Higher Education

Research within this programme area examines the nature of change in higher education in the UK and internationally, and draws on a range of methodological, critical, theoretical, historical, and comparative perspectives. We are particularly interested in the dynamics of globalisation and internationalisation in higher education and assessing the ways in which transnational policies and metrics influence policies and practices in national contexts (and vice versa).

Our research to date has focused on several interdependent perspectives, from the critical analysis of policy documents and discourse to exploring how both students, academics, and other stakeholders, experience and negotiate the university landscape. We have a broad domestic and international commitment towards widening participation and social justice, as well as a focus on higher education pedagogy, academic identity and practice within the frameworks of institutional and sector wide change. We welcome enquiries from colleagues and potential research students for collaboration or guest presentations in relation to these areas.


Dr Catherine O’Connell (co-ordinator), Dr Babs Anderson, Assoc. Prof Phil Bamber, Sophia Deterala (PhD student), Dr Cathal O’Siochru, Dr Namrata Rao, Dr Frank Su, Dr Konstanze Spohrer, Dr Olga Ververi

Research Activities

Doctoral student: Irene Rose

Digital technology, Lockdown and the Post-Pandemic University

Irene Rose will be presenting her doctoral research at this forthcoming SRHE conference: 

The pedagogocal gains of going online: Utilising the blended learning conitnuum to deliver a flexible and accessible curriculum

Reflecting on Coppola et al. (2002), Ní Shé et al. (2019) note that educators who have to move their teaching online bring the innovative pedagogical practices they learn from that experience back to their face-to-face teaching. In this way, the move to online teaching creates a pedagogic loop that feeds back to improve face-to-face teaching. Exploring this idea, this paper reflects on how the ‘paradigm shift’ (O’Neil cited in Chang et al., 2014, p. 74) that the move to on-line learning precipitates is being harnessed by a small university in the north west of England to adopt a university wide pedagogical model that increases the flexibility and accessibility of student learning. Furthermore, it situates this change through the prism of the presenter’s research on ‘flipped learning’ which is the focus of her current EdD research.

The paper situates ‘face-to-face – blended – on-line learning’ as a pedagogical continuum that educators will have to become comfortable working within, in the age of recurring global pandemics.  The paper examines the pedagogical gains of this continuum as educators’ practise is enriched by the changes in ‘perceptions of instructional time and space, virtual management techniques, and ways of engaging students’ (O’Neil cited in Chang et al., 2014, p. 74) that pivoting to online brings. To explore these gains, the paper draws on recent research interviews with students who had experienced flipped learning for the first time on the second year of their degree. It uses these interviews and the presenter’s personal reflection on the pivot to on-line learning to suggest how universities may begin to embrace the challenges of creating flexible and responsive covid-proof curricula.