HE 2010: new partnerships for learning

The University's 4th annual Learning and Teaching Conference

Stimulating, informative, interesting, useful, practical – just a few of the positive words used by delegates to describe their experiences of the University´s 4th Learning and Teaching Conference, which took place on the 14th January.

There were two main strands to the conference: employability and international collaboration. 190 people registered for the conference although we had a few no-shows on the day, unsurprisingly given the poor weather conditions. All faculties were represented, with delegates from 36 different academic departments attending, along with colleagues from 10 professional services. Our furthest-travelled, and most popular, presenter was Petros Kefalas from City College in Thessaloniki and our furthest-travelled delegate was Karyn Gonado from Queensland Institute of Technology in Brisbane, Australia.

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Threats and opportunities

For the plucky delegates that braved the ice and snow (did I really see a sledge behind the registration desk?!) there was a great day in store, starting off with an introductory presentation from Paul White, Pro Vice Chancellor for Learning and Teaching. Taking a direct and pragmatic approach, Professor White outlined some of the threats facing the University in the current economic climate, such as cuts in HEFCE funding; the possible introduction of differential fees; instability in international student recruitment; and the continuing need to do more with less. But the presentation also emphasised the opportunities open to us to deal with these threats, for example, by utilising collaborative approaches to learning and teaching and exploiting our reputation for research, thereby maintaining excellence (and student numbers).

You can download the full version of Paul White´s presentation from the top of the page.

The Sessions

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There were 11 sessions in total, eight covering different aspects of employability and three on international collaborations. The range and diversity of these sessions reflects the fantastic variety and quality of work going in the University at the moment with regards to employability - it's not just a case of throwing in a few generic skills sessions, there's some really innovative and thoughtful work going on that's tailored to the needs of different disciplines and professions.

International collaborations are an important potential area of growth for the University. The three sessions on this topic covered transition to UK higher education, feedback from some of our international partners on developing programmes with us, and key stages in building a successful international relationship. You can read more about all of the sessions that took place, and download presentations and handouts for many of them.

A performance to be proud of

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The students who took part in the final presentation of the day had no trouble at all in matching the quality of the preceding sessions. Five students and one Student Union rep gave a confident, articulate and honest description of their experiences of collaborating with each other, their tutors, employers and the public. These experiences included: training and recruiting student reps; working with solicitors and the public at a free community law clinic; mentoring and supporting first year students; and promoting enterprise and inquiry-based learning activities and developments to other students and academics.

The presenters spoke of how the activities they got involved in not only helped them gain additional skills and experience but gave them confidence and helped them develop as individuals. This confidence was certainly reflected in the way all the presenters dealt with speaking to, and holding the interest of, their audience. Very well-deserved thanks then to:

Su Arnall: CILASS (Centre for inquiry-based learning in the Arts and Social Sciences) Student Ambassador
Omolade Kadiri: University of Sheffield Enterprise Student Intern
Neil MacKenzie: Student Representation Co-ordinator, Union of Students
Danielle Manson, Paul Skeggs, Nick Merritt: School of Law

Dee MacCormack, Conference Organiser