Quality and Inequality in Undergraduate Courses: A Policy Makers Guide

Paul Ashwin, Monica McLean, Andrea Abbas

Research output: Book/ReportOther report

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Abstract

Summary of Main Findings
‘The Pedagogic Quality and Inequality in University First
Degrees Project’ was a longitudinal investigation of sociology and related social science degree courses in four universities see Appendix I for an outline). Its main objectives were to investigate what social science students value about their University education and differences in curriculum and teaching in different universities. The main findings are summarised
below and relate to defining, improving and measuring the quality of undergraduate courses.
Defining good quality undergraduate courses
• High quality undergraduate courses are those in which
students engage with academic knowledge in transformative ways. Courses in different disciplines are likely to be transformative in different ways.
• In sociology-related social sciences, academic engagement is transformative in three ways: students gain access to an understanding of academic knowledge that is interesting and relevant to their lives; it changes the way that they understand themselves and their place in the world; and they gain an enhanced understanding of society. Such outcomes emphasise the importance of maintaining sociology-related social science courses across the sector.
• Good teaching is vital if students are to engage with
academic knowledge in transformative ways.
Improving the quality of undergraduate courses
• Improving teaching is central to improving the quality of
undergraduate courses.
• Good teaching is multidimensional and improving it is time consuming and challenging.
• A focus on quality enhancement that supports lecturers is in danger of being obscured by the emphasis in recent policy documents on improving quality through competition.
Measuring the quality of undergraduate courses
• Key measures of the quality of undergraduate courses are students’ engagement with academic knowledge and
good teaching.
• When quality is measured by engagement with academic
knowledge, the ranking of the universities in the study is very different from that in national higher education league tables.
• Without engaging meaningfully in academic knowledge,
students are unlikely to gain much benefit from studying an undergraduate degree. So in order to be valid measures of the quality of undergraduate courses, national higher education league tables, Key Information Sets and the National Student Survey need to take account of students’ engagement with academic knowledge.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherUniversity of Nottingham
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2012

Keywords

  • Undergraduate Degrees
  • Quality
  • Curricula
  • Pedagogy
  • Sociology Degrees

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  • Projects

    PEQ: Pedagogic Quality and Inequality in University First Degrees

    Abbas, A., McLean, M. & Ashwin, P.

    1/11/0831/01/12

    Project: Project at a former HEI

    Cite this

    Ashwin, P., McLean, M., & Abbas, A. (2012). Quality and Inequality in Undergraduate Courses: A Policy Makers Guide. University of Nottingham.