BSCLTN- Criminology at the Cutting Edge of the Curriculum

LTN conference Sept 2017


Criminology at the Cutting Edge of the Curriculum -Thursday 14th September 2017 at University of Derby

The British Society of Criminology Learning & Teaching Network Are Hosting:

Criminology at the Cutting Edge of the Curriculum on Thursday 14th September 2017 at University of Derby

9 – 9.30 Registration and Refreshments

9.30 – 11 Session 1

11 – 11.15 Coffee

11.15 – 12.45 Session 2

12.45 – 1.15 Lunch

1.15 – 2.45 Session 3

3 – 4.30 Session 4

Session 1
Jill Dealey ‘Engaging Students with Social Justice.’
M. Michaux Parker + Cassidy Whitehead + Ana Aquino ‘A DIME’s Worth of Civic Engagement: Using an international diplomacy model as a framework for Social Justice-based civic engagement’
Natacha Harding ‘Delivering Boundaries and Engagement – Teaching about Sexual Offending’

Session 2
Michael Fiddler ‘Sherlock Holmes on Mars: using games in criminological teaching.’
Phil Johnson + Professor Stephen Case & David Manlow ‘Going back to ‘the old school’ via ‘the student experience’ and ‘undergraduate journey’?’
Debbie Jones + Emma Jones ‘Embedding Employability through Student Engagement and Experience across the Criminology Curricula’

Session 3
M. Michaux Parker + Bella Pavey ‘“Exploring POLR Opposites: using path of least resistance sub-scales as an assessment tool for new academic programs’
Jennifer Rainbow ‘Trigger Warnings in Criminology’
Dave Walsh ‘Interviewing’

Session 4
Stephanie Whitehead + Shay Clamme ‘The Affective Dynamics of Online Learning’
Suzanne Young + Helen Nichols ‘Using Technology in the Curriculum.’
Ruth McAlister ‘Putting the ‘cyber’ into cyber criminology.’


Criminology due to unprecedented changes in the social, economic and political landscapes is experiencing new avenues of exploration in a range of new frontiers from: border control, positive criminology, new forms of cyber crime, green criminology, state crimes, celebrity and crime, public criminology etc. We are keen to hear how such areas and many others are affecting the pedagogical practices, the learning and teaching methods, strategies, structures and assessments in order to deliver a curriculum that is relevant and impactful to students.

The aim of the conference is to provide a space to explore new and innovative ways of delivering an ever-complex curriculum. We recognise that there is no one size fits all approach. We therefore welcome papers that are still at the ideas stage, as well as those sharing experiences of their attempts to be innovative which have not worked as well as you had hoped but have now gained some insight and reflections on your experiences; and we welcome papers from those of you who have had successful ‘experiments’.

One Friar Gate Square is the new home of Department of Social Sciences. A modern and iconic building in the heart of Derby’s vibrant city centre, it creates the perfect environment for innovative and engaging teaching.
We share One Friar Gate Square with Derby law School, as well as the International Policing and Justice Institute. This dedicated site offers unique opportunities for sharing knowledge, expertise and experience in all aspects of the criminological, legal and justice fields.

Department of Social Sciences
College of Business, Law & Social Sciences
One Friar Gate Square
University of Derby


Learning & Teaching Conference: Call for Papers

Criminology at the Cutting Edge of the Curriculum

 A Call For Papers

Criminology due to unprecedented changes in the social, economic and political landscapes is experiencing new avenues of exploration in a range of new frontiers from: border control, positive criminology, new forms of cyber crime, green criminology, state crimes, celebrity and crime, public criminology etc. We are keen to hear how such areas and many others are affecting the pedagogical practices, the learning and teaching methods, strategies, structures and assessments in order to deliver a curriculum that is relevant and impactful to students.

