Supporting staff to meet increasing challenges in Higher and Further Education

15 November 2018 - 16 November 2018

Location: Macdonald Burlington Hotel, Birmingham



The last few years have been particularly eventful for both Higher Education (HE) and Further Education (FE). Typical accounts include comments from Phil Baty, Editor of THE, at their Awards in 2017: “This year has been a tough one for universities, which have been buffeted not only by the rapidly changing political environment but also by an unprecedented succession of headlines questioning what they do and how they do it.” (1) In one of many useful analyses from WONKHE, Jonathan Grant suggests we are in a ”’positive moment of uncertainty’ for universities (which) is a chance to re-think their public purpose, creating parity of esteem between education, research and service.” (2)

HE and FE confront increasing challenges in terms of accountability to different stakeholders and audiences. As well as issues which have received significant media commentary (such as VC’s pay and the teaching of Brexit), recent and ongoing examples include: 

  • Waves of ‘edusceptics’ (3) including Government pronouncements questioning the value of education whereby students “take on a huge amount of debt … and … some don’t know what they get in return” (Teresa May, October 2017) and leading to the recently announced “independent review of fees and student finance”. (4)
  • Concerns about the powers and responsibilities of the new Office for Students during and following the formal consultation. (5)
  • The recent survey of FE leaders which concluded that pressures had increased significantly over the last year, especially re the two key factors – “better use of data and technology”.(6) 

Given this increased scrutiny and public debate, how can/should staff be best supported to manage their increasingly pressurised workload? How can we ensure that the curriculum satisfies all the established criteria of academic value and integrity, as well as meeting the increasing demands and expectations of students, employers and other influential agencies such as professional bodies etc.?

Within this general theme, we welcome proposals from HE and FE which analyse/demonstrate/explain how we can best support staff to meet current and likely future challenges. Proposals should focus on innovation/initiatives and/or evaluation/research in improving and supporting the staff experience in one or more of the following areas:

  • Programme design.
  • Module and learning design.
  • Course/programme assessment and feedback strategies.
  • Professional development for staff.
  • Learning and mobile technologies.
  • Digital capability and institutional support.
  • Curriculum leadership and staff roles.
  • Staff ‘wellbeing’.
  • Apprenticeships.
  • Review and evaluation.
  • Professional identity.
  • Ethical issues/frameworks.


  1. Quoted in THE, 7/12/17, p.13.   
  2. http://wonkhe.com/blogs/a-positive-moment-of-uncertainty-for-universities/
  3. Cowan, 2017, at https://www.timeshighereducation.com/features/are-edusceptics-right-portray-higher-education-big-con 
  4. As announced on the BBC website (19/2/18) - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-43106736 
  5. There was significant debate both during and following the formal consultation (https://consult.education.gov.uk/higher-education/higher-education-regulatory-framework/ )
  6. https://www.jisc.ac.uk/blog/as-challenges-for-the-fe-sector-continue-leaders-acknowledge-technology-as-a-way-forward-10-jul-2017 

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