Category / Centre for Excellence in Learning

Learning together: widening participation with you


We’ve been finding out how people working in higher education learn, think and feel about and put into practice widening participation.

Exploring the idea of widening participation as a process of organisational learning aligns with the core strategy of BU’s innovative Fair Access Research project — through working and learning together we can make a difference for students, where we work, how we work, yourselves and society.

At a time of uncertainty and inequality  in society and great changes in the sector, finding ways for us all to learn together in kinder and more effective ways matters.

Over the summer we have been doing some fieldwork and collecting sector-wide survey data to establish how different people in different organisations learn about widening participation.

We want to know how you, here at BU, understand, learn about and practice widening participation. We’ve designed a survey to capture your voices and experiences. 

In July we had the privilege of meeting with colleagues from across the university to explore some of these issues – we want to open that invitation to more of you through this survey.

For more information about the organisational learning project, email Dr Maggie Hutchings on

For more information about BU’s innovative Fair Access Research, email the Principal Investigators, Dr Vanessa Heaslip ( and Dr Clive Hunt (

To complete and share the survey follow this link.

Widening Participation Fieldnotes: Emotional Work


BU’s Fair Access Research project concentrates on the idea of learning and working together to transform higher education. We are interested in how widening participation works differently in different institutions.

With this in mind, Maggie Hutchings and Alex Wardrop have been doing some fieldwork with colleagues in the north of England.

Widening participation is emerging as emotional work.  It is an emotional labour which sees personal stories intersect with and sometimes rub up against complex economic and political landscapes.

You can join us in this collective reflection and learning exercise by contributing to our survey. For more information about the organisational learning project, email Maggie on

For more information about BU’s innovative Fair Access Research, email the Principal Investigators, Dr Vanessa Heaslip ( and Dr Clive Hunt (

Widening Participation: a practice of hope

warhol kruger clouds

Silver Clouds, Billy Kruger and Andy Warhol 1966

Our Fair Access Researchers have written a blog-post exploring the necessity of hope and solidarity for widening participation – particularly when any glimpse of a silver cloud seems very out of reach.

Drawing on the work of José Esteban Muñoz, our researchers see hope as a troubling but very necessary thing for those working to transform higher education:

“Practicing educated hope, participating in a mode of revolutionary consciousness, is not simply conforming to one group’s doxa at the expense of another’s…It is not about announcing the way things ought to be, but, instead, imagining what things could be. It is thinking beyond the narrative of what stands for the world today by seeing it as not enough” (from Duggan and Muñoz, 2009: 278).

One of the cornerstones of the Fair Access Research project is that it is through working and learning together that just such a hope can be practiced.

Developing the thinking that underpinned an article that suggested how research can be used to better enable and embed an institutional culture that works for social justice, Maggie and Alex are now researching how the ideas, rhetoric and policies of widening participation are being learnt in different organisations. To contribute to this research and share your learning, please do complete our survey for the sector to help understand this more. They will be going up to Liverpool over the coming weeks to do some fieldwork with colleagues in different organisations.

For more information about the Fair Access Research project please email the Principal InvestigatorsDr Vanessa Heaslip and Dr Clive Hunt.

Working with Students’ Unions for Widening Participation


The Fair Access Research project is having a busy summer! Hot on the heals of the powerful workshop Visible Students/Invisible Needs, we’ve been working with SUBU on the Partnerships for Widening Participation project.

This week we filmed some video clips with our new full-time officers and colleagues from across the university. Next week we’ve invited experts from the HE sector to come and participate in a workshop exploring why working with Students’ Unions matters for widening participation.

We are trying to nurture a culture of solidarity, trust and care to help transform what higher education looks like. 

invisible students

We want to explore how the sector is working and learning together for widening participation research, policy and practice. We’ve designed a survey to find out how the policies and ideas of widening participation are being learnt and lived in different organisations.

Feel free to share this survey with colleagues working in all areas of higher education. If you want to know more about the survey, get in touch with Maggie  or Alex.

Thank you to everyone who has supported the Fair Access Research project through the year.

For more information about the Fair Access Research project please email the Principle Investigators, Dr Vanessa Heaslip and Dr Clive Hunt.



Visible Students/Invisible Needs: a workshop

festival of learning 2 (2)Members of the Fair Access Research project would like to invite you all to a workshop exploring issues of widening participation on Monday 11th July.

