Podcast: The University of Edinburgh Curriculum Transformation Programme (27 minutes)

title with differently colored leaves as backgroundIn this episode, Professor Colm Harmon, Vice Principal (Students) introduces the University’s large-scale Curriculum Transformation Programme. He discusses the current and future state of the programme with Professor Richard Andrews, Professor Iain Gordon, and Dr Lisa Kendall, members of the Curriculum Transformation Programme Board. This episode and blog post accompany our July-August ‘Hot Topic’: “Lessons from the Learning and Teaching Conference 2021“.

This exciting premiere, featuring a panel from the Curriculum Transformation Programme Board, kicks off our Learning and Teaching Conference podcast series. Professor Colm Harmon, Vice-Principal of Students, Professor Richard Andrews, Head of Moray House School of Education and Sport, Professor Iain Gordon, Head of School of Mathematics, and Dr Lisa Kendall, Director of Academic and Student Administration for the CAHSS (College of Art, History and Social Sciences), peel back the curtain on the Curriculum Transformation Programme and the future of the student experience. Throughout the session, they introduce fascinating questions: In what ways has the student experience changed such that needs outmatch current support? What skills do recent Edinburgh graduates consider most valuable? How do we model an ‘Edinburgh Graduate’ without sacrificing diversity and individuality?

I don’t expect us to describe one homogeneous graduate. Indeed, our diversity is our strength. But rather that we describe a set of graduate qualities, values, and principles that allow students to meaningfully articulate their strengths, skills, and experience in a way that is relevant to their chosen path.

-Lisa Kendall

This thought-provoking panel begins with Colm discussing the modern student experience, introducing the idea that students today may face more ambiguity than ever before. He progresses into speaking more generally about the Curriculum Transformation Programme, revealing some questions being posed, and encouraging open-minded and ambitious thinking in approaching reform. This is followed by Richard, who presents his thoughts on the perception of the ‘Edinburgh Graduate’ based on anecdotal evidence. How do Edinburgh Graduates view themselves? How do those outside of the university view Edinburgh Graduates?

An Edinburgh graduate might have applied talent, be global, be connected, amusingly, perhaps weather resistant. But finally, the thing that really struck me was that an Edinburgh graduate is brave, courageous, and tenacious, and that’s something we might want to reflect on as we go forward in this conversation.

– Richard Andrews

Iain follows this by introducing curriculum transformation from a college’s point of view, discussing how much has changed in academic disciplines in the past century. He goes on to deconstruct the words ‘curriculum’ and ‘transformation’, in which he cites Cathy Bovill and Cherie Woolmer’s paper on curriculum conceptions. The panel finishes with Lisa, who discusses the issue of wellbeing and the importance of students cultivating belonging at university. She connects students’ sense of belonging with their level of contribution, and asserts that creating more opportunities for students to feel belonging will be beneficial to both staff and student wellbeing.

This episode serves as an introduction to the Curriculum Transformation Programme for those unfamiliar with it, and a holistic update for those who are.  We hope you enjoy the panel, and look forward to bringing you more insights from the Learning and Teaching Conference next week!


3:15 – Colm Harmon on the landscape of the modern student experience, the role of the university in student development, and mentality for transformation

13:20 – Richard Andrews on perceptions of the ‘Edinburgh Graduate’

16:50 – Ian Gordon on curriculum transformation from a college’s perspective and deconstruction of ‘curriculum’ and ‘transformation’

21:15 – Lisa Kendall on goals for transformation, student wellbeing and streamlining pathways


Go to this Transcript

Richard Andrews

Richard is Professor in Education and Head of School at Moray House School of Education and Sport, University of Edinburgh. He taught for ten years in schools in England and Hong Kong, and has subsequently worked at the Universities of York, UCL and East Anglia, as well as teaching a semester at NYU in New York. His books include Reframing Literacy, A Theory of Contemporary Rhetoric, A Prosody of Free Verse and, more recently, Polyrhythmicity in Language, Music and Society. He is co-series editor of the Cambridge School Shakespeare, now also published in a Chinese edition.

Iain Gordon

Iain is the Professor of Mathematics at The University of Edinburgh, and has been the Head of School of Mathematics since 2014. He grew up in Edinburgh and then was a student at the Universities of Bristol, Cambridge and Glasgow. He has worked in Bielefeld, Glasgow, Santa Barbara and Seattle, as well as Edinburgh. As Head of School, he supported the development of the Technology Enhanced Mathematical Sciences Education theme within the School, which now has around a dozen members all working on different aspects of evidence-based pedagogy within Mathematics, Statistics and Operational Research.

Colm Harmon

Colm is Vice-Principal of Students and holds a personal chair in Applied Economics.  As Vice-Principal Students he has strategic responsibility for student experience and the development of innovative approaches to all aspects of student satisfaction and experience, including curriculum development, and the nurturing of a high-performance culture in teaching and learning. Before joining Edinburgh, Colm was Vice-Provost (Academic Performance) and Professor of Economics, University of Sydney. Prior to this, his academic career was at University College Dublin, most latterly as Professor of Economics and Director of the Geary Institute.

Lisa Kendall

Lisa is Director of Academic and Student Administration for CAHSS. After completing her degree and PhD in Neuroscience, Lisa spent seven years as a post doc in Cambridge working on basal ganglia disorders in the Department of Experimental Psychology, before moving into administration. In 2001, she returned to Edinburgh as an Admissions Officer and, in January 2017, moved to her current role in the CAHSS College Office. It is a challenging role with responsibility for the entire student lifecycle, encompassing oversight of services within the College Office from Admissions to PGR administration but more than anything working with our Schools and colleagues across the University to facilitate collaborative and cooperative working to enhance learning, teaching and the overall student experience.

Produced and Edited by:

picture of editor/producerEric Berger

Eric is a Mathematics and Statistics student at The University of Edinburgh, and a podcasting intern for Teaching Matters. Eric is passionate about university student mental health, interviewing researchers for the Student Mental Health Research Network at King’s College London, leading the University of Edinburgh’s WellComm Kings Peer Support Scheme, and conducting research on stigma for People With Mental Illnesses (PWMI).  In his free time, he enjoys watching and playing sports, over-analysing hip-hop songs, podcasts, and any sort of wholesome shenanigans.

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