I always like reading about PhD students’ experiences and like to contribute to the work of the staff who work in De Montfort University’s Centre for Learning and Study Support who have really helped me find my feet after returning to academic study after 20+ years… A lot has changed in that time, from advances in technology, to support for study. This week the centre asked me to answer three questions in order to create materials to help new research students due to start at the university in September. I thought I’d blog my answers (as it’s merely a copy and paste):
I. What three research-related words would you have liked to have defined for you when you first started your PhD?
1) Paradigm – heard this a lot. I’d much rather they’d said theories, patterns or concepts! (more…)
There is an increasing interest in how universities engage with their communities and how they can work with partners, groups and individuals to undertake projects of mutual benefit. Despite this renewed focus on the role of Higher Education in society, engagement between university and local communities has a long history. In the UK, relationships between universities and communities have evolved along with the growth of student numbers and expectations on academics to share their learning. This article looks at what the motivation or drivers for universities to undertake such work are, or whether it is the role of higher education to deliver these activities at a time of great change in higher education. With increasing calls for university-community engagement that delivers mutual benefit, this article explores the idea of university-community engagement to consider which stakeholder, if any, is the beneficiary of such activity, arguing that too little is known about the outcomes for all parties to say if there is any benefit in university-community engagement at all. (more…)
Green = Good news!
Earlier this week, the DMU Square Mile office received raw data showing the impact of the work of De Montfort University’s paired-reading mentors at New College, Leicester. It’s a spreadsheet of numbers showing reading ages in August 2014 and reading ages in June 2015 for around sixty 11-12 year-olds (year 7/8). Each child has attempted to improve his or her reading by working with a DMU undergraduate or community volunteer by meeting on a weekly basis and reading together. Move pupils have improved. It almost sounds too easy… But this requires the will of the pupil to attend and the volunteer to give up his or her spare time to attend. This is a big, yet rewarding, commitment for the student. Read some of the DMU Square Mile volunteering experiences by students Janvi Pala, Sarah Clark and Jonathan Boreland. Some of the colour-coded data on the spread sheet is black – where the child did not engage in the project, others are red, where insufficient progress was made, but thankfully this data shows that in many cases the spreadsheet glows green – indicating good progress.
The search for a research question for my future PhD thesis is a lot harder than I imagined. However, the more I speak to colleagues and fellow research students, the more reassured I am that I am heading in the right direction. My supervisor told me finding your research topic is a little like dating. He said you hold hands with a lot of ideas until you find one you want to marry. My good friend, another professor, said it was like creating a sculpture. He said it was like taking a block of marble and chiseling away until something significant was created. I wrote my initial PhD proposal twice, in which he remarked that I’d already passed through the marble twice. (more…)
This weekend, a group of students and staff from De Montfort University head to Indore in Madya Pradesh, in India, to build washrooms and work with communities to learn about the challenges they face. I can’t deny that I’m a little jealous that I’m not on this trip but I do hold a sense of excitement that this project is actually happening. The students on the trip will be involved in the building of up to four washrooms in schools that have requested help. The work will be done in partnership with pupils from Daly College Indore who asked for DMU’s support having learned about the work of DMU Square Mile through our ongoing education partnership. Both DMU Square Mile and the student committee at Daly College share very similar values around working together with communities to seek solutions to problems. (more…)
There’s nothing like a couple of beers to get the conversation going. Unfortunately I mixed a couple of bottles of Berliner Kindl with research and started searching twitter for Citizen Science references. I ended up “chatting”, tweeting or whatever, to about Citizen Science. During the conversation I foolishly agreed to add my Opinions and Perspectives to his wiki-page for the concept of Place-based Citizen Science. So here goes. All I can do at this stage is accept the opportunity and underline that my research into this area is in its early stages. I discovered Citizen Science searching for something else. I was actually looking for studies of communities as co-creators of knowledge. Citizen Science fits that idea effectively. I was also looking at ideas where communities engaged in research are not taken for granted. (more…)
As I dig away at the ideas that my make my research, I do tend to come across ideas that fascinate me or put things in a context I hadn’t considered. This week’s reading was around the origins of university-community engagement. I had been aware of the public good, or benefit, of a university being borne out of the foundations of places like the University of Bologna or Humbolt, Berlin, but never actually considered what our oldest Higher Education institutions in the UK were up to. (more…)
This was my talk to the Network of Directors of Faculty Operations/College Secretaries, hosted by the University of Leicester on 19/11/2014. “In this presentation I’ll try to introduce the idea of The University role in Civic Actions and Social Responsibility which will be a combination of my learned experiences of managing DMU Square Mile and as a student researching this area for my PhD. DMU Square Mile aims to connect the university with the community to deliver Civic Actions and Social Responsibility and is a great case study of how we demonstrate the public benefit, or public good as it is more commonly referred to, of a university.
I read a report from a British university recently that proudly boasted that one million (yes, one million) people had benefitted from its engagement activities over the course of just one academic year. This, from a university in a city with a population of just over 120,000, a fifth of which are students. This bold claim of engagement might well have some truth to it, after all, a university city can be a famous place. Tourists might well flock to see its dreaming spires, however one million were engaged people in one year? (more…)