The Big Conversation 2019

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Research-intensive learning, teaching and curriculum at the University of Birmingham: Designing a model fit for the future

The Big Conversation 2019 is a platform for staff, students, alumni and guests to share practices and debate ideas. More importantly, we need to settle on some principles and actions that will define our education offer for the future.

Students’ Futures

As we enter the 4th Industrial Revolution, it is apparent that our students will face very different futures, both as learners and in employment. My trawl through the large and somewhat disparate ‘futures-focussed’ literature has revealed a number of recurring themes in predictions about the future of higher education, many of which are already visible on the horizon. It is apparent that:

  • Addressing inequalities will be a growing priority
  • The machines really are coming
  • Learning will need to be lifelong
  • Knowledge producers will continue to proliferate
  • Major societal challenges will require more interdisciplinary knowledge solutions
  • Teaching will become more important (and valued)

Each of these themes has implications for our learning, teaching and curriculum here at the University of Birmingham. We must ensure that our students and staff are prepared for these new futures, and that we are offering a higher education experience that retains its value in an increasingly crowded knowledge producer space.

The Big Conversation has reopened!

In 2016-17, University of Birmingham staff, students and alumni, plus guest contributors, engaged in our first ‘Big Conversation’. The purpose was to share ideas about the distinctive features of our UG and PGT education provision, and to identify core themes upon which to build our curriculum for the future.

Three core themes were prominent in that discussion:

  • The importance of inclusion/belonging as a framework for effective student learning
  • The need to plan for digital futures
  • The imperative to better understand, design and deliver research-intensive education as a key feature of a research-intensive university.

We now want to develop those core themes into concrete actions, so I am delighted to announce that we have reopened the Conversation.

The overall topic for the Conversation is:

Research-intensive learning, teaching and curriculum at the University of Birmingham: Designing a model fit for the future

Much has changed since the last Conversation, including approval by Senate of the New Academic Teaching Year (NATY) which starts in 2020-21. The NATY offers new possibilities to shape our curriculum in different ways. At the same time, it is reassuring to note that the themes identified in the last Conversation remain highly relevant, especially as we look to the future for our students.

During 2019, our Conversation will focus on several of these themes and trends (and more) as we define and design a model that is fit for our futures as students and staff. You can contribute your ideas on any aspect of the topic at any time. You can find the submissions page, here.

The first theme that I would like to consider is inclusion/belonging and addressing inequalities. See the opening Blog here.

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