Tag Archives: Society for Research into Higher Education

Funding Postgraduate Study in the UK: issues of widening participation and sustainability

On the 24th April 2015 Dr Martin Gough of the Educational Development Division, in his role as Convenor of the Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE) Postgraduate Issues Network, organised the seminar, ‘Funding Postgraduate Study in the UK: issues of widening participation and sustainability’. You can find a report on this seminar in a recent issue of The Times Higher Education (no.2202, 7-13 May, p8) by Holly Else, ‘State-backed master’s loans: is an ‘own goal’ looming?’.

One of the issues raised at the seminar, and the focus of the THE report, concerned the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s plan to extend the student loans scheme to taught master’s provision. That would appear to be better than nothing but there is the potential for new problems arising from such a scheme.

One of the speakers, Tony Strike (University of Sheffield), explained how the separate HEFCE Postgraduate Support Scheme has been offering specific schemes for using funds. This is proving to be successful in encouraging historically under-represented groups of students to progress into the postgraduate level, with a view to enhanced access to the professions outside higher education. Meanwhile Paul Wakeling and Sally Hancock (University of York) explored the characteristics and perceptions of those generally who both do and do not progress into postgraduate taught study, and Brooke Storer-Church provided a brief response and update on HEFCE’s work in this area.

The THE report omits to mention the other speaker, Gill Clarke (UKCGE and University of Oxford), and her HEFCE-sponsored project on international comparisons on quality, access and employment outcomes in taught and also research postgraduate education. Gill was able to contribute more to the broader question of what characteristics will be more sustainable for a system of postgraduate education as a whole, to ensure adequate student numbers and the health of UK universities. One of the lessons arising out of the comparative study is the need for resources to support more flexible study patterns.

More details about the seminar, and speakers’ presentations, can be found here.

Martin Gough organised another seminar in this series earlier in the academic year on ‘Dimensions of well-being in postgraduate education’. Further information can be found here.


Higher education could be different

The title of this blog posting was one of the underlying themes of a conference last month at the University of Edinburgh, organised in conjunction with the Society for Research into Higher Education. The conference ‘Higher Education as if the World Mattered’ contained a good store of ideas for those looking to develop new expressions of university education.

One can look at the conference as a set of researchers responding to Ron Barnett’s suggestion that our current notions of university education are radically impoverished. The ideas in circulation ranged from the fundamental to the eminently practical. Professor Nixon in one keynote address argued that universities need to offer opportunities for ‘dialogical interaction between students and between students and teachers’, but in a way that avoids any shallow or narrow consensus.

Dispositions are often downplayed in higher education, as if the only things that matter are knowledge or competency. Noel Entwistle highlighted the importance of a student’s willingness to apply effort and make their own decisions about learning. Professional education was a particular focus of the conference, with the keynote from Melanie Walker and Monica McLearn highlighting the need for professionals who are focused on the public good.

My own contribution to the conference was on the place that social relations might play in professional education. Imagine what it might be like if professionals learnt further ways to take decisions in light of the perspectives, attitudes and concerns of their clients; and if we all found new paths to joint action between client and professional.

Of course, if you want to realise a new form of education in your own setting then plenty of hard work is still required, but a conference like this can help to open up some new ways forward. (Most of the conference papers are provided as downloadable ‘Event Files’ if you scroll down the conference web page.)

Dr Peter Kahn, Centre for Lifelong Learning