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College Education Strategy

College Education Strategy

Education Strategy 2019-24

This strategy seeks to identify and build on the strengths of our current educational provision in the College of Humanities at Exeter and Penryn and to establish key priorities for the future. Education across the Humanities at Exeter is distinguished by its disciplinary and cross-disciplinary breadth and depth; by its historical, methodological and global variety, its openness to new ideas, and by the high value that we place on intellectual curiosity, scholarly integrity, critical acuity, cultural competence, creativity and respect.

‌Academic and professional staff across the College share a commitment to providing a high quality education and a belief in the importance of learning as a process with individual, cultural and social benefits. We work alongside our students in a scholarly community which enables them to establish secure foundations and supports them to acquire new skills, to find inspiration in research, to develop as resourceful and independent learners, to play a part in shaping their own studies, to make the most of the opportunities on offer and to graduate with the capacity to fulfil their own potential and to make a positive contribution to society.

These goals are expressed in seven key themes:

  • Research Inspired Teaching
  • Breadth and Flexibility of Provision
  • Student Opportunities
  • Equality of Access
  • Staff Development
  • Student as partners
  • Learning and Social Spaces

By 2024, a graduate from the University of Exeter’s College of Humanities will have experienced a breadth, depth and quality of provision which is unrivalled in the UK; they will have encountered a range of opportunities which will have enabled them to develop valuable new skills; all students will have had equal opportunity to join our community and to succeed in their studies; they will have been taught by committed and expert staff; they will have developed as independent learners and will have had chance to shape their programmes of study; they will have benefitted from learning in a well-designed environment. On graduation, they will be equipped to take up a place as informed, engaged, responsive, intellectually resilient and reflective citizens of the world.

This strategy and the accompanying Delivery Plan have been designed in relation to current internal and external contexts. The strategy is a working document which should be of interest and relevance to students, academic staff, professional service colleagues and others. It informs our educational provision over the next five years, establishing an agreed set of values and aspirations and identifying specific interventions and areas of future focus, while building in sufficient flexibility to remain responsive to changing conditions and emerging opportunities and priorities. The strategy shapes and supports our work so that we can collectively ensure the best possible experience and outcomes for all of our students. 

Seven key themes

At the heart of our strategy is an absolute commitment to:

1. Providing consistently high quality, research-inspired teaching and learning across all areas of the Humanities and to offering intellectual challenge with individualised support

Strategic Aims:

1.1.   To continue to nurture and value core Humanities attributes including critical thinking, methodological diversity, curiosity, independence, resourcefulness, communication and clarity of expression, problem solving, and dynamism.  

1.2.   To ensure consistency of high quality i.e. mechanisms for bringing all  disciplines/programmes to the level of the best.  

1.3.   To ensure that learners on all routes (e.g. Combined Honours, Single Honours and Humanities modules via Flexible Combined Honours) have an equally positive experience.

1.4.   To work with colleagues and students to address NSS deficits with a particular focus on Assessment and Feedback (fair and appropriate assessment and helpful feedback).

1.5.   To embed research inspired learning in our education provision including by maximising the potential of working with research centres.

1.6.   To enhance individualised learning support.


Case Studies

Gender Inequality grand challenges:

Grand challenges is a project week in which students work in interdisciplinary groups with other like-minded students to design innovative solutions to real world challenges. The projects encourage research-inspired, multi-disciplinary, and enquiry-based learning and are led by top academics and invited speakers who educate, inspire and help students apply and develop their skills and knowledge to a real-life problem. Humanities colleagues have participated in the grand challenges programme and taken the responsibility for a range of topics. Currently, Penryn English academic, Kate Hext, leads on the challenge: ‘Gender Inequality, How can we create a language of equal rights for the 21st century?’ The challenge is a response to the #MeToo movement, the gender pay-gap, the altering landscape of gender and the discrepancy that still occurs in society. It asks students to question how to build an environment in which harassment and inequality no longer exist by studying the language and images that defines society and places of work. Students are introduced to key debates including the shifting definition of sexual harassment and inequality, the emerging area of transgender rights, how to sensitively address cultures of inequality and the language and symbolism of sexual power. 2018 saw the creation of an Instagram account, posting gender inequality memes and clips parodying the over sexualisation in movies. This year sees topics around recognising inequality in media and film, stopping gendered abuse on social media and learning the language of equality in school. 

