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Research Briefing

Plain English Summary

Research Summary

Intentions Poster

Outcomes Poster

Full Report


Project Website



Phase III Research Network:


The social and organisational mediation of university learning (2004 - 2007)

This project has now completed. Major outputs include:



Prof John Brennan (Open University)
Prof David Jary (University of Birmingham)
Prof Mike Osborne (University of Stirling)
Prof John Richardson (Open University)

Project Summary

The aim of the project is to increase our understanding of the range of learning outcomes of an increasingly diverse higher education system and to investigate how these are socially and organisationally mediated. Social mediation refers primarily to the social mix of students and the characteristics of the student culture and lifestyle. Organisational mediation refers primarily to the principles underlying the organisation of the curriculum (for examples, the boundaries between different subjects and the links – formal and informal - between academic knowledge and workplace and other sources of knowledge).

The study will concentrate on students and graduates in three contrasting subjects – biology, business studies and sociology. For each subject, five study programmes will be selected to represent the different social and organisational features in which the project is interested. Students from these programmes will be investigated at various stages during and following their undergraduate careers with a focus on their conceptions of learning and personal and professional identity. The results will be set within the context of subject benchmark statements and programme specifications.

The wider applicability of findings from the initial three subjects will be assessed in relation to a further group of subjects, again taking a range of programmes with different social and organisational characteristics.

The project team will work closely with the new Academy for the Enhancement of Learning in Higher Education and with the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education in order to ensure close links with policy and practice. Employer inputs to the project will be secured through regular presentations to the policy forum of the Council for Industry and Higher Education.

The results from the project will provide knowledge about how students should be assessed and how the curriculum should be structured. There will also be implications for the ways in which educational quality is assessed, how degree programmes are designed and benchmarked, and how qualifications and other learning outcomes from a variety of courses and institutions can be compared.


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