The aim of the conference is to provide a space to explore new and innovative ways of delivering an ever-complex curriculum. We recognise that there is no one size fits all approach. We therefore welcome papers that are still at the ideas stage, as well as those sharing experiences of their attempts to be innovative which have not worked as well as you had hoped but have now gained some insight and reflections on your experiences; and we welcome papers from those of you who have had successful ‘experiments’ in

We welcome your abstracts on the following themes:

  • Adopting an outward-facing ethos as part of the curriculum which encourages students to work with communities beyond the University Creating students as ethical and moral global citizens
  • Dealing with sensitive topics/issues in the curriculum
  • Using technology in the curriculum
  • Students as co-producers in the cutting edge curriculum
  • Engaging students with social justice
  • New forms of assessment
  • Incorporating employability into the cutting edge curriculum
  • The impact of the TEF and REF on criminological pedagogies
  • Please feel free to suggest a new theme


  • Call for abstracts opens – 14th February 2017
  • Call for abstracts closes – 1st June 2017
  • Conference registration opens – 14th February 2017
  • Notification to authors (no later than 1 month from receipt of abstract)Please email your 300 word abstract submission as a word document to In addition please state the full names of all authors, the title of the paper, which theme the abstract is being submitted for consideration, and also which institution/organisation you are from.Book your place:Free tickets can be booked at:  
  • Venue: One Friar Gate Square at the University of Derby
  • Abstract submissions
One Friar Gate Square is the new home of Department of Social Sciences. A modern and iconic building in the heart of Derby’s vibrant city centre, it creates the perfect environment for innovative and engaging teaching.


We share One Friar Gate Square with Derby law School, as well as the International Policing and Justice Institute. This dedicated site offers unique opportunities for sharing knowledge, expertise and experience in all aspects of the criminological, legal and justice fields.


Department of Social Sciences

College of Business, Law & Social Sciences

One Friar Gate Square

University of Derby



CALL FOR NOMINATIONS: The National Award for Excellence in Teaching Criminology and Criminal Justice 2017.

This award is intended to highlight and celebrate outstanding practice/innovative teaching in Criminology across HEIs in the UK and it is supported by the British Society of Criminology, the HEA, and SAGE who sponsor the annual prize. Applications are welcomed from individuals or small clusters of teaching staff who can be early career or well as established academics and/or Criminology/Criminal Justice Teaching Teams. Applicants can be self-nominated but nominations will also be accepted by academic colleagues for a learning and teaching practice they feel should be recognised. The criteria for nominations have been informed by the UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and supporting learning.

The winner/s of the award will be announced and the prize presented at the annual BSC Conference. However the BSC reserves the right not to award the prize in any given year if the submissions received do not clearly identify what it is that is particularly outstanding or innovative in the delivery of teaching and learning in the applicant’s Criminology and/or Criminal Justice Module/Programme. It should also be understood that this award is not to ratify or support the rigour of a Criminology/Criminal Justice Programme – that is already covered in-house by University Quality Assurance requirements and External Examination process. Programme applications are therefore discouraged and particular aspects of innovation within programmes encouraged. It is about identifying, acknowledging and disseminating ‘excellence’ in relation to learning and teaching; something that we can all learn from. Therefore the focus of your applications should be clearly evidenced on specific practice!


Each nomination must be accompanied by a covering letter, countersigned by the Head of Department/Head of Learning and Teaching (or equivalent), together with a short overview of no more than 2000 words explaining the learning experience and how this not only meets the UK Professional Standards Framework but why it is significant and how it represents excellence. Supporting evidence is also required and this can be in the form of statements from a colleague, peer review report, and if applicable student feedback/comments.

In order to make the award available to those teaching criminology across the academy, eligibility for the award is not restricted to BSC members but nominations from non-members will have to be accompanied by a letter of support from a BSC member and the award winner will be encouraged to become a member prior to the presentation of the prize.

Entries should be submitted by 18th February, 2017 to and

Click on the link to download the applicationform

Guideline criteria

The Awards Panel will require evidence that the applicant’s submission meets the QAA Criminology Benchmarks for Learning and Teaching and should therefore include at least one of the following areas:

  • The use of innovative teaching strategies to make a positive contribution to learning and teaching of criminology that is flexible and inclusive in mode of delivery
  • The clear demonstration of an approach that enhances the teaching and learning experience to that which would normally be expected
  • The incorporation of criminological research, scholarship and/or professional practice into teaching that is centred around skill building and self-development
  • The development of a teaching strategy to meet the needs of a diverse student population including diverse political, cultural and social contexts
  • Inclusive teaching practices which encourage collegiality and provide varied contexts for learning
  • Commitment to the development of autonomy and critical thinking skills in students within criminology
  • Teaching practice that is clearly grounded in the academic literature on pedagogy in HEIs.

The L&T Committee will determine the eligibility of submitted proposals, select a shortlist, which will then be passed to the judges who will decide the winning entry.

