Institutional research projects

  • In addition to our externally funded projects, we are using our research expertise to conduct institutional research which contributes to improvements to the student experience at Brookes.

  • The Grade Point Average (GPA) was introduced at Oxford Brookes in 2013. It is a system of classifying students’ performances over the course of their studies and is widely used internationally. At the moment, Oxford Brookes University is the only university in the UK offering a GPA on students’ degree certificates, alongside their degree classification.

    This evaluation project used questionnaires and a focus group to find how the introduction of the GPA system impacts students, how they use their GPA and any unintended consequences. The GPA report was presented to AESC to make recommendations for raising awareness of the GPA to staff and students and to examine some of the impacts reported in the focus groups in more detail.

    2012 - 2013

    The project will investigate how ethnicity influences attainment at Oxford Brookes. There is a focus on students from black and other minority ethnic groups, as we know that completion and attainment rates for these groups are not as high as for white students. There are two parts to the project.

    In the first part, the research team will examine data which has already been collected and recorded in Brookes's academic performance tracking tool (APTT). We will look at the relative influence of student characteristics which we already track in order meet the requirements of the Office For Fair Access (OFFA) such as gender, age, disability, family income, parents' educational level, and schooling. We are looking to see how ethnicity interacts with these other factors to influence course completion and degree classification awarded.

    In the second part of the project we will recruit Brookes students from black and minority ethnic backgrounds to tell us about their experiences of studying here. We are hoping to work with 10-15 current undergraduate students at Brookes, who are in their second or third year, or postgraduates who have been undergraduates here. These students will will be interviewed (maximum of one hour interview) by trained student interviewers. The interviewers will be recruited and trained from volunteers from the student body to create an interview situation where participants feel able to talk openly about their experiences of studying at university. The interviews will ask questions about perceptions and experiences of the teaching, assessment and advising at Brookes. The participants will also be asked to keep diaries for xx weeks, where they will be asked to log any critical incidents about their study.

    The interview transcripts and diaries will be analysed to help us understand the real, lived experience each of the individual black and minority ethnic students. We will consider how they have experienced studying here and what it tells about how Brookes is operating against established good practices for advising, teaching and assessing ethnically diverse groups. We hope this project will suggest action to improve the students' experiences and ultimately to reduce the differences in completion attainment between black and minority ethnic and white students.

    There are three research questions underpinning this project:

    • To what extent are graduate attributes being developed and promoted within OBU programmes?
    • How are the graduate attributes being developed and promoted within OBU programmes?
    • What have been the consequences? e.g. Do students progress in their development of the GAs while at OBU?

    Evaluation plan (Word doc 43 KB)

    The initial evaluation report (Word doc 632KB) went to AESC in January 2013.

    In 2009/10 Schools have been implementing the Assessment Compact. Chiefly this stage of implementation has involved redesign of assessment practices to bring them into line with Compact requirements for academic year 20010-11, when all students in all courses should be working to the compact. This evaluation aims to a) gather diagnostic, baseline information about the extent of knowledge among students and staff about the Assessment Compact, b) gain insights about staff and students’ perceptions of the impact of the Compact on their learning, and c) if possible, capture the impact of new assessment practices introduced in line with the Compact on the student experience


    "Early messages" report (PDF 415KB), approved by AESC in June 2011, with recommendations for academic year 11/12.

    Background documents (Brookes Staff only)

    • A Proposal for an evaluation of the Oxford Brookes University Assessment Compact was presented to AESC in June 2010.
    • A revised proposal was presented to and accepted by AESC in October 2010. A submission has been made to UREC and approved in November 2010.
    • The full proposal (Word doc 2.91MB), including the baseline survey instrument and email invitation texts, as appendices, is now available.

    In December 2009 OCSLD were approached by Student Services to collaborate on an initial evaluation of the new models of student support. The aim of the evaluation is to explore the impact of the revised student support arrangements on the student experience, and the work of school based staff who offer support.


    An interim report titled 'An initial evaluation of the revised student support arrangements' was prepared by Rhona Sharpe, Frances Deepwell and Keith Cooper for AESC, 15 September 2010.

    Executive summary (Word doc 35KB).

    There is a presentation of the findings from Phase 1 (PDF doc 1.75MB).

    The final reports were presented to AESC in May 2012. You can download the summary and recommendations (PDF 516K) and the full analysis and findings (PDF 1.7MB).

    Stories from individual learners

    The reports drew on individual stories of support needs over the student lifecycle and explored the reasons behind the choices students make when seeking advice and information. These stories make use of pseudonyms. Each student has confirmed the contents of their story for use in the project.

    Janice is a mature age student whose most recent motivation for seeking help was as she felt she was not doing as well as she could in her essays. Janice had a good chat with one of the Student Support Co-ordinators (SSC) and also discussed a personal matter concerning her responsibilities ... ( read more from Janice)

    Lizbeth is a second year International student who began her first semester one January when other students were entering their second semester ... ( read more from Lizbeth)

    Marion. In her third year of study, feedback from lecturers that referred to her work’s ‘sloppiness’, ‘carelessness’ and ‘poor spelling’ provoked Marion’s decision to formally register her dyslexia ... ( read more from Marion)

    Naomi is an international student who arrived in Oxford with others from her home region to study at Brookes, without any pre-arrival information ... ( read more from Naomi)

    Sheera, an international student in her second year of study, has developed good relationships with both her Field Chair and her Academic Advisor ... ( read more from Sheera)

    Sonya sought advice from a lecturer on arrival. Having always received good advice and support over the intervening three years, Sonya has continued to make her senior lecturer her first port of call ... ( read more from Sonya)

    Wayne realised within two weeks of arriving at university that the subject he had registered for did not meet his expectations... ( read more from Wayne)

    Conrad is a mature age student who is the first in the family to study at university. He applied to Brookes after he was made redundant from his job. Conrad has sought support in choosing and registering for modules and from the Careers centre in supporting his change of career direction ... ( read more from Conrad)

    Julia is a third year student from the EU, who discusses her support needs with regard to accommodation, employment and use of academic English. ( read more from Julia)

    Penny is a mature student in her first year, who has been supported by the Mature Student Society. She describes her frustrations with communicating poor learning experiences to staff in her School ... ( read more from Penny)

    Student Support Evaluation Advisory Group

    The project is overseen by an advisory group, consisting of

    • Dr. Rhona Sharpe, Principal Investigator and Head of OCSLD
    • Dr. Frances Deepwell, Co-investigator and Educational Developer, OCSLD
    • Patsy Clarke, Consultant
    • Ellis Jones, Vice-President Academic Experience, Student Union
    • Keith Cooper, Head of Student Services
    • Hellen Barton, Induction Co-ordinator, Student Services
    • Edward Bressan, Oxford Brookes International
    • Helena Webster, Associate Dean Student Experience, Faculty of Technology, Design and Environment
    • representatives of the Student Support Co-ordinators (Robert Drake, Mandy Archer, Bryony France)

    University documentation (Brookes staff only)

    The following papers track the impact of this study, and are available from the Archives of the Academic Enhancement and Standards Committee