CoDI Show: Hey, you at the back!

featured picDr Cathy Bovill talks about her CoDI show on student engagement….

How many engaged students does it take to change a lightbulb? None, the lightbulb is obsolete when the students question accepted forms of lighting and co-create new more sustainable ways of living. Why do unicorns and engaged students differ?… OK, so the rumours are correct, in a few days’ time I will be performing my first ever Edinburgh Fringe show. No, I don’t think I’m the next Jo Brand or Roisin Conaty, but I was presented with an opportunity that sounded like it was too good to miss.

unicorn 4 pix
Credit: Pixabay, CC0

Most of my research and practice focuses on academic development, more specifically, supporting university staff to enhance their teaching practice in ways that can enhance student engagement. For the last ten years I have been researching the ways that staff and students co-create curricula. For many people, this is not a sexy research area. I can’t imagine the BBC commissioning me to lead a TV series where I could showcase higher education co-created curriculum in the style of Professor Brian Cox on Astrophysics or Professor Mary Beard on Roman History. Engaging the public in my research is pretty difficult. The Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas (CODI) is curated by the Beltane Public Engagement Network, produced by Fair Pley and compered by comedian, columnist, presenter and ‘office chair-racer’ Susan Morrison! CODI encourages debate, discussion and discourse at the Edinburgh Fringe and is such a valuable opportunity for researchers to share their research with the public. The CODI team (Sarah Anderson, Lola Moutel-Davesne, Susan Morrison and Stephen Wright), offer amazing support including a workshop on microphone use, Twitter tips and help creating marketing posters:

HEY YOU AT THE BACK! edited (1)

I have 50 minutes to share some of my research with members of the public. The brief is that I don’t need to be a stand-up comedian, but the aim is to be engaging and entertaining. I have planned an interactive show that will take the audience through some of the headlines from student engagement research in an engaging way. I will showcase a range of strategies that university and school teachers employ to engage and motivate students, with differing degrees of success. Many of these strategies will be recognisable to anyone who has been to school or university!

When I read an article a year ago that described how people over the age of 40 need to continually challenge themselves to do new things in order to stay mentally healthy, little did I think it would lead me to do a fringe show! I am experiencing a heady mixture of nervousness and excitement at the prospect of going on stage on 4th August without PowerPoint! But what an opportunity for staff from all the universities based in Edinburgh to share their research more widely and to challenge themselves in a new setting. A student who I might describe as a ‘super-engaged’ student recently explained to me why unicorns and engaged students differ, but to find out why, you will have to come along to the show…

Dr Cathy Bovill’s fringe show is entitled Hey, you at the back! and is taking place on Saturday 4th August at 20:10 at the New Town Theatre, George Street, Edinburgh. You can purchase tickets here.

Catherine Bovill

Dr Catherine Bovill is Senior Lecturer in Student Engagement at the Institute for Academic Development, University of Edinburgh. She is a Visiting Fellow (Knowledge Exchange) at the University of Winchester, Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and Editorial Board member for Teaching in Higher Education. She has published and presented widely on student engagement, students as partners and student-staff co-creation of curricula.


  1. It’s a long time since I was an engaged student. My strategy was to sit on the front row so that I would be forced to stay alert and on my mettle. It is a something which I still do at the Fringe much to Cath’s apprehension and annoyance. I may change my strategy for your talk (which will be my 5th show of the day!!!).

  2. I am happy for audience members (and students) to sit wherever they like in my show on Saturday…but be aware that where you sit is quite revealing to a teacher!…

  3. I remember talking about students not being unicorns in the enhancement themes talk with Anne-Marie – what other student have you found with the same kind of ideas?! I’ll have to see if I can’t come see it 🙂

    • Hi Karoline,
      You have revealed yourself! I was referring to you saying that students are not like unicorns. But I was going to explain why in the show. In case you think I’ve stolen your thunder, it’s one line in a one hour show 🙂 Would you like to be credited?
      best wishes

Leave a Reply to Cathy Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *