I recently presented at the Annual Conference of the University Association of Life-long Learning at the University of Oxford. As I am not an academic, rather a practictioner as Head of Public Engagement at De Montfort University, I do not present things too often. In fact this was the first time I presented anything related to my PhD research. The University of Oxford was one of the pioneers of the University Extension movement in the United Kingdom. My presentation was in Rewley House, Oxford’s home of extramural activity where for over 100 years academics and communities have undertaken learning activities together (see photo). I was very proud to be presenting my work in such historic surroundings, if a little nervous. In my verbal introduction to the delegates, I explained that this research, done specifically for this particular conference, was an opportunity for me to investigate something that had been bugging me for a while. Namely, do the great things universities say are happening when they work with communities actually happen? Or do they assume they happened? As it was a conference for academics and practitioners, the research was written for a broad audience and the presentation was not particularly framed in the language of social science. With this in mind, if you have any questions about the detail or methodology, please tweet me @TheNewStatsman – otherwise here is the corresponding article I wrote for the presentation: (more…)
I looked out of my hotel window – five, six, seven dogs ran through the street, a gentle warm January breeze tossed dozens of kites caught in a tree and cars continued to peep their horns loudly at 2am. An old man walked by eating ice cream and the lights had finally gone out on a nearby slum. Ahmedabad, India, had given me an insomniac’s welcome that was far from restful. The stiffest drink in the hotel bar, a can of Diet Coke, was not going to help me fall asleep so I sat staring at the road below, reflecting on my day.I was thinking about that cliche of Indian life – where extreme poverty and wealth live side by side. (more…)
This is a work in progress and may be slightly inaccurate in that it doesn’t show every location that a DMU Square Mile project has taken place. However it does go some way to show the number of projects we have operated across the city since 2014. Box 1 shows the original square mile location where projects began in 2011. Box 2 shows our recent work in the Beaumont Leys community. The remainder shows how capacity has allowed us to share existing activities with different Leicester communities. See an interactive map here
Here is an example of an exciting outreach project in Louisville, Kentucky, where disused spaces are brought to life through festivals and events. There are some more details here – it’s an inspiring way to bring people together and make use of some derelict places.
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…)
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…)