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In July 1999 the University was invited to bid for the institutional funding strand of the HEFCE's Teaching Quality Enhancement Fund. In order to qualify for this funding the University was required to prepare a learning and teaching strategy by the deadline of 31 January 2000. A working party, comprising representatives from the University, the Colleges, and CUSU, was set up to consult with Faculties, Departments, Colleges, and other institutions and to draft the University's Learning and Teaching Strategy. The Working Party met during the Michaelmas Term 1999 and on 12 January 2000 the General Board approved the final draft of the Strategy. The Acting Secretary General sent this document to the HEFCE on 28 January 2000. The HEFCE required clarification of a few points in the document and a revised Strategy was sent to the HEFCE on 3 March 2000. This document is reproduced below.
The University of Cambridge is a forward looking, collegiate institution which aims to foster and develop academic excellence across a wide range of subjects, and at all levels of study from first degree to higher doctorate, by providing education of the highest quality to produce graduates of the calibre sought nationally and internationally by the professions, industry, commerce, public service, and the academic world. The partnership between the University and the Colleges is fundamental to the quality of the education provided, which depends substantially on the pastoral and educational care given to students by their Colleges. Small group teaching (supervision), most of which is arranged and offered by Colleges is a vital part of the Cambridge educational environment. In the supervision, teaching and research are closely linked; undergraduates benefit from teaching informed by the research interests of academic staff who are often leaders in their field, and the reciprocal nature of discussion informs and tests research.
We regard both larger scale teaching and small group supervision as essential elements in maintaining and enhancing our position as one of the world's leading universities. The synergy between learning, teaching, and research is in our view the critical factor in our continued high institutional ranking in terms of Subject Review and the Research Assessment Exercise. Providing this nurturing and challenging academic environment is very time-consuming, and is achieved through the dedication of all our teaching and research staff who at the same time maintain standards, innovation, and momentum.
The creation of the Learning and Teaching Strategy and the will to see it implemented are therefore shared between the University and the Colleges, both of which will need to direct resources towards its implementation and development in addition to the sum offered under the institutional strand of funding. It does not represent a departure from established practice, but rather is a formalization of the numerous ways in which we continually strive to enhance and develop the intellectual and cultural contribution we make to our students and to the community. We envisage that this document will become closely intertwined with our Mission Statement, Strategic Plan, and other central policy initiatives.
A Learning and Teaching Strategy Working Party, comprising representation from the University, the Colleges, and the Students' Union, was set up during the Michaelmas Term 1999, to draft a strategy which would co-ordinate and stimulate initiatives within the University to further the development of learning and teaching for Cambridge. Academic Departments and Faculties via the General Board, Colleges via the Senior Tutors' Committee, and various internal bodies, including the Academic Staff Development Committee and the Academic Performance Committee, were consulted during the drafting of the strategy.
The University of Cambridge has a deeply rooted culture of learning focused on enabling individuals to develop, both personally and professionally, to the best of their potential. We endeavour to continue to play the wider intellectual and cultural role which has characterized Cambridge's activities for centuries.
The distinctive partnership between the University and the thirty-one separate and autonomous Colleges is manifested in many ways, not least in the fact that the majority of our academic staff are active in both the University and College, and including the formal commitment to the co-ordination of teaching between Colleges and Faculties/Departments, and very clearly in the support for learning and teaching provided by the library system. In the humanities, College and Faculty Libraries provide students with essential reading material, places to work, and access to electronic information resources; in the sciences those needs are met principally by the College Libraries, with Departmental Libraries concentrating more on research. In addition, all our students and staff have access to the University Library, one of the great research libraries of the world.
In drawing up a Learning and Teaching Strategy our aim is to foster explicit recognition of our long existing but implicit culture of continual innovation and effort to make the learning and teaching experience as rewarding as possible for all concerned. While this is a useful exercise, we do not wish to suggest that the strategy represents an exhaustive account of all the efforts and initiatives within the University to this end. What it does represent is a realistic starting point for the formalization of certain goals and projects within a medium-term strategic learning and teaching plan.
We have identified a number of areas for development across the University and Colleges, in terms of general goals, leading to specific targets:
To build on the work of the Transferable Skills Working Party, in encouraging the development of the skills identified by the University as appropriate for our students through the further development of learning and teaching methods and courses which provide opportunities to acquire and enhance them.
We recognize the importance of and the demand from students and employers for proficiency in the skills needed for later life and work. Our Working Party on Transferable Skills consulted and reported on the types of skills required by our students in relation to those key skills identified by Dearing, and on the ways in which a student at this University might utilize the opportunities on offer to acquire them.
