Transformative Education at the University of Exeter
Our purpose as a University is “To use the power of education and research to create a sustainable, healthy and socially just future” (University Strategy 2030). Through the Transformative Education Framework, we will use the power of education to transform our students’ lives so that they, in turn, can transform the world. We introduced this education innovation in 2021 as part of the implementation of the Success for All Strategy.
The Transformative Education Framework will:
• Enable all students to see the challenges associated with the climate emergency, inequality and social injustice in their fields of study;
• Promote the application of critical thinking skills in learning generally, and research-inspired, inquiry-led learning contexts specifically, with an aim to innovate and improve current approaches to education and address challenges facing our society;
• Foster collaboration with peers and educators, drawing on the strength of our community’s diversity of experiences and areas of expertise;
• Create a learning environment that fosters a culture of compassion and promotes respect by embedding inclusivity and cultural competence.
Through these actions, we will enable students and educators alike to apply their knowledge to create a sustainable, healthy and socially just future.
The Transformative Education Framework aims to ensure that:
• All our students and staff feel welcomed and valued;
• Our university community collectively examines and, where necessary, challenges established and traditional approaches to assessment that have, alongside other inequalities, led to awarding gaps;
• Inclusive language and practices are used in all teaching and learning contexts;
• Students are provided with adequate support for achieving good mental health and wellbeing;
• Forward-looking, sustainable approaches are promoted to uphold peace, good health and prosperity for all global citizens and the planet on which we live.
The three principles that we focus on are as follows:
I. Inclusive Education
Inclusive education has been defined in a number of ways. These various definitions share an emphasis on encouraging a learning environment that is accessible to all students, fosters their continued engagement equally, facilitates openness to different ways of thinking and being, and overtly values individual differences. In such environments, teachers and students alike are aware of, and work to counteract, assumptions and biases; they also strive for transparency and foster accountability. As a result, all learners feel respected and therefore supported in their intellectual and personal growth.
Inclusive Education at the University of Exeter involves facilitating, and benefitting from, equality and diversity by pursuing language, behaviours and teaching practices that foster the inclusion and success of all learners, and work towards improving their experience, skills, and attainment. In aiming to include all learners, inclusivity simultaneously seeks to avoid the exclusion of any learner – for example, because of particular traits or dimensions, such as:
• Differences in prior education, learning needs and preferences, and/or motivations for learning
• Age / experience
• Disability / health
• Gender / sex / sexual orientation
• Caring duties / pregnancy / maternity
• Marriage / partnership status
• Race / culture / nationality
• Religion / belief
• Socioeconomic status / class
Staff can read more about Inclusive Education at the University of Exeter here.
II. Racial and Social Justice
Our approach to incorporating racial and social justice in education at the University of Exeter involves learning about, understanding, and developing solutions to address racial and social inequalities in society and our community. Through the Transformative Education Framework, we will provide resources and create discussion platforms for staff and students to understand how we can address racial and social injustices through curriculum change, and specifically through engagement with processes of decolonisation, diversification and/or liberation. We encourage staff and students to engage critically in discourse on how present circumstances are informed by past practices and ideologies with a view to co-creating curriculum and teaching practices that are aimed at rectifying existing inequalities in our learning community and beyond.
In response to recommendations in numerous reports on closing ethnicity degree awarding gaps in the UK HE sectors, this strand of Transformative Education will also:
- Enable better representation of differing life experiences and viewpoints in our curriculum by incorporating data, models and theories related to ethnic diversity;
- Include support for educators to facilitate conversation on discrimination and prejudice in a way that is increasingly informed and sensitive to the contexts of our diverse student community;
- Encourage collaboration between students and staff in developing the curriculum and pedagogy as well as solutions to issues of racial and social inequality that are relevant to their field of study.
On 20th May 2019, the University of Exeter declared an Environment & Climate Emergency (E&CE). We are committed to building sustainable curricula and communities reflecting the commitment to environmental sustainability in the University’s 2030 strategies. By actively embedding sustainability and climate change into core elements of our curriculum and education operations, it will not only have a profound impact on how our students can individually and collectively promote social, economic and ecological change but contribute to UoE’s opportunity to become a global leader in environment, climate and sustainability education.
As part of its aim to build a sustainable curriculum, the E&CE Team conducted a general curriculum review of UoE's programmes and modules which quantified the UN Sustainable Development Goals, (SDGs) were represented in the University's 21/22 teaching. Overall, SDGs 13-16 were highlighted as most present which means that as a University, we have a good focus on biodiversity, conservation and marine conservation, ecosystems and sustainable societies. SDGs 1-4 which focus on poverty, hunger, healthy lives and quality education were the least represented, and cited as areas in need of improvement. Through the Transformative Education Framework we will enable our student and staff community to work on embedding the SDGs in all our taught programmes.