Abertay turns to project learning

November 30, 2007

Abertay Dundee University is shifting almost a third of its teaching budget from traditional lectures into project-based learning, writes Melanie Newman.

The university's draft corporate plan outlines a "30 per cent shift in module delivery cost from lecture-based to inquiry-based and collaborative activities". Students will spend 60 per cent of their time on project work, individually and in groups.

All courses will have to meet new learner retention targets and must be evaluated by employers as significantly improving graduate employability. The change is part of a plan to produce graduates with a defined set of skills needed by Scotland's economy.

Abertay graduates, says the corporate plan, are "confident thinkers", "determined creators", "flexible collaborators", and people who "challenge complexity and drive change".

Mary Malcolm, head of the university's business school, who drew up the list of attributes, told The Times Higher : "The sector talks a lot about generic high-level transferable skills. There's a need to be more specific if we're going to be sure those are delivered."

Andrew Samuel, president of the University and College Union at Abertay, said it would mean "dramatic change" for lecturers.

"The pedagogical approach appears to be about facilitating students rather than educating them, which is slightly problematic, but we also see opportunities here," he said.

Abertay also wants 35 per cent of staff to be research-active by 2011.

In his foreword to the corporate plan, Bernard King, the vice-chancellor, says that the strategy will create a "much-changed institution" by 2011.

"Abertay will have been re-engineered as the source of a steady stream of new intellectual property directly fuelling the businesses of the knowledge economy," Professor King says.

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