Human Capabilities Approach

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Potential of the Human Capabilities Approach (HCA) for strategy development in the Higher Education curriculum.

Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE) Scoping Award 2014

Duration of the project: January 2015- January 2016

Aim of the project: The project aims to explore the potential of the Human Capabilities Approach in integrating concepts of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), Global Citizenship Education (GCE) and Internationalisation of the Curriculum (IC) in UK Higher Education

Team: Dr. Alicia Prowse is leading this research project working with the Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) Co-ordinator, Valeria Vargas.

Many universities in the UK are facing the demands of ‘competing’ strategic initiatives for curriculum development. For instance, initiatives to embed, variously, employability, internationalisation, enterprise,¬† global citizenship or education for sustainable development. ¬†Although there is some likelihood that use of differing terminology is part of the problem, as well as shifts in emphasis (from IC, to GCE for example), the consequences of these shifts for the students who experience the curricula are important and under-researched.

At MMU, we have been working to integrate the curriculum development elements of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), Global Citizenship Education (GCE) and Internationalisation of the curriculum (IC) . One emerging theme is the potential that the Human Capabilities Approach (HCA) has to provide a set of overarching values and help define what a good university might be. As universities redefine themselves as competitors in a global market in the 21st century HE landscape, we wish to sustain the ‘ethical perspective of a university’ providing opportunities to all for education for “the real possibilities and opportunities of leading a life which a person has reason to value”¬† (Boni & Walker, 2013; Sen, 1999).

This approach has implications for staff and students. For staff, their capabilities may need to develop, stretch and flex as universities undergo changes relating to what is taught and what is learned. For students, explicit acknowledgement of motivation to learn within a human capabilities framework has the potential to profoundly affect student engagement (e.g. (Linnenbrink-Garcia & Pekrun, 2011; Pekrun, Goetz, Frenzel, Barchfeld, & Perry, 2011).

As (Nussbaum & Glover, 1995) emphasise, there is an important:

"... role of emotion in good human functioning. This project is urgent, since emotions are condemned as enemies of reason not only by many traditions but by the view of rationality that dominates our public life, the view of economic Utilitarianism"

Allied to this project, The Higher Education Academy Strategic Enhancement Initiative has provided funding to MMU to develop a resource around good practice in internationalising the curriculum.

In addition, MMU and the students’ Union have been accepted by the National Union of Students (NUS) to be part of their Responsible Futures programme (a whole-institution approach that includes students trained to audit how well MMU is embedding environmental sustainability and social responsibility) and this will provide a student strand to the endeavour.

Thus, findings from the SRHE Scoping Award project and input from other sources within and outside of the institution can help to feed the literature base in this emerging area. As we continue developing this area, we will determine the value of undertaking a more comprehensive review, or further research.