The award, sponsored by Sage, consists of £100, plus £100 worth of SAGE books. Winners of the award will be invited to write a full paper for future publication in the BSC Journal Criminology and Criminal Justice, which will be subject to the Journal’s normal editorial and peer review processes. The winner will also be invited to write a short article for the BSC and HEA newsletters.

The Awards Panel reserves the right not to make the award, in the event that the standard of submissions is not deemed sufficient.

Awards Panel

Stuart Agnew, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, University of Suffolk

Dr Marty Chamberlain, Associate Professor, Swansea University

Dr Liz Frondigoun, Senior Lecturer, University of the West of Scotland

Dr Nic Groombridge, Senior Lecturer, BSC Executive Representative

Dr Philip Johnson, HND and FdA Criminology Course Manager, Blackburn College

Kate Sturdwick, Senior Lecturer, University of Lincoln


Professor John Craig, Leeds Beckett University

Professor Stephen Case, Loughborough University

Professor Jo Phoenix, Open University

 Sponsored by

British Society for Criminology

Higher Education Academy

Sage Publications



“it’s a domino effect of opportunities”- Reflecting on lessons learnt about student engagement , ‘excellence’ and meeting challenges in HE.

Katie Strudwick, Lincoln University (

 Having just finished two projects evaluating student experience, levels of engagement and perceptions of ‘excellence’ in teaching- got me thinking about the implications of TEF and how this might inform my teaching practice over the next few years!  

The projects were integral to continuing our externally noted innovative best practice and institutional embedding of Student as Producer. These projects, although arguably small scale, were internally funded to evaluate such ‘topical’ teaching and learning issues and provide further guidance on strategies to meet the challenges that face us as educators in the current times.

The core findings not only offered insightful qualitative reflections of what is perceived and understood as ‘excellence’ within teaching and learning, but also some initial possible solutions to ‘understanding the gap’ in student engagement. Results from both students and academic colleagues gave a number of ways of overcoming the barriers towards student engagement which can be disseminated and worked upon in the next academic year. Results further provided room for a greater understanding of the core elements of teaching, student satisfaction and student engagement (to be introduced as part of the National Student Survey (NSS) in 2017). To gain some appreciation of perceptions of student engagement and why it is important allows us , as academics, to plan, build and start work on transforming strategies towards meeting and overcoming such barriers in the future.  

Results from the project on student engagement, illustrated that there were evident similarities in perceptions of what student engagement can offer, often cited as ‘an extra sets of skills, knowledge and experience’. Interestingly, our research demonstrated that academic colleagues identified the need to have greater clarification about terminology and definitions. By addressing the importance of ‘managing expectations’ of both students and staff within the wider context of Higher Education, there were discussions of current trends shown in literature. The debate on the ambiguity of student engagement has been addressed by a number of authors (See Baron and Corbin 2012; Vuori 2014) so setting myself this task for interpretation, this discussion piece plans to highlight some suggestions and recommendations for overcoming barriers captured in the projects.

The overriding suggestion from results was for greater communication to be offered to students about the opportunities available, such as lecture shout outs and student presentations in lectures. Another noted recommendation was for greater consideration of who should be recruited for student engagement opportunities, by ensuring that the accurate information is disseminated. By making information and opportunities more ‘student friendly’, perhaps by focusing more specifically on the cohort or discipline, was suggested as potentially producing more be ‘applicable’ opportunities for student to participate in.

By considering who we should get as participating students to engage both within the curriculum, and outside of the curriculum, can be seen as going against the notion that student engagement should be based on equitable opportunities? However, it can also be seen as a way of ‘managing’ student engagement. All in all, the suggestions indicated that the perceptions are not clear, they differ and shift in accordance with both external pressures and demands on a subjective level. By highlighting trends in research focusing on what student engagement means, we can thus start to consider, whether greater focus should be made on ensuring correct levels of pastoral support are offered for the students as support. To assist with such clarification, we can look towards dissemination of wider illustrations of best practice, such as with the disciplinary resources and project findings under HEA and TSEP which go a long way to providing some reflection (see TSEP (2014) and Thomas’ (2012) Summary of ‘What Works’ in student engagement). Bulman ( 2015) raised some related wider issues addressing ‘what issues preoccupy higher education academics, particularly in their teaching and facilitating of student learning in their disciplines’ (See more at: Such forums and platforms for exploring key issues are arguably integral to pedagogically reflecting on the challenges with Higher Education. By offering invaluable guidance and support, case studies, toolkits and frameworks, have evidenced the benefits towards informing the continuation of good practice and collaborative teaching and learning approaches.

