Project Proposal

Project Funding

Student as Producer is funded by the Higher Education Academy under the National Teacher Fellowship Project Scheme. Student as Producer has been awarded £200k for three years, 2010-2013. Set out below is the proposal on which the award of these monies was made.

Executive Summary

The drive to connect research and undergraduate teaching to create a productive and progressive pedagogical framework has become one of the most significant areas for academic development in higher education.

The Student as Producer project develops this connection by re-engineering the relationship between research and teaching. This involves a reappraisal of the relationship between academics and students, with students becoming part of the academic project of universities rather than consumers of knowledge.

Key to this process of re-engineering is to establish research-engaged teaching and learning as an institutional priority at the University of Lincoln, making it the dominant paradigm for all aspects of curriculum design and delivery, and the central pedagogical principle that informs other aspects of the University’s strategic planning.

Research-engaged teaching and learning is defined as: ‘A fundamental principle of curriculum design whereby students learn primarily by engagement in real research projects, or projects which replicate the process of research in their discipline. Engagement is created through active collaboration amongst and between students and academics’.

Although focussed on one institution the project will engage fully with other higher educational institutions, at the local, national and international level, so as to ensure maximum impact across the sector.


The drive to connect academic research and undergraduate teaching has become one of the most significant areas of pedagogical development in the Higher Education sector.

The Student as Producer project develops this connection by re-engineering the relationship between research and teaching. This involves a reappraisal of the relationship between academics and students, with students becoming part of the academic project of universities rather than consumers of knowledge.

The growing interest into linking teaching and research led to its inclusion in HEFCE’s national strategic priorities for learning and teaching (HEFCE, 2006). As a result the University of Lincoln (UL), like many other institutions, developed a range of strategies, often supported by government funding, e.g., TQEF, FDTL, CETL, to promote the teaching-research nexus.

As a result of this activity, together with similar work done elsewhere, (Baxter Magolda et al., 1998; Boyer Commision, 1998; Pascarella and Terenzini, 2005) there is growing evidence of the effectiveness of what is defined as ‘research-based’ learning (Healey, 2005). Healey and Jenkins (2009) conclude that one of the most effective ways to enhance learning in universities is to ‘engage our students in research and enquiry.’ The Student as Producer project draws heavily on development work done elsewhere (Brew, 2006; Elton, 2001;), including work done by members of the project group team at Lincoln (Neary et al 2007, Neary and Winn 2009, Neary and Hagyard 2010).

The originality of the Student as Producer project is the aim to establish research-engaged teaching as an institution-wide strategy. Many institutions have focussed their initial work on research-based learning on research programmes which developed pockets of excellent practice and have been shown to have a significant impact (Watling and Hagyard, 2009).  The challenge now is to mainstream undergraduate research by integrating it into the curriculum to ensure it lies at the heart of the student experience.

The University of Lincoln’s strategic plan for teaching and learning includes a dedicated section on linking teaching and research, stating that ‘students at all levels are to be seen as collaborators in developing the research and scholarly culture of the University’.

A working definition of research-engaged learning might therefore be:

“A fundamental principle of curriculum design whereby students learn primarily by engagement in real research projects, or projects which replicate the process of research in their discipline. Engagement is created through active collaboration amongst and between students and academics”.

Research-engaged teaching and learning includes practice-based teaching. Research-engaged teaching is inherently practical.

It is this concentration on the concept of engagement that offers the possibility of genuine transformation of the culture of HEIs, and the idea of the university itself (Mclean, 2006).


The purpose of the Student as Producer project is to establish research-engaged teaching and learning as an institutional priority at the University of Lincoln. This means that research-engaged teaching and learning will become the dominant paradigm for all aspects of curriculum design and delivery, and the central pedagogical principle that informs other aspects of the University of Lincoln’s strategic planning.

Research-engaged teaching and learning aims to connect research and teaching in ways that enable students to learn through active engagement in research processes and outcomes.

