Academic and administrative staff from Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University and the University of Liverpool are enhancing collaboration through exchanges funded by the Erasmus+ programme.

Staff members make short visits to and from Liverpool in the UK where they meet with their counterparts in similar roles for interviews and work shadowing, allowing for the sharing of ideas and best practices to improve student and staff experiences at both universities.

Sarah Roughley (pictured above, left) and Zelda Chatten (right) are lisason librarians from the University of Liverpool; Sarah for the Management School and Zelda for the departments of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Computer Science and Mathemathical Sciences.

“As liason librarians it is our responsibility to make sure students and academics have access to the resources they need from the Library at the University of Liverpool, and that they are used effectively,” explained Zelda. “As such, we also promote available resources and train staff and students in how to use them."

“We constantly communicate with academics so we always know what books they’re recommending to students and to make enough copies available,” said Sarah. “Some books are available in electronic editions which makes this easier.”

Sarah and Zelda had a busy week of meetings with staff of the Library at XJTLU to discuss ways to improve such practices, and to learn more about XJTLU students’ needs so as to benefit those who will go to study in Liverpool.

“We have been working in our library to better support students from XJTLU, of which there are over 2000 and the majority are within the academic departments we work with,” said Sarah. “We have a lot of contact with XJTLU students and teach them a lot about library resources and support them in their studies,” she said.

“The last time our library staff had direct face-to-face contact with staff at XJTLU was 10 years ago,” said Zelda. “It’s been so beneficial to come here and see the library environment and how students operate within it. Now we know a lot more about students’ expectations based on their experiences at XJTLU,” she said.

Jianmei Xie (pictured below) is an educational developer with the Academic Enhancement Centre at XJTLU.

She leads the programme for PhD research skills training, training for teaching assistants, and offers additional support for the Certificate in Professional Studies in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education for academic staff to improve their teaching skills. She is in regular communication with the Centre for Lifelong Learning, University of Liverpool’s equivalent of the AEC, through email and Skype meetings.

Jianmei had an ‘intense’ week at Liverpool, but it was ‘a fantastic opportunity’. She visited during a busy week of PhD research skills workshops, joining in the workshops and talking to PhD students and their supervisors.

“It was useful to hear their stories, but also to let them know some examples of good practice at XJTLU,” she said. “We also discussed future collaborations for supporting teaching assistants, PhD students, and their supervisors.”

Culture shock can be an issue for international students visiting XJTLU and for Chinese students going to Liverpool. It is important for students to adapt to the local culture in a relatively quick and efficient way so as not to impede their studies.

“At the same time, it’s important for teachers and academic support staff to consider students’ different cultural backgrounds,” said Jianmei. “I shared methods for making these considerations when designing our Postgraduate Research Development Programme at XJTLU, and how to cater to different learning styles.

“Some shy students tend to write a lot rather than being very vocal,” she explained, “but as a PhD student you’re expected to communicate and defend your ideas verbally, so those are skills we should focus on for some students.”

Liping Tao (pictured above) is leader of the administration team for the humanities and social sciences cluster at XJTLU that includes the Department of China Studies, the Department of Public Health, the Department of English, and the School of Film & TV Arts.

She also made a trip to Liverpool through the Erasmus+ programme, learning a lot about the working practices of administrative staff at the University of Liverpool.

“We discussed some useful methods to enhance communication between departmental secretaries,” she said.

Another participant in the staff mobility exchange was Elizabeth Golding, project assistant at the Careers and Employability Service at the University of Liverpool, the equivalent of XJTLU’s Career Centre. Elizabeth visited XJTLU to share best practices and compare strategies for helping students to plan their careers.

Shu Deng, and English tutor with the Language Centre at XJTLU, wanted to enhance communication with the English Language Centre at the University of Liverpool and find out more about their curriculum and teaching approaches.

“I also wanted to assess the effectiveness of the English for Academic Purposes courses at XJTLU by finding out if students really found what they learned to be useful when they arrived at Liverpool,” she said.

She conducted a focus group with students who had recently arrived in Liverpool from XJTLU, collecting feedback about language classes at both universities, and suggestions for improvements.

Ying Xiao, learning and teaching officer at International Business School Suzhou, also visited Liverpool, meeting with staff of the Management School there.

“My main responsibility is quality assurance for our programmes and modules. At Liverpool, many of their structures are different, but our goals are the same, and we face some of the same challenges, so it was very beneficial to meet with staff there,” she said.

Staff mobility exchanges are ongoing with several more visits planned for staff from both universities.

Read more about the Erasmus+ programme.

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