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30 October 2020

Essential event for a new era in higher education



Ailsa Crum
Director of Membership, Quality Enhancement and Standards, QAA


Next week, QAA Scotland is offering its second International Enhancement Conference of 2020. Why so fast and furious? Our original conference was planned as an in-person event for early June. However, that event, along with activities across the world, was moved rapidly to an online format. You can read about the outcomes of that stimulating and timely conference in our summary document.

Learning from disruption and an ambitious enhancement agenda

Our 3-5 November event, Building Resilient Learning Communities: Using Evidence to Support Student Success, now gives us a chance to share some of the 120 parallel session proposals our original conference had attracted. These come from around Scotland and further afield, from staff and students eager to share the work in which they had been engaged over the three years of the Evidence for Enhancement: Improving the Student Experience Enhancement Theme.

As well as sharing outcomes from our 2017-20 Theme, the timing also enables us to explore topics relating to our next Theme - Resilient Learning Communities - which will run to 2023, at which point the enhancement-led approach will celebrate its twentieth anniversary in Scotland. This Theme has a dual role. It will support institutions in adapting their provision to meet the demands of digital and blended delivery, plus it will challenge the sector to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse student population, not only in terms of student characteristics but also in relation to their modes and forms of study, with more students than ever expected to move between study and work throughout their lives.

Fully funded with a modular format

Delegates are able to attend the full conference, individual days or even select particular sessions to suit their interests and availability. We recognise the pressures of working in higher education right now and are delighted to make a wealth of materials also available in asynchronous formats, which can be enjoyed at a time to suit before, during and after the live sessions.

The event is fully funded and has even attracted the support of two sponsors - EvaSys and Explorance - so we are able to invite delegates from around the world to engage in the debate without a registration fee.

A theme a day: evidence, inclusion, employability

Each day is themed, starting with a focus on evidence to support decision-making. Our opening keynote from Dr Ben Williamson, University of Edinburgh, will present on 'Digital data and decision-making in the post-pandemic university', which will be followed by a panel discussion chaired by Professor Clare Peddie, University of St Andrews, and including Professor Elizabeth Cleaver, Buckinghamshire New University, and Matt Crilly, NUS (Scotland) President.

Our second day will explore equality, diversity and inclusion with two exciting keynotes - Maha Bali, Associate Professor at the American University Cairo and Nona McDuff, OBE, Solent University. Maha and Nona will share their thoughts on sustaining intentionally equitable learning communities and narrowing the awarding gap through delivering an inclusive curriculum framework. Delegates will be able to engage with the speakers in an open question and answer session chaired by Professor Valerie Webster, Glasgow Caledonian University. Later sessions will consider digital inclusivity and will be supported by expert contributors from Jisc and Abertay University.

The final day will consider how institutions can promote employability and entrepreneurship, starting with an ‘in conversation’ session where delegates are invited to engage with Professor Dawn Bennett, Curtin University, Australia, who asks ‘Is embedded employability a pipedream?’ and promises to share practicalities and a new rationale for engaging learners in their future lives and work. We are also joined by Professor Ajay Agrawal, University of Toronto, who will share his experiences of entrepreneurship education and ‘Learning-by-Doing’ at the Creative Destruction Lab, a collaboration of universities around the world. Ajay will be joined by Professor Sara Carter OBE, University of Glasgow and member of the Enterprise and Skills Strategic Board.

We will round off the event with a strategic panel session chaired by Professor Ruth Taylor, University of Aberdeen, including principals from two of Scotland’s universities, a senior representative from the Scottish Funding Council and our Student Enhancement Theme lead. This session is expected to be provocative and engaging, identifying priorities for higher education as providers play their part in helping students, the economy and wider society to succeed.

Still time to register

This is an essential event to stimulate thinking and contribute ideas for a new era in higher education. Our June conference attracted 400 delegates from 20 countries, and we look forward to welcoming even more staff and students from across the UK and around the world to our conference in November. To secure your place, visit our event booking website. We look forward to you joining us.