International Year Abroad Student Handbook

Welcome message from Programme Director, Branka Visnjic

WELCOME TO ASTON UNIVERSITY AND THE INTERNATIONAL YEAR ABROAD PROGRAMME!

We are delighted to see you at Aston. 

This year will pass very quickly. In less than nine months, you will have completed the programme and be moving to other things. By next summer, most of you will be thinking about further study or finding employment and many of you will have plans to join Aston Business School. I hope that you enjoy the International Year Abroad programme and are successful at it.

The International Year Abroad programme is managed and delivered by the School of Languages and Social Sciences at Aston University. I am the Director of the programme, Dr Branka Visnjic. You can find me in the North Wing, room MB560b. My university phone number is 0121 420 5386 and my e-mail address visnjicb@aston.ac.uk. I will also be your personal tutor during your time at Aston.  I look forward to meeting you throughout your studies

Founded in 1895 and a University since 1966, Aston is a long established research-active University, known for its world-class teaching quality and strong links to industry, government and the professions.  It is an inclusive, forward-thinking and diverse institution, deeply committed to ensuring all of its students can maximise their achievements.

Whether you’re a UK, EU or international student looking for advice on managing money, wanting to join or even set up a student society or needing guidance and support when looking ahead to your future career, Aston has friendly and experienced professionals ready to help.

We take supporting our students very seriously.  Aston was proud to have been awarded Gold by the government’s Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) where the feedback said that “students from all backgrounds achieve consistently outstanding outcomes”. 

We are dedicated to equipping our students with the skills needed to thrive in the world of work. Aston is ranked among the top four universities for helping students secure a work placement year during their studies, helping them gain invaluable experience.  With the aid of our award winning Careers+Placements team, Aston’s graduates are some of the most employable in the UK.  Six months after graduation, nearly eight out of ten Aston alumni are in graduate level destinations – an employability rate comparable to those of the traditional elite universities.

For those who do not want to take the traditional graduate route, however, our Careers+Placements team can assist with other options such as further study, voluntary or charity work, and starting your own business.  For postgraduate students we have a specialist careers adviser who can help with career planning and we also have opportunities for postgraduate internships that can provide important work experience.

For students who are not based on campus the Learning Development Centre offers an email tutorial service providing academic support and Careers+Placements have an online collection of tools for career planning and research.

The new Aston University strategy features students as one of our main beneficiary groups and we are committed to delivering high quality teaching and support to give you the skills to thrive in business and the professions.  We are constantly adapting to the changing needs of our students and in keeping with the University’s progressive motto, ‘Forward’, we pledge to continue to do so.

HH Sig


                                                                                      


Professor Helen E Higson OBE
Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor

CELCA is located in Room MB560 on the 5th floor of the Main Building. 

Key Contacts
 
Timetabling and module registration, Exams and assessment, student support queries – Ammandeep Kaur (celca_programmes@aston.ac.uk)

Contacting Academic Staff
 
Please use the Staff Directory to look up contact details.

In addition, academic staff will advertise at least 4 hours a week during term time where they will be available for you to discuss your academic work and receive feedback. This is often called office hours or consultation hours.

How these sessions are managed is down to individual academics – you may be able to just drop in, or you might have to arrange a specific time either via email or through the WASS appointment system. 

You may be able to arrange an appointment outside of these hours, by negotiation.

Who to contact? 
If your query or issue relates to...

  • your academic studies on a specific module – the lecturer teaching the module
  • your programme as a whole – the programme director, or your student course representative 
  • pastoral, personal, or general academic problems – your personal tutor - see "Personal tutor information", below


You can also contact Ania Bailey (Head of CELCA). Appointments can be made via WASS.

Absences and Pastoral Care 
Please contact us as soon as you are aware that you will be absent from class or if there are any matters that are affecting your ability to attend classes and keep up with your studies.

Please e-mail: celca_programmes@aston.ac.uk

Centre for English Language and Communication at Aston (CELCA) specialises in teaching English for Academic Purposes and providing language, communication and academic skills support to Aston students.  The Centre offers a wide range of high-quality pathway and year-abroad programmes and supports Aston’s international students at all levels of study through Academic English tutorials and workshops.

CELCA staff are well-qualified, experienced and committed to helping international students succeed on their academic programmes and achieve their personal goals.

CELCA tutors can help students to improve their accuracy and fluency when using spoken and written English, pronunciation, academic writing, giving presentations, and other academic skills such as taking part in seminars or listening to lectures.

One-to-one tutorials can be requested online by visiting: http://www.aston.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses/languages-social-sciences/tutorials/ or in person on the first floor of the Library building.

