Reflecting on the academic year 2021-22, it has felt like one of two halves, both of which have been characterised by change and uncertainty. Being our third academic year to be disrupted by Covid, the first half of 2021-22 was heavily affected by lockdowns, bursting bubbles and significant disruption.
The second half has felt more optimistic with places opening up and meetings and events able to happen in person. But it has also brought with it changes, most notably those within – and now coming out from – the Higher Education regulator, the Office for Students (OfS). These shifts in priorities and focus from OfS in Access and Participation, including their funded Uni Connect project, now bring their own uncertainty. However, they present as both fresh challenges and opportunities for GHWY and our member institutions.
There has been further change in the core team at GHWY, where 2021-22 has seen us welcome new members of staff: Tahera Mayat, Dominic House and Nichola Casse have all made fantastic starts in their respective new roles as Collaborative Outreach Officer, Care to Go Higher Delivery Officer and Higher Level Skills Manager.
GHWY was also delighted to support the successful Leeds Trinity University-led bid for the WYCA-funded Grad Skills project which is branching out a newer area of focus for us.
This has also been the first full year of the new member-led and initiated networks and action groups, which represent a new way of operating for GHWY, focusing on particular priorities and groups of students. These are generating some fantastic outputs which will support the working practices of those who themselves support students who are currently outside of the ‘traditional HE’ mould.
What has been clear throughout this year of continued uncertainty is how much staff across the institutions welcome and benefit from the ability to have facilitated conversations with their counterparts in similar as well as different contexts when responding to these: collaboration and cooperation remain key to successful working practices.
I would like to end by passing on personal thanks to the GHWY and Uni Connect teams who roll so well with the ongoing states of flux, as well as to all the staff in our member institutions who generously share their time to work with us. We are genuinely stronger – and can achieve more – when we work together.
Helen Sykes, GHWY Manager