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WRIPA & SEPnet Workshop 2024

Impact of student engagement and sense of belonging on graduate outcomes

Date: 10 June 2024, 10.00-16.00

Location: Institute of Physics, London (37 Caledonian Road, N1 9BU, Travel Information)

Wooden blocks turning from 'Belong - ing' to 'Includ - ing

Chaired by Professor Sir William Wakeham

SEPnet / WRIPA joint meeting supported by the Institute of Physics

In-person meeting to explore how physics departments enhance student engagement and sense of belonging to improve graduate outcomes

Who should attend

This event is for heads of physics departments, directors of teaching and learning and staff responsible or interested in diversity and inclusion. This includes project Juno and diversity champions, Athena SWAN representatives, academic staff, careers & employability-facing staff and industry representatives.


During the pandemic factors such as gender, disability and year of study affected how likely students were to struggle with online learning and mental health challenges. Since COVID institutions have struggled in terms of student attendance and engagement in curriculum as well as in employability activities, such as placements and attending career events. Minimal socialisation also negatively impacted students’ sense of belonging, which is positively associated with academic success, higher self-belief and feelings of self-worth. Today, poor student engagement persists as subsequent cohorts present complex, inter-related challenges such as inexperience in exams and interviews, lack of confidence and poorer general social skills. At the same time, employers are placing increasing emphasis on hiring graduates that are confident team players with business-appropriate communication skills. Employer demand for these skills is partly driven by hybrid working and the need for students to have the ability to work collaboratively online.

In this context SEPnet and WRIPA are hosting a one-day meeting to explore how university physics departments can create strategies to enhance (co-) curricular student engagement leading to improved graduate outcomes.


09:15 – 10:00 Registration and coffee

10:00 – 10:20 Chair’s Introduction with Professor Sir William Wakeham

10:20 – 10:45 The Graduating Class of 2024

Sally Hyman, Survey Director, High Fliers Research Limited. The session will present highlights from the 2024 survey and will take a specific look at STEM students. Sally Hyman is the Survey Director at High Fliers Research, the organisation which conducts The UK Graduate Careers Survey. This is the largest and most comprehensive survey of graduate recruitment at those UK universities which are most targeted by graduate employers. Now in its 30th year, it remains the only research in the UK which is based on face-to-face interviews with final-year undergraduates and on-campus research groups with student job hunters. The survey is produced in association with The Times and is used by the UK’s leading graduate employers each year to help them understand what the country’s top graduates are looking for after graduation, their views on different careers and employers and how they are conducting their job hunting.

10:45 – 11:15 Round table discussions

11:15 – 11:25 Feedback

11:25 – 11:40 Focusing on student engagement to address graduate employability

Dr Tom Lowe, Senior Lecturer in Higher Education, Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, School of Education, Languages and Linguistics, University of Portsmouth. His research includes student engagement in the development of education, embedding employability into the curriculum and belonging. Prior to Portsmouth, Tom was the Head of Student Engagement and Employability at the University of Winchester where he led the University’s student development, internationalisation and extra-curricular opportunities, staffing and strategies. Tom was also the programme leader for the MA in Student Engagement in Higher Education at Winchester, and has served on the RAISE Committee in various roles for over eight years. Tom is experienced in the practicalities surrounding student engagement in quality assurance, learning and teaching, University governance and Students’ Unions.

11:40 – 12:20 Round table discussions

12:20 – 12:30 Feedback

12:30 – 12:40 Morning wrap-up: Professor Sir William Wakeham

12:40 – 13:40 Lunch

13:40 – 14:05 Discipline-Based Education Research and its impact on student engagement.

Dr Oto Obong Inyang, Assistant Professor, Physics Department Durham University. Oto-Obong is actively involved in exploring students’ research experience and engagement. She has been involved in the integration technological tools to create innovative teaching material and dynamic laboratory experience. Furthermore, Oto-obong Inyang is particularly interested in the interception of AI and education, having published an article on “the dead of short-form essay writing in Physics”. Other interests include mentoring on the PRO:NE mentoring scheme and helping raise awareness on the translation academic skills to employability skills among students.

14:05 – 14:35 Round table discussions

14:35 – 14:45 Feedback

14:45 – 15:10 Building inclusive career learning environments for physics students

Dr Andrew Mizumori Hirst, Co-director, White Rose Industrial Physics Academy (WRIPA), School of Physics, Engineering and Technology (School of PET), University of York. In the School of PET, WRIPA have implemented an inclusive learning environment to support undergraduate employability skills and knowledge. Our approach reflects the diversity of physics students and addresses intersectionality that can affect career choices. The distinguishing feature of this approach is the connection and co-creation of activities between different members of the physics community (eg professional & academic staff and students & alumni employers). This presentation will focus on how working across the physics community has enabled the development of several new curricular and co-curricular activities to foster an inclusive learning environment and how this positively impacts graduate outcomes.

15:10 – 15:40 Round table discussions

15:40 – 15:50 Feedback

15:50 – 16:00 Afternoon wrap-up: Professor Sir William Wakeham