Answers to frequently asked questions about Curriculum Redefined.
What is Curriculum Redefined?
Curriculum Redefined is the biggest and most exciting educational change programme going on in the world right now. This 10 year University-wide project will help us shape our education at Leeds for generations to come.
It will fundamentally review and refresh all our undergraduate and taught postgraduate programmes to ensure our curriculum prepares our students to be global citizens, ready for the future world of work.
It’s an exciting opportunity to adopt active and inclusive approaches to learning and teaching and, at the same time, address student and staff workloads and to simplify our processes.
Why are we redefining our curriculum?
Our world is changing and facing unprecedented global challenges, including climate change, economic instability, poverty, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the next 10 years we have a remarkable opportunity to design a truly unique curriculum, which will help shape a better future for humanity.
Together we will build an imaginative and effective approach to education that will develop the knowledge and skills students need to succeed and make a positive impact in the world as global citizens. To do this our programmes must be:
- Transformative – able to bring about an important and lasting change
- Inclusive – focused on supporting students from diverse backgrounds
- Flexible – allow choice and opportunities to personalise learning
How will our students and staff benefit?
Our students will benefit from an outstanding education that is inclusive, research-led and underpinned and enhanced by sector-leading pedagogies, digital resources and technologies.
For colleagues, the programme will bring new work and career opportunities as well as freeing up time and energy in the long term. Find out more about what the full range of benefits mean for you.
How will we deliver Curriculum Redefined?
We will create momentum and apply “people-centred” design methods to rethink our programmes. Our initial phase of work together is a design phase which runs until March.
In November 2021 Schools were provided with a detailed input pack which included data on current taught programmes (such as enrolment data and national student survey results), a refresh of the Leeds Curriculum, new institutional framework for structuring our taught programmes; and a template outlining the information needed for each programme. Schools discussed the contents of the pack and the possible implications with their stakeholders.
Heads of School alongside colleagues closest to working on curriculum redefined and students from the School were invited to take part in a facilitated ‘Design Workshop’.
Throughout November and December we held full design days with 40 Schools – over 250 staff and 70 student participants. Workshops used a design thinking, innovative and iterative approach to collaboratively rethink our programmes and remove barriers.
The outcome will be the School’s proposal for the portfolio they will offer to students joining taught programmes at Leeds in September 2023. Schools will have outlines of each programme, including indicative module titles, aligned to the new institutional programme framework.
Schools were provided with their outputs from the day, including their proposed portfolio of taught programmes and programme outlines as well as an invitation to feed in ideas from thoughts and discussions since the Design Workshop.
Proposals were then socialised and discussed with relevant colleagues, both within the School and wider. Colleagues in relevant professional service teams, such as Marketing, Quality Assurance and Finance, will work in partnership throughout.
Between the Design Workshops and early February, Schools completed a new streamlined template that captures details for each of the taught programmes intended for 2023. This will be used to satisfy quality assurance processes and populate information shown in the University’s online prospectus to support the recruitment of students in 2023.
Colleagues in the Curriculum Redefined project team and relevant professional services worked in partnership to make this as simple as possible, completing fields with any known data, and providing guidance and/or examples of the content required.
From April onwards, we’ll begin working with Schools on the next phase of curriculum design and development. Depending on the priorities for each School, this next phase will prioritise building Year 1 of undergraduate programmes, or PGT programmes, or online programmes, or a combination of these.
Over the next few years, we will continue to work together with Schools on the curriculum, on assessment and on pedagogical transformation. This work will happen in phases, always with support.
What support is available?
We will work in partnership together with Schools, colleagues and students over the next few years to achieve the aims of Curriculum Redefined. This endeavour will engage our whole Student Education community – our students, and our colleagues in academic and professional service roles.
We want to ensure that what the ask is and what support and guidance is available. Working closely together over the coming years, understanding the evolving needs, will be essential to our success.
We are already working with Schools to provide support with:
- Communications and engagement – providing guidance to help you have the right conversations; and helping you with proven approaches to leading change
- Leadership – supporting Heads of School and other colleagues in student education leadership roles to help them to work with their teams
- Educator development – an enhanced suite of development for all colleagues involved in Teaching & Scholarship – new and existing colleagues
- Recruiting new transformative educators – additional lecturers (teaching and scholarship) will be recruited into every faculty, on open-ended contracts
- Design agency/function – we will be establishing new ways of working with you, drawing on expertise from across the campus and beyond; facilitating design workshops; and sharing expertise and good practice from around the University.
This initiative presents a tremendous opportunity, not only to deliver an attractive and engaging curriculum for our students, but also to develop and engage our colleagues, equipping them with skills for the future.
Why now? What’s different this time?
There have been previous initiatives at a school, faculty and institutional level to review, refresh or redefine the curriculum at the University of Leeds. These have been met with mixed results, so what’s different this time?
- This initiative is supported at the highest level of the organisation, with the approval of council and senate. Our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Simone Buitendijk, brings experience of curricula reform; and Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Student Education, Professor Jeff Grabill, has been motivated to move across the globe to join us and lead this important and exciting work.
