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Unpacking the hidden curriculum for students: New guidance launched for staff

Date: September 5 - 2022

The ‘hidden curriculum’ refers to some of the unwritten rules and norms in higher education that students are assumed to have an understanding of but are not explicitly taught or explained. This newly published guide supports educators to unpack the hidden curriculum for students, at subject level and/or across the wider institution. 

The guide includes some prompt questions and top tips which can help staff to get started with identifying the hidden curriculum that needs to be unpacked for their students. A guide template has also been produced to support staff to capture subject-specific terminology and reflect on where and how this information is currently communicated to students. 

The guide accompanies the Hidden Curriculum Guide for Students which was produced last year to provide students with an explanation of terminology that is commonly used across the higher education sector.  

Both were written by Dr Pam Birtill, Dr Richard Harris and Dr Madeleine Pownall from the University of Leeds. Pam and Richard feature in our latest QAA podcast where they discuss how this guidance can address challenges associated with the hidden curriculum. 

Speaking about the latest resource, Dr Ailsa Crum, QAA’s Director of Membership, Quality Enhancement and Standards commented: ‘Students enter higher education from a diverse range of backgrounds which is a great strength, but it does mean we need to ensure they are all equipped with the skills and knowledge that will help them to succeed. The Hidden Curriculum Guide for Staff provides practical advice that educators can follow when supporting students, ensuring they know they belong in higher education.’ 

The Hidden Curriculum Guide for Staff and the accompanying podcast are available on our public website as part of our Supporting Successful Student Transitions series. QAA will be highlighting a range of useful resources from this series throughout September as higher education institutions support the transition of new and returning students.