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Education 2030 – Reframing our academic offer

In 2013, higher education philosopher Ronald Barnett challenged those in HE to “become poets of the university, coming forward with new languages, new metaphors for understanding the possibilities for the university.” During the past year, we have had to face this challenge as we flipped between learning styles and different approaches to support our students’ learning in a blended environment.

We are now presented with an opportunity. Rather than use change and innovation as a reactive measure, proving that it can be adopted as a response to outside stimulus, we can re-consider and re-think our approach to HE as a whole. In doing so, DMU can become a leader not just in the UK, but internationally. It is timely to consider this, as our current academic offer has evolved significantly over the last 15 years or so and has reached the point where it is complex, inefficient to deliver, inflexible for students and challenging to timetable. This re-framing of our academic offer is the focus of a new project called Education 2030 which is being led by Sarah Jones, Deputy Dean in our Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Media. 

What’s involved in the project

Education 2030 is considering how we will deliver teaching and learning in the future and is aimed at producing an academic offer that is as attractive as possible to students who have to fit learning around their increasingly complex lives. Although many of our students are desperate to come back for face-to-face contact and to be on campus, there is also a genuine appetite for flexibility to be at the heart of their university experience. This could take many different forms from flexibility in location, the ability to move seamlessly between virtual learning and on campus delivery, multiple entry points and the ability for students to pause and restart their studies as circumstances dictate. Others may want more of a personalised learning experience, opting for an inclusive assessment approach or diversity with the subjects that they choose to study.

Clearly, the future of higher education is an ongoing, wide-ranging and vigorous debate. JISC published their report on Teaching and Learning Reimagined which included a number of different visions for the future. One presented is titled ‘Graphene’ where there is no formal curriculum and no schools. Instead there are ‘inquiry communities’ with students constructing problem-solving approaches with their peers and staff. Another is the ‘hyflex’, focussing on technology-enabled learning with different methods of course-delivery to suit the student. This could be an accelerated face-to-face, online only or a blended approach allowing the student to ‘earn while you learn’. These visions are interesting observations that challenge how we see the university but also can get us thinking about where we want to take our learning experiences. 

The general ideas at the heart of Education 2030 are about developing a framework that is student-centred, robust and future-proofed to best support teaching and learning and deliver a high-quality student experience and high-quality student outcomes. Programme design should be as simple and standardised as possible to support the logistics of delivery, improve the student experience and have a positive impact on staff workloads. We want our staff to be celebrated and recognised for an innovative approach to delivery which is agile, creative and dynamic. In an increasingly competitive environment, it is important that our academic offer is as attractive as possible to students as sustainable student recruitment is vitally important for our university. 

Covid required universities to respond rapidly and with existing but largely untried tools. Our staff met this challenge head-on with a fantastic response to this unprecedented situation and it showed us what is possible in the face of adversity and necessity. Education 2030 is an opportunity to take a more considered approach to change and innovation to future-proof our academic offer, widen participation and increase opportunity for all across the board.  

How you can share your ideas

One of the themes of the discussion forums, workshops and questionnaires for the Shape Our Future consultation has been "Our Future Learning". Many of you will have already responded to this consultation around this theme which will be fed in to Education 2030, but you can still contact us directly at education2030@dmu.ac.uk to share your ideas.