Had a planning away day with the teaching and learning group at the beautiful Pembroke Lodge, Bertrand Russell's childhood home on the edge of Richmond Park. It was a good opportunity to work with and talk to colleagues from across the University. It also gives us a chance to see where we're making assumptions about each others processes and practice and steal the good stuff. The hot potatoes remain around contact hours, assessment and technology, but this year a new focus on student engagement puts us on the front, rather than the back foot. If we get the learning environment right for students I think many other issues, such as recruitment, induction, retention and progression, will either fall into place or become clear.
Mark and Ben, the outgoing and incoming SU Presidents, were with us for the day, which gave me a chance to chat over lunch about ways in which the Drama department might work with the Union to improve the range and frequency of live performances (be it drama, dance, comedy, bands or pukka DJs) on campus. Ideally I'd like to see our students event managing the SU Hall for the Union, but getting accreditation from us as part of their degree. The details for such a plan have to be fleshed out, and rightly the Union needs to maintain its autonomy, but it could be a very productive development that would make the SU less of a pre-club bar and much more a place of innovation, discussion and excitement, whilst giving our students the genuine opportunity to programme and run a venue alongside their formal training. We'll see.
In a suitable break my colleague Caroline, who teaches PGCE Art, took us off to find Ian Dury's bench - where you can sit for a while, plug in your headphones, take in the view down to Petersham and listen to the great man's favourite songs - all solar powered by panels in the arm rests. Apparently it was his favourite place to write songs. Richmond's full of treasure!