Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)

Module EDUC46030: The Case for Higher Education: From Precarity to Empowerment

Department: Education

EDUC46030: The Case for Higher Education: From Precarity to Empowerment

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Not available in 2020/21


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Excluded Combination of Modules

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  • This module will introduce students to the changing context of global higher education landscape, including its competing purposes, value contexts, governance frameworks and the identities of key actors. It will enable students to appreciate critically the key issues within higher education and reflect on what matters in taking higher education forward.


  • This module will be divided into four interrelated thematic areas. Whilst texts and materials for the module will change and be updated regularly to ensure that the module continues to focus on up to date research and thinking, we will also draw on some seminal texts that focus on the purpose and nature of higher education (examples provided under each thematic area)
  • Tracing the sociohistorical context of higher education: from elitism to marketisation of higher education
  • Governing higher education and educational processes
  • Exploring identities: academics, students and identity politics
  • Imagining alternatives futures of higher education

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Knowledge and understanding of changing context, places and purposes of higher education
  • Knowledge and understanding of contemporary governance frameworks and associated policy regimes in higher education
  • Knowledge and understanding of identities of key actors in higher education
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Critically evaluate literature in the field of higher education
  • Deconstruct the contemporary higher education policy regimes
  • Analyse the complexity and intersectionality of issues affecting global higher education
  • Reflect critically on what matters in taking higher education forward
Key Skills:
  • Engage with higher education literature reflectively and critically
  • Evaluate and engage with different primary and secondary source material
  • To develop study skills, information retrieval, and the capacity to plan and manage learning, and to reflect on own learning
  • To use written and spoken communication skills to develop academic arguments

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

  • Sessions combining interactive lectures and seminars will be employed. In addition, portfolio-based learning on DUO will further support student engagement with key issues in the subject area.
  • Lecture element of the sessions will introduce students to broad knowledge of key higher education concepts and frameworks and help structure students’ independent study towards the learning objectives
  • Seminar element of the sessions will facilitate a more in-depth student engagement with themes and issues raised in the lectures. It will also support students’ work on portfolio assignment.
  • On-line materials and DUO learning platform will facilitate self-study activity and portfolio assignment

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Sessions (interactive lectures and seminars) 8 weekly 3 hours 24
Self-guided learning: preparation for teaching sessions and follow-up reading* 120
Self-guided learning: planning and preparing the critical commentary* 60
Self-guided learning: planning and producing the portfolio* 96
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Assignment Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Critical Commentary 1500 40% Yes
Portfolio (including 3000 words report) 3000 60% Yes

Formative Assessment:

Students will receive ongoing formative support in terms of verbal feedback on ideas and contributions in taught sessions. Students will be offered an individual short tutorial to gain formative feedback on initial portfolio planning and critical commentary. Furthermore, one seminar session will be dedicated to presenting work in progress on portfolios. In addition, ipsative assessment approaches will be used to provide online feedback on the portfolio and encourage self-reflection.

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