The First and Further Year Experience (FFYE) program at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Australia represents a sustained institution-wide approach to building an engaged academic and professional community. Implemented in 2011, its commitment to the transition, retention and success of students from low socio-economic status (LSES) backgrounds has deepened inclusive educational practice and enhanced the student experience for all students.
The FFYE practice builds from mini annual grants and a community of transitional practice via forums and online community sharing. Small sums of money enable academics to introduce new practices into their subjects, which are framed by Transition Pedagogy. Many grant holders present their evidence at forums, often enticing other academics to make similar changes in their practice.
Examples of some of the new grant practices that have been showcased at our forums, include transitioning into disciplines (role play in midwifery, industry mentor programs, field trips, research posters), transitioning into assessment requirements using iterative drafts, review and adjustment of rubrics, peer feedback, benchmarking (assessment principle); focus on belonging, connection and collaboration (low-stakes Improv activities, networking, peer mentoring, cross- discipline teamworking) (engagement principle), adapt curriculum and classroom practice to cohort needs/background (diversity principles); explicit writing and reading development (design principle); building compassion and addressing bias in nursing education (design and diversity principles); gamification in learning (monitoring and evaluation principle).
The program is:
- Delivered by distributed leadership (central and faculty), and through community sharing
- Supported by senior management, academic development units, Associate Deans (Teaching & Learning), and student support units
- Beneficial to students, academics, professional staff and the broader FFYE community
The program engages FFYE Academic Coordinators located in each of the faculties, facilitates an Advisory Board consisting of formally recruited students and professional services staff, and models inclusive practice in both its philosophy and its operations. At the core of the FFYE framework is identity and a sense of belonging for students – this underpins everything we do.
In 2015, the FYE (First Year Experience, as it was originally known) team was awarded the UTS T&L program award for its student equity and participation work. In 2016, the FYE team won a national Office and Learning and Teaching citation. FFYE co-ordinator Dr Kathy Egea was recently recognised for the impact of this work and her work in the sector by being awarded the 2021 STARS Fellow.
The forums are known throughout UTS for their large and engaged community of participants, relevance to current issues, sharing of successful FFYE ideas across UTS, and inclusive practices for students and staff. There are now more than 1000 academics and professionals in the FFYE community, with over 200 small grants. There are 5-6 forums a year (2 hours duration, fully online since 2020), with 80-100 people in attendance.
Recent online FFYE forums have themes such as Doing Feedback – making it count, Cultivating a compassionate university and Thriving in COVID-19 times. For an example of what takes place at an on-campus (pre-pandemic) FFYE forum, see this recap of 2019’s forum on belonging and identity.
The program is distinctive, innovative and enduring because it:
- Has sustained practice over 10 years
- Models inclusive practice
- Has high staff engagement
- Follows a collaborative partnership model
- Is continually evolving
The benefits are two-fold. For academics, they develop a greater awareness of student needs/support, and can reframe their practice accordingly, Students increase their sense of belonging, experience an improved student-centred learning environment and can develop their ‘future self’ from Year 1.
The impact of the FFYE program is seen in an improved transition of students, new Learning and Teaching practices from the grants, awards and recognition, and the career development of leaders in the Learning and Teaching community. Listening to students, building connections and engaging the community are vital factors in its ongoing success.
Dr Kathy Egea is a member of the Teaching and Curriculum Team in the Institute for Interactive Media and Learning at UTS.
For more information about FFYE program or on joining the FFYE community, email Kathy Egea at Kathryn.Egea@uts.edu.au
Egea, K., Griffiths, N, Heggart, K. (2021). Win win: enhancing students’ transition through academics reframing of their teaching and learning practices. STARS2021 Online Conference
Egea, K., Griffiths, N. & McKenzie, J. (2014). An evolving approach to developing academics understanding of transition for first year students. A Practice Report. The International Journal of the First Year in Higher Education, 5(2), 103-109.
McKenzie, J., & Egea, K. (2016). Five years of FYE: Evolution, outcomes and lessons learned from an institutional program. Student Success, 7(2), 65-76.
McKenzie, J., & Egea, K. (2017). Distributed and collaborative: Experiences of local leadership of a first-year experience program. Student Success, 8(2), 67-77.