who provided an update on the state of play with Data Futures. Common concerns were clear amongst the group, notably that it’s no longer the case that Data Futures expects to reduce the burden on institutions and the onus has switched to how best to manage the burden. At the time of the meeting the group was expecting a ‘Go’ or ‘No Go’ decision in the coming weeks with the Academic Registrars Council (ARC) providing input to that decision. Shortly after the meeting, however, the Data Futures Programme Board recommended that the HESA board delay full implementation. WonkHE talk more about that decision here.

Despite the packed agenda the group also found time to examine a number of other issues including approaches to GDPR and how to meet internal compliance demands, ongoing conditions following the Office for Students registration and specific issues regarding transferability.

We will be kindly hosted for our next event by the University of Oxford and are looking to cover best practice and idea sharing around: apprenticeships, the post-Brexit landscape including Erasmus and study abroad, new guidance on Access & Participation Plans, UKVI and attendance monitoring, professional services restructures and student voice.

Many thanks to Alison Wells, Dr Helen Galbraith, John Kirk, Joanne Tallentire, Sharon Harrison-Barker, Anji Gardiner, Catherine Lorigan, Geoff Green and Jackie Hoyle for your contributions.

If you work in an academic registrar or senior student support role and are interested in attending future sessions then please contact us at

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