During the workshop we will engage in debates and participate in group activities as we work together to make visible the invisible needs of all of our students.

There will be a poster exhibition showcasing the variety of widening participation activities happening across the university.

The workshop is open to staff across all faculties and for professional service staff interested in this area. We want to collectively work to make the university and higher education a more equitable, more socially just place for our students, our selves and our society.

Monday 11th July 2016

10:00 -14:00

EBC 202 and 203

Lunch will be provided.

Here is our invitation. To book a place email

Fair Access Research publication: Troubling ideas

festival of learning 2 (2)

Bournemouth University is undertaking a large collaborative research study exploring issues of access to higher education. We are pleased to announce that members of the Fair Access Research project from BU and the University of Liverpool have had an article published in the influential Journal of Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning.

We explored how universities and colleges use research as part of their plans to widen participation and open up higher education to people from disadvantaged backgrounds.  They found that while national policy is leading to more institutions mentioning research as part of their Access Agreements; it tends to be in the context of justifying spending rather than leading to significant behaviour change.

The most recent strategic guidance from the Office for Fair Access emphasised the importance of building a community of practice across institutions, with practitioners and academics working and learning together to understand effective practice and the impact of interventions.

It is hoped that when the 2017-18 access agreements are published over the coming months we see a sector engaging much more with research in order to transform thinking, practice and the sector as a whole.

For more information of this paper email Alex Wardrop ( For more information about the Fair Access Research project email Vanessa Heaslip ( and Clive Hunt (





Visible Students/Invisible Needs: Fair Access Event

I Extend My Arms 1931 or 1932 Claude Cahun 1894-1954 Purchased 2007

I Extend My Arms 1931 or 1932 by Claude Cahun 

Monday 11th July


EBC 202 and 203

We are living through a time of great change and discontent the sector and the country. Finding spaces for hope, solace and respect seem even more important then they usually do.

Members of the Fair Access Research project are trying to make just such a space on Monday 11th July.

We are extending our arms to you to invite you all to an event where we share with you our research and find ways work and learn together at a time when partnership is so vital.

During the workshop we will engage in debates and participate in group activities as we work together to make visible the invisible needs of all of our students.

There will be a poster exhibition showcasing the variety of widening participation activities happening across the university.

The workshop is open to staff across all faculties and for professional service staff interested in this area. We want to collectively work to make the university and higher education a more equitable, more socially just place for our students, our selves and our society.

Lunch will be provided.

Here is our invitation. To book a place email





Students Who Bounce Back Project

Credit: Gareth Williams (CC BY 2.0)

Credit: Gareth Williams(CC BY 2.0)

Are you a student carer? Do you know a BU student who has caring responsibilities?

BU student carers – those students who provide unpaid support to someone who could not manage without your help – are invited to take part in a photo-diary research project entitled ‘Students who bounce back’, led by Dr Jacqueline Priego, from BU’s Centre for Excellence in Learning.

  • The project seeks to explore the life experience of student carers at BU and the impact of caring in their learning experiences.
  • By taking part, student carers will help us to enhance the academic and pastoral support for student carers at BU in the future.
  • The Student Carer bursary was funded through a pilot scheme in 2015/2016. This research will evaluate the effectiveness of the bursary and inform whether to continue with the bursary in future years. We would like to hear from students who were and were not successful in securing the bursary, and also from those student carers who were not aware of the bursary.

For details about the project, including its reimbursement scheme (up to £50 Amazon voucher + travel expenses), please email

A carer is defined as anyone who cares, unpaid, for a family member who, due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction, cannot cope without their support.

Featured Image Credit: Gareth Williams (CC BY 2.0)

Assessing Undergraduate Research Assistants’ Learning through Participatory Methods

This blog post reports on the progress of the CEL-Fusion Funded project Assessing Undergraduate Research AssistantsLearning through Participatory Methods (AURAL).

The Undergraduate Research Assistantship (URA) is an institutional programme run by BU’s Research and Knowledge Exchange Office (RKEO), which furnishes academics with the financial means to hire a part-time (spring cohort) or full-time (summer cohort) research assistant who works between 75 and 225 hours on the academics’ research projects. This scheme runs twice a year and this year alone attracted 95 applications from academics with the most diverse projects.