By engaging at the institutional level, this strategy can potentially reinvent the university as a place where students become part of the academic project of the university, and producers of knowledge of real academic value, rather than passive consumers of information (Neary and Winn, 2009). Furthermore, as a process that engages students in real world situations giving them real responsibility for learning, research-engaged teaching and learning enhances students’ employability skills.

Although focussed on one institution, the key to this project is its impact at the sector level. The project will engage with other HEIs through network connections as well as with key individuals at the local, national and international level. The project will build on the work of a number of CETLs involved in the development of research-engaged teaching and learning in terms of the pedagogic knowledge and rationales that they have developed. The Student as Producer project will look to build on already existing networks and create a national association of research-engaged teaching and learning.


This is an institution-wide project, relating to the delivery of teaching and research across the institution. It will be established initially as a three year programme that will develop organically by identifying existing provision and through existing Quality Assurance procedures.

This will involve colleagues working at all levels in the faculties as well as service and support departments, including the library. Externally, links will be made with schools, colleges and universities.

The student voice and presence is key to the working of this project. Students will be engaged as ambassadors for the project, and as members of the Project Management Group.

Year 1

The first six months will be an initiation process, preparing the business and academic case. This will involve setting up the key team for delivery, which will be a Project Management Group reporting directly to Teaching and Learning Committee and Academic Board. Links will be established with other key committees and connections with institutional strategic priorities.

Key aspects of the initiation phase are:

  • working closely with Faculties and students through appropriate committees and directly with Principal Teaching Fellows (PTFs)
  • developing relationships with key external agencies, including HEA, JISC, HEFCE and the QAA
  • reviewing existing programmes to gauge current research-engaged teaching activities and identifying activities that already involve undergraduate students in research and research-like activity
  • engaging with external members of the Steering Group and other external partners, including universities, schools and colleges.

The next six months of the first year will be the preparation process. This will include:

  • identifying programmes to run as pilots during year two
  • running staff training sessions on research-engaged teaching and learning
  • preparing on-line support materials, working with library and learning development staff
  • communicating with the university and externally through the in-house magazine, community radio and the project website
  • establishing a reward and recognition scheme linked to CPD criteria
  • creating new quality assurance documentation to support validation of new and re-branded programmes
  • establishing a risks and issues register
  • holding an internal Teaching and Learning Conference at the end of the academic year with the theme of research-engaged teaching.

Year 2

The main focus of the second year will be the implementation process. A key issue will be to review and evaluate the pilots established the previous year. These will include working with ongoing programmes as well as those due for (re)validation. Work will include:

  • ongoing staff training through workshops supported by online and other materials
  • continuing to review and develop existing programmes and to establish new programmes through revalidation and validation
  • communicating messages across UL and the sector through press, TV, print media and online
  • continuing to engage directly with students through SU and directly with student representatives from the pilot programmes. Recruit students as Student as Producer ambassadors.

The key area of activity in year two is research and development. This will involve

  • writing up pilots
  • developing Quality and Standards procedures, set against sector measures such as Quality Assurance Framework and QAA benchmarks

Year 3

The aim of the third year will be to consolidate and sustain, informed by ongoing reviews, research and development. Dissemination will continue through:

  • workshops, internal and external across the sector
  • conference presentations and publications
  • international conference at UL
  • development of national and international network
  • working closely as consultants with other HEIs.

Activities and Outputs

Activities will be organised to ensure collaboration between academics, students and other key stakeholders, as well as discrete activities for the participating groups to ensure maximum impact at all levels of the project. Some of the activities and outputs are described below:

Activity: Teacher Development

The project will include an ongoing promotion of teacher development at UL on the theme of research-engaged teaching and learning linked to the already existing PGCE programme and CPD framework. Students will be used as consultants for enhancing academic teaching and as support for other students. Outputs – increased number of HEA fellowship at all levels, improved student satisfaction, as well as improvements in other measures of student success, achievement and retention. The teacher development programme will create open access resource materials for research-engaged teaching and learning as well as aim to provide a CPD kite-mark award for research- engaged teaching and learning in association with the HEA.