(Refer to for more discipline led resources)

 The second project focused upon an arguably pertinent issue within Higher Education at the moment, measuring ‘standards’ and the TEF. Trying to gain some greater awareness of what is perceived as ‘excellence’, by both students and academics colleagues, findings indicated that there was a clear recognition of the associated positives, but also some awareness that the term and the concept of ‘excellence’ are also ‘broad’ terms, thus they were explained as being ‘conceived as a whole lot of things’.

Definitions of ‘excellence’ are the subject of considerable current debate in the HE sector, in relation to the TEF (see Grove 2016; HEA 2015; 2016). Discussions emphasise the value of such research in raising issues to promote further debate in relation to teaching and supporting students. Findings from our research demonstrated that there were some identifications that ‘excellence’ is not a straightforward concept, it is particular to whom you ask and can often ‘depend on the topic’. This raises the issue of how can this be applied on an institutional, or indeed disciplinary level, under the TEF?

 To understand more fully about the student experience of what is seen as ‘excellent’, in the context of teaching and learning, can indeed differ greatly from student to student, and indeed cohort to cohort. This raises the question that

before we embark on changes to programmes, delivered in responses to student comments, or work towards developments to meet the demands of the TEF, this may be observed as ‘risky’ in the pursuit of perceived ‘excellence’. Thus meaning that such developments should not be undertaken too hastily. It could be that by understanding what might contribute to ‘excellence’, maybe about explaining, through module reports, why some changes have not been made.

 Developments in teaching and learning, action plans and module amendments need to be evidenced by the extensive research that has been occurring in the Higher Education agenda. Learning about best practice, innovative modes of learning strategies, and interactive developments requires both reflexivity and reflection, they need to be considered in a wider context with care and attention to their outcomes and impact. To be clear on what you want to achieve, and more importantly, why, this surely has some influence on your plans and developments.

 Our research findings will impact on how we want to further develop student engagement, and how it can be enshrined in teaching and learning, in a more explicit way. Simply, seeing student engagement as broadly providing opportunities outside of the curriculum raises the problem with equitable practice. Findings from our dialogues with students, who identified themselves as ‘non engaged’ and critical academic colleagues, raised the issue that not all students can, or indeed have, the opportunity to, take part in engagement beyond the curriculum. Interestingly, this is seen as significant in current debates within higher education being understood as the ‘inclusivity’ element in the TEF (HEA 2015).

 The results from our projects were testament to our commitment, at my institution, to embrace the student voice, an aspect which has been seen to be part of our ‘uniqueness’, and rightly so! Since 2010, we have led to way to initiating and progressing student engagement, through Student as Producer agenda, into engaging, co- producing, co- researching and co-designing curriculum.

 From the wisdom of our alumni students in one of the aforementioned projects, findings offered us wider understanding and appreciation of what has been seen as elements of best practice, ‘positive’, indeed ’excellent’ elements of our programmes. Insights, were further provided from our current students of the benefits of student engagement opportunities, both within and outwith the curriculum. These projects have given us as social scientists a chance to see how we can progress and develop our approaches to teaching and learning plans, both on a College level, and Institutional strategies. We can therefore embark on leading the way for the future in student centred teaching. The benefits of conducting such research evidences that such (albeit small) internal funding schemes can provide the right opportunity for academics, working alongside students as the research team, to understand core priorities for the future- a world that will be dominated by the TEF, REF and other challenges.

 A welcome reminder, that also came from such projects, is that as academics, we are able to benefit greatly from students co- working in a collaborative manner with us, as academics. Students from all years can develop their transferable skills, begin to embrace and understand from Student as Producer (SAP). Results from the student engagement project indicated that SAP ethos was seen positively by students and academics, as offering partnerships and collaboration between students and academic colleagues.  