Student researchers plan their diaries' content over pizza and snacks.

Student researchers plan their diaries’ content over pizza and snacks.

Interventions that use a ‘students-as-researchers’ pedagogy, where undergraduate students are involved in research-intensive projects, are increasing in the UK (Walkington, 2015) and internationally (Healey, 2014). BU’s URA programme is an apposite case study given its arrangements of paid research placements, which position the scheme as both research-based and work-based learning. This research contributes to the burgeoning literature on students-as-researchers through its employment of a dialogical participatory research design whereby students actively self-monitor their evolving learning when working on a research project. Through the use of reflective diaries and participatory sessions, students engaged in the process of evaluating the impact of this university-wide scheme.

In this endeavour, RKEO and CEL worked closely to embed the research into the scheme. We matched a participatory planning session for those students taking part in the research with the induction for the entire cohort of URA, so that the timing would be convenient for the majority of them. In addition, the research was run in parallel with their URA placements, and the necessary adjustments were made when students continued working beyond their URA contracts.

The preliminary results of AURAL were reported during CELebrate, through a session that provided a link with other colleagues interested in fostering research-based learning and its university-wide implementation. Twelve students from the spring cohort agreed to take part in the research, but only 7 wrote at least one diary entry and 3 made it to the closing session. All students who agreed to take part are being invited for an in-depth interview, while 17 new participants have been recruited from the summer cohort.

For a flavour of the passages coded under ‘research skills’ gained by participants, see the quotes below:

I learnt how to successfully collect various forms of offline data in order to provide some background data for a study. I have also learnt that the collection process is not a scary as first thought, and confidence and professionalism is key to the collection of good data and a happy participant. The participant feel safe and confident and more willing to participate if you actually look like you know what you’re doing and happy to be doing so (Participant 3, Diary entry 5)

I understood Thematic Analysis a lot better and felt more comfortable doing it now knowing what I was doing (Participant 4, Diary entry 2)

The full results of this scheme will be ready by the end of the summer. Watch this space!


Healey, M. (2014). Integrating Undergraduate Research into the Curriculum: International Perspectives on Capstone and Final-year Projects. CUR Quarterly, 34(4), 26-32.
Walkington, H. (2015). Students as researchers: Supporting undergraduate research in the disciplines in higher education. York: Higher Education Academy.

Note: Earlier versions of this text were submitted as part of a number of internal and external applications and presented at CELebrate. The blog post was first published at the CEL Blog, and is reposted here with permission.

BU to host National Undergraduate Research Conference in April 2017


Bournemouth University is getting ready to host the 7th BCUR (British Conference in Undergraduate Research) on April 25-26 2017. Previous hosts include: University of Central Lancashire (2011), University of Warwick (2012), Plymouth University (2013), University of Nottingham (2014), University of Winchester (2015), and in 2016 Manchester Metropolitan University. BU has had representation at each of these gatherings previously, and is looking forward to hosting in 2017. At the last gathering in Manchester, the faculty of Management, SciTech and HSS all had undergraduate student abstracts accepted, profiling their research by way of poster session or oral presentations.

Two students who participated at the March 2016 conference in Manchester took a lot away from the enhanced learning experience the conference offered.

Manchester postersAaron Wornes, final year international hospitality management student who presented his research on The General Attitudes of Self-Service Technology said “The diversity and level of research that was being presented was enthralling. I felt so proud that I was able to share my interests though my own research. My only regret was that I didn’t hear about BCUR sooner, I can’t wait for Bournemouth to host next year”. Edwin Lewis, a final year Tourism Management student made the following observations, “…it has given me time to reflect not only on my own research and what else I could include, but also the wide variety of undergraduate research that is being studied. The conference really helped me understand how important it is to recognise research projects. I am very excited that BU gets to hold BCUR next year”. Edwin presented his dissertation research on The Impacts of Airline Hubs on the European Aviation Market, A Case Study of the Emirates.

FoM at MMU

The current BU organising committee is taking shape with UET support and is made up of Gail Thomas (CEL), Luciana Esteves, Mary Beth Gouthro (conference co-chairs); representatives from each faculty, ie Maggie Hutchings/Peter Thomas (HSS); Xun He (SciTech); Fiona Cownie (FMC) and Miguel Moital (FoM). Also contributing to the planning are team members from: Marketing Communications, BU Events Team, SUBU and Estates.

