Inside Track | Equipping our students with the skills to succeed

“It’s our joint responsibility to ensure we’re not only able to provide students with the attributes to stand out from the crowd within their chosen career, but to contribute meaningfully to change.”

Professor James Pickering

Professor James Pickering, Academic Director of the Learning Design Agency, outlines how the refreshed Leeds Curriculum will provide students with the opportunities to develop the capabilities required to succeed in their future ambitions – to enable them to grow as individuals and to make a positive difference to themselves, their family and the wider society. 

Every year, thousands of students come to Leeds to start a new chapter in their lives. For many, this will be their only chance to immerse themselves in a university experience and to develop the skills, behaviours and understanding they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. As they join us, they bring their own wealth and breadth of experiences, ideas and ambitions that not only characterise who they are as individuals but provide the diversity and vibrancy that makes the university campus what it is.  

Within this context, it’s important to appreciate how the world in which higher education is situated has transformed during the past few decades. The ease in which information (and misinformation) can be accessed has radically increased, along with the increased blurring of opinion and empirical fact means we should no longer take for granted our own views and pre-conceptions, but challenge and defend these positions in equal measure.  

This changing context has also transformed how higher education is delivered and accessed, with many institutions – including Leeds – rightly embracing and welcoming the diversity of student background and expectations. 

Opportunities for exploration and discovery 

This evolving landscape means we need to ensure our programmes are student-centred in its broadest sense and reach to the very edges of our learning community. They should be rich in opportunities for exploration and discovery to enhance and broaden their horizons and equip students with the skills and attributes to support them in reaching their full potential. This doesn’t mean we should limit or reduce disciplinary content but ensure we’re providing all our students with the best possible opportunities to succeed and provide value for the significant time and investment they place in us at no extra cost to themselves. This is a responsibility that falls across our entire student-staff community. 

Part of this responsibility is to ensure, for example, that the scientists we train understand the social consequences of their work; for social scientists to consider the social value of what they do; and for all our students to be exposed to, and acknowledge, alternative viewpoints and perspectives. Moreover, we need to provide our students with the skills to compete effectively in the increasingly competitive labour market as a springboard to embark on meaningful careers and enhance the communities to which they already belong and will enter in the future. Some of these skills can be constructed socially through the spaces, relationships and opportunities that students engage with, but others need to be explicitly provided through effective and considered curriculum and pedagogical design.  

Future ambitions 

This leads to the question: how can we help our students develop the attributes that will support them to succeed with their future ambitions? To enable them to grow as individuals and to make a positive difference to themselves, their family and the wider society. 

The Leeds Curriculum has always been – and continues to be – our approach to answering this question. For more than a decade, it has provided a shared institutional framework of rigour and stretch, allowing us to embed research-based learning, disciplinary breadth and depth, plus thematic core programme threads across our undergraduate programmes.  

This approach remains today, and after collaborating with staff and students from across campus, through workshops, student stalls and online forums, we’ve refreshed this approach with the aim of empowering all teams to review and redesign their programmes. This framing isn’t designed to enforce any specific approach to the design of programmes, but to provide a framework in which the pedagogical and curriculum design can be considered and undertaken. 

Three core pillars 

The three core pillars of the newly refreshed Leeds Curriculum are described as: Your Course, Your Future, Our World, and are aimed to support the design process. 

Upon graduation, all our students will enter an ever-changing political, social, financial and environmental world that will provide ongoing and unknown challenges. It’s our joint responsibility – students and staff – to ensure we’re not only able to provide them with the skills and attributes that allows them to stand out from the crowd within their chosen career path, but to contribute meaningfully to change. To deliver the change that they want to see, and which is meaningful to them, their families and the lives of others.  

Next steps 

As schools complete the last significant paperwork task this semester as part of Curriculum Redefined, the next phase is to draw on the approach of the Leeds Curriculum to enhance, expand and provide all our students with opportunities to succeed. To support all schools and programme teams with this work, please visit the new Leeds Curriculum SharePoint hub, where you will find lots of information on the refresh journey and resources to support your curriculum and pedagogical enhancement. 

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