Confident Futures Initiative - Napier University
Imagine a university where every graduate emerges into the world of work with something that is just as valuable - or even more valuable - than his or her degree. Imagine a Scottish University deciding to introduce units on confidence and personal development, so that every graduate leaves with much, much more than paper qualifications.
Working in partnership with the Centre for Confidence and Well-being and a number of other organisations, Edinburgh's Napier University is poised to pioneer a wide range of confidence-boosting exercises and techniques in which students will be expected to participate throughout their four-year degree course.
Elements of the 'Confident Futures' initiative are already being piloted to enthusiastic staff and students, with the full initiative expected to swing into place in time for the academic year 2008-2009. Students are expected to benefit from coaching, mentoring, personal development workshops and inspirational lectures from people who have overcome major challenges in their lives.
The rationale behind the initiative is that in a fast-changing world graduates need more than academic qualifications. To ensure their adaptability in the face of constant change they also need self-confidence, self-knowledge and interpersonal skills. Those graduates who can combine academic qualifications and experience with self-confidence and a readiness to cope with change will become ?first choice? for employers.
In 2005 Napier University, under the leadership of Principal Joan Stringer, asked the Centre to tender for the design of a programme that would build confidence in its students, while also encouraging them to reflect on how growing confidence can shape their lives. Isobel MacNaughtan, who acted as the Centre for Confidence and Well-being's project manager, worked closely with university staff and students to draw up a tailor-made programme.
'Napier University didn't want an off-the-shelf programme and were prepared to work very closely with the Centre to develop approaches that would truly create confident students,' says Isobel MacNaughtan, (pictured)? who spent a total of 10 days conducting workshops on positive psychology techniques such as the 'three blessings' and 'gratitude' exercises.
'Student input was very important. We got a group of 30 students together and, using co-operative learning techniques, elicited their views on what should be included in the Confident Futures programme. They weren't in any way cynical about the whole approach to positivity -in fact they were blown away by it all.'
While some sections of the pilot are being delivered by the Centre, other elements of the programme are being run by training companies.
'The September 2006 launch days went very well and the students are enjoying their participation in programme. The great thing is that staff have also bought into the project and have made a big commitment to the pilots. Following the launch days, staff say that they can already see a difference in student attitudes,' says Isobel MacNaughton.
Since September 2006 some 400 new students have been participating in a pilot programme being conducted in three of the university's schools of study, with a further 200 postgraduates commencing the course in January 2007. As the programme steps up, February 2007's new intake of first year students will get involved in the programme right from the first week of their studies.
The aim is to roll out the Confident Futures programme to all first year undergraduates over the next three years.
Now, imagine the impact on Scotland if every graduate was a confident graduate?
The Confident Futures programme comprises:
- Launch Day - highly participative workshops
- Personal development units to build confidence
- Flagship lectures from high-profile motivational speakers
- Progress charted via individual ?electronic briefcases?
The pilot programme consists of three major strands:
- Knowing yourself
- Attitude counts
- Winning friends and influencing people
The 'Confident Futures' programme at Napier University aims to ensure that the confident graduate will:
- Be strongly internalised - much more likely to show practical intelligence
- Have a strong self-belief and the ability to make a difference
- Be resilient in the face of difficulty, with curiousity and problem-solving as their preferred response
- Take risks, make mistakes and ask for help
- Be adaptable and seize new opportunities for learning
- Be creatively reflective.