 Email: celca_programmes@aston.ac.uk


Read the complete student charter HERE.

Extending Courtesy to Students and Staff

In addition to the undertakings in the Student Charter, the following Code of Good Practice has been developed within LSS as a guide to our expectations. It outlines how to ensure the best learning  environment both for you and for other students. It should go without saying that it is your responsibility to ensure that your behaviour is always courteous towards other students, members of staff and visitors to the University.

Lectures and Seminars

Lectures and seminars will start on the hour and end at 10 minutes to the hour in order to give students the chance to get to their next lecture. You should ensure that you arrive on time.

Lecturers will try to give as much notice as possible if they cannot hold a scheduled lecture or seminar. The lecture or seminar concerned will be rescheduled for a later date by agreement with students, or will be replaced by guided study materials if necessary.

Behaviour in Lectures and Seminars

Show consideration for the lecturer and other students in lectures and seminars.

Considerate behaviour includes:
  • Not disrupting teaching/learning sessions for example by talking privately or other anti-social behaviour.
  • Turning off mobile phones during classes and at other times and places when it is considerate e.g. in the library.
  • Preparing for and participating in seminar sessions as requested by the tutor.
  • Respecting the efforts of the tutor to direct and support your learning.
  • Using resources such as computer rooms, the library and other facilities sensibly and with consideration for other users.
  • Maintaining a safe, clean and tidy environment on the campus and in the buildings of the University.
  • Showing respect for your fellow students and employees of the University – even when you disagree with them!
  • Ensuring that you adopt an appropriately polite formal register and form of address when corresponding with staff.
  • Making sure that you are aware of the limits within which help and advice may be sought (availability of staff, any cut-off deadlines for project supervisions).

Students causing disruption in lectures or seminars will be reported to the Associate Dean, Undergraduate Programmes / Postgraduate Programmes, who will issue you with an informal warning as part of the University Disciplinary Procedure.
Term dates and university holiday information can be found HERE.

PERSONAL TUTORS

Role
The role of a personal tutor is to provide advice and support in overcoming any academic or personal problems which may affect progress. They can also help you to take charge of your own learning, a vital skill at university.

How the personal tutor system works

At the beginning of your studies at Aston, you will be allocated a Personal Tutor, which is shown on your MAP account. They are available either at the times stated on their office doors or through WASS. If you are not sure who your Personal Tutor is, then contact celca_programmes@aston.ac.uk

You will be invited to meet your Personal Tutor in the early weeks of each term. It is important that you then keep in regular contact with your Personal Tutor, seeking advice before problems develop and keeping them informed of your progress.

If at any stage you feel the need to change your Personal Tutor, please contact celca_programmes@aston.ac.uk. If your Personal Tutor is due to be away on sabbatical leave for part of an academic year, you will be informed of arrangements relating to personal tutor support during that period, but if in doubt, please contact celca_programmes@aston.ac.uk.


Further information
More information about personal tutors can be accessed via the links below:
http://www.aston.ac.uk/current-students/academic-support/personal-tutoring-guide-for-students/
http://www.aston.ac.uk/current-students/academic-support/personal-tutors-toolkit/key-contacts-and-support-services-for-students/
For information on academic and pastoral support, please see the following resources
  • The section of this handbook on Personal Tutor information
  • The section of this handbook on Useful Contacts
  • The Hub website, particularly the section on Academic Advice 

Thinking of taking a break from your studies?

If you are considering suspending your studies (“leave of absence”), or even leaving university altogether (“withdrawal”), it is vital you talk to your personal tutor in the first instance.

Leave of absences and withdrawals can be requested via MAP after speaking to your personal tutor.

My Attendance - Aston University's Attendance Recording System

 Aston firmly believes in the value of attendance, and its relationship with engagement and achievement is very important.  Attendance at scheduled teaching sessions enhances the experience of all students, and provides the opportunity for you to benefit fully from the support and guidance the University offers.

You should ‘check in’ to timetabled classes by placing your uniCARD on readers on entry to all your scheduled teaching sessions including lectures, seminars, tutorials, lab session etc. You will then be able to access your record of attendance in the MyAttendance system. This supports the University’s proactive approach to learning and we encourage you to assume responsibility for your own academic progress, and manage your time effectively.

For more information about VISA compliance and attendance monitoring please visit: https://www2.aston.ac.uk/current-students/hub/visacompliance/engagement/index

Tier 4 students

If you hold a Tier 4 visa, MyAttendance will create an automatic face to face engagement for you and will form part of your Student Engagement Monitoring information for the UKVI.