Activity: Learning Co-laboratories

Learning co-laboratories are teaching and learning projects involving large groups of undergraduate students, around five hundred, from within one faculty, working in multidisciplinary teams (ten members) with faculty academic staff. The co-laboratory takes place over the period of one week. Each group creates a product of academic value around a concept based on the theme of the co-laboratory. Outputs: exhibition of student work, short documentary films and podcasts about the event.

Activity: Undergraduate Research Opportunity Scheme

Students will have the opportunity to work with academics on research projects. The students will receive a bursary of £1k as well as mentoring and support during the process from the academic and their research centres. These opportunities will normally take place during the summer vacation period. Outputs: posters, conference presentations, research papers worked on jointly with academic and student. This work will form the basis for a student research journal to be produced by undergraduate students [10 projects per year].

Activity: Fund for Educational Development

Funds of up to £3k will be available to academic colleagues to develop their curriculum along the lines of research-engaged teaching. Staff will write up these developments as a pedagogical research paper. Outputs: a series of case studies on research-engaged teaching and learning [5 projects per year].

Activity: Festival of Teaching and Learning

UL will stage a festival of teaching and learning, involving the whole university for one day during the autumn term. Academics, support staff and students will engage with the research-engaged teaching agenda within their own course programmes, and as extra curricula activities through presentations and exhibitions etc. Outputs: festival proceedings, papers, articles, displays, objects, films and edited volumes and monographs on research-engaged teaching.

Final Output

Taken together these activities will form the basis for:

  • A strategic framework at the institutional level that can be adopted or customised by other institutions
  • A fully operationalised model for implementing research engaged teaching across an HEI
  • A national association for the development of research engaged teaching and learning.


The development team will be based in the Centre for Educational Research and Development (CERD) at the UL. CERD has an institution-wide remit for the enhancement and development of teaching and learning at the University. CERD has considerable research capacity with staff engaged in educational research in HE and across other educational provision (Bell, Stevenson and Neary 2009).

Professor Mike Neary is the project director, giving over 0.2 FTE for the duration of the project. Mike is a National Teaching Fellow and was the founding director of the Reinvention Centre for Undergraduate Research at the Universities of Warwick and Oxford Brookes. He has been an advisor and consultant on various projects to establish research based learning programmes, with publications and frequent keynote presentations.

Three external National Teaching Fellows will play key roles in the project.

Professor Mick Healey has an international reputation in the field of connecting the teaching- research nexus at the undergraduate level. He will take on the role of independent evaluator, focusing on external impact across the sector. The project will build on expertise from his NTFS project on connecting research and teaching in post 1992 institutions.

Professor Glynis Cousin established the Undergraduate Bursary Scheme for undergraduate research at the University of Warwick and the Reinvention Centre for Undergraduate Research CETL at the University of Warwick and Oxford Brookes. She will take on the role of independent evaluator, focusing on internal impact within the University of Lincoln.

John Hilsdon is chair of the Association for Learning Development in Higher Education (ALDinHE) and a member of the LearnHigher CETL. The networking opportunities through LearnHigher and ALDinHE allow access to a number of key agents of change in institutions across the country.

Project Management Group

This group is responsible for day to day management of the project and will drive the project forward from implementation to completion. The group meets twice a month, initially, and then once a month. This group reports to UL’s Teaching and Learning Committee and Academic Board. Members include:

Project Sponsor and Budget holder – PVC Academic, University of Lincoln

Project Director – Mike Neary, Dean of Teaching and Learning, University of Lincoln, FTE = 0.2

Project Co-ordinator – Andy Hagyard – Teaching and Learning Co-ordinator at the University of Lincoln. Andy is a member of the LearnHigher CETL with special interest and expertise in the development of research-based learning, FTE = 0.4

Academic Co-ordinators:

Sue Watling – Teaching and Learning Co-ordinator in CERD, contributing in the area of virtual learning, distance learning and inclusive practice, FTE = 0.05

Julian Beckton – Teaching and Learning Co-ordinator in CERD, contributing in the area of personal development planning and e-learning, FTE = 0.05

Joss Winn – Technology Co-ordinator in CERD, contributing in the area of open educational resources and web 2.0 technologies, FTE = 0.05

Dr Terence Karran – Director of Research in CERD, supporting colleagues in the scholarship of teaching and learning, FTE = 0.05

Principal Teaching Fellows x 5 – senior promoted position recognising teaching excellence (equivalent to Reader) acting as champions for research-engaged teaching and learning across the university

Student Union representative: Vice President (Education) and representatives from Student Council.

