Aspire at the University of Chester
Founded by the Church of England in 1839, the University continues to be guided by Christian values and is characterised by its open, inclusive and supportive environment that welcomes students of all faiths or none.
At the heart of the University’s vision is an unwavering commitment to ensuring an outstanding student learning experience. As part of that commitment, the University has partnered with JS Group to deliver a blended scheme with both engagement and blended components.
In short, the Aspire Book scheme was a gift from the student gods.
WHAT STUDENTS GET
Firstly, on arrival at University, all 1st year full time home undergraduates receive the core textbooks relevant to their course as chosen by their course leader. These books are provided as eBooks on the Kortext platform and all students have a personal account with their chosen titles pre-loaded onto their bookshelf. The books can be used both online and offline and there are opportunities to create discussion groups with other students and lecturers and to integrate content, fully cited, into assignments.
I remember the relief I felt when finding out Aspire offered free books to new students at the start of the year. I hadn’t heard much about what the deal with textbooks would be and online there were jokes about textbooks being cripplingly expensive so I was quite anxious to what the cost would be. So when in Fresher’s Fair we were told we’d be given books specific to our course the feeling was pretty great. Aspire has definitely helped me.
In addition to receiving eBooks, all full time home undergraduates from households with less than £25000 income also receive a £100 award each year that can be spent on SU clubs and societies, learning resources, laptops, gym membership, photography, stationary, headphones and so much more.
With my £100 bursary I purchased a book on quantum physics that has helped a lot with my physics coursework, and studies. I also purchased a mechanical pencil that is still going strong right now. Finally, I purchased some folder separators and pencil pots to allow a more organised work environment making it easier to study and get work done. All in all the scheme has done a lot for me and has allowed me to do as well as I have this year.
BENEFITS OF THE ASPIRE SCHEME
Both elements of the Aspire scheme at Chester have been carefully designed to support both on campus learning and life and online learning. The £100 award can be used for on campus activities such as clubs and societies or to purchase equipment required for remote study and eBooks and Kortext have been chosen by the University as they provide 24/7 access to resources for all students.
HOW JS GROUP SUPPORTS ASPIRE AT CHESTER
We provide a full support programme for both elements of Chester’s Aspire scheme.
For the free eBooks we:
- Liaise with lecturers and course leaders on title selection and the University uses our Reading List Portal to collate, administered and budget their selection.
- We source the selected titles.
- We train faculty on Kortext and on how the eBooks can be integrated into module delivery
- We set-up the student accounts on Kortext so students can access their titles as soon as they have registered.
- We run training sessions for students.
- In conjunction with the library, we run drop in sessions and refresher sessions for students throughout the year.
- We provide data on usage by title, by module, by faculty etc. that can be integrated into learner analytics services such as SolutionPath and Civitas.
For the £100 award we:
- Set-up accounts for each student.
- Provide a tailored online store where students can check their account balance and status and purchase resources and equipment with their funds
- Provide cards to students and the technology infrastructure for vendors so funds can be spent on campus
- Provide comprehensive reporting on how funds are being used
Most importantly, for both the eBooks and the £100 award we ensure that students know about these schemes and their benefits. Student engagement is at the heart of everything we do and we have an Engagement Partner on campus at Chester to work with student services, the marketing and communications team, faculty and the SU to ensure that students have a high awareness of how Aspire can help deliver the most valuable university experience.
Our Engagement Partner also recruits Student Ambassadors to help promote the scheme and, most importantly, get student feedback on how the scheme can be improved.
MEET THE ENGAGEMENT PARTNER
The Engagement Partner at Chester is Suzanne Riley who has over 25 years’ experience in management, having spent the first 18 years of her career in the banking sector, transitioning to the Higher Education sector 9 years ago, where she has worked in a variety of senior commercial managerial roles.
She returned from Australia in 2017, where she had been working as a senior business development manager, for the Australian National University, leading in the management of multiple international complex projects, consulting and executive training.
Suzanne’s experience is broad, having held a variety of UK and international senior roles within the HE sector. She is practised in delivering and developing new strategies, projects, recruitment, internal and external engagement and relationship management, to a vast array of audiences within the UK and overseas worked in student services and recruitment in universities both in the UK and Australia. She is passionate about student engagement and supporting student success.