A Necessary Cultural Shift for Learning,

Tim McLernon, David Hughes

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    Higher education in the UK and Ireland has seen dramatic changes over, particularly, the last two decades. The current Higher Education context is a world-wide one in which universities across the world now profess to be, or aspire to be, “world class universities” although this is often determined through research indices. A search using “Google” will illustrate many universities using this description in their promotional material. What makes a university “world-class” has a variety of interpretations with emphasis placed on different university goals. Nevertheless, universities are now competing in a world market and need to be aware of advances in higher education across the world. The Times Higher Education QS World University Rankings for 2007 which, although dominated by US and UK universities with Harvard at number 1, Cambridge at number 2, Oxford at number 3 and Yale at number 4, indicate the strength of the international competition. It is notable on the home front that University College Dublin joined Trinity College Dublin in the top two hundred. This paper takes the position that to be world class, student learning should be at the forefront of a university’s mission and that educational advancements should be maintained at the cutting-edge.The StudyThis study is based on evidence collected from two “different” universities; one a long-established, red-brick, Russell Group institution; and the other a more recently established university that was formerly a polytechnic. Student engagement has increasingly become an issue in both institutions. It is a common issue amongst many universities. There are a variety of causes of non-engagement. This paper argues that the higher education system and policies, rather than personal student attitude, tend to promote non-engagement. The study compares student traits in the two universities and, using evidence obtained from participant observation, documents, conversations with academic tutors and student focus groups, determines common reasons for non-engagement and suggests ways to improve student engagement.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationProceedings of the Irish Conference on Engaging Pedagogy, September 11th 2008.
    PublisherGriffith College
    ISBN (Print)978-1-906878-00-9
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 11 Sept 2008

    Bibliographical note

    Paper presented at the Irish Conference on Engaging Pedagogy 2008 (ICEP 2008) and published in the Proceedings of ICEP, 11th September 2008, Griffith College, Dublin, Ireland.
    Reference text: Deem, R., Mok, K.H., & Lucas, L. (2008) Transforming Higher Education in Whose Image? Exploring the Concept of the 'World-Class' University in Europe and Asia, Higher Education Policy (2008) 21, 83–97. Palgrave.
    Ensor, P. (2004) Contesting discourses in higher education curriculum restructuring in South Africa, Higher Education, 48: 339-359, Klewer Academic Publishers.
    McLernon, T. & Hughes, D., (2005) Roadworks on the Learning Highway: the UK Experience of Assessment, paper published in the Proceedings of the Annual Conference and Exposition of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), entitled ‘Exploring the World of Engineering Education’, 12th – 15th June 2005, Portland, Oregon, USA.
    STAR (Student Transition And Retention) Project, http://www.ulster.ac.uk/star/ @June 2008.
    Yorke, M. (1999), Leaving Early: Undergraduate Non-completion in Higher Education. Falmer Press. London
    Yorke, M. & Longden, B. (2008) The First Year Experience of Higher Education in the U.K., Higher Education Academy.


    • student engagement
    • reasons
    • HE system
    • HE policy


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