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

10:10 – 10:20 Updates since the 2023 SEPnet/WRIPA event Professor Jacob Dunningham & Dr Andrew Mizumori Hirst

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 – 13:30 Lunch

13:30 – 13:40 IOP Strategy Update

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

Oto-Obong is actively involved in exploring students’ research experience and engagement. She has been involved in the integration of technological tools to create innovative teaching material and dynamic laboratory experience. Oto-obong is particularly interested in the interception of AI and education. Other interests include mentoring on the PRO:NE scheme and helping raise awareness on the translation of academic skills to employability skills among students. Discipline-based education research has become increasingly important in using evidence-based approaches to address the challenges and opportunities in learning and teaching thereby improving student engagement. There is a strong correlation between high engagement and improved academic performance. Hence, student engagement can be enhanced by employing active learning techniques, leveraging technology, and developing interactive curricular activities.

14:05 – 14:35 Round table discussions

14:35 – 14:45 Feedback

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

In the School of Physics Engineering and Technology, Andrew has helped develop an inclusive careers learning environment across the physic degree programmes. The distinguishing feature of this approach is the connection and co-creation of activities between different members of the physics community including professional and academic staff, students and alumni employers. His presentation will focus on how working across the physics community has supported the development of several new curricular and co-curricular activities to foster an inclusive learning environment. Emerging evidence suggests this approach leads to a positive impact on graduate outcomes. This work was shortlisted for the University of York’s Pioneering Inclusivity Initiative Award 2023. He has also recently been awarded University of York Learning and Teaching funding to better understand the barriers faced by physics students in successfully applying for placements.

15:10 – 15:40 Round table discussions

15:40 – 15:50 Feedback

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