In a dark, dark house down a dark, dark drive an academic book on Student Engagement was born. In the dark, dark house, there was a dark, dark map room and in that map room a bright idea sparked. The resulting chapter examines the work that I have been fortunate to participate in whilst working alongside my students, Jamie Morris and Amie Hession, who are both students of the Birmingham School of Media at Birmingham City University.
At a writer’s retreat kindly funded by Birmingham City University’s Centre for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching, we spent three days working in the grounds of the Wroxall Abbey Estate (Warwickshire) on the development of our chapter in preparation for publication in the LiHE publication, Student Engagement: Identity, Motivation, Community. Hosted by Prof. Claus Nygaard, Prof. Paul Bartholomew, Prof. Stuart Brand and Head of Learning Partnerships, Luke Millard, the event saw the gathering of staff and students to work collaboratively on an academic publication which examines student engagement from the perspective of both staff and students alike.
Within the Birmingham School of Media at Birmingham City University (BCU), we employ a wide range of strategies to encourage student engagement with the ambition of improving student success and enhancing the employability prospects of our media graduates. These include the development of student and staff partnerships to facilitate close industry engagement practices through co-curricular activity, the co-development of course content and a fostering of personalised tuition through the Professional Media Practice arm of the BA (Hons) Media and Communication programme. This chapter examines how these strategies have been employed through the Student Academic Partners (SAP) programme to engage our students in order to enhance their employability, to strengthen the reputation of our School and to feed the media industry with the next generation of creative media thinkers. This mirrors our School ethos in which we actively encourage our students to practice “blended professionalism” and extend their taught practice through fluid professional relationships across placement and outreach activity within the media industry environment (Whitchurch, 2009:407; Trowler 2010:43).
The Media and Communication programme at BCU consistently performs well within the league tables; ranking 8th in The Guardian (2012) league for Media Studies, Communications and Librarianship and reporting excellent National Student Survey results of 93% for student satisfaction; with 89% of those students going onto work or further study and 65% of last year’s cohort entering graduate level jobs (Unistats, 2012).
The success of the School’s employability figures at BCU (Unistats, 2010) can be attributed in part to the complexity of a programme which crosses multiple media platforms, and as such by its very nature, forces our students into a mind-set of resourceful adaptability through the wide-ranging skills performance required to succeed not only on the programme, but within the industry upon graduation (Wisby, 2011:32). This is reinforced in three different ways: i) through the embedded academic provision for professional media development, which provides personalised tuition across the three years of the undergraduate programme; ii) through close industry engagement practices which convert industry demand into the academic preparation of our students; and iii) through the added-value activities of engagement through student and staff partnership. in this chapter we examine how ‘blended professionalism’ serves to enhance student engagement and future potential employability success.