The skills identified by the Working Party, and accepted by the University and Colleges fall into two groups:
(a) Skills to be developed by all students:
(b) Skills which are essential for and specifically developed by certain courses, but which remain desirable for all students, and available to them through various routes:
We expect students to be proficient in all skills listed under (a) above upon graduation from this University, and although we think it appropriate for such skills to be developed largely in relation to the subject matter with which they are connected, we do not believe that the formal assessment of skills qua skills is necessary or even desirable. Rather, we regard the acquisition and enhancement of Transferable Skills as a by-product of a well designed and challenging course, and a stimulating educational, social, and cultural environment. Rigorous and thoughtfully structured courses, together with the intellectual and social life of the Colleges and other central facilities, serve to provide the opportunity for students to acquire and develop all the Transferable Skills listed in (a) and (b) above. Indeed during consultation, we found many examples of good practice for skills development, including the requirement to give presentations, group work, IT based tasks, research projects, and so on.
Notwithstanding the above, we aim to raise the profile of transferable skills amongst students and staff, and to emphasize to students the importance of acquiring and developing these skills from the outset of their period of study in Cambridge, through the use of an online induction package, increased provision of personal development programmes, and an enhanced system for reporting on student achievement.
Targets for Goal 1
|(i)||To introduce an online induction package for students admitted in 2003.|
|(ii)||To develop courses assisting individual academic and personal development under the Springboard for Undergraduates programme.|
|(iii)||To develop a system to produce transcripts for students at the end of their course.|
|(iv)||More generally, to develop effective and efficient mechanisms for reporting on the opportunities for the acquisition and enhancement of Transferable Skills within the University and the Colleges.|
To increase the depth of understanding and analysis of factors affecting academic performance, and to extend the analysis to graduate students.
The Joint Committee on Academic Performance was established in 1996, following a report from the Colleges on 'Women Students and the Classification of Examination Results'. The Committee acts as a central focus for discussion of matters relating to the academic performance of all students in the University, and of candidates in Tripos Examinations particularly. It scrutinizes the possible influences of factors including gender, ethnicity, educational background, and disability on academic performance, and makes recommendations to the central bodies and others for action as appropriate. Since its inception, the Committee has overseen a longitudinal research project on the predictors of academic performance, which is examining the extent and significance of the difference in academic performance in respect of a number of factors including and in addition to those given above, and the reasons underlying these differences. At present the work of the research project is constrained by time and funds, and is therefore limited to an examination of the experiences of undergraduates only.
We aim to extend the study to 2003-04, and to follow the cohort analysis into their early career, and to expand the scope of the research to include the experience of graduate students, particularly those studying for one-year M.Phils. At the same time we will be investigating what practical steps can be taken to equalize possible or potential bias within the learning and teaching process in the light of the findings as they emerge. The work of the project will have implications for access and the issue of progression, and will help serve to ensure that Cambridge continues to recruit and educate outstanding students regardless of educational background.
Targets for Goal 2
|(i)||To produce a report by October 2002 on possible modifications in assessment methods in the light of the findings of the Predictors of Academic Performance project report, due for publication in September 2001.|
|(ii)||To produce a preliminary report on the 1997-2000 cohort's experience of the early stages of their careers.|
|(iii)||To produce a report on factors affecting the academic performance of graduate students.|
To promote the greater use of IT as a tool for both students and staff through support for the further development of initiatives for the use of IT as a learning and teaching tool and through the extension of networked resources available online.
In partnership, the University and Colleges present a rich resource for the use of IT as a useful tool for learning and teaching. We aim to provide the support to enable staff and students to utilize as fully as possible existing high quality online material, as a supplement to the more traditional learning and teaching tools, though not as a substitute for them. In particular, there is the opportunity to encourage greater use of interactive learning, such as that provided by distributed multimedia systems, which are already in use in some areas. We would like to be able to offer the technical support to enable increased takeup of the systems in Colleges.
Additionally, some parts of the University have developed or are developing their own material, with varying degrees of external access for the wider community. We aim to offer the supportive environment needed for the continual review and improvement of this in-house material, where appropriate, through the establishment of a fund to support initiatives in keeping with this goal.
Targets for Goal 3
|(i)||To implement initiatives for the use of IT as a learning and teaching tool. Outcomes will be reported, and good practice disseminated via a dedicated website. Such projects might for example include, with varying degrees of access, virtual classrooms, academic chat rooms, newsgroups, and e-mail lists.|
|(ii)||To achieve a significant increase in participation in language learning by students from all disciplines, through more extensive use of distributed multimedia systems.|
|(iii)||To provide ready access to online learning resources from College rooms for at least 90 per cent of students.|
To maintain a supportive environment for career advancement and promotion; to encourage staff to develop professionally and personally, including where appropriate qualifying for membership of the Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (ILT); and to develop opportunities for appropriate training in University and College teaching for graduate students and postdoctoral researchers.
The University's achievements are based largely on the contribution, commitment, and achievements of individual members of its staff. A way of facilitating this achievement is to ensure that staff have access to appropriate guidance, support, and training at every stage of their University careers. Staff development supports staff in the performance of their designated roles and helps them to fulfil their potential during the course of their employment in the University. It makes a positive contribution to the success of individuals and ultimately to the success of the University as a whole. Staff development policy and provision are an integral part of the University's mechanisms for quality assurance in the fields of teaching and research.
