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A Necessary Cultural Shift for Learning

Author Tim McLernon and David Hughes
Abstract 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. This 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.
Keywords student engagement, reasons, HE system, HE policy
Published In ICEP Proceedings
Year 2008
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