Improving What is Learned at University: An exploration of the social and organisational diversity of university education

Overview

Received the ‘highly commended’ award by the Society for Educational Studies for books published in 2010.

What is learned in universities today? Is it what students expect to learn? Is it what universities say they learn? How far do the answers to questions such as these differ according to what, where and how one studies?

As higher education has expanded, it has diversified both in terms of its institutional forms and the characteristics of ...

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Overview

Received the ‘highly commended’ award by the Society for Educational Studies for books published in 2010.

What is learned in universities today? Is it what students expect to learn? Is it what universities say they learn? How far do the answers to questions such as these differ according to what, where and how one studies?

As higher education has expanded, it has diversified both in terms of its institutional forms and the characteristics of its students. However, what we do not know is the extent to which it has also diversified in terms of ‘what is learned’. In this book, the authors explore this question through the voices of higher education students, using empirical data from students taking 15 different courses at different universities across three subject areas – bioscience, business studies and sociology. The study concentrates on the students’ experiences, lives, hopes and aspirations while at university through data from interviews and questionnaires, and this is collated and assessed alongside the perspectives of their teachers and official data from the universities they attend.

Through this study the authors provide insights into ‘what is really learned at university’ and how much it differs between individual students and the universities they attend. Notions of ‘best’ or ‘top’ universities are challenged throughout, and both diversities and commonalities of being a student are demonstrated. Posing important questions for higher education institutions about the experiences of their students and the consequences for graduates and society, this book is compelling reading for all those involved in higher education, providing conclusions which do not always follow conventional lines of thought about diversity and difference in UK higher education.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
'Part II is the heart of this book, covering the following topics: universities, subjects, students, what students learned, what else students learned, the diversities and commonalities in the student experience. The book was well organized.' - Dian-fu Chang, Higher Education, 2011
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Product Details

Meet the Author

John Brennan is Professor of Higher Education Research at the UK Open University and Director of the Centre for Higher Education Research and Information.

Rob Edmunds is a Research Student in Systems Engineering and Human Factors at Cranfield University in the UK.

Muir Houston is Lecturer in Adult and Continuing Education in the Faculty of Education at the University of Glasgow, UK.

Davis Jary is Visiting Professor in the Centre for Higher Education Research and Information at the UK Open University

Yann Lebeau is Lecturer in Educational Research in the School of Education and Lifelong Learning at the University of East Anglia, UK.

Michael Osborne is Professor of Adult and Lifelong Education in the Faculty of Education at the University of Glasgow, UK

John Richardson is Professor of Student Learning and Assessment in the Institute of Educational Technology at the UK Open University

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Table of Contents

List of illustrations ix

Acknowledgements xi

Part I 1

1 Commonalities and diversities of UK universities John Brennan David Jary 3

2 The social and organisational mediation of university learning John Brennan David Jary John T.E. Richardson Michael Osborne 17

Part II 31

3 The universities: cultures, organisations and reputations John Brennan Michael Osborne David Jary 33

4 The subjects: tribes and territories David Jary Robert Edmunds Muir Houston Yann Lebeau 55

5 The students: backgrounds, lifestyles and forms of engagement David Jary Muir Houston Yann Lebeau 92

6 What students learned at university John T.E. Richardson Robert Edmunds 119

7 What else students learned at university John Brennan David Jary Muir Houston 135

8 Diversities and commonalities in the student experience Michael Osborne John Brennan Robert Edmunds 157

Part III 169

9 Implications for institutions, academic staff and students David Jary Michael Osborne 171

10 Implications for society John Brennan 193

Appendix: methods used in the study Robert Edmunds John T.E. Richardson 202

Bibliography 227

Index 237

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