Bournemouth Uni is expecting well over 400 delegates to this national research conference next April. It is a great opportunity to showcase the diverse quality of undergraduate research being undertaken at BU and other UK universities in attendance. If you seek further information, please contact any of your faculty colleagues mentioned above or co-chair Mary Beth Gouthro

For more information on BU’s prior involvement in BCUR activities, previous research blog entries can be found below, and follow #BCUR17.





There’s no ‘I’ in Team: My experience as a URA

Blog post by Pippa Empson, Undergraduate Research Assistant (Innovative Pedagogy)

Following my application and interview earlier this year I was accepted for the Undergraduate Research Assistant (URA) position on an ‘Innovative Pedagogy’ research project. Being part of the URA programme gave me an insight into the world of primary research which involved transcribing conversations from focus groups, collating data into spreadsheets and statistically analysing data using SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences), and getting the opportunity to present our findings in the Bournemouth University conference SURE (Showcasing Undergraduate Research Excellence). It was a pleasure to work alongside academic staff Dr Jacqueline Priego and Dr Jonathan Branney who welcomed me and Jade Offer, the other URA, to the team and supported me in my position.

I learnt many new skills including analysing quantitative and qualitative data which the academic staff was happy to guide me in. I was initially daunted by the work I would be expected to do and whether I would be able to fit it around my undergraduate studies as a second year adult nursing student. However as I was able to fulfill some of the URA work at home on my own computer it meant I was able to be flexible with when I worked, so I could keep my other commitments. Being a URA was a great opportunity which I would recommend it to anyone interested in research or furthering their skills, be it computer skills or communication skills.

Pippa Empson, BSc (Hons) Adult Nursing, year two

Team-work on Team-based Learning Project : My experience as a URA

Blog post by Jade Offer, Undergraduate Research Assistant (Innovative Pedagogy)

I applied to become an Undergraduate Research Assistant (URA) as I believed it would help me develop and learn new skills, and it did! As an accounting student, I enjoy working with numbers and that is why I initially applied. The field I choose was unrelated to my degree course and was something I knew little about: the teaching of pathophysiology to student nurses. Despite this I was fully immersed within the research and have really enjoyed my experience.

Fortunately enough I was chosen alongside a fellow student to work on a research project entitled: An Evaluation of Team-based Learning (TBL) in teaching Applied Pathophysiology to Student Nurses. Working with a fellow research assistant made the job even more fun, and was extremely helpful as we could talk and meet with each other to analyse the data, and to aid each other in inputting the data efficiently. We were welcomed into a team with the research leads; Dr Jonathan Branney and Dr Jacqueline Priego, both of whom provided amazing support for us both as we analysed and organised the research they had previously conducted. They both took time out of their schedules to teach us how to use the new research software we needed to use and made regular contact to assist us, which was greatly appreciated.

My involvement in the project

  • Attend regular meeting with the team to discuss next steps
  • Reading previous literature on TBL (relevant articles to our research)
  • Developing spread sheets to organise relevant exam results data
  • Using transcript software to analyse qualitative data
  • Using SPSS to carry out statistical analysis on the quantitative data collected
  • Communication Skills- Composing and delivering presentations

I also had the opportunity to be involved in SUREBU 2016, which is a showcase of research carried out by Bournemouth University students. We were both given the opportunity to present at national conferences, which we hope to attend, as it is an amazing opportunity and privilege. We have also been given the amazing opportunity to be involved in writing a professional research paper that our team hopes to get published, which is very exciting!

What I have gained

  • Presentation skills- delivering a verbal presentation of our findings and how the research was conducted
  • The importance of participant anonymity and the rules of handling important data
  • The important of research in making future changes and trialling new ideas
  • The development of a research project- from raw values to understandable statistics
  • A keen interest and knowledge of Team-based Learning
  • Knowledge in a new field which I would not have otherwise been exposed to

 I would highly recommend applying for a URA job, it has been such a beneficial experience for me; acquiring new skills, developing existing ones and meeting and working along side motivated and friendly individuals. Immerse yourself in the research job and you will find it an invaluable experience alongside your studies.

Jade Offer, BA (Hons) Accounting and Business student, year one