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New year presents HE sector with fresh challenges

Professor Malcolm Todd, Deputy Vice-Chancellor/Provost (academic and student experience) at the University of Derby, comments on what he sees as the most significant higher education news and opinions making headlines in the first week of 2020.

Universities UK International calls on employers to back study abroad campaign

Vivienne Stern, Director of Universities UK International, introduces the launch of Year Three of UUKi's Go International: Stand Out campaign, calling on employers to promote the value of international experience.

University leaders commit to pension talks as strikes begin

University leaders have written to the University and College Union to formally outline their commitment to continuing to work with UCU to deliver long-term reform of the Universities Superannuation Scheme. The move comes as UCU members at 60 universities begin strike action in disputes over both pensions and pay.

Gateway to university expertise now provides 'smart match' with business

A platform providing a single access point for businesses to university expertise and funding opportunities has been further developed by the National Centre for Universities and Business, Research England, and UK Research and Innovation, to help 'smart match' business and industry with higher education institutions, in a bid to boost R&D collaboration. Shivaun Meehan, Head of Communications at the NCUB, outlines the latest features of Konfer.

Survey pinpoints ways to make postgraduates even more satisfied

Eight out of 10 postgraduate students taking a taught course in the UK report continued satisfaction with the experience over a five-year period.But a survey of more than 70,000 postgraduates across 85 higher education institutions who responded to the Advance HE Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES) highlights for the first time areas where institutions could do better still to boost satisfaction levels.

Digital skills of all teaching staff need development, says report

Universities need to develop the digital skills of all staff - not just a few specialists - to promote teaching excellence, a new report has concluded.

Research for the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) into how “digital capability” can promote teaching excellence found that teaching with technology does not always transform learning, and that it is not always used to its full potential.

Institutions often prioritised “developing digitally-capable individual practitioners above everything else” and there was a focus on IT accessibility rather than change-management, researchers said.

The study - carried out by Sheffield Hallam University - found there was “minimal consensus” in the higher education sector about what was meant by “digital capacity” or “teaching excellence”.

The aim was to find out what digital strategies “had the most evidence of enhancing and transforming the student learning experience”. The study concludes that technology can help teaching, but is never a substitute for good teaching practice, such as “student-centred learning”.

Under the Teaching Excellence Framework, universities will be asked to measure student satisfaction with teaching.  

In a foreword to the report, Professor Chris Husbands, Vice-Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University and Chair of the Teaching Excellence Framework panel, said: “One of the most pressing of questions for university academics is to think in challenging and applied ways about the relationship between digital capabilities and teaching excellence.”

He said higher education was “still grappling with the breadth and depth of the digital transformation” and that the “terms of trade” for universities had changed in some fundamental ways.

“Yet at the core the purposes of universities and of advanced learning remain in many ways unchanged: developing understanding at the very highest level through the engagement with the most current knowledge about a field and the most sophisticated methodological tools available.”

Among the other findings of the report is that the promotion of digital capability for teaching excellence requires “strategic ownership” and needs to “address resistance to change”. Digital capability needed to be valued if it was to promote teaching excellence and better staff training was needed.

The study gives key principles for “developing digitally-capable teaching excellence” including “start with pedagogy every time” as well as the importance of having a robust strategy backed by evidence and encouraging people to innovate.

Professor Husbands said: “It is important to explore and to understand the ways in which the opportunities afforded by changing technologies can support teaching of the highest quality.”

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