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Over the last few academic years, there has been a university-wide commitment to improving our National Student Survey (NSS) results. This led to an improved NSS position in 2022. Our improvement was the biggest in the Russell Group and our competitor group in terms of overall weighted mean (KPI) and specifically in terms of the assessment and feedback measure. There has been excellent progress and thanks go to the many academic and Professional Services colleagues for their commitment to improving our performance. We wanted to see this improvement continue, especially regarding assessment and feedback which is critical to our student community. For this reason, in 2022/2023, we were committed to identifying smart interventions that would enable us to improve our assessment and feedback scores still more, particularly given we remain behind our 2020 position. The NSS Gold Assessment and Feedback Project provided a vehicle for these ambitions. It was a product of discussions taking place in the Education and Student Experience Executive Committee (EdSEECeec), NSS Gold, Education Leadership Team (ELT) and other fora, and recommendations contained within a discussion paper written by Professor Rob Freathy, Dean for Taught Students. University of Exeter staff can download and read the project report and its appendices.

This project was led by Kelly-Louise Preece, Head of Educator Development, with support from Dr. Eleanor Hodgson, Senior Educator Developer and input from the rest of the Educator Development team.

The first phase of the Assessment Reimagined project, led by Oli Young (Associate Dean for Taught Students) and Dr Eleanor Hodgson (Senior Academic Developer), took place between March and August 2022. 

Driven by key institutional priorities identified in the current University of Exeter Education Strategy, Exeter’s Strategy 2030, the Student Experience Framework, and analysis of NSS results from the academic year 2020-2021, this project aims to explore and enhance assessment practices at the university, supporting staff to develop inclusive, robust, and appropriate assessment and feedback for their learners. 

The first phase of the project sought to: 

  • learn from recent developments and research across the national and international Higher Education sector, particularly in response to changes in assessment practice implemented during the Covid-19 pandemic 
  • understand how assessment practice at Exeter is evolving, including ‘innovative’ assessment practices and tools 
  • harness expertise and best practice within the institution in relation to assessment, with a particular focus on inclusive, authentic, and sustainable assessment 
  • identify barriers to implementing and further developing assessment practice at Exeter, and recommend actions to overcome these challenges 

University of Exeter staff can access the Assessment Reimagined Phrase 1 Report.

Transformative Education at the University of Exeter

Our purpose as a University is “To use the power of education and research to create a sustainable, healthy and socially just future” (University Strategy 2030). Through the Transformative Education Framework, we will use the power of education to transform our students’ lives so that they, in turn, can transform the world. We introduced this education innovation in 2021 as part of the implementation of the Success for All Strategy.

The Transformative Education Framework will:

• Enable all students to see the challenges associated with the climate emergency, inequality and social injustice in their fields of study;
• Promote the application of critical thinking skills in learning generally, and research-inspired, inquiry-led learning contexts specifically, with an aim to innovate and improve current approaches to education and address challenges facing our society;
• Foster collaboration with peers and educators, drawing on the strength of our community’s diversity of experiences and areas of expertise;
• Create a learning environment that fosters a culture of compassion and promotes respect by embedding inclusivity and cultural competence.

Through these actions, we will enable students and educators alike to apply their knowledge to create a sustainable, healthy and socially just future.

The Transformative Education Framework aims to ensure that:

• All our students and staff feel welcomed and valued;
• Our university community collectively examines and, where necessary, challenges established and traditional approaches to assessment that have, alongside other inequalities, led to awarding gaps;
• Inclusive language and practices are used in all teaching and learning contexts;
• Students are provided with adequate support for achieving good mental health and wellbeing;
• Forward-looking, sustainable approaches are promoted to uphold peace, good health and prosperity for all global citizens and the planet on which we live.

If you are a member of staff and would like further information, resources and invites to seminars these can be found on our Transformative Education SharePoint

If you have any queries about the Transformative Education Project, please send an email to

The Inclusive Education Project is driven by key inclusion priorities in our current Education Strategy, Strategy 2030, and Transformative Education Framework. The Project was established to review our current ILP provision, survey best practice in other HEIs, and explore the potential for Universal Design for Learning to improve provision for our disabled students, particularly those who do not come forward for formal support. Areas of work for the first two phases of the project include:

  1. Complete an audit of the currently recommended reasonable adjustments for students with ILPs to check their suitability for embedding into the curriculum and day to day teaching activities.
  2. Create resources and staff training for embedding suitable reasonable adjustments into the curriculum and teaching practices. 
  3. Identify the issues that act as barriers to implementation of recommended reasonable adjustments by staff members and implement interventions that facilitate effective collaboration between the central Wellbeing and Welfare teams and the education teams at programme level.
  4. Collect and analyse the data on disclosure of disability and access to student support services by international students, to understand their needs and encourage them to come forward.
  5. Create resources on neurodiversity and supporting neurodiverse students for staff members.

A report will shortly be available, presenting the work done in Phase 1, which aimed to address items 1 and 3, and drive forward items 2 and 5.  Work on item 4 is a standalone project, due to commence in September 2023.

The Educator Development team have been supporting leadership with our institutional response to the impact of generative AI on education. This has included:

Student Academic Support Task and Finish Group, led by Professor Nicky King (APVC, Education - Faculty of ESE) and Professor Adam Watt (DPVC, Faculty of HASS)​ was established in March 2023 to consider our holistic institutional approach to end-to-end student academic support.  

‌‌The objectiveof the Student Academic Support Task and Finish Group was to identify changes in practice that would:  

  • Improve and reduce variability of the student experience of academic support;​ 
  • Improve outcomes for under-represented, disadvantaged and international students. 

To inform and shape its recommendations the Task and Finish Group considered the findings from previous reviews of personal academic tutoring, feedback from academic and professional services staff and students, and best practice from other institutions in the UK and internationally. 

EdSEEC and UEB approved the final recommendations of the Student Academic Support Task and Finish Group in July 2023, including the implementation of a rapid development pilot.  ​ 

The report included a series of recommendations to ensure our approach to academic support is proactive, data-informed, makes optimal use of digital tools and resources, and brings together academic and professional services colleagues to support students in their academic studies. Recommendations related to::​ 

  • communicationswith our current student academic support model and expectations to staff and students.​ 
  • signposting and referral resources for staff and students.​ 
  • a rapid development pilot for student academic and pastoral supportin two departments – Physics and HASS Cornwall.​ 

A Student Academic Support Project Grouphas been stood up to take forward implementation in 2023/24.  

A key priority for the Project Group will be piloting a new model for student academic and pastoral support in two departments – Physics and HASS Cornwall – with the ambition to further expand the pilot across University Departments. The pilot will introduce dedicated Pastoral Mentors to   provide high-quality proactive support for students experiencing difficulties, which impact their ability to study and be successful on their programme of study. Pastoral Mentors will be a point of contact for Academic Tutors, and provide end-to-end support for student queries, including signposting to expert terms as required. The expectations for the pastoral mentoring pilot will be developed and led centrally to ensure consistency of experience but will be implemented in liaison with relevant colleagues  in the department. ​  


Benefits and success measures for the pilot include: 

  • Increased use of data by Academic Tutors and Pastoral Mentors.  
  • Development of Chatbot/student app.​ 
  • Increased engagement with the toolkit for academic tutors and increased uptake of training.​ 
  • Reduction in the number of mitigation requests and referrals.​ 
  • Improved student feedback/satisfaction scores.​ 
  • Improved staff feedback/satisfaction scores.​ 
  • Reduction in non-continuation/withdrawal rates 

If you have any questions about this project, please contact Jess and Charlotte Leach: