Engaging the Curriculum in Higher Education

Engaging the Curriculum in Higher Education

Engaging the Curriculum in Higher Education

Engaging the Curriculum in Higher Education


There is greater interest than ever before in higher education: more money is being spent on it, more students are registered and more courses are being taught. And yet the matter that is arguably at the heart of higher education, the curriculum, is noticeable for its absence in public debate and in the literature on higher education. This book begins to redress the balance.

Even though the term 'curriculum' may be missing from debates on higher education, curricula are changing rapidly and in significant ways. What we are seeing, therefore, is curriculum change by stealth, in which curricula are being reframed to enable students to acquire skills that have market value. In turn, curricula are running the risk of fragmenting as knowledge and skills exert their separate claims. Such a fragmented curriculum is falling well short of the challenges of the twenty-first century.

A complex and uncertain world requires curricula in which students as human beings are placed at their centre: what is called for are curricula that offer no less than the prospect of encouraging the formation of human being and becoming. A curriculum of this kind has to be understood as the imaginative design of spaces where creative things can happen as students become engaged.

Based upon a study of curricula in UK universities, Engaging the Curriculum in Higher Education offers an uncompromising thesis about the development of higher education and is essential reading for those who care about its future.


All around the world, higher education is expanding rapidly, governments are mounting inquiries into higher education, more institutions are involved in running courses of study and more money is being spent on higher education, not least by students themselves. Higher education is ever more important to increasing numbers of people. And yet, despite all this growth and debate, there is very little talk about the curriculum. What students should be experiencing is barely a topic for debate. What the building blocks of their courses might be and how they should be put together are even more absent from the general discussion. The very idea of curriculum is pretty well missing altogether.

In this book, we want to help to put this matter right. We believe that the time is right to raise explicitly questions about the character of courses in higher education. What considerations should be present in their design? What, indeed, does it mean to design courses in higher education? Are there considerations that should transcend the different disciplines or is each field of knowledge a law unto itself? Is the current state of knowledge in a discipline or field the only consideration in shaping a curriculum or are there other considerations? What place should skills have in a curriculum? Is there any place for a sense of students as human beings as distinct from being enquirers after knowledge or as possessors of skills? These are the kind of questions that we want to tackle here.

In posing these questions, it will be clear what this book is not. It is not a recipe book for curriculum designers. It does not legitimize a new breed of professionals in higher education, namely'curriculum designers'. It does not offer hard-pressed lecturers, suddenly faced with the challenge of designing a course, an easily accessible manual for the task. It does not introduce a compendium of lists of skills (whether for employability or any other purpose) that the modern higher education curriculum should contain. It is not an explanation to employers as to what they can necessarily . . .

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