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Encouraging success - even after graduation

NEW ROLE: UEL's Charles Prince

BACK IN the good ol’ days, students could view their three years at university as an opportunity to find themselves – a way to leave home, make new friends, to broaden their minds and maybe discover their true vocation.

However, that was when the Government paid university tuition fees. Now that students have to pay £9000 a year and can expect to graduate deep in debt, the attitude of the typical student to their time at uni has become a lot more serious.

Students want to know that they are getting value for money, and most of all they want to feel that their degree will lead to graduate level employment.

It is a concern that universities share, for they know that getting a graduate level job depends not only on your degree, but also on your network of contacts and social capital. Some universities are now employing staff to focus solely on graduate employability – not just lecturers to help them get through exams, but teams of staff that are focussed on what happens to their students after they graduate.

One such man in Texan native Charles Prince. Earlier this year he was brought over from America to head the University of East London’s (UEL) new Centre for Student Success. "I'm very excited about working in London," says Prince.

"My main goal and purpose in higher education is to build institutions that are impacting the lives of underprivileged, minority and ethnic students. It's great to learn about this subject in the UK context."

For Prince, East London reminds him a lot of his hometown in Texas.

"I grew-up in an industrial town where vocational opportunities were more available than intellectual/knowledge jobs. It also had a post-secondary school that was committed to improve the lives of those citizens for the job market there.

"When I think about it, it was so different from London - but it’s amazing how many similarities there are between that city and this. We are more globalized than we think. I love east London."

Prince’s previous job was as Director of Student Success and Transition at historically black college Howard University in Washington DC. As 60% of students at the University of east London are from a BAME background, they are hoping that he can bring expertise gained over there to bare over here. Charles is well aware that for black graduates, getting a good degree is only half of the battle.

“Black graduates may struggle to get jobs for a number or reasons. It’s not just down to racism or discrimination. Mainly it’s due to social class. They don’t have those family connections, they are less likely to take unpaid internships or volunteer, and less likely to study abroad. All things that make you more attractive to potential employers.”

Prince has hit the ground running and has big plans for UEL’s Centre for Student Success.

"The first thing I want to do is to build a coalition of student ambassadors who can be advocates on behalf of the Centre. These individuals will work with current Centre staff to implement some of our programming and support marketing/outreach efforts.

"The second goal is to build a Centre that is mobile, online, flexible and engaging. It is about changing the university to be flexible for our students rather than changing the students to be flexible for the university.

"Lastly, I want the Centre to work with schools to support changes in the curriculum, module development, and academic partnerships. This is a core value of the Centre and working in partnership with other parts of the university is a key part of our everything-to-everyone approach."

As to his longer term goals Prince wants the Centre to grow in size so that it can meet the demands of students and the University.

"We also want to serve as an example of success for other institutions that are working with similar students."

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