What do the following institutions have in common?

…Southampton,Melbourne,Aberdeen,Brunei, Hong Kong and MIT?

Earlier this week saw the beginning of something that has the potential to be very special for Southampton University and the Students’ Union. The University invited Rob Stanning and I to attend an international conference on Curriculum Innovation. Universities worldwide attended the conference, which began at the NOC and then moved around other areas of the campus including the new Life Sciences building. Melbourne, MIT, Brunei, Hong Kong were just some of the international institutions attending and this was always going to be a remarkable event.

All of these institutions came together to discuss the potential of curriculum reform, with some such as Aberdeen and Melbourne already far into the process of reforming their curriculum. Others were in attendance to observe the case studies and see the potential and problems that come with it.

I was asked to give a presentation on the student perspective of curriculum, to talk about the Unions role, some of the aspects that students will want to pay close attention to and overall, why I believe curriculum innovation has the potential to drive Southampton and its students forward into a brighter future.

Having a flexible, dynamic, exciting curriculum will make Southampton distinctive and an even more attractive institution than it currently is in my opinion. It should no longer be an administrative nightmare for a student to have flexibility and choice with their course, for them to have the freedom to undertake contemporary modules alongside their main course which will equip them for life after University. A strong focus on contemporary modules that give students the relevant knowledge and skills will enhance a student’s employability prospects. It will also be great to just give students the freedom and flexibility to study a module in something that interests them that is completely different from their main course in order to personalise their learning further.

Higher Education is also radically changing in England at the moment and with fees set to rise and students given a heavier financial burden, they will naturally expect an enhancement in their experience. Having a curriculum that is diverse, fresh, exciting and flexible can only contribute to enhancing the experience.

However there are many things that we need to be wary of when going through the process, and I spoke to many key people from all around the world about these critical factors to consider. We have to make sure that our aspirations are achievable, and that any promise we give to students coming to the University of Southampton is one that can be fulfilled without failure. Timetabling, physical space, facilitating extra modules are all things the University must carefully consider and monitor in the process of reforming the curriculum. We must also be able to measure our success, to understand our targets and to make sure both academics and students are behind and supporting innovation. We must also make sure that the Union helps by giving student input to this on all levels, with Rob and I already speaking to PVC Education Debra Humphris on a regular basis. Our School Presidents were also invited to dinner last night to talk about the programme and they had an enjoyable experience.

There is a long way to go, and you can see some of the progress here, but i left the conference with a huge feeling of excitement and I fully realised the challenges and opportunities that we have ahead of us. Many Universities around the globe were impressed with our Union and the levels of student engagement that we have, particularly through representation. Being part of a global network, we can play a leading role with Student Unions’ all around the world to share best practices around how we maximise student input to Curriculum reform. I had Vice Chancellors and Deans from around the world talking to me about student representation at all levels and I really think there is so much knowledge we can share and help each other with.

The next global conference will hopefully be taking place in Brunei next year, and I only see curriculum innovation going from strength to strength and I believe other Universities will quickly follow suit, particularly in these challenging times for Higher Education.

A big thank you must go to Pro Vice Chancellor Education Debra Humphris and her team for co-ordinating the conference and inviting the Sabbaticals and School Presidents along to what was a momentous occasion.

I will be bringing a proposal to Union Council later on this year to talk about curriculum innovation and how the Union can support it and contribute to it heavily in the long term, however if you are interested further in the project then do get in touch, on

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One Comment on "What do the following institutions have in common?"

  1. Billy
    Sasha Watson
    23/01/2011 at 4:35 pm Permalink

    “Timetabling, physical space, facilitating extra modules are all things the University must carefully consider and monitor in the process of reforming the curriculum.”

    I do hope that doesn’t mean extending the working day to 8am-8pm, and removing Wednesday afternoon’s off… It’s always been a dream of the PVC’s, is it closer to becoming a reality?

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