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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Sociology

Undergraduate Course: The future of our university: an interdisciplinary experiment in cooperative learning (Honours) (SCIL10092)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryTaking the university as field site for enquiry, this interdisciplinary two-semester course will study and experiment with cooperative learning approaches. Participants¬Ņ evolving questions and concerns will be the starting point: possibilities include debt, democracy, sustainability and health/well-being. The course will involve project-based learning, with students and staff deciding on the specific thematic fields of enquiry, while also considering theoretical perspectives on these fields. Participants in the course will identify and work on group projects using diverse forms of research, and will present their findings to the university community.
Course description The university sector is undergoing fundamental shifts due to such phenomena as massification, marketization and globalization/internationalization. While the social effects of universities have been extensively studied, as institutions they have received less attention, although this is now changing. This course will use the university, including this one, as field site to investigate interconnected theoretical and substantive issues such as changing conditions of work, growing student debt, pedagogy and curriculum, legacies of colonialism, democracy and governance, sustainability, health and wellbeing, and the impact of universities on urban communities/ecosystems/assemblages. The course is based in sociology, but adopts an interdisciplinary approach, drawing on a range of other disciplines including politics, education, history, economics, geography, creativity, art practice and the sciences.
The course will adopt a cooperative approach to learning involving staff and students learning together. At the beginning of the course students and staff will decide how to structure the course, and some class time will be devoted to deliberating the ongoing workings of the course. The first weeks will be devoted to initial readings on the university as institution, methods of critical enquiry and identifying themes for the group work. Each group will then be responsible for identifying a set of readings, workshops or other appropriate and multi-modal learning activities, and leading sessions on their chosen theme. Groups composed of staff and students will engage in project-based learning on the theme they have identified. All students and staff involved will also produce reflective papers on the process of the course, to encourage critical engagement with the course aims, methods and content, and also inform future courses with a similar learning approach. At the conclusion of the course, a curated exhibition/exposition of the work produced will be prepared to generate a creative dialogue with the university community about its outcomes.

This course involves intensive participation in course sessions and in group work throughout the year. Given that most 20 credit courses run in only one semester, taking this course will mean that a student will have a heavier course load in one semester of the year they take it, so should consider how to balance their workload over the year. We strongly recommend that students choose to take the heavier load in semester 1, as commitment to group work will be heavier in semester 2, and this also gives them the option to choose another course to make up credits should they wish to not to continue with the course.

Students who take this course should be prepared to lead their own learning and to be involved in a significant amount of autonomous study, both independently and with the group(s) they join. The course will likely generate extra-curricular activities as well. Students who are prepared to make these extra commitments will be part of an exciting process of creating alternative ways of learning in our university.

To see what last year's course members did, see:
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate a critical understanding of the substantive and theoretical themes related to the university as a social, political and economic institution
  2. Identify routes towards achieving specific learning outcomes through cooperative and project-based learning
  3. Implement skills in facilitating and participating in democratic deliberation and consensus building as an essential part of group-led working practices
  4. Present research findings in a variety of forms, written, verbal and creative
  5. Use a range of skills to plan and execute a research project on a theme related to the university
Reading List
- Hooks, bell. 1994. Teaching to transgress: education as the practice of freedom. Routledge.
- Collini, Stefan. 2012. What Are Universities For? London: Penguin.
- Freire, Paulo. 2010. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: Continuum.
- Holmwood, John. 2011. A Manifesto for the Public University. London: Bloomsbury Academic.
- Radical Education Workbook, available at:
- Rancière, Jacques. 1991. The ignorant schoolmaster : five lessons in intellectual emancipation. Stanford University Press.
- Various authors. 2017. The labour of academia. Ephemera, 17, 3:
- See Resource List for more:
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills By the end of the course students should have strengthened their skills in:
- identifying how to go about researching a phenomenon of interest - compiling evidence and using this to develop an analysis and critique of this phenomenon
- presenting information effectively in a variety of formats
- working cooperatively and effectively as part of smaller and larger groups
- facilitating and engaging in deliberative processes
Keywordsuniversity,education,cooperative learning
Course organiserDr Sophia Lycouris
Tel: 0131 221 6291
Course secretaryMr Ewen Miller
Tel: (0131 6)50 3925
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