Dr Mike Dobson

Multi-disciplinary learning

Name Dr Mike Dobson
Email M.J.Dobson@exeter.ac.uk
Position Director, Flexible Combined Honours
Division Flexible Combined Honours

Promoting inter-disciplinary discussion through FCH

As Director of the Flexible Combined Honours (FCH) programme, Dr Mike Dobson sees first-hand the benefits of allowing students to flexibly design and essentially create the degree they wish to study. As Mike explains; “Many students are interested in more than one subject, and a lot of them are doing A-Levels where they think ‘Well, I really like that subject and that one, and I don’t want to give either up, and so I want to study them both at university’. FCH works ideally for this…satisfying their interests”.

Importantly, by allowing students to pair subject together or even follow three subjects, it encourages FCH students to adopt a multi-disciplinary focus to their studies. By promoting this cross-disciplinary discussion, as Mike points out, the students are better prepared to tackle today’s global challenges:

“There is no one solution to any particular problem. Students learn to appreciate this in a multi-disciplinary degree. For example, one of the modules I teach is in Sustainability, learning how to communicate these global issues, and seek solutions. That group of students is made up of a whole different variety of subject backgrounds; there could be somebody talking about the economics of a particular problem, say water shortage, and then the Politics and International Relations students say, ‘Ah, well what about the political aspects’, the Anthropologists will come and say, ‘Yes, but there are significant cultural considerations’ and the Philosophy students will start talking about the ethics involved, and so on. So by bringing together different ideas…this idea of let’s have a variety of solutions, or a blended approach to finding a solution that might work for everyone, rather than just the decision of we will do it this way, and blast it through, causing you to forget the minority groups and things that perhaps you might not otherwise have thought”.

Enhancing students’ employability through studying or working abroad, or UK work placements

FCH also provides students with the opportunity to spend a year studying or working abroad. As Mike explains, international experiences such as these are a very important means for contributing to students’ employability, developing a range of key transferable skills, including problem-solving, cultural awareness and the ability to tackle new situations.

Similar aids to employability can be gained through FCH allowing students to have a year work placement in the UK, if they do not want to go abroad. A growing number of students are in fact transferring from other Exeter degrees in order to add this to their programme, as they can readily see the benefits, and they are unable to do so in their current degrees.

Aim 6: Multi-disciplinary learning for global challenges 

To provide all students with the opportunity to explore the relevance of different disciplines to contemporary challenges facing the world

Additional resources

Multi-disciplinary discussion through FCH 

"The importance of multi-disciplinary learning is that it allows students to...look across subjects".

Enhancing employability through study abroad

"Studying abroad... changes the student. When they come back they are completely different".