Grand Challenges: Insider Reflections on an Innovative Co-curricular Programme in Higher Education
Journal of Further and Higher Education
Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Reason for embargo
This is the author accepted manuscript. It is currently under an indefinite embargo pending publication by Taylor & Francis.
Universities across the world are actively engaged in reviewing, reforming, and often transforming aspects of their curricula. Arguments are being made that students need to be given more opportunities to work on interdisciplinary research-led and enquiry-based projects to prepare them for a life of reflective citizenship and critical and creative thinking. This article presents a case study of an institutional co-curricular initiative which puts these concerns into practice. In this paper, we offer the University of Exeter Grand Challenges programme as an example of a co-curricular innovation and present the diverse experiences of the paper’s six authors, who were Grand Challenge tutors, students, administrators and developers. We identify (a) how these experiences affected their attitudes to the University curriculum to which they had become accustomed, (b) how they illustrate the advantages of small scale co-curricular experimentation evolving over several years, and c) how the tensions between top down curriculum reforms responding to sustainability and employability agendas mesh with creative bottom up contributions of staff and students working together enthusiastically on untested ground. Finally we come to conclusions about the implications of the Grand Challenge programme in the future both for Exeter University and for other universities experimenting with this type of co-curricular innovation.