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Conference Infographic Gallery: Infographic 6

An integrated personal support system for at-risk life sciences students

Thomas J. Robshaw, Julie Warden & Maria Azmanova, University of Bradford

Infographic abstract

The University of Bradford was named University of the Year for Social Inclusion in 2020 and has extensive commitments around reducing attainment gaps for minority and marginalised groups of learners. Despite this, a particular issue was identified within the Faculty of Life Sciences of ‘traditional pedagogy verses non-traditional learners’, which has resulted in shortfalls in attainment and unfavourable student evaluations. In response, a Faculty-wide Student Attainment and Progression Improvement (SAPI) team was founded, with a remit to work collaboratively with both students and staff to improve student performance.

This infographic charts the development of our personal study support plan system, which is employed for students at risk of failing to progress and has supported over 100 students so far. The infographic will demonstrate how the approach is:

  • Consistent: establishing routine and building study rhythms within an often chaotic situation for the student, via timetabled monthly support meetings
  • Collaborative: plans are co-created with the individual students. Our role is complementary to personal academic tutoring. We link to wider support mechanisms across the University (Grey & Mcintosh 2017)
  • Holistic: we assess the background, characteristics and specific barriers to learning for each individual (Brown & Parkin, 2020)
  • Research-informed: our structured conversations follow successful solution-focused coaching models (Garbutt & Garbutt 2015).

The scheme has enjoyed a >90% engagement rate from students; proportionally greater for black and minority ethnic (BAME) students, those with disabilities and those experiencing personal challenges or crises. On average, supported students reported a doubling in their level of confidence to engage with their programmes and rated overall quality of support as 9.6 (out of 10). Fully engaged students had an 80% progression rate and progression was 9% higher for BAME students. Overall, we believe the support plans represent a powerful tool for social justice within the Faculty.

Challenges around implementation included a lack of full engagement from some students regarding the programme. This would lead to disproportionate amount of time spent chasing non-engaging individuals and a ‘law of diminishing returns’. We have thus learned that actioning early-stage escalation mechanisms was crucial to effective time management of student cases. The brand-new team also faced staff and student confusion over the extent of our role. This emphasised the need for a one-stop online presence, to clearly delineate to all stakeholders what they could expect from our support offer.

We hope this infographic will show how a personalised support system can scaffold a student’s learning, equipping them with the essential skills to navigate through their higher education journey.



Brown G. and Parkin D. (2020) Creating Socially Distanced Campuses and Education Project Leadership Intelligence Report: The challenge of access, inclusion, belonging and supporting students from vulnerable groups, Advance HE, York.

Garbutt, D. J. and Garbutt, R. (2015) Empowering Students to Promote Independent Learning: A project Utilising Coaching Approaches to Support Learning and Personal Development. Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, 8, 1-17.

Grey, D. and McIntosh, E. (2017) The Case of Building Communities of Practice. Presentation at UK and Tutoring Conference, Leeds, 12 April.

Infographic walkthrough