New student exchange programme takes place

Adam Powell, the third year physics student representing Swansea University on the new student exchange programme PICNIC

Swansea University has sent its first student to Newcastle University as part of a new exchange programme which offers students an opportunity to spend a whole week experiencing student life at another institution.

An initiative of the STEP4Excellence programme (STudent Experience Programme for Excellence), the collaboration has to date also attracted the interest of Durham and the Open University.



Third year Physics student Adam Powell went to Newcastle during the Easter holidays and came back armed with a wealth of information on how our colleagues in the North East approach a wide range of aspects:

  • Student reps
  • Co-creation
  • Formative learning
  • Digital education
  • E-assessment

Here, Adam tells us a little more about his visit, what he learned and how that could benefit Swansea University. 

 Tell us a little bit about yourself!

I’m currently in the third year of my MPhys with the Physics department at Swansea University. I was a student representative for Physics for two years, being named student rep of the year 2015/16 out of over 300, before being appointed undergraduate College representative for Science at the beginning of this year, a role I have already been accepted to continue for the 2017/18 academic year. As well as this I have been president of Swansea Physics society for over 2 years and during that time received multiple awards including the Institute of Physics society of the year 2016/17. My work within the student rep system and societies has given me the opportunity to engage with various University projects including STEP4Excellence. This project aims to improve the student experience across Swansea University through student partnership and empowerment. Outside of the University I am the Institute of Physics ambassador for Swansea University and am a member of its committee for Wales. My latest project has been aiding the reforming of the Swansea branch of the British Science association all with the aim of improving Science outreach in South Wales. In recognition of my roles over the past year I was awarded the Ede and Ravenscoft anniversary prize for outstanding contribution to student experience and made it to the top 10 of the “Male undergraduate of the year” award

  • Why did you decide to take part in a short-term student exchange like PICNIC?

The decision to take part in this exchange came from my involvement with the STEP4Exellence project team at Swansea University. Their passion and hard work to allow the student voice not only to be heard, but to have a significant impact on how the University as a whole empowers students to make a difference, has over the past two years inspired me to push boundaries and strive for excellence. The opportunity to make a significant contribution to the project and at the same time hopefully improve the student experience of both Swansea University and Newcastle University was more than enough motivation to take part. I also believe that the range of areas with which I engage with the University and Students’ Union put me in an ideal position to make the trip rewarding for both parties. 

  • Did you/What were your hopes and fears?

My main hope going into the exchange was to come back with a new perspective on student experience, without knowing what is offered at other institutions it is near impossible for a student such as myself to give a truly accurate opinion on what is a success or failure. I had also hoped to discuss a wide variety of issues with staff and students alike and gain an understanding of what student staff partnership means at another University. While I didn’t have any particular fears going into the exchange I was definitely anxious to make the trip a success for all involved and pave the way for a continued partnership. 

  • What have you done throughout that 5 days you have spent in Newcastle?

During my first day at Newcastle I had the pleasure of meeting three members of the Students’ Union staff and discussed at length student representation, differences between our institutions and generally sharing good practise. This was followed by a meeting with Colin Bryson to discuss the combined honours degree and more generally the part co-creation has to play in Newcastle.

The following day led me to a range of meetings with staff members from combined honours, a PhD student, committee members from Newcastle Physics society and an opportunity to observe a workshop by Colin with his third year CH project students, all of which covered an extensive range of topics. Personally the meeting with the greatest impact from this day was my discussion with the disability part-time officers from the SU, finding out the positive impact lecture capture had been having on students with disabilities gave me a new insight to an already interesting topic.

Wednesday afforded me the opportunity to sit in on a school of maths and stats student staff committee. Seeing how the dynamic in this meeting compared to those I have previous experience with was an interesting exercise. Following this I discussed how student reps are supported and trained with the SU staff member with this responsibility.

The next day was spent mainly in familiar surroundings of a Physics department with a tour, lab time and a lecture observation all being arranged. This direct comparison to something I am so used to being done the “Swansea way” was invaluable. I was also fortunate enough to meet up with Fanni on this day, and had the opportunity to thank her for organising a great range of activities as well as discuss how the week had progressed.

My final morning was spent discussing Newcastle’s careers development module and careers service before a farewell breakfast and final thoughts on the exchange with Fanni.

  • Do you think it worth it? Would you recommend this opportunity to others?

This is definitely an experience I would recommend to anyone, the staff and students were very friendly and always willing to offer help and advice. My recommendation would however come with a bit of advice, to really make the most of a trip like this the student undertaking it needs to have a wide range of interests across their University. This comes from the need to be flexible and follow the natural path in conversations, I regularly found myself meeting with someone for a particular reason and quickly finding other interesting topics to follow up.

Adam Powell, Exchange Student, STEP4Excellence Project, Swansea University