For further information please visit the MyAttendance webpages

MyEngagement - Aston University's Learning Analytics System

Aston University is committed to supporting students achieve their full potential throughout their studies. MyEngagement has been developed to empower students, using a variety of student data, to reflect on their learning behaviours and identify areas which could be enhanced. The system will also provide information to support discussions with relevant staff (such as personal tutors) and identify students who may need support at different stages of their learning journey. 

For further information please visit the MyEngagement webpages

For information about Aston University and your Tier 4 visa, please click HERE.

Your individual timetable will be available online through MAP

More information about your personal academic timetable is available HERE.

Please check your timetable regularly:

  • For changes to times and rooms
  • For possible clashes
  • To make sure you are registered for the correct amount of modules and credits in each teaching period

If you notice or problem, or have any queries relating to your timetable or module enrolment, please contact Ammandeep Kaur (celca_programmes@aston.ac.uk).

Changing Optional Modules

In Weeks 1 and 2, or 14 and 15, any changes to optional modules must be arranged through Ammandeep Kaur (celca_programmes@aston.ac.uk)

Changes after Week 2 or 15 are not normally permitted. After this point, any change that may exceptionally be agreed must be negotiated through the Programme Director concerned and final approval sought from the Associate Dean. A form must be completed and sent to celca_programmes@aston.ac.uk .

Modules and university credits

In order to be awarded the Certificate in Higher Education, you are required to gain 120 university credits. Some modules for which you are registered and which you attend are worth 10 credits each when completed successfully. Some modules last for both Teaching Periods and so are worth 20 credits. If you wish, you may follow more than six modules in a Teaching Period but you will not gain credits for the extra classes. 

To succeed at a module and be awarded the appropriate university credits, you are required to

  • complete the assessments required for each module. The assessment may be an examination in the university examination period, a test in class teaching time, a speaking examination, a listening examination, or coursework. Coursework is set for students to complete during the holidays and is often an essay or a report based on individual research. Coursework has to be completed and submitted to the School by a prescribed date.

 

In addition, you are required to,

  • attend all the teaching classes and seminars associated with a module.
  • complete all the tasks that may be set as ‘homework’. 

 

Although most students will be awarded a pass mark for their module work on the first occasion, a few students will be required to resubmit their coursework or to resit an examination. Students are allowed three attempts to pass a module.

Towards the end of the university year, you may be required to complete examinations at your home university. Normally, there is no problem in doing this as the International Year Abroad programme will have finished before you are expected in China. However, if you are concerned about this, please discuss this as soon as possible with the Director of IYA programmes so that s/he, in turn, can contact your teachers in China. We will need to know by January if you need to return to China early to complete examinations there so that alternative arrangements can be made for assessment at Aston.  

Learn Arabic, French, German, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Portuguese, or Spanish at Beginners, Intermediate, or Advanced levels while you study.

More information is available HERE.

Please visit the Counselling Services website HERE.
The Enabling Team site is HERE.

For information on student equal opportunities, please see the Welfare and Representation sections of the Aston Students’ Union website.

More information about the financial advice offered by The Hub, can be accessed HERE.
Information on appealing your formal assessment results can be found HERE.
Information on making a formal complaint can be found HERE.
If you are experiencing events or problems that are affecting your ability to perform at your best, information on the exceptional circumstances procedure can be found HERE and HERE.

The formal requirements for degree programmes are contained in the University’s General Regulations which can be found HERE.

The disciplinary regulations for students can be found HERE.

What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism is a form of cheating where a student uses the work of other people and published material as their own. The assignments and examination answers you produce must be your own. If you need to use other sources, they must be referenced appropriately.

 What could happen if I plagiarise?

Plagiarism is strictly against university Examination regulations. Your lecturer may decide to give you a fail mark for your assessment and you could face formal discipline outlined HERE.

 What can I do to make sure I do not plagiarise or collude?

  • If you are submitting group work, please write the names of all students on your work.
  • Follow the Harvard referencing system to identify all of your sources in a reference list at the end of your work.
  • If you are copying any pictures/diagrams/graphs from a source, you must acknowledge where they are from within the text you are writing.
  • Use quotation marks when using an author’s work.  

Remember that the Learning and Development Centre can help you with referencing; please visit their website for more information: https://www2.aston.ac.uk/current-students/academic-support/learning-development-centre

Modules

Towards the end of each module you will be asked to fill in an anonymous questionnaire. This provides CELCA and the individual lecturers with valuable information which is used to enhance and improve our learning and teaching strategies.
For interim feedback, please speak to the module leader, or a student representative.

General Feedback

If you experience problems with a module, please first try to resolve it with the lecturer or module leader. If the problem persists, then please refer the matter to the Head of CELCA, Dean of CLIPP.

