Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2018-2019 (archived)

Module EDUC45430: Designing Higher Education Enquiries

Department: Education

EDUC45430: Designing Higher Education Enquiries

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2018/19 Module Cap None.


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • The aim of this module is to introduce participants to issues in the design and conduct of research in higher education settings. It is mainly intended for those following a CPD pathway (ie: Durham staff) towards the MA in Higher Education.


  • Those researching in higher education settings are frequently researching their own workplace and practices. This can foreground particular issues in research design and approach which may need sensitive handling. This module aims to support participants who are likely to be researching their own workplace and practice for the first time. Four workshops address key research processes and a final meeting is dedicated to participant presentations:
  • Framing higher education enquiry: theoretical and methodological standpoints
  • Researcher positionality and ethics
  • Questions, designs, claims and warrants
  • Analysis, representation and dissemination
  • Formative presentations and feedback
  • The concepts of positionality and power are of particular importance in researching higher education, as is the notion of epistemology for those from a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds. These are contestable ideas that will be foregrounded for debate in the module to enable participants to argue for a coherent position for use in both the research proposal and subsequent dissertation. Ethical principles and the practicalities of gaining ethical approval will be dealt with. As much higher education research (although not all) is small-scale and qualitative, actionable research questions and potential claims and warrants from the ensuing data will be subject to development, revision and peer review. Common critiques of this form of research will be addressed and reasoned justifications for its importance will be debated.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of the programme, participants will be able to demonstrate:
  • Understanding of researcher positionality;
  • Familiarity with HE research processes.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Application of ethical principles;
  • Critical appraisal of various research designs.
Key Skills:
  • Participants will engage in:
  • Analysis of the research literature in higher education;
  • Evaluation and selection of appropriate research design and processes;
  • Critical and reflective approaches to higher educational research.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Teaching will be via workshops that include both tutor- and student-led activities. Participants will draw on the literature, as well as their own work context and experience, to debate issues in conducting research in higher education settings. Developing research designs will be discussed and peer reviewed. Ethical issues will be addressed within the module and consulted on in the immediate research setting. The summative assignment will consist of a Research Proposal (5000 words) that can serve as the basis for the MA dissertation. Tutorial support will be used for discussion and feedback on individual research proposals.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Workshops 5 Every 2-3 weeks 3 hours 15
Tutor Support 5
Work-based learning 36
Private Study 244

Summative Assessment

Component: Sumative Assignment Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Research Proposal 5000 words 100% Resubmission 3 months after initial submission deadline.

Formative Assessment:

One in-class presentation of the developing research proposal will be required. This will receive peer and tutor feedback/critique. Ongoing tutorial support will also be available throughout the module.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University