Steering Group

This group has no managerial function. Its role is to provide expertise and advice, including guidance on the preparation of the original project plan. The group consists of individuals from other institutions, including CETLs, with a specific interest and experience in the development of research-engaged teaching and learning. This group reports to the Project Management Group. The group meets 3 – 4 times a year with video conferencing provision.

Professor Phil Levy is the Academic Director of CILASS, the Centre for Inquiry-based Learning in the Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Sheffield

Dr John Creighton is the Director of the Applied Undergraduate Research Skills CETL at the University of Reading

Dr Paul Taylor is the Director, and Dr Cath Lambert is an academic coordinator, for the Reinvention Centre at Warwick and Oxford Brookes Universities

Dr Claire Taylor from Bishop Grosseteste University College Lincoln is Head of Learning and Teaching, with a particular interest in research-based learning

Professor Stuart Hampton – Reeves is the Director of the Centre for Research Informed Teaching at the University of Central Lancashire

Professor Angela Brew from the University of Macquarie is one of the foremost international experts in the field of research-based teaching. She will act as a mentor to Professor Neary

This group will also include the three NTFs as described above: Professor Glynis Cousin, University of Wolverhampton; Professor Mick Healey , University of Gloucestershire; John Hilsdon, University of Plymouth.


Total funding requested from HEA: £199,177

Total funding contributed from University of Lincoln: £138,856

As the development of research-engaged teaching and learning is central to UL’s institutional strategy, it is considered as a core activity, with a large proportion of staffing costs being met through the institutional contribution. Project funding will enable enhanced support for developmental work, such as the UROS and FED schemes, as well as evaluation and dissemination activity which will ensure that the project benefits can be shared across the sector.

Evaluation Strategy

Ongoing formative evaluation will be critical to the success of the project, with evaluation reports produced at key stages (see dissemination strategy) and a full evaluation report at the end of each year of the project. Professor Glynis Cousin will focus on evaluation of the internal impact within the University of Lincoln, while Professor Mick Healey will focus on the external impact of the work. The internal and external evaluations will be consolidated as a single project report.

A full evaluation framework will be agreed during the first three months of the project, specifying in particular the qualitative and quantitative measures to be used.

The project will use the RUFDATA framework (Saunders, 2000) to develop a detailed evaluation plan. The evaluation will be conducted as follows:

  • Formative evaluation at the end of Year One will review the initiation and preparation stages, and will be primarily concerned with staff awareness, understanding and commitment to the development of research-engaged teaching and learning at the University of Lincoln and across the sector. Evidence will be largely qualitative, collected through interviews and through analysis of internal documents.
  • Evaluation of Year Two will consider the implementation stage. The student voice will be important, with evidence collected from students on the pilot programmes through a range of measures including questionnaires, interviews and focus groups. The particular focus of this project is on institutional strategy, and as a result data will also be collected from academics, senior managers, administrative and support staff within the university.
  • Each year external evaluation will focus on the awareness and understanding of what is taking place at UL, including recommendations for re-profiling dissemination where necessary. The external evaluation will report on how research-based learning is being developed at other institutions.
  • Formative evaluations will be shared with the project Steering Group to review progress and revise objectives as necessary each year.

The summative evaluation at the end of Year Three at the University of Lincoln will focus on:

  • student satisfaction
  • proportion of RET modules per faculty
  • student success
  • student feedback
  • range and quality of student publications
  • student employability / enterprise / progression to further study
  • QA processes, subject review, external examiners.
  • case studies
  • student retention
  • design and use of space and technology
  • student support models

And, externally, evaluation will focus on dissemination in terms of awareness, understanding and engagement with the concept of Student as Producer:

  • Invitations to speak at external events
  • Presence at conferences and workshops
  • Attendance at events organised through the project
  • Publications
  • Citations in QAA, HEA, HEFCE and other sectoral publications
  • References in national media

Dissemination Strategy

The dissemination strategy will be ongoing and reflexive, designed to encourage maximum engagement and participation, through dialogue, discussion and debate. Documentation will be produced to ensure the widest levels of accessibility.