A University-wide consultation is currently under way on the proposed introduction of a University course of training on academic practice which may serve as a route to membership of the ILT. We intend to support initiatives arising from the outcome of the consultation and the introduction of an accredited course leading to qualification for membership of the ILT.
A key characteristic of the style of learning and teaching in Cambridge is that much of it is carried out in the form of small group supervisions, by academic staff, contract research staff, and graduate students at the begin-ning of their academic careers. We aim to supplement the in-house course leading to membership of the ILT with increased provision for the training of new supervisors, with training taking place in their own local (Faculty/Department) environment. This will be significant in terms of quality assurance for the University and job satisfaction for supervisors.
Targets for Goal 4
|(i)||To introduce an accredited course of training in teaching covering the requirements for membership of the ILT.|
|(ii)||To support the provision of training in supervision and teaching for new supervisors at Faculty/Departmental level (including contract research workers covered by the concordat), and to facilitate the participation of new academic staff in both University and College teaching by the end of their probationary periods of appointment.|
|(iii)||To support the formulation by Heads of Departments of a fair and transparent approach to the determination of teaching examining and administrative loads taking account of staff development activities including where appropriate, qualifying for membership of the ILT, and the drawing up of policy state-ments for circulation to individual members of staff.|
In line with the University's participation strategy submitted to the HEFCE in September 1999, to create a coherent framework in which to consider the implications of impending changes to the post-16 curriculum, and for responding to the opportunities and challenges they will present.
While the eventual effects of reform of the post-16 curriculum in England and Wales will not be known for some time, we recognize that the shift in emphasis in A-Levels, particularly, towards greater breadth will have an impact on the education undergraduates receive in Cambridge. We need to be aware of the implications of certain choices of mode of study at sixth-form, and to be alive to potential effects this may have on access and admissions. Consequently, we should undertake a thorough examination of how the new programmes of study will affect the undergraduate upon entry, and what if any modifications will need to be made to admissions procedures and first-year curricula especially.
Target for Goal 5
|(i)||To develop a mechanism for initiating discussion on and responding to external changes in the post-16 curriculum, with particular reference to the selection/admissions process and the nature and delivery of courses in the first year.|
The forthcoming changes to the post-16 curriculum will necessitate careful consideration of learning and teaching content and methods for 2001 and beyond if the University's participation strategy is not to be compromised. Over the next three years or so, we need to be able to review and where necessary develop the courses on offer so that they are flexible enough to meet the expectations of students whose post-16 experience may vary rather more widely than is the case at present while maintaining the academic rigour of our courses for which we are renowned.
The University considers that a clear framework within which to develop and discharge academic and educational policies is essential. We do not see quality as a narrow set of issues surrounding the setting, enforcement, and enhancement of standards. Rather, our view is that whatever aspect is under consideration the priority is to establish whether it is configured to serve the purposes of the academic and educational values of the University in the most appropriate way. New processes and procedures arising from the strategy will be subject to our existing quality assurance procedures in the following ways:
The funding available through the Institutional Strand of the Teaching Quality Enhancement Fund will be used to resource the implementation of activities included in the strategy's goals and targets, and it is envisaged at this stage that applications by internal institutions for a share of this funding will be made through the Learning and Teaching Committee. In addition to these possible one-off grants, there are a number of projects which require more substantial capital:
The University has already initiated work in several of these areas. The additional funding available under the institutional strand of the Teaching Quality Enhancement Fund will facilitate more rapid completion and greater depth of analysis.
The Learning and Teaching Strategy will be disseminated to all relevant institutions in the University and the Colleges. A second, internal document will accompany the strategy which will set out in more detail the ways in which the various institutions and bodies might work practically towards the stated goals and targets. The Learning and Teaching Committee will oversee the process of implementation, and will scrutinize the allocation of funding for work undertaken in pursuit of the goals and targets.
In our view the Strategy will need review on two levels. Firstly, the whole integrated strategy, together with the goals and targets should be reviewed every three years or so in a similar manner to the Strategic Plan, in order to maintain the more general long-term view. Secondly, to monitor progress towards the various goals and targets, we propose that the Learning and Teaching Committee shall produce a short report on the progress made towards meeting the targets and the target outcomes, along the lines of the Opportunity NOW report. Much of the information required for this short statement could be extracted from the Annual Reports on Teaching and Assessment which are required of Faculties and Departments by the General Board. Reporting lines should be kept as simple as possible, with University institutions reporting to the General Board, and Colleges to the Senior Tutors' Committee.
Our Learning and Teaching Committee will gather information through the monitoring process outlined in Section 8, to be augmented by specifically focused consultation with and feedback from students, staff, Faculties and Departments, and Colleges as appropriate. This information will form the basis of an evaluation of the efficacy and progress of the various developments emerging from the programme outlined above against the stated target outcomes, which will be reported to the General Board and the University.
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Cambridge University Reporter, 15 March 2000
Copyright © 2011 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.