We’re currently updating our website, and some information might not be up-to-date. Please keep checking back for further updates.

Researching Higher Education

The unit introduces research paradigms, methodologies and methods in order that its participants can undertake systematic and critical inquiry into Higher Education policies and practices.

Unit Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will be able to:

  1. Collaborate with colleagues to undertake and articulate an inquiry-based research project and/or product which critically engages with key Higher Education policy and/or practice issues
  2. Justify and deliver the research project and or product to an audience using appropriate media
  3. Critically evaluate alternative research paradigms, methodologies and methods situated within a Higher Education context
  4. Design a feasible and coherent proposal for an individual Higher Education research project


The curriculum will cover the following areas:

  • The study of Higher Education: different levels and units of analysis
  • Different approaches to research in Higher Education: positivist, constructivist and critical realist paradigms, ontology and epistemology, methodologies and methods, the role of theory, deductive and inductive theorisation, the relation between theory and data, abduction and retroduction
  • Phenomenography, teaching and learning approaches, the scholarship of teaching and learning
  • Social Practice Theory, Teaching and Learning Regimes and communities of practice
  • Designing aims, objectives and research questions, engaging with, and mobilising Higher Education literature, research methodologies and methods
  • Qualitative research approaches: phenomenology, Grounded Theory, ethnography, auto-ethnography, narrative inquiry, case study, action research, the challenges of undertaking insider-research in universities, researcher positionality and reflexivity
  • Surveys and other quantitative approaches
  • Research proposal planning, structure and process
  • Ethics, the ETHOS process, informed consent, values and beliefs
  • Dimensions of quality in educational research
  • Data collection and recording; data analysis, sense-making and writing up
  • Disseminating research findings

Unit Assessment

1. Group Assessment (40%)

This is a group negotiated assessment on a topic of the group’s choice that addresses a key debate in Higher Education, providing evidence of collaborative working and agreed methods. The format of the submission could consist of, for example, a 30-minute presentation (including time for audience questions), a 15-minute video, 16-page booklet or a 1500-2000 word report. Other negotiated options may be available. All group members will receive the same group mark (40% weighting).

In your group you must research:


  • A current debate in higher education or academic practice


  • The themes of and approaches to higher education research in one of the disciplines (or a comparison between two or more of them).

2.  Individual Project Proposal (60%)

An individual research project proposal containing:

  • A clear explanation of the context and rationale for the research including your chosen research paradigm, methodology and appropriate theoretical framework (s)
  • A clear theme, aim and objectives and/or research questions or problem
  • A justification of appropriate research methods, data collection and analysis with some assurance of feasibility with regard to access, ethics, resource requirements and timescale
  • An annotated bibliography which illustrates how it has informed your research thinking (between 5 and 10 sources)
  • A draft table of contents or a chapter outline for the Dissertation
  • References list

Guide length: 3000 words


Please note: this unit is not available on the PGCLTHE

For more information contact the Unit Leader Bernard Lisewski

If you are already registered on the MA in HE programme, please do not register for this unit until you have acquired 60 M level PG Certificate credits or their equivalent.

As well as registering below, in some circumstances you may need to complete an application form to study this unit. Please check on the application form page »

In brief


  • Build your confidence and capability to plan and implement a research project
  • Gain an understanding of the research process with people in the same position
  • Safe learning environment for those new to research - helps to calm nerves over starting a large research project

Mode of study: online

Number of sessions: 6 (3 hour sessions)

Type of session: workshop

Assessment type and size:
30 min group presentation(40%) - takes place in session 4
2000-3000 research proposal (60%)

Prior knowledge/experience required: sufficient experience of working in HE - suitable for anyone planning a dissertation or research project in HE. If you are already registered on the MA in HE programme, please do not register for this unit until you have acquired 60 M level PG Certificate credits or their equivalent.

When will it run: over two terms, one across autumn and spring, one across spring and summer

Unit leader/contact: Bernard Lisewski

Delivery Dates and Registration

Please note: Units are delivered online. Processing time required for applications and preparation time for participants means that the last registration date cannot be extended

Timetables for units that are currently running can be found at the bottom of this page. Go to current timetables »

Spring 2022

Online sessions begin:
Wednesday 12th January

1:00pm - 04:00pm

Venue: online


Click here to see full timetable

Researching HE

Taught sessions on Wednesdays

12 Jan 2022 Session 1 online
9 Feb Session 2 online
9 Mar Session 3 online
27 April Session 4 online
25 May Session 5 online
22 June Session 6 online
27 April 2022 First Submission Date (group presentation)
12 Sept 2022 Final Submission Deadline Moodle


Timetables for currently running units:


Taught sessions began: Thursday 30th September 2021, 1:00pm

Click here to see full timetable

Researching HE

Taught sessions on Thursday 1-4pm

30 Sept 2021 Session 1 online
28 Oct Session 2 online
25 Nov Session 3 online
13 Jan Session 4 online
10 Feb 2022 Session 5 online
10 Mar Session 6 online
12 Jan 2022 First submission date (group presentation)
25 April 2022 Final Submission Deadline Moodle


Please contact the UTA CPD team if you have any queries.