- There is a significant investment in terms of time, money and staff development planned for the next 10 year period. This initiative is a key part of our student education strategy over the next 10 years, as such, it is supported by a cross functional project team headed on a day-to-day basis by Professor Kenny McDowall (academic lead), and Dr Christina Edgar (business lead).
- We’re here to listen, and respond to your concerns and needs for support. The University of Leeds’ People and Change Approach is at the heart of helping to make this initiative a success. We hope that our commitment to involving you and your colleagues is already evident through the briefings, open meetings, one-to- one conversations and other events which have been held throughout this year. There will be many more to come as we progress on our journey. In addition, we have been mindful to include wide cross-sections of the University community in our work to date, taking on input and ideas from academics, professional service colleagues and students.
How does this tie in with Digital Transformation and online ambitions?
Online is very much part of the University’s Student Education strategy. We can and should think about online as a normal part of our educational offer.
The data provided for the first Curriculum Redefined phase of work was restricted to campus-based programmes. Conversations about fulfilling our ambitions around an increased online offering are progressing in parallel, supported by colleagues in the Digital Education Service.
Though the development of fully online courses is not within the scope of the Curriculum Redefined project, we commit to keeping the balance of demands on School's time for both aspects in mind when considering the timing of future phases of work.
We will take account of the educational priorities for each School and look for opportunities to bring conversations and considerations together, including in other processes (such as the annual Integrated Planning Exercise, IPE).
What additional resources will be invested to help the programme?
To be successful in this exciting, ambitious and important project, we need colleagues to have time to engage and contribute. This project will draw on academic colleagues’ time in every Faculty. We are therefore making a significant investment in additional academic roles.
We have recruited additional academic colleagues on open-ended contracts. These new colleagues will join our community as Lecturers (Teaching and Scholarship) at grades 7 and 8. These individuals will impact at School, Faculty and University level, both by contributing directly to the Curriculum Redefined project, and by providing capacity within Schools to enable other colleagues to contribute. Recruitment Guidance has been issued to hiring managers to support this.
A high-profile recruitment campaign was launched in January 2022, promoting this exciting opportunity to contribute to the transformation of student education at Leeds. All roles were advertised internally and externally. The comprehensive selection process is now complete, and we look forward to welcoming these new colleagues and supporting them as they settle into their roles.
We value student education at Leeds and will ensure this is evident from our academic career pathways through this route.
Can we be confident that the new programme overview for Course Search will provide the right level of information for applicants, inspiring them to choose Leeds?
Work is ongoing between QA, Marketing, the Curriculum Redefined leadership, the academic community and LUU to make sure this content is right for our applicants. It’s an iterative process and the content needed for the programme overview might change as the project progresses.
We want to make sure we provide the level of detail needed to fully engage applicants with our programmes so they feel confident in choosing Leeds for their studies.
Why do we need to do this now? Can't we target 2024 entry instead?
The way we currently deliver student education is unsustainable. The status quo at Leeds is unsustainable because:
- options offered do not always represent “real choice”
- the range and number of modules is academically and financially costly
- complex structures make it hard for staff to consistently provide a great student experience
- programmes need to reflect diverse future careers and global perspectives.
The sooner we can make a change, the sooner we will begin to feel the benefits of reduced workloads, increased time for scholarship and research, and increased pride in our educational provision.
We recognise that this initial phase may look daunting, but experience tells us that "slow and steady" will not get this done. Pace is a virtue in this situation.
The Design Workshops will provide School’s and their teams with a clear focus to achieve together in one-well planned, facilitated day. Colleagues are working hard to develop resources that will support in leading colleagues through this work, and will make the work manageable. We hope it will be fun and rewarding too.
Right now, our focus is on supporting Schools to decide what they want in their future portfolio of programmes. By working ambitiously and collaboratively together, we will realise the opportunities that Curriculum Redefined offers for colleagues as well as students.
How much is timetabling a driver in streamlining programmes?
We are seeking to support colleagues to redesign programmes in order to meet the aims of the University’s Student Education Strategy.
Timetabling, though not the only driver for change, is a significant challenge for the institution as a whole. Even if a programme is perhaps mathematically possible to deliver (although what is meant by this was not entirely clear), we need to consider other factors such as space, facilities, and the needs of other programmes. This all adds to the challenge of timetabling our currently complex curriculum.
A key ambition of Curriculum Redefined is to provide students with real choice – that is, options and pathways that are understood and can be timetabled ‘clash-free’. It is also critical in redesigning programmes that the number of optional modules should not exceed that which can be reasonably delivered and assessed by existing academic resource.
The timetabling of programmes must also be readily achievable as experienced by professional colleagues. Considering the programme frameworks – including whether there is a modified version that you wish to propose adding – will be an important part of the upcoming initial Design Workshops, where you can explore this further for your school.
Where do we go if we have questions or need support?
Should you have any questions or need some further clarity or any specific support, please reach out to the Curriculum Redefined project team and we’ll be happy to help!