 For students the important aspects of SAP was that it offered opportunities and choices, which were often related to choice and freedom, with both being seen to be a core part of SAP agenda. There was a realisation that the SAP aspires to create ‘an equal footing’ or a ‘partnership’. SAP was seen as representing not only the collaboration between academic colleagues and students, but also an effective means to challenge students as ‘consumers’. While being supportive and committed to SAP, there was evidence from academic colleagues of a need for greater critical reflection. With a noted recognition that the purpose of SAP, and its realisation of an agenda evidently has clear positives, also raised issues that some elements require constructive evaluation, maybe a ‘re addressing’ of what the ethos itself can achieve, in practice.  

 Perhaps, what was being argued here was more about the need to constantly reflect on what SAP can offer both academics and students, does it need to be reinvented or re imagined to ensure it meets the challenging and dynamic demands of the Higher education sector. One way to re-develop SAP may be to re-engage students in different roles alongside academics, through collaboration, or partnerships, but ones which are more than being core participant of knowledge, but re-producers of research ‘Student as researcher’. Such reflections were shown within our project teams, these gave us an opportunity see the importance and understand what our students ‘got out’ of being part of the project.  

 So what did we learn? Students were clear to tell us that they all identified with the benefits for them to work alongside their academic tutors. They were arguably ‘engaged’ students and quite explicitly saw the links with skill acquisition and employability benefits from their involvement. They were able to apply their experiences learnt from research methods modules and adapt to this ‘hands on’ experience of conducting focus groups, in their words to ‘actually ‘do’ research’, which was explained as ‘invaluable’ by one student. Using skills alongside the knowledge for degree was also seen as giving students more confidence for their further studies and completing their dissertations.


Offering such opportunities for students to suggest their reflections reaffirmed to us the benefits for student engagement. To be able to hear and witness the evident positives was a rewarding experience for us, as academics, who enabled such opportunities. Drawing on the students’ feedback has led to us, as the fore leaders in ‘student as researcher’, to consider how we can move forward with this? How do we proceed in more demanding and challenging times?  
We have come up with a strategy to ensure there is equitability in student engagement opportunities , both within and outside of the curriculum. Allowing more focus on widening participation and parity of opportunities. In an adverse way by formalising the process through informal planning and organisation we can offer students mechanisms to ‘move forward’ and learn from our experiences. Students who participate as co- researchers in the future will have greater guidance and support through research skills workshops ( designed to refresh their skills and knowledge); More formalised regular supervision/ team meetings ( to work through issues that invariably arise over the course of a project). As academics we will look towards possible elements of greater recognition, this may be through securing external funding to pay students as researchers or a continuation of a thank you gesture of vouchers’ . To move forward with ‘student as researchers’ we have started the debate about whether students should be financially rewarded as a formal recognition of their time and efforts.

To conclude, this reflective piece hopes to disseminate our initial ‘lessons learnt’ through practice and summarise some research findings. Discussing our experiences of two projects we hope to inspire others to embark on student engagement through such partnerships and collaboration. Our projects have given us a greater understanding about the student experience, their perceptions of what they get from ‘being engaged’ and alumni and current students’ views on what they perceive as ‘excellence’ within teaching and learning. We know that student engagement is arguably broad and complex, thus the experiences of students will inevitably be subjective. However, by highlighting the need for greater clarification enables us, as academics, some comprehension of how we can share practice to meet the challenges ahead.


Baron, P and Corbin, L (2012) Student engagement: rhetoric and reality, Higher Education Research & Development, 31:6, 759-772

Bulman 2015 ‘ ‘Higher Education academy October 210

Grove, J (2016) ‘TEF is about much more than teaching’. Times Higher Education.
HEA (2015) Are you TEF ready?

Higher Education Academy (2016)

Student Engagement Partnership’s (TSEP’s) (2014) ‘Conversation on The Principles of Student Engagement’

Thomas, L (2012) ‘Building Student Engagement and belonging in Higher Education at a time of change: A summary of findings and recommendations from the What Works? Student Retention and Success programme’ Paul Hamlyn Foundation; HEFCE; HEA and Action on Access
 Vuori, J (2014) ‘Student engagement: buzzword of fuzzword?’ In Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management Vol. 36, No. 5, 509–516

Public Criminologies and Critical Pedagogies Symposium 

This year’s learning and teaching symposium on public Criminologies and critical pedagogies was a well attended affair, with over forty delegates packing out the Society for Research into Higher Education on a wonderfully sunny day in London.

The day began with a key note from Professor Ben Bowling, which focused on criminology as a social pedagogy, and set the scene for the test of the day. 

