I made popular the idea of the ‘student experience’ (or ‘student learning experience’) in higher education back in the early 1990s (see chapter 3 of Learning to Teach in Higher Education). The idea had been around since at least a decade earlier — it all began with research on how students read academic articles.
The student experience is about much more than student satisfaction: it’s about how students connect with the content they learn and, more broadly, how they engage with the university where they learn it. It has since become part of the vocabulary of higher education in the UK and Australia.
The basic idea behind the student experience is that we can only improve the quality of university education if we study its effects on students and look at the experience through their eyes.
I am currently a key associate of PhillipsKPA, a leading Australian company that specialises in providing expert services to the education and training industry and associated sectors. Its expertise extends beyond education to other areas of public policy, government relations, research and development, and private sector management. The business offers a distinctive, independent, in-depth understanding of management, policy and strategic issues in education.
I’m also a visiting professor at the Institute of Education, University of London, contributing to research and to teaching on the MBA in Higher Education Management, and an adjunct professor at Macquarie University in Sydney. I am a governor at the University of Glamorgan. In 2007, I succeeded Martin Trow as chair of the International Advisory Board of the Swedish National Agency for Higher Education.
Some work highlights:
Tomorrow’s graduates: the future framework for higher education
My report to the previous Westminster government on The Future of Higher Education: Teaching and the Student Experience has been influential in stimulating debate in the UK and Australia about the kind of education that will enable our graduates to contribute effectively to the world of the future. Are ideas of ‘students as informed consumers’ or ‘engaged partners‘ the ways forward?
Recognising teaching and research in universities
Since 1995 I have studied how teaching and research are recognised and rewarded and campaigned for better recognition of the teaching function of university academics. A recent UK report on the subject was prepared under my direction as chief executive of the Higher Education Academy. My article advocating more effective recognition of teaching in higher education can be found here.
Assessing the quality of the student experience
I devised the Australian Course Experience Questionnaire (CEQ), which since 1993 has provided an indicator of the quality of university education and was the basis for the UK’s National Student Survey. The Postgraduate Research Experience Questionnaire (PRES) was developed from my investigations of the experiences of research students.
Managing teaching performance
In my role as Pro Vice Chancellor at the University of Sydney (1999-2004), I introduced new systems for managing and supporting teaching, including performance-based funding and academic-led quality review processes. Effective in enhancing quality and student demand, they’ve been widely emulated elsewhere.
Inspiring academics to teach and lead better
Learning to Teach in Higher Education has been extensively acclaimed as one of the world’s most inspirational books on university teaching and is a best-selling text. My Learning to Lead in Higher Education provides evidence-based practical guidance on managing academic departments and academic staff for maximum performance. See books. You can read my feature on what we need to do to improve university teaching, published in Times Higher Education in August 2010, here.
Advising governments, agencies and institutions
In addition to my work for the former Secretary of State mentioned above, I have advised on national awards for university teaching and courses and quality assurance in several countries. I have acted as a consultant to a large number of universities in the UK, Australia, China and Singapore. I chaired the International Advisory Board of the Swedish National Agency for Higher Education from 2007 to 2010 and have been an honorary auditor for the Australian Universities Quality Agency. In 2010 I advised the government of the Irish Republic on the future strategy for higher education in Ireland. Also in 2010, I completed a review of the UK’s National Student Survey.
Fundamental work on students’ approaches to learning and academics’ approaches to teaching and research
As a PhD student I had the good luck to be part of a research team that uncovered the relations between students’ learning outcomes and their experiences of university courses. This work subsequently developed into an understanding of the conditions for effective university teaching. See books. I have examined conditions for better research performance, the quality of the environment for research training, and links between research and teaching. See the biography.
I have also been active in research management (I was a member of a 2008 RAE subpanel and was a policy adviser on the assessment of pedagogical research in higher education – download the attachment below for details).