The Salford Advantage Fund (SAF) is generously funded by our donor community to support several campus initiatives every year that help to enhance the student experience, encourage academic developments or improve the University’s overall environment.
Professor Niroshini Nirmalan, Head of Biomedicine at Salford, led the SAF Future-proofing Student Prospects Through Building RESILIENCE project in 2021 to provide students with much-needed support during the Covid-19 pandemic.
We spoke to Professor Nirmalan to find out more:
Tell us more about Future-proofing Student Prospects Through Building RESILIENCE.
The overall objective was to create interactive learning communities which would enhance student engagement and experience; this was deemed a critical necessity to offset the negative effects of the pandemic-induced changes on student learning and wellbeing.
How did you achieve this?
The project used a series of staff and student co-created and co-led activities to enhance extracurricular attainment and the physical, social, and emotional wellbeing of students. The activities were rolled our through the Biomedicine society: the physical and mental wellbeing events delivered a series of very successful exercise programmes (Zumba, bootcamp, circuits), and mentoring sessions (Coffee with Caroline), to identify and engage students struggling to cope with the changed learning environments.
Highly successful art competitions – ‘The Human Body in Health and Disease’ and ‘Perceptions of Pain’ – were made possible by the SAF, providing art materials and prizes to encourage participation, yielding high-calibre output.
Serial career events, hosted by alumni and esteemed external speakers, were greatly appreciated and valued by the students, resulting in early career focus and working towards CV enhancement, and a series of highly interactive book clubs further heightened student engagement and critical thinking.
What were your highlights of the project?
During a period of extreme stress and isolation, the project activities provided welcome and much needed engagement opportunities to enable students to cope and thrive under difficult circumstances. The Biomedicine subject area is rapidly growing a vibrant student cohort, and much of the activities were avidly take up by them.
How much of a difference did the funding make?
The SAF awarded to us have undoubtedly contributed to enhancing the student experience of this cohort. It has empowered these students and increased engagement and resilience, undoubtedly nullifying the deleterious effects of the pandemic.
Were there any challenges?
The prolonged social distancing and isolation requirement prevented the large-scale events we would have anticipated; however, the transfer of activities online did have better engagement for some activities – careers, social, external speaker events.
How did students benefit?
The level of engagement with students was maintained at a high-level during the pandemic and provided a great experience for staff and students. The co-led activities by Biomedicine staff and students were open to all students in the wider community.
The funding will enhance student employability and contribute in a wider sense to society. The vast social media coverage of the project has established a very strong brand identity for Biomedicine and the University of Salford.
Will the project continue to have an impact?
The work has generated highly effective, student learning communities and robust groupings which are now largely self-sustained. In fact, they have now secured funding to carry on some of the exercise-related events every Monday through the current academic year (2021/22).
The combined outputs of the art and photography competitions have the potential to be used for future commercial gain, and the careers societies are continuing to reap benefits through regular meetings.
Is there anything you would like to say to the donors?
We are very grateful for the award of two SAF grants which have been used with great effect in creating cohesive, engaged student learning communities which have thrived and excelled, despite harsh external conditions.
The funding, by providing essential extracurricular, social, physical, and mental wellbeing support, enhanced the resilience of the Biomedicine students. We have no doubt that this activity strongly influenced the narrowing of the BAME attainment gap in this student group by increasing engagement. We thank the generous donors for this powerful investment in our students.
To learn more about the ways you can support innovative projects like Future-proofing Student Prospects Through Building RESILIENCE through the Salford Advantage Fund, visit Giving To Salford.