Professor John Craig then outlined the impact of the TEF and REF on what, how and why we teach what we do, sparking in doing so  lively debate on the tensions which exist between research  and teaching. After which, Stuart Agnew focused us on the importance of paying attention to the whole curriculum when teaching quantitative methods.

After a nourshing lunch, the  afternoon began with Professor Loraine Glesthorpe leading us through the theme of gendering pedagogies. This led to much reflection amongst the group on the role of feminist thought in promoting a progressive reforming agenda,  both with higher education teaching and the criminal justice system. Then in the final session of the day Liz Frodingham outlined the importance of paying close attention to employability and how this could promote critical pedagogal practices as much as neoliberal graduate skills agendas.

It was perhaps a measure of the interest of delegates and the quality of the presentations and  group discussion that everybody stayed for the whole day. With much interest being shown by all involved in the next BSC LTN symposium, which will be on the TEF. Details on which will be available soon.

Learning and Teaching Award Winner

The BSC National Award for Excellence in Teaching Criminology and Criminal Justice, is awarded annually at the BSC’s annual conference. This year the award is given to a criminologist located at the University of Westminster.

The award is intended to highlight and celebrate best practice and innovative pedagogic practices in criminology across higher education in the UK, and the criteria for nominations have been informed by the UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and supporting learning. David Manlow, Course Leader for Criminology, led the design and implementation of a challenging but creative curriculum which supports and embeds the wider University’s commitment to inclusivity and diversity amongst its student body, which includes higher than average numbers of students with learning needs or who are from non-traditional academic backgrounds.

The award is supported by the BSC and the academic publisher SAGE, and attracts an annual prize of £100 cash and £100 worth of SAGE books.

Teaching Award 2015-16

BSC Teaching Award

The deadline for nominations to this award has been extended to the end of February. It is intended to highlight and celebrate outstanding practice/innovative teaching in Criminology across HEIs in the UK and it is supported by the British Society of Criminology, the HEA, and SAGE who sponsor the annual prize.

Come all ye postgraduate students..

By Dr Stephen Agnew

The education reforms initiated under the conservative led coalition certainly opened up much debate and by all means polarised many within the education sector. The rise of academies, introduction of free schools, changes to GCSEs and ofsted inspections and the expansion of using non-qualified teachers are just some of the amendments Michael Gove introduced. What about HE? Arguably we got off fairly lightly compared to other sectors with the headline reform being raising tuition fees to a maximum of £9,000 per year although arguably a number of ‘support mechanisms’ had to be in place by those institutions charging the most to ameliorate the rising costs for the most disadvantaged students.  Current plans provide a more radical approach to HE, monitoring requirements to comply with the Prevent Agenda and certainly restrictions on academic freedom, the introduction of a Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), an Office for Students that will rank institutions based upon student satisfaction, teaching quality and also employment outcomes all place greater emphasis on how we, as teaching academics, have to consider how we do our jobs more. Others have commented on the potential impact these may have on our daily practice, see Marty Chamberlain’s excellent commentary for a detailed analysis however this is not my focus today.
The current government, the coalition government and the labour government all declared a commitment to widening participation within HE and each can make claims that to some extent this has been achieved. However an area that has largely been left untouched is that of postgraduate study. How are the brightest and the best supposed to continue with their education in an ever competing world with little access to funding? In March 2015 the Department for Business Innovation & Skills (DBIS) launched a Consultation on Support for Postgraduate Study proposing providing guaranteed funding up to £10,000 for appropriate Masters courses as the number of postgraduate students have been declining in the UK compared to other countries, largely it is believed, due to funding barriers. The initial proposal identified that only those students under 30 years would be able to access the new loan scheme as it is claimed that this group face the greatest barriers with regards to accessing funding. There is clear evidence provided within the consultation document highlighting why those under 30 would benefit from a guaranteed loan to cover tuition fees, however it is also acknowledged that the number of applicants receiving employer sponsorship has declined and the low numbers of students accessing Professional and Career Development Loans (PCDL) is an issue that needs tackled, a factor that impacts on potential students over the age of 30.
A few weeks ago, November 2015, DBIS published its response to the consultation highlighting key themes in relation to barriers of accessing postgraduate study. Unsurprisingly access to suitable funding was highlighted by 99% of respondents together with critiquing the availability and accessibility of PCDLs for those that may need funding the most.  Additionally the limitations proposed of limiting access to funding to under 30s may discriminate against those that traditionally access HE later in life, women, those with disabilities and some minority ethnic groups. Furthermore, older students may have additional financial commitment such as family and mortgage for example to consider whilst attempting to self-fund their way through postgraduate study. Additionally 91% and 51% of respondents believed that more students would enrol on 1 year full time postgraduate Masters courses and that £10,000 was about the right amount to cover the cost of tuition fees. It is refreshing to see that the government has seen some sense and taken heed of the consultation responses. As of 2016/17 postgraduate funding for Masters courses up to a maximum of £10,000 will be available to all eligible students up to age 60, providing an opportunity for a wider participation in postgraduate study. What of PhD students? There is certainly a lack of clarity on this issue. PhD funding is complex and can be very challenging to access with little beyond a commitment to introduce ‘income contingent loans for doctoral study’ – certainly much more needs to be done here!

