Parallel session 1

by Paul Maharg on 03/07/2012

I attended a session on on ‘Embedding internationalisation, employability and inclusive education through graduate attributes: a case study of ‘A Global Outlook (David Killick, Laura Dean, Manchester Met U).  Came in late to an odd dialogue between the speakers, but the points thereafter made about how it was being embedded were interesting; and I liked their definition of graduate attributes, which clearly have a role to play in this debate.  Eg meeting diverse needs and affording others equal respect — how can we achieve that?  Particularly when subjects are being studied by students who will carry out their lives in a globally interconnected world?  How can subject leaders implement change in this regard?

Learning outcomes were one answer put forward.  Useful, and talking about constructive alignment that reflect both subject content and graduate attributes.  Gave examples where an original learning outcome can be modified to a global context.  So in Education, eg, something like ‘identify and describe issues […] in the modern British education system since 1988’ can be adapted to ‘identify and describe issues […] in the modern British education system since 1988 with reference to contrasting practice in one other national context’.

I can see the point, but I’m not enthused.  Sure, learning outcomes are important but do they really address the staff cultural issues, the departmental cultural issues, and what is often institutional hypocritical rhetoric about globalization when minimum resources are given over to student support systems, where we need dynamic and radical approaches to learning at a distance, as point out by Martin Bean in the previous session, and when senior managers are putting staff under pressure to bring money into institutions?

At questions someone asked the speakers what they would do if, as the SHEEC report in Scotland pointed out, they came across students who simply didn’t want to engage with the employability agenda.  Actually, there are many reasons why students can be turned off, including poor materials, poor teaching/learning, etc.  Speakers didn’t really answer this, though.  One of them lamented the diminishing role of public HE, and said we had a moral responsibility to help our students to make their way in the world — even if, later, they decided they didn’t want to enter employment at all.  Do we?  Do we have such a restrictive duty?  I’d argue that our duty must surely be much wider, involving as Dewey pointed out over a century ago a commitment to ethical processes and values, and radical democratic processes and values.  It concerns me that the employability agenda seems so thin in this regard.

To be fair to the speakers, it was a complex question, and a complex debate that we didn’t really have time to explore.  It’s one that LETR will need to engage with in depth, for this is surely a question for regulators as much as it is for programme leaders in institutions.  And not least in a week when we’ve seen recently so many ethical and cultural failures in our banks over such a long period of time.  There are so many important lessons there for lawyers and for legal educators.


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