Hypatia Collection:

This project led by Dr. Sarah Jones makes use of the excellent Hypatia collection and the new facilities provided by the Digital Humanities Lab to digitise the collection dedicated to preserving books and journals by or about women. This was in response to student requests for access to digital archives focusing on women’s history, the history of feminism or histories of the family which were not available to them at Exeter. The project saw almost 60 volunteers from across the University (on History, English, Politics and International Relations courses) gain invaluable skills and training (relevant to both research and employability) in the creation of the digital collection. Volunteers were also given a tour of special collections to choose their own material ensuring that each of them was able to focus on a topic or theme relevant to their own research interests.

It has since become an invaluable resource for Exeter students (both within and outside Humanities) and has been used to support many ‘Doing History’ projects and in modules led by Sarah Jones such as ‘Culture, Class and Gender’ and ‘Sexualities’.

2.  Enhancing the breadth and flexibility of our provision in order to encourage intellectual curiosity, to promote innovation and to support recruitment from around the world

Strategic Aims:

2.1.   To build processes for the development of new, market-led programmes at all levels in order to take advantage of opportunities for renewal and growth of our provision and diversification of our intake, with a particular emphasis on internationalisation.

2.2.   To devise and implement effective recruitment and conversion activities including alternative entry routes to ensure sustainable recruitment across all areas of the College’s portfolio.

2.3.  To optimise tariff by enhancing quality, range and attractiveness (curricular and extra-curricular) of our offer.

2.4.   To recognise and celebrate our disciplinary distinctiveness while seeking ways of embedding interdisciplinary teaching and learning within and beyond the College.

2.5.   To develop mechanisms to refresh and renew our curriculum and teaching practice ensuring we remain at the cutting edge of innovative teaching and programme development.

2.6.   To enhance flexibility in programme, module design and assessment.

2.7.   To guide students to pick their own pathway through a suite of innovative modules and develop them as independent learners.


Case Studies

Dialogue with the Past:

The Classics and Ancient History module ‘Dialogue with the Past: Creative Interpretative Project’ (convened by Dr. Sharon Marshallhas been praised for its originality and innovative type of assessment and has an increasingly high in-take. The outstanding experience of this module should be considered as a model that could potentially be extended or applied to other departments appealing to the inventive, creative and experimental. The module asks student to engage critically and directly with the ancient world through creative and imaginative practices and seeks to bring the ancient past to life in provocative new and creative ways. This culminates in projects such as films, performances or the use of digital technology.

MA Heritage:

Aware of the gap in postgraduate provision at Penryn, the growth of heritage expertise on that campus and the international appeal of a programme in this field, the Department of Humanities Penryn developed and launched a new and highly successful interdisciplinary MA in International Heritage Management and Consultancy. The programme seeks to consider why the past matters, how and why it is cared for in the present and the way in which it can inform the future through both theoretical and methodological training. It aims to prepare students to compete in the growing field of heritage and consultancy while considering current global challenges. The programme also offers postgraduate certificates and diplomas designed to allow professionals to undertake parts of the programme.

Adopt a school scheme:

The Modern Languages Department has created an ‘adopt’ a school scheme in which a team of staff visits schools to promote the department, to highlight the nature and benefits of language study, and to build recruitment links. One notable example is the link with Rokeby School in East London. The school has a large number of secondary migrants from European countries but with parents from different countries who are likely to go onto study modern languages in further and higher education. 

Theology and Religion Real World Context:

A number of Theology and Religion modules involve interaction with real world contexts and employ in-service/field visit reflection reports for assessments. This include visits to the sex offender’s wing at Exeter prison (‘Theology and Criminal Justice’), visits to galleries and interviewing curators in continental Europe (‘Theology, Art and Politics’), visiting Lympstone marine camp (‘Military Ethics in Christian Perspective’), and visits to the Sense Café run by deaf-blind staff and the Bridge collective, a local support group of people experiencing poor mental health and hearing voices (‘Deviant Bodies: Disability Studies and the New Testament’). These modules allow students to concretely engage the world in their teaching and learning experiences.


3.  Enabling all of our students to access a range of transformative opportunities (curricular and extra-curricular and within and beyond the institution)

Strategic Aims:

3.1.  To enhance curriculum design and delivery in order to offer a range of stimulating activities (which will enable students to acquire valuable transferable skills).

3.2.  To work with Student Societies, employers, alumni, local, national and international partners to provide a range of additional opportunities (which will enhance the student experience and provide valuable employability skills).

3.3.  To support study and work abroad opportunities (in/out) and find creative ways of opening out global opportunities beyond the conventional year abroad.

3.4.  To support strong graduate outcomes for all our students.


Case Studies

Care Homes Reading Project:

From its inception in 2011 by English academic, Dr Johanna Harris, the Care Homes Reading project has quickly grown into one of the University’s most successful student volunteer initiatives with over 100 students volunteering each year. The project has also been featured on local and national news such as BBC Breakfast and Radio 2 and was named as the 350th ‘Points of Light’ winner by Prime Minister David Cameron.

