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Developing flexible ecosystems for education that support student success

Where are we now, what works and where next?

Advance HE Collaborative Development Fund

Advance HE is dedicated to supporting the development of our members based on sector needs, and provides funding to help enable this. Previously, funding had been in the form of our Small Development Projects (SDPs), which were launched in 2004 and more recently, our Good Practice Grants.

For the 2020-21 member benefit year, funding was available to our global membership base in the form of our Collaborative Development Fund, which aims to harness the knowledge, experience and innovative capabilities of our members in order to address current challenges within the HE sector.

We invited our colleagues at member institutions to apply for the Collaborative Development Fund of between £20,000 and £35,000 per project, with projects starting in February 2021. Queen Mary Academy, Queen Mary, University of London were awarded the funding for this project. 

Join our Tweetchat to discuss the project and hear more from Danielle Thibodeau and Janet De Wilde:

20:00-21:00 (GMT) Wednesday 24 November 21


Developing flexible ecosystems for education that support student success: where are we now, what works and where next?

Prior to the current global pandemic the HE sector had begun to recognise the growing need for agile and responsive education and training systems to regularly upskill and reskill the workforce. Changes to the ways of working and living already being wrought by the fourth industrial revolution and artificial intelligence were driving changes in how and where we will work and continue to learn across our careers, but also upon how higher education would provide those on-going learning opportunities

The pandemic has highlighted that, globally, higher education institutions need to enhance their capacity to operate flexible and resilient education systems to meet student expectations and the accelerating social and economic transformations that society anticipates. To survive and thrive in the future employment landscape and to contribute economically, socially and culturally to society, students and graduates need to be self-motivated, innovative active agents prepared to take responsibility for their own learning and skill development. Globally, the higher education sector needs to ensure it has the strategies and infrastructure in place to develop and support the needs of graduates, society and the economy.

This project invited applications to lead a collaborative project entitled ‘Developing flexible ecosystems for education that supports student success’.

The principal aims of the study were:

  • to review the higher education sector’s capacity for flexible provision
  • to identify exemplars of the requisite infrastructure, strategies and enabling technologies that support equitable transitions through learning and work
  • to identify priority areas to be addressed by Advance HE or providers.
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Project Outputs

Danielle Thibodeau and Janet De Wilde (Queen Mary Academy, Queen Mary, University of London) have been examining whether the higher education sector is ready to operate as an eco-system of flexible learning opportunities. This wide-ranging initiative, supported by the Advance HE Collaborative Development Fund, attempted to scope how Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) were engaging with new technologies and adapting their offerings to better support the social and economic mobility of their learners.

Flexible Ecosystems Project report

In this report authored by Danielle Thibodeau and Janet De Wilde, we discover the views of Advance HE members on the sector’s capability and readiness to provide flexible provision in higher education.

Read report

Flexible Ecosystems case studies

These case studies spotlight how member institutions from around the UK are putting some of the ideas around flexible provision in higher education into practice.

Read case studies

Flexible Ecosystems interviews

These interviews with thought leaders from the global higher education sector serve to provide insight into how the traditional structures of higher education are being challenged to provide flexibility and enable greater levels of participation from more diverse groups of learners.

Watch interviews

The 2021-22 Collaborative Development Fund is now open to all colleagues at Advance HE member institutions. Deadline to apply is by 12 noon (GMT) on 21 December 2021.

Find out more