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Academic Advising Special Interest Group


  • Dr Mathilde Roger (Biosciences)
  • Dr Aziza Zaher (MLAC)
  • Mrs Jessica Sequera (DCAD)

Student Support in Higher Education plays an important part in the student learning experience and covers many aspects: personal and financial counselling, careers guidance, academic development, help for students with disabilities, and academic advising. The University's Student Support project is currently reviewing, optimising and enhancing our delivery of student support. Our SIG on academic student support in Durham University focuses on academic advising support.    

Research has shown how interactions with academic advisors have become essential to academic success, retention, and progression for students (Zhang Z et al., 2019).

For full group description and planned activities follow this link SIG academic advising.pdf  To join the MS TEAM follow this link (code: m7pnh15) 

Feedback Special Interest Group


  • Dr Mathilde Roger (Biosciences)
  • Dr Chris Saville (Earth Sciences)
  • Dr Nicola Reimann (DCAD)

The past decade has been characterised by an upsurge of interest in feedback, triggered by high levels of student dissatisfaction. Items on assessment and feedback in the National Student Survey have continuously attracted low satisfaction ratings across the UK. Universities and departments have therefore developed policies, guidelines, feedback principles and initiatives aimed at improving the student experience of feedback. Feedback has also received considerable attention in the literature which argues that current thinking about feedback results in practices which foster teacher dependency and are not conducive to student learning. There have been calls to reconceptualise feedback from a product transmitted to students (usually in the format of teacher comments on summatively assessed work) to a process during which students proactively seek and make sense of information about their performance and take action to improve. This has implications for course design and includes much more than the provision of teacher comments.  Analyses of NSS scores by Earth Sciences demonstrate that Durham fares slightly better than the sector which suggests that there is good practice that needs to be shared and more widely implemented.

We intend to use the SIG to network and provide peer support to each other, share what is happening in departments, initiate a survey to gain an overview of departmental feedback projects/initiatives and policies and students’ experiences of feedback, invite external speakers, discuss educational research on feedback, and propose university-wide feedback principles and/or policy.

We welcome anybody from the university with an interest in feedback; please do join the Team here.

First Generation Scholar Plus Special Interest Group


  • Lewis Mates (SGIA)
  • Megan Bruce  (DCAD)

The First Generation Scholar Plus (FGS+) SIG brings together colleagues with a wide range of expertise and experience from across the University to share knowledge and develop a transformative, bottom-up agenda. We aim to make Durham University a far more supportive and nurturing environment, academically and socially, for first generation scholars. In so doing, we hope to remove some of the stigma attached to Durham that makes recruiting ‘non-traditional’ students especially difficult. In the spirit of co-ownership and co-production, we will develop and maintain an ongoing dialogue with FGS from across the University, ensuring that they have a powerful voice in everything we do. The SIG will stimulate ethically approved research aimed both at improving practice across Durham and the sector.

The first event will be used to let first gen. students lead on what happens after but we hope to tackle the following themes during the course of the year:

1. What is the use of the label ‘first generation scholar’?  

2. Classism in the classroom?  And teaching difficult topics (e.g., poverty, racism)  

3. Curricula and assessment  

4. The wider social environment of Durham

5. Admissions and widening participation

6. What is Durham University doing and what does Durham need to do?  

These events will promote FGS involvement from across the university, providing opportunities to engage with university issues and meet other students and staff. They will raise the profile of issues and good practice relating to FGS and can inform WP recruitment and outreach activities. For further details, do get in touch.

International Students Special Interest Group


  • Lesley Kendall (DCAD)
  • Dr. Stephen Ashe (Sociology)
  • Dr. Liadi K Mudashiru (International Office)

The International students SIG unites colleagues from a wide range of faculties who are dedicated to improving the international student experience at Durham University. In the year 2020-21, there were 6,289 international students enrolled, just over 30% of the student cohort, a number which is set to rise to 36% as part of the university’s internationalisation target for 2026. We aim to create a safe space for international students to be heard and to connect with staff and each other. Together, we hope to help improve the support, services, academic life, social networks and overall student experience for the students we welcome at the institution. We plan to achieve this through focus group sessions concentrating on different aspects of the international student experience, including:  

  1. Welcome and induction  
  2. Classroom and learning culture  
  3. Curricula and Assessment  
  4. Department and university culture  
  5. Cultural and social engagement within and beyond the campus  
  6. General and future plans.

Through consultation with the students, we hope to better understand what is going well and what could be improved and how. As a result of these conversations, we hope to produce reports that can be disseminated throughout the institution to inform colleagues on how to promote inclusion of international students in all aspects of the university’s social and academic community.  

Here is a link to our Teams page