Learning and Teaching in Action: Open Issue

Group of students at a computer


The Higher Education Academy Subject Networks

Maureen Dawson

The Higher Education Academy works to:

  • Inform policy
  • Support institutions in their strategies for improving their students' learning experiences
  • Identify and support good practice in learning and teaching
  • Support research into learning and teaching practice
  • Support professional recognition of academic staff in HEIs

A complete HEA activities is listed on the HEA website. If you are interested in obtaining professional recognition (Associateship, Fellowship, Senior Fellowship), of the HEA you can find details of how to go about it at this website. If you are interested in attending a workshop about gaining professional recognition from the HEA, please contact me (m.m.dawson@mmu.ac.uk).

The HEA also supports disciplines and networks through a range of subject centres (SC). There are 24 SCs in total, which can be accessed through the HEA website. They cover the wide range of subject disciplines available within Higher Education Institutions. Each SC has its own website shown in Table 1 at the end of this article. Most SC have a university contact within the relevant School or Department. These contacts, or representatives, undertake a variety of roles within their subject discipline; they promote the work of the SC, sometimes organising visits/seminars locally for the subject centre. Several subject centres hold an annual conference for the representatives and these can be useful for finding out about subject centre planning and for networking with colleagues at other HEIs. Table 1 shows you the current SC reps within MMU. You can contact them, perhaps if you are outside the main department, but involved in the relevant discipline. Please remember also that you can register with 'your' SC directly to obtain information - you do not have to be an Associate or a Fellow of the HEA to do this.

Some of the reps have kindly supplied details of their involvement with SC-related work:


Jesse Edwards

I’m a fellow of the HEA but my engagement with the English Subject Centre has intensified this year on my becoming an ESC elearning advocate. As part of my year of advocacy I’ve attended workshops at the ESC, taken part in an online forum, and organised a series of elearning workshops and a one day conference at MMU. The workshops have involved bringing in an elearning specialist from the ESC and presenters who have worked on ESC-sponsored projects. The conference was co-organised by myself and the ESC and brought together national specialists in online Creative Writing teaching. Beyond my advocacy I’ve invited speakers to the department to talk about and recruit participants in general ESC-sponsored projects. As a result of a recent visit three of my colleagues will be filmed teaching in 08/09 to inform study of the way in which English is defined in a range of academic classrooms. I run a staff WebCT area which hosts Learning & Teaching resources and discussions and many of these are designed to help colleagues make the most of Subject Centre resources. All in all, I’d say that there’s a pretty high level of awareness of Subject Centre activity in my department

The Health Science and Practice (HSaP) SC

Claire Hamshire

The Health Science and Practice (HSaP) subject centre works with departments and individuals who support student learning in both academic and practice contexts in their subject areas and is closely associated with the Subject Centre network for Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Medicine through the HEALTH network group. The subject centre is based at Kings College in London and offers a range of services including learning and teaching consultants, subject advisers and an advisory board.

The HSaP subject centre sends out a monthly e-bulletin on the 19th of each month which includes the latest events, news, opportunities and resources from the centre. One of the annual funding opportunities is for mini projects up to £5,000. This year the theme for applications is ‘Student Engagement in Learning and Teaching’ for projects to run for 12 months from January 2009. The closing date is 26th September 2008 so there is still time to apply; click here for full details.

Another service offered by the HSaP is departmental workshops. These workshops are an opportunity for a team of 3-4 members of staff from Universities, Schools or other Organisational units within the HSaP disciplines to attend a series of workshops designed to facilitate an element of organisational change or development related to learning and teaching. These workshops are held regularly at the HEA in York and further information is available in the e-bulletin.

Further information about these and all other services offered by the HSaP.


Dr. Helen Jones

Dr Helen Jones from Sociology is the Subject Centre representative for C-SAP (the HEA subject network for Sociology, Anthropology and Politics). She has recently been awarded the status of C-SAP Associate with a £1000 bursary for the development of learning and teaching activities. She has mentored a number of staff in their pursuit of acquiring the status of HEA Fellow and continues to provide this support. In 2006 she secured a funding grant from C-SAP to develop an international project ‘Communicating across boundaries: e-communication on Criminal Justice issues’ .

Economics Subject Centre (SC)

Kevin Tinsdale

The department values the wealth of resources generated by the Economics Subject Centre, based in Bristol. Regular contact is provided by a monthly newsletter which is distributed around the department (and now to other interested parties across MMU). An annual conference for departmental contacts and specific events for newly-appointed teaching staff are organised by the SC on an on-going basis. These enhance general awareness-raising activities as well as initiating networking opportunities for new (and old) staff. The SC arranges workshops around the country on a range of topics; recent examples include Problem-based learning and Threshold Concepts in Economics. These provide a showcase for innovative ideas and/or topical issues and allow colleagues direct access to inform their judgement on how new techniques might be translated to MMU. Whilst all SC events are offered without charge the SC seems a little self-conscious of how hard it is to “reach” its intended audience. In order to counter this, the department at MMU has hosted two SC-related workshops in the last year. This allows the department to play a more direct role in supporting the SC’s endeavours and facilitates greater exposure of material to MMU staff. In turn, this might encourage staff within the department to consider seeking membership of the Higher Education Academy.


As a previous MMU rep for HEA Bioscience, I know how valuable the subject centres are. They provide a network of practitioners and on-line resources for subject-based pedagogical advice. They organise seminars, often free, where you can catch up with developments and disseminate your own activities. Most have an on-line journal where you can submit your own articles/research papers. They are also a source of funding for learning and teaching developments. It’s well worth registering with them to get regular news of their activities.

Table 1: HEA Subject Centres
Subject Centre Website Representative in MMU
Art, Design and Media http://www.adm.heacademy.ac.uk  
Bioscience http://www.bioscience.heacademy.ac.uk Ian Kay
Built Environment http://www.cebe.heacademy.ac.uk/  
Business, Management, Accountancy and Finance http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/business/

Mary Meldrum


Economics http://www.economicsnetwork.ac.uk Kevin Tinsdale
Education (ESCalate) http://escalate.ac.uk/  
Engineering http://www.engsc.ac.uk/ Margaret Fowler
English http://www.english.heacademy.ac.uk/ Jesse Edwards
Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences http://www.gees.ac.uk/

Linda Reichenfeld (MMU Cheshire)

Dawn Nicholson (Manchester)

HEALTH Network Group http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/health  
Health Sciences and Practice http://www.health.heacademy.ac.uk/ Clare Hamshire
History, Classics and Archaeology http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/hca  
Hospitality. Leisure, Sport and Tourism Network http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/hlst/ Mike Lowe
Information and Computer Sciences http://www.ics.heacademy.ac.uk/ Conway Mothobi
Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies http://www.llas.ac.uk/index.aspx Lynn Ashby
Law http://www.ukcle.ac.uk/index.htm Eddie Higgins
Materials http://www.materials.ac.uk/  
Maths, Stats and OR Network http://www.mathstore.ac.uk/ Richard Cameron
Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Medicine http://www.medev.ac.uk/  
Dance, Drama and Music (PALATINE) http://www.palatine.ac.uk Martin Blain
Philosophical and Religious Studies http://www.prs.heacademy.ac.uk/

Keith Crome

Physical Science http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/physsci/ Michael Cole
Psychology http://www.psychology.heacademy.ac.uk/ Geoff Bunn
Sociology, Anthropology and Politics (C-SAP) http://www.c-sap.bham.ac.uk/ Helen Jones
Social Policy and Social Work http://www.swap.ac.uk/ Liz Pell