General problems relating to programmes or subjects as a whole can be referred to a student representative, or the Programme Director.

If after this you are still experiencing problems, please refer to the section on Student Complaints.

GET INVOLVED AND HAVE YOUR SAY: BECOME A STUDENT REPRESENTATIVE

  • Do you want to help us improve your learning experience?
  • Do you want to make a positive contribution to university life for your fellow students?
  • Do you want to enhance your skills and your employability?
Then nominate yourself to become a student representative!

What’s Involved?

You will:
  • be a point of contact for students on your course,
  • represent their views effectively
  • contribute to activities that seek to improve the quality of the learning experience.
Training and development will be included in the role, and you will work closely with key academic staff responsible for driving forward the student voice at Aston.


The University is committed to listening to the views of its students and to including them in the development of their own learning experience.  If you are interested in finding out more about what a Student Representative does please contact Aston Students’ Union Vice President Education and Welfare at union.vpew@aston.ac.uk.  Elections for Student Representatives will be held early in the Autumn Term and we would like to encourage all students to participate, either by standing for election or by taking part in the democratic process and casting your vote.   Aston Students’ Union are looking for students to volunteer to stand for election to represent the members of your course. If you would like to get involved please see here http://www.aston.ac.uk/union/representation/course-reps/     


How is Student Representation Organised?

Each subject group elects a number of student reps. These reps will attend the Student-Staff Committee (SSC) for the subject group once a term. One rep will co-chair this meeting with an academic member of staff. A student secretary will also be appointed to keep track of discussions and decisions.

In addition, the co-chairs of each subject level SSC will be invited once a term to School Forum, where school level issues can be discussed.

The sorts of things that may come up in SSC or School Forum include; conversations about future programme and module content, assessment types and intensity, external examiner reports, reviews of academic quality and standards, personal tutors, learning spaces and resources.

Student Representatives will also sit on CLIPP Learning and Teaching Committee. This committee is the principal means by which matters to do with your learning experience are discussed, progressed, and resolved.

It is important to note, that the whole system is principally student-led. It is your opinions, points, and ideas that count the most.

How do I become a student rep?
More details HERE.

Elections will then be held via BlackBoard, with the results announced by Week 3 of Term 1.

Once the results are announced, and you have been elected, your training and induction will commence and you will be invited to the relevant meetings.

More Information

Aston’s Student Representation Framework can be viewed HERE

A programme specification is a general overview of the structure of the programme. It includes information about modules available on the programme, learning outcomes, assessment, and teaching methods. Programme specs are available via MAP.  

Module Specifications
A module specification is a published statement regarding the learning outcomes and aims of a module and contains information on assessment and feedback methods, content, and teaching methods. The information in module specifications should be taken as definitive. Take time to familiarise yourself with the information they contain.

Specifications for all modules are stored in the University Module Directory. If you are enrolled on a module, you will be able to view its specification via a link in the appropriate BlackBoard area for that module.

If you know the code for a module and you want to see the specification, you can generate a direct link by adapting the link below:
http://modspec.aston.ac.uk/e-docs/20189_mod_spec_MODCODE.pdf

Module Outlines
Module outlines will be distributed to you at the start of your module by your tutor. These are different to module specifications. The information included will vary from tutor to tutor, but they will include additional information related to the academic content of the module. It is your responsibility to make yourself familiar with the details provided for each module that you are required to study, including required reading, preparation for weekly lectures and seminars, and assessment (format, type, timing or submission dates). You should check BlackBoard regularly to ensure you are aware of all such requirements, including those which may be announced in between scheduled meetings.

During freshers week and week one of term, your lecturers will provide further information on which books you may wish to purchase for your course.  We recommend that new students wait until freshers week before purchasing any books as the academic induction activities will help you to gain a better insight into which books will be most helpful to you.  We also strongly recommend that you attend the Library Induction offered in freshers week (you will be e-mailed with a time for your library tour) as this will give you an excellent introduction to the services that the library can offer. More information: http://www.aston.ac.uk/library/

The Alumni and Development team is HERE.

Click here to view a map of social and study spaces across the University

Main Library

All students can and should use the Main Library. You do not need to join the Library separately as you automatically become a member when you enrol with the University. The barcode on the University Identity Card shows your Library membership number. You will also be given a Personal Identification Number (PIN) when you enrol, which you can use to check your account and to perform the self-service functions of borrowing, renewal, reservation, etc. If you do not know how these work, you should ask at the enquiries desk on the ground floor of the Library.

For information about these services, please click HERE (PDF download).