Student volunteers read to elderly and vulnerable adults living in residential care within the local community. This strengthens the connections between students and the elderly, tackles isolation and the loneliness of residential care, and makes a difference in the residents’ daily lives. By giving time to others, our students have a profound effect on the quality of life, dignity and happiness of people within the community.

With Employment Experience:

All Humanities subjects offer a year long work placement or year abroad, something which is not available in all departments. This is an invaluable opportunity for students offering a world of experience to develop essential employability and interpersonal skills related to their degrees, enhance their CV and career, boost their confidence and gives students the potential of gaining language skills.

Research Support Internship:

The Research Support Internship scheme partners students with academics to support specific research activities or projects. These enable students to learn new transferable skills and enhance existing professional attributes to increase employability and employment opportunities. In 2018/19, 28 Humanities-related internships were funded from across the department. Some notable project include Professor Linda William’s ‘Calling the Shots’ project (which focuses on women in film) whose popularity and calibre of the applicants saw the one position extended to three, and Dr. Christopher Smart’s ‘Understanding Landscape’. This RSI attempts to tackle one of the more poignant issues of our time by integrating the local refugee population into the community through Archaeology work. This both educates the local community in local history and promotes integration for refugees of all ages who may know little about the area.

Drama T3 Festival:

One of the most popular aspects of the degree experience in Drama is the student-led T3 (term 3) festival overseen by Jon Primrose. This provides students with opportunities to create self-directed, non-assessed work by producing their own performances, getting technical and practical training, working with students on other programmes, taking careers and employability workshops, getting involved with staff research and attending over 40 brand new performances.

The festival is designed to offer increased employability and employment opportunities and give students a suite of professional and transferable skills. The process from pitching ideas to the festival itself provides students with a fringe-like experience of producing, directing, writing and performing. A minimum of 50 new shows are created and performed over the 5-week period and at least one new theatre company emerges with work often going onto national platforms and tours.

4.  Delivering a step change in our approach to ensuring equality of access for all and removing barriers to success and progression

Strategic Aims:

4.1.  To work with University and department leads and with students to foster diversity and inclusivity within and beyond the curriculum.

4.2.  To develop and embed WP and outreach activities.

4.3.  To enhance support for Mature Students, International Students, WP Students and others from non-traditional backgrounds.

4.4.  To work with PS and academic colleagues and students to develop approaches to transition into, though, and beyond University.

4.5.  To devise, implement and evaluate alternative entry routes at all levels.

4.6.  To work with colleagues from Welfare and Wellbeing Services to ensure that our students have the best possible advice, guidance and support to succeed in their studies.


Case Studies

Drama RAW programme:

The Drama RAW programme raises the profile of the University whilst linking students with the community through outreach initiatives. The programme brings school student from schools which might not otherwise be able to provide the opportunity to perform their own devised work at Northcott theatre, supported by Drama students. While the programme enhances students’ employability skills, it has a greater impact for school students as it provides them with role models within the community, raising aspirations and building local networks.

English workshops for International students:

The Department of English and Film has worked in collaboration with INTO to offer a series of ‘English for Specific Academic Purposes’ (ESAP) workshops in academic literacy which occur in the first two terms for Masters students of English, Creative Writing,  and International Film Business. These are tailored around students’ needs, both supporting and preparing them for their programmes. The workshops cover topics such as seminar participation, writing research reports, long essays, delivering presentations and practice in using sources in the context of specific humanities disciplines. In term 3 students are also encouraged to sign up for INTO dissertation workshops which entitles them to receive extra 1-1 writing support throughout summer. 

5. Valuing and supporting staff to develop their educational expertise

Strategic Aims:

5.1.   To maintain our absolute commitment to teaching and to the value of education as a core principle of the Humanities.  

5.2.   To ensure high-quality and ongoing training, development, mentoring and other opportunities to all staff involved in education.

5.3.   To support E&S colleagues to develop their scholarship in the field, to share good practice and to access pedagogic opportunities within and beyond the University


Case Studies

Education Incubator MOOC:

The College of Humanities encourages staff to become fellows of the University’s Education Incubator, which enables colleagues to take time to cultivate pedagogic innovation and collaboration. This may include supporting academics by creating spaces to explore and develop enhanced teaching and learning initiatives and ideas, learning new skills or working with others with support from professional services staff to improve the reach of teaching.

