Three European universities are trialling an innovative approach to tackle student dropout rates –students are developing their own course in a bid to break down barriers to education.
The University of Cumbria, VIA University College (Denmark) and University College of Southeast (Norway) were concerned about the significant decline in people entering higher education, which is particularly evident in the UK, and more so than other European countries.
Issues around affordability, accessibility and off-putting academic jargon are among the reasons cited for students dropping out of higher education.
In a bid to make education more appealing and inclusive, the academics decided to ‘co-create’ a course with their students so they could actively contribute to its development and put it in their own words.
The University of Cumbria recruited 10 students from the UK and similar numbers are taking part in Denmark and Norway. In a bid to diversify further, the university recruited students who did not fit the typical MA profile. Some could not have afforded typical MA fees, which can be in excess of £10K, and others may not have been able to travel to university ordinarily.
Erasmus+, the EU's programme to support education, training, youth and sport in Europe, subsidised fees for the course and students use an online portal for course delivery, which links the students and academics from all the countries with one another.
Next month the research group will meet in person for the first time when they travel to Norway for training in how to conduct research. The reports will be available as online open access journals.
Speaking about the project, Steve Walker, Senior Lecturer, Working with Children and Families at the University of Cumbria said:
“We are responding to a need identified by our research that shows people are put off from pursuing higher education. By offering people increased flexibility on how and where they study, we are breaking down barriers to their learning. By getting the students to co-create the programme themselves, it further enhances the likelihood that people will be enthused to continue their studies”.
He continued: “It’s a new and potentially risky approach because it is student –led. As lecturers, we could be in the position where we are teaching a subject we know nothing about. Learning at the same time as the students, but that also makes it incredibly exhilarating!”
The MaCE Project is a two-year research programme, which aims work collaboratively with post-graduate students and practitioners from Norway, Denmark and the UK. To date the group have undertaken four online synchronous live lectures and collaborative sessions using the online portal.
The group will reconvene in Norway once again in February for report writing support.
So far, several more universities have expressed interest in joining the programme next year. Including Guelph Humber Toronto and Queensland University Australia, and distinguished Professor Michelle Fine, famous of taking New York education authority to court and winning, is speaking to the group in Norway in February.
The team hope the resultant student reports will ultimately help shape the British school education system too.