Having the ‘time’ to reflect pedagogically

By Katie Strudwick

It is beneficial when you have the space and opportunity to reflect on how you can transform your teaching and learning through innovative developments and collaborations.  This ‘time’ came for me last week when I attended the HEA Inspire Conference on Social Sciences, Manchester December 2015.  Events, such as these, enable valuable opportunities to informally and collaboratively discuss and network and further undergo personal subjective reflections on our approaches as ‘learners’.  Often as a result  these reflections often provide that much that needed space to (re)consider our pedagogic challenges and questions.

This teaching and learning conference offered a ‘timely’ opportunity, in the challenging demanding  work within higher education, to learn from others’ experiences. It enabled, through a mix of differential formats, the exploration of student and staff engagement, good  and ‘best ‘ practice and different models of teaching and learning approaches and developments to be debated. Plenary sessions, presented paper sessions, interactive ‘hands on’ sessions and open space cafes, resulted in thoughtful, engaging and critical informal discussions to be had among participants from different disciplines within the Social Sciences, including Law, Sociology, Criminology, Leisure studies and many more.

A significant part of my role in higher education is to engage and develop the embedding of student engagement through employability within our Criminology programme, and develop opportunities and initiatives beyond the curriculum. Interactive sessions on employability allow for a sharing of ‘best’ practice, enable reflections of ‘how to’ embed employability into our curriculum and further develop and progress  it ‘outwith’ the programme.  Participation in this workshop led to the opportunity to valuably work through the stages of addressing what employability means to both students and staff.  My experiences of being involved in the teaching of employability on our criminology programme, enabled me to revisit the need to continually try to capture what the process involves for all of us.  By addressing  stage two of the HEA framework we were encouraged to consider auditing and mapping.  This interprets what extent models can be created, and the role of such strategies to  evaluate professional standards  and benchmarks.  Furthering this leads to the question and engagement of whether/how they provide a rationale on what employability means to us and our students?

Through debating where the gaps are in our provisions of employability, stage three critically addressed the issues pedagogically. Critical reflection on how to address these gaps flowed onto debates of possible CPD opportunities and initiatives which could ‘action’ outputs. The final stage of the HEA framework for embedding employability into higher education was to reconsider the important issues of getting institutions, schools and departments  to ‘ buy in’. Through sharing good practice, ‘excellence’ and successful case studies allows for a key debate on both the need for  institutional support and resources, but also ownership at subject levels.  Developments within employability have been recognised by those of us involved  in higher education, as requiring independent discipline/subject led ownership, which enables  further progress with such agendas and practices.  Thus, to enable a celebration of good practice requires future resourcing.

Employability is recognised at my institution, as with others, as core to our success in providing programmes that are student focused, critical and innovative. Such recognition has been identified by Morrison (2015)  placing  employability  as one of the priority areas alongside retention and attainment, feedback and assessment and staff development for the HEA, which has ‘ developed frameworks  to underpin each of the priorities” (2015 : 8). In our research on ‘Criminology in the professions: Turning Academic Benchmarks into Employability skills’. (2009) Jameson and I argued ‘it is clear given this context that ‘employability’ is a contentious concept, and that different interest groups are likely to argue about both the meaning and the application of practice in HE’ (2009: 2).  These debates continue. Developments and well noted progress within the sector  has resulted in more focused initiatives.  For my discipline of criminology, a employability module was integrated into our programme structure, thus demonstrating it has been identified as a core higher education agenda and priority.