A notable Humanities incubator project, the MOOC, The Many Faces of Chinese Culture: A Visual Journey through China was developed by three specialists in the Chinese Unit (Modern Language academics Ting GuoYin ZhiguangYue Zhuang) and was designed to develop a clearer understanding of modern China by exploring the role of art, literature and the ‘noble hero’ in Chinese culture beyond clichés and stereotypes. The diversity of topics provides students with fresh and critical perspective of modern China and helps them understand and analyse new cultural phenomena and trends emerging in Chinese society. This is because the true understanding of modern China cannot be limited to country history and politics but affords insight into its rich culture.

6. Working with students as responsible agents and co-participants in a mutually respectful  learning community

Strategic Aims:

6.1.   To work in partnership with students at all levels in order to empower them as members of the learning community.

6.2.   To devise a framework in which a range of mutually beneficial working relationships can flourish, for example with local, regional, national and international partners.

6.3.   To clarify our contract with students as agents with responsibility for their own learning to enable them to acquire self-reliance, resilience, curiosity, and critical thinking.

6.4.   To work in collaboration with students to co-create educational provision both on the macro level (i.e. co-design of modules and projects) and on the micro level (i.e. empowering students to take decisions themselves about their own work and to take responsibility for those decisions).

6.5.   To continue to work closely with students to engage them in evaluating and improving quality of provision.


Case Studies

A number of successful student-led and student-focused initiatives have been developed over the years through flagship ‘students as change agents’ (SCA) projects such as:

Archaeology and Heritage Fair:

This annual careers fair emerging from a SCA initiative between the Subject Chair for Archaeology and the Humanities employability team, was this year led by Holly Brown who assisted in the process of planning, advertising and running the fair. The fair features a series of stalls and talks from local and national employers in the Archaeological and Heritage sectors. The event gives students a chance to hear about opportunities and network with potential employers. 2018/19’s turnout was the highest since the event launched seven years ago.

Holocaust Memorial Conference:

This SCA project was set up by the Humanities College Officer, Barnabas Balint, who has successfully been the architect of the event for the last three years. Through first-hand accounts from Holocaust survivors, the event aims to educate young people about past atrocities, give them an experience of University life and encourage them to make a positive difference in their own lives. This year the headline speaker was Mala Tribich, a Holocaust Survivor who spoke to over 200 school pupils about her life experience and the Holocaust itself. This was followed by seminars run by members of Holocaust youth trust on a range of different topics. The event is an example of the magnitude of some SCA projects, with the use of Peter Chalk for a day and the attendance of notable figures including the Lord Mayor of Exeter.  

7.  Improving the range and quality of our (physical and virtual) learning and social spaces

Strategic Aims:

7.1.   To identify and maximise the opportunities offered by digital technologies to expand and enhance our provision (including digital forms of delivery and assessment).

7.2.   To improve UG/PGT study spaces.

7.3.   To secure fit for purpose seminar rooms and reliable IT/AV.

7.4.   To maximise our cultural assets in our teaching and learning e.g. BDN, Digital Hums Lab, Hypatia Collection, Special Collections, Archaeology collections (Exeter and Penryn).

7.5.   To ensure clarity, concision, accuracy and accessibility of information and communication with applicants and students.


Case Studies

State of the art facilities and teaching collections:

The College of Humanities has invested heavily in advanced facilities and teaching collections in recent years. These include subject-specific facilities such as experimental Archaeology laboratories (which include a clean lab with fume cupboards for chemical work, microscope room equipped with high spec microscopes and image processing facilities, and wet labs for artefacts) and Drama’s industry-standard performance spaces and equipment (which includes 6 large and fully technically-equipped for performance studios, two sound studios, and an authorised Apple training centre).

The £1.2 million Digital Humanities laboratories provides a space for the examination, preservation and display of important historical, literacy and visual artefacts and offers training for staff and students.

Teaching collections includes the Leventis Collection, a set of books and teaching resources for undergraduate and postgraduate students in ancient language, literature and history for Classics and Ancient History and the Chris Brooks Collection (19th-century periodicals and popular literature). Our partnership with Exeter Cathedral Library allows students to study early manuscripts and primary texts.

Bill Douglas Museum:

The collection and resources of the Bill Douglas Museum are an invaluable resource for all students at the University. The collections are particularly important to Art History and Film Studies students and those who are concerned with cultural history, and viewing technologies and practices. These students regularly visit the museum for information, inspiration and dedicated sessions such as for the ‘European Film Noir’ module which gives students the opportunity to study Le Jour Se Lève and to examine marketing and promotional materials used in the 1930s, or those on the exhibition-based pathway of Modern Languages dissertations in which students draw upon the resources of the BDM and curate a mini-exhibition which is showcased there.