September 2018 saw the introduction of the University of Warwick’s inaugural Welcome Week. This development is a response to years of student feedback; calling for additional time to settle in, transition to University life, and to better understand what a degree, the Students’ Union, and University has to offer.
The development of Welcome Week was organised as a significant collaborative effort, involving all academic and professional service departments. Every step was co-designed with students and staff, resulting in a packed programme of events designed to meet one of seven headline objectives.
Department(s) / colleagues involved
Welcome Team in the Student Experience Team, International Student Office.
Colleagues from every academic and professional service have been involved through nominated Welcome Representatives.
Our aim was to …
Design and organise a coherent, inclusive, vibrant and distinctive Welcome Week that meets students’ expectations and needs. Welcome Week aims to enable all new students to: settle into university life; make friends; understand what is expected of them as students on a degree programme; understand the breadth of Warwick’s offer (opportunities and support) and how to access it; learn their way around; adapt to life in a new country/environment; inclusive community building; and be prepared for day one of term. By offering Welcome Week to all new students, across all nationalities and study levels, we are aiming to increase student inclusivity and integration and optimise opportunities for friendship making and networking.
What we did …
We recruited 111 Welcome Representatives from all interested and affected academic and professional service departments and the Students’ Union and invited them to a series of initial design workshops. Here we gathered thousands of ideas of activities, events, and messages that could be included during Welcome Week under a series of themes. We also gathered a long list of challenges facing teams and the University generally with the addition of Welcome Week.
Next, we looked at submitted ideas and grouped these into one of five areas dependent on their topic: finding your way, community building, academic induction, marketing/communications, and independence. These five then became workstreams of our overarching Welcome Project, with a dedicated project manager from the Welcome Team. At a team away day we ensured that across and between our workstreams we were ‘MECE’ (mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive) – ensuring we covered all bases without duplicating workload.
Each workstream then held topic-specific workshops and focus groups with students. Initial workshops simply reviewed ideas from our design workshops, using the MoSCoW method (Must have, Should have, Could have, Won’t have). We then held a series of co-design workshops with students and staff to develop a detailed understanding of what teams would be asked to deliver during Welcome Week.
Through a series of follow-up conversations with academic and professional service departments we were able to develop a series of project outputs, each presented to the Welcome Steering Group for sign-off:
- Academic Induction Framework – to guide academic department provision, outlining minimum expectations from students and to restrict some provision in line with feedback
- Community Building, Finding Your Way, Independence activity/event list – list of events and key messages for all students and for specific demographics under each theme
- Financial Requirements ¬– detailed understanding of costs associated with Welcome Week
- Risk Registers – risks and planned mitigations associated with Welcome (Arrivals) Weekend and Welcome Week
- Gantt Chart – a detailed project plan of activities and processes required to make Welcome Week a success
- Communications Plan – a detailed communications plan, utilising a range of student-relevant channels with appropriate, timely, and relevant content. We consciously managed University communications during this period in order to actively reduce the volume and duplication of content.
Working with IT Services we developed functionality to support the scheduling and timetabling view of Welcome Week. This enabled stakeholders to request time and space for Welcome Week and helped us allocate our c.1,100 events whilst also building the interactive student view of Welcome Week.
The outcome has been …
In collaboration with the Students’ Union, we showcased our opportunities and services through over 1,100 events. New students were able to build their own timetable on the basis of interest, want and need. We also successfully managed the significant challenge of moving in all new students into their residences over one weekend, resulting in a 96% satisfaction rate from parents with 87% reporting under 15 minutes waiting time.
Some headline statistics from our student survey:
- Did Welcome Week meet your expectations? 83% yes, 17% no
- How likely are you to recommend Welcome Week to future new students? 88% rated 7-10, 12% 1-6
“Everyone around, newcomers or helpers, were incredibly friendly and welcoming. All the events worked their magic to help people familiarise with the environment in almost every aspect. It amazed me at how fast I started to feel like a part of the community”
“I expected less attention to the single needs of each student. I was really impressed to see how much case you take about each of us”
“I liked the relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Before arriving I was anxious and scared about meeting new friends but it gave me a full week to make new friends and settle in before my course started. The huge range of events was very impressive – there was always something worth attending. I was able to try new things I had never done before which was a memorable way to start my time at Warwick”
“Great enthusiasm and organisation from the team, we need more events like this that pulls together all of the Warwick teams as ultimately we are here for one purpose and that is the students”
The benefit/impact has been …
Acting upon years’ worth of student feedback and requests for a Welcome Week.
Providing more time for students to settle into life at Warwick, to learn their way around, to understand what is expected of them on their degrees, and to understand what support is available to them. In doing so, we offered a more consistent transition experience for all students regardless of degree discipline.
Significant reduction in duplicated communications activity and events, saving time and money whilst also presenting a more accessible offer to students.
This supports the Education Strategy by …
Providing a platform to showcase student experience opportunities and support services available at Warwick.
Demonstrating responsiveness to student feedback.
A genuine enhancement to our student experience offer: a week very much devoted to student experience that has deliberately sought to cut through duplications and silo working in order to deliver a consistent offer, regardless of the Department a student is studying in.
The response of students / staff has been …
Students: very positive, excitement, and an enhanced understanding of what Warwick has to offer.
Staff: the introduction of Welcome Week has presented challenges and opportunities to different staff teams. Through significant collaborative effort, we collectively designed a programme that met the needs of students and staff, resulting in positive feedback from our staff stakeholders.
Our next steps will be …
To test ideas and recommendations with students for Welcome 2019 before confirming plans and transitioning from a project to business-as-usual delivery model.
To find out more, you can contact …
Other information about this case study
Is available on the Welcome Website: www.warwick.ac.uk/welcome2018 or by emailing the team.