Discussions from sessions focusing on developing student employability ‘through the teaching of research methods’ are also integral to my reflexive thoughts on my role within higher education. It is always, fascinating, inspiring,  and particularly to those of us that co-ordinate research methods modules, rewarding to hear of differential methods of teaching research methods to undergraduate students. Some of these reflections critically address the challenges of teaching quantitative methods to Social Science students, although the ‘gap’ in quantitative methods teaching has being recognised with the provision of the Q- Step programme( British Academy 2012).  Other debates focus on the need for greater appreciation of teaching toolkits and ways to innovatively  engage students through ‘applying’ methodologies.    It was thus rewarding to hear last week of a clear recognition of the varied opportunities and strategies to integrate the teaching of transferable skills, (softer skills), to students at an early stage through research methodology.

‘Softer skills’, building students confidence, enables them to have the space within seminars and module structures to ‘practice’ presentations, work through  formative assessments and peer assessments  to develop a student engagement culture and student as producer/ partner/research  ethos.  Through teaching at my institution evidence has shown the positive role that student led seminars, informal presentations and peer sessions can have on the levels of transferable skill acquisition, applicability of it and promoting student engagement. Building, developing and ‘flagging up’ best practice in these areas are core elements to developing active participation of students, shared ethos and principles, and further engaging with students as ‘partners’ and ‘producers’ of knowledge. Such pedagogic debates allow us to appreciate our role in the student engagement agenda.  To identify with the need, for us as learners, to listen and  ‘learn’ from what students feel are important for their ‘employability’ and responses from employers about what transferable skills they feel are core to graduates, can lead to further progression and development.

Such debates reiterate my pedagogical approach to research methods and employability teaching, and support the extent to which they are embedded into our curriculum and beyond.

Engaging and reassessing how we teach employability and skills enables time to consider the values of such areas/developments. In essence, networking at conferences allows new approaches to be discussed, such as peer support among different student levels, students reflecting through their assessments, production of log books, PDFs, portfolios, and the benefits of employing challenging, imaginative use of scenarios as teaching tools.  Such pedagogic debates further our recognition of the linkages between the priorities,  areas focused on by HEA, with  each having a role to play in developing a consistently flexible framework  for student learning and engagement.

So, having the time to reflect on the challenges that we are presented with offers academics the opportunity to think about how we facilitate and develop our learning. On an Institutional, and a School level, we have historically demonstrated in many areas which have been externally recognised as exemplars of best practice. Notably, Student as Producer agenda, ethos and practices being developed and successfully integrated on an interdisciplinary level.

More recently within Social Sciences, student engagement projects have further been developed through focused curriculum design, resulting in  greater opportunities for student led research teams on active external projects. Such initiatives have opened up more opportunities for students to engage within, and beyond, the University through volunteering and expanding their employability  and skill acquisition . By leading on critical, innovative agendas we have demonstrated that we can understand, and respond to student expectations  through our teaching and learning  agendas.  Such reflexive practice allows, indeed enables, a greater awareness  of the student experience through a critical gaze required for current challenging times in HE.

On a final note, this particular conference, and others,  have enabled time to engage with multi disciplinary reflections of current challenges, developments facing all of us within both FE and HE in Social Sciences. The disciplinary café led to different disciplines collaborating to evaluate the key challenges to their subject areas and the support required to enhance development. Interestingly, there were significant noted similarities on the challenges facing disciplines and sectors, with key issues of internationalisation, embedding employability and expectations and demands placed on us as learners. Such recognition of these commonalities led to a cohesive camaraderie between social scientists to bring the conference to an end, which indicates the strength of such creative collaborations and enhances the importance of sharing of best practices and successes.


British Academy (2012) A position statement –society counts, quantitative skills in the social sciences and humanities. London: British Academy.

HEA (2015) ‘Embedding employability in HR’  The Higher Education Academy Framework Series

Jameson, J and Strudwick, K, Bond-Taylor, S and Jones, M. (2010) Criminology in the professions: turning academic benchmarks into employability skills.…

Morrison, N ( 2015) ‘Frameworks for strong futures’ in Higher Education Academy :Good Better Best Transforming teaching through connection and collaboration (Sponsored supplement for Times Higher Education) November 2015