Dissemination will promote a sense of institutional ownership at the University of Lincoln between academics, academic managers, administrators, students and support staff. Given the institutional focus of this project is it important that a sense of ownership and engagement should extend to other sections of the HE community, including other HEIs, HEA, NUS, QAA, other European and international HE bodies, as well as the national funding councils (HEFCE/HEFCW/SFC/DELNI). Given the importance of employability to this agenda it is important that other external organisations are aware of and understand the work that is going on: employers, NGOs, professional associations and local and national government.

All of those engaged and participating with the project will be encouraged to share the work of the project by spreading content across their academic and professional networks. These flows of information, and the feedback they produce, will be captured to establish robust contact lists, to extend project partners and to generate further data to support and enhance the ongoing evaluation and research.

Dissemination activity will take the form of:

Activity When
Website – including online statement of intent, information on key players and institutions, action plan with timescales, responsibilities and resource implications, logo and branding for the project, interactive and discursive networking tools, e.g., blogs From the beginning and ongoing
Press Release – student, national and local – across all platforms Regular throughout project
Student Communication – through email and social networking, NUS, SU and student representation system Regular throughout project
Reports and Briefing Papers: Quarterly outcomes achieved, six monthly reports more discursive, yearly academic paper for open peer review
Meetings – communication among the project team and steering group, and other key committee structures within the university. PM twice a month initially, monthly thereafter

SG every 6-8 weeks

Conferences and Workshops: international, and road-shows, in house and video linked. Conference yr 3

Workshops at UL and external roadshows – 3 per year

Select and train advocates and champions – staff and students Regular throughout project

Risk Management

RISK Probab-ility (1=low, 5=high) Severity Proximity Score Mitigating Action
NTF unable to contribute to project 1 4 Anytime 4 Nurture and harness collective expertise of project team
Loss of key staff 2 4 Anytime 8 Spread risk among several key staff.
Staff absences 2 1 Anytime 2 Tolerable if responsibilities are spread evenly across a project team.
Unsustainable Business Case 1 4 Late stages 4 Work closely with Stakeholders at all times.  Ensure expectations are realistic. Review project objectives in light of changing environment.
Lack of stakeholder engagement/loss of support 1 4 Anytime 4 Work closely with stakeholders at all times. Include on Project Management Team. Offer regular opportunities for deliberation. Provide regular examples of  project benefits and progress.
Changes in Sector (financial, structural) 3 2 Annually 6 Review in light of project objectives. Incorporate significant structural changes into project objectives.
Changes in structure of university 2 3 Annually 6 Realign Project Management and Steering Groups to fit with the new university structures.
Changes in external (Government/sector) strategic priorities 2 2 Anytime 4 Review strategic papers and policy documents. Incorporate significant policy changes into project objectives.

Summary of Benefits:

The core aim of the project is to improve student learning through the applied use of research-engaged teaching and learning and practice-based evidence at an institutional level. The project team will work with other HEIs, the Higher Education Academy and other national bodies and projects to build on existing work aimed at strengthening links between teaching and research. It will extend existing knowledge in this area by developing and applying a strategic approach to institutional change and producing a workable framework for implementation in other universities.

The project is underpinned by a desire to change the relationship between staff and students in HE, developing students as stakeholders in the academic project of the university and producers of knowledge. Consequently the student voice will be central to the development and implementation of the project. Students will benefit from a more engaging learning experience and enhanced employability.

The outcomes of the project have clear and direct relevance to the HE sector, since this topic has been a strategic priority for national teaching and learning policy in recent years. The framework for institutional change and the accompanying case studies, reports, website and conference will all be available to the sector and potentially the HEA to support further change.


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