HE Outreach: Developing Guidance on Good Practice for Academics

Workshop Convener: Dr Matthew Johnson, Lecturer in Politics, Lancaster University, m.johnson@lancaster.ac.uk


A number of recent trends, notably the rise of £9,000+ fees, has brought into sharper focus the civic duties of HE institutions to engage in Outreach. While there is debate about the definition of Outreach, it is generally agreed that this consists in active efforts by academics to take the knowledge and skills of HE out of the academy and into non-academic contexts. Such efforts are often grounded instrumentally in recruitment, which is sometimes tied to the Widening Participation (WP) agenda – the obligation of institutions to encourage participation of students from a range of groups identified by the Office for Fair Access as being under-represented and disadvantaged. At the exit end of HE study, Outreach has become a site for pursuit of the employability agenda, providing experience for students as they approach graduation. In addition, there have also been more sporadic and discipline specific attempts to engage with other social agendas, such as ‘Prevent’, with its concern for de-radicalization. Finally, Outreach has provided opportunities for individual academics to integrate the impact agenda into their work with research councils and the Research Excellence Framework (REF) increasingly concerned with the value of projects beyond academia.

It is clear that academics, often in combination with Outreach professionals, are engaging in myriad different approaches to Outreach. While Outreach professionals often deploy fairly similar programmes (finance talks) and materials (presentations) by virtue of their being non-subject specific, academics often engage with the same agendas in radically different ways, reflecting divergences in discipline, subject and identity of the groups with which they are engaging. While there are clear reference points for Outreach professionals in developing, say, WP approaches (developed via OFFA guidance, as well as WP professional networks), there are seldom guidelines for good practice for academics, precisely because of divergences in motivation and content and because Outreach will seldom be the central focus of professional life. Given that Outreach is often regarded as an administrative side-line (or distraction), many good programmes and materials go unrecognized by colleagues. Perhaps more importantly, the principles behind those approaches are seldom disseminated, depriving colleagues of essential knowledge at a time in which many such endeavours are in their experimental infancy. This is unfortunate, as academics can provide the very subject- and discipline-specific content capable of engaging and interesting non-academic communities in ways that non-subject-specific programmes may not.

This one-day workshop at Lancaster University seeks to bring academics from a range of disciplines together to present and receive constructive feedback on their particular approaches from colleagues engaged in similar activities. The workshop will move, in the afternoon, towards a session in which general principles of good practice will be developed and codified. Among other things, these guidelines will be intended to help academics to:

·         identify features or essences of programmes and resources of particular value;

·         identify and manage practicable relationships with different non-academic actors and communities;

·         understand and manage the place of Outreach within a broader academic workload;

·         outline possibilities for integration of different agendas (e.g. recruitment and employability);

·         provide means of shaping research-led programmes;

·         articulate the limits of conducting research through outreach;

The aim will be to co-produce a short article outlining guidelines for good practice and illustrating those guidelines through examples presented at the workshop. The content for the collectively authored paper, which will be shaped electronically before, during and, electronically after the final session of the workshop, will be submitted to a periodical such as The Journal of Higher Education or British Journal of Educational Studies, etc., and disseminated further through public deposition of the pre-publication version. A Google Doc will be circulated outlining potential guidelines for collective development and comment in advance of the session.

Workshop schedule

Saturday 14th April, Lancaster University

Each presentation will consist of 10-15 minutes of presentation and 5-10 minutes of discussion, accounting for 20 minutes in total

10:15: Registration
10:30: 1st Panel presentations
12:50: Lunch
13:30: 2nd Panel presentations
15:30: Refreshments
15:45: Developing guidance for good practice
18:00: Close

Panel 1: Subject promotion, Widening Participation and recruitment

10:30: Reaching out to distant, remote, and unengaged schools about medicine: Paul Garrud, Sarah Greaves, Gwen Hughes, Shane McCracken, Morag McIvor, Medicine, University of Nottingham, Gallomanor Ltd., University of Leicester, subject and career promotion and WP

10:50: Multiple approaches to supporting access to higher education in biosciences and medicine: Momna Hejmadi, Biosciences, University of Bath, University of Bath, subject and career promotion WP and

11:10: Making outreach real: Angela O’Sullivan, STEM, De Montfort University, Leicester, subject and career promotion WP

11:30: Involving academics in Outreach: Patricia Harris and Kristina Garner, Sociolinguistics, University of East Anglia, WP

11:50: From facilitating outreach and recruitment towards inclusive practice in the Humanities: Jonathan Watson, History, University of Brighton, WP

12:10: Recruitment and Widening Participation in science courses and community outreach at Coventry University: Sharon Williams, Life Sciences, Coventry University, Recruitment

12:30: Development of a Psychology recruitment programme: Mirain Rhys, Applied Psychology, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Recruitment

Panel 2: Civic Engagement and Employability

13:30: Provoking Thoughts: John Foster, Philosophy, Lancaster University and Second Thoughts Philosophical Enquiry, public engagement and subject promotion

13:50: Citizen science: bridging research and public engagement: Sarah Pierce, Life Sciences/Ecology, University of Nottingham, public engagement

14:10: Integrated and Vertical: Methods of developing outreach infused Music curriculum in higher education: Kate Atkinson and Louise Jackson, Music, Trinity Laban of Conservatoire of Music and Dance, public engagement, Learning and Participation (L&P) and Employability

14:30: Two modes of response to guide university Outreach in building societal resilience: Séamus Ó Tuama, Continuing Adult Education, University College Cork, public engagement

14:50: Politics Employability through Outreach: Matthew Johnson, Politics, Lancaster University, Employability

15:10: Teaching and the Employability Agenda: David Walker, Politics, Newcastle University, Employability

Travel and accommodation

Refreshments during the event will be covered, but there will be financial support available for travel, accommodation and evening meals.

Information on how to get to campus can be found herehttp://www.lancaster.ac.uk/contact-and-getting-here/maps-and-travel/

Information on the local area, including maps, can be found here: http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/contact-and-getting-here/maps-and-travel/maps/

Information on car parking, which is free in visitor parking zones, can be found on this maphttps://www.lancaster.ac.uk/media/lancaster-university/content-assets/documents/facilities/car-parking-policy/ParkingZonesMapupdatedJuly12th2017.pdf

Information on accommodation on campus can be found herehttp://www.lancaster.ac.uk/opentoall/