Leeds’ innovation and inclusivity leads to major funding awards

Successful innovation in our student recruitment and teaching has earned Leeds a key role in over £1 million worth of HEFCE-funded research.

Two Leeds initiatives will benefit from the latest round of HEFCE Catalyst funding, aimed at addressing barriers to student success.

Head of Educational Engagement Louise Banahene will lead a £500,000 project to encourage undergraduate students from disadvantaged backgrounds to progress to taught postgraduate (PGT) study and support them during their further studies. The research will be a collaborative effort involving the Universities of Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield, Warwick and York.

The project will scale up and test the impact of measures which have proved successful at undergraduate level.  It includes the roll out of an Access to Leeds model across the collaborating universities.

Louise said: “We already have a history of working with our research partners through the Postgraduate Support Scheme that we trialled in 2014/15, and I’m looking forward to building on that collaboration.

“Access to Leeds has been a great success since it began, with retention and achievement rates of the students coming through the scheme comparing well with average rates for our undergraduates.  If we can achieve the same results for postgraduate study, we won’t just be improving the diversity of the PGT student population but also of the research community and the professions which PGT graduates enter, so we’ll be making a significant contribution to social mobility.”

Associate Professor Daniel Morgan from the School of Earth and Environment will head up the Leeds contribution to a £480,000 Open University-led project, also involving Plymouth University.  It aims to extend inclusive practices in the design and delivery of STEM courses – particularly those aimed at students with mental health issues and specific learning difficulties - so that they can benefit more students.

At Leeds, the work will focus on developing the award-winning Virtual Landscapes fieldwork training tool used by geology students.

Daniel said: “This project is particularly important now.  Changes to the Disabled Students Allowance have significantly reduced the financial support available to help students overcome specific barriers, and there is a real risk that this could affect their academic and employment prospects.  It is down to universities to support these students by making teaching practices as inclusive as possible.

“By working with other universities with different recruitment and teaching practices and student profiles, we’ll be able to develop collective expertise which can benefit thousands of students across the higher education sector, not just those at our own institutions.”

Success in this HEFCE Catalyst funding round follows two 2016 grants for Leeds research.

The ‘Mending a Broken Bridge’ project, led by Dr Rafe Hallett, Director of the Leeds Institute for Teaching Excellence (LITE), aims to strengthen links between PGT students and the region’s cultural industries.

The project, which benefits from £30,000 HEFCE funding, involves a wide range of industry partners, such as the Hepworth Gallery, The Tetley, and Opera North, in:  

  • identifying regional skills needs 
  • providing research and mentoring opportunities
  • offering PGT students channels for sharing the results of their research.

External partners, together with academic leads, will shape the design of a new cross-faculty PGT module focused on research impact and public engagement.  The Cultural Institute will also help to develop the project, tying it to the Leeds 2023 City of Culture campaign where possible. 

The MyPAL@work project, which received £50,000 HEFCE funding, is led by the Technology Enhanced Learning team from the Leeds Institute of Medical Education.  It will extend the MyPal@Leeds system already in use in the School of Medicine to help students on professional education courses such as medicine, nursing, teaching and law get the most of their work placements and the feedback they get from them. 

Rafe Hallett said: “Our success in securing this level of funding shows that Leeds is recognised as a leader in developing innovative and inclusive education.  Each of the projects demonstrates our commitment to giving our students an unprecedented level of support in transitioning to and from campus life and equipping them with lifelong skills.”

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