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Teaching and Learning Conference 2021: exploring pandemic themes and race equality

22 Jun 2021 | Dr Celia Brigg Dr Celia Brigg, Associate Director for Conferences and Events at Advance HE, shares some of her highlights in advance of this years’ virtual Teaching and Learning Conference.

I am really looking forward to our keynote sessions at the 2021 conference with Professor Janice Kay, Provost and Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Exeter, Salma Hussain, President King’s College London Students’ Union and Professor Charles Egbu, Vice Chancellor, Leeds Trinity University.

On Day 1, Professor Kay will deliver the keynote and Professor Egbu’s keynote on Day 3 will cover three main themes: inclusive assessment, hybrid curricula and employability.

Prof Egbu said, “Inclusive assessment, hybrid curricula and employability are critical areas of discourse and implementation in the new 2021/2022 academic year. This is at the same time as we consider policies around student academic and pastoral support to ensure that we assist new students to transition to university life after a lengthy period of disrupted education and our current students to succeed and to ensure that we recognise the very different impacts the pandemic has had on each and every one of our students. This includes how we give space for and listen to student voice.”

Some of the smaller workshops and presentations also excite me - for the first time we have made embedding race equality in the curricula a key theme and some of the work being showcased is inspiring. Session titles including ‘Let’s talk about race’ and ‘Out of sight but not out of mind’ will make us all think about how we address race equality in our teaching.

Melanie Smith, Policy and Programmes Adviser at Advance HE and project manager of the Scottish anti-racist curriculum project (ARC), is set to chair the panel on why we should embed race equality in all curricula on Day 1. Speaking about the ARC project, Melanie said, “This is the first time we have attempted such a task across Scotland and its tertiary institutions. The ARC working group have been galvanised by the positivity and interest expressed by colleagues around our remit, and energised by the commitment to, and opportunity for, supporting collective change that this project affords.”

Melanie is joined in this panel session by Dr Kathy Ann Fletcher, a lecturer at Abertay University, Aishwarya Tiku, Vice-President Education at the University of West Scotland Student’s Union and Dr Anil Awesti, senior tutor in the Centre for Lifelong Learning at the University of Warwick.

As an international student from Zambia, I grew up with the British curriculum throughout all my schooling. I was not given the opportunity to learn about the history of my own country and people, neither were we taught about how to contribute to our local markets and economy; it was always about the ‘outside, first world countries’.

“Decolonising the curriculum across institutions should allow students to feel empowered but also proud, that the people of the world are evolving and times are changing for the better; that history would not repeat itself and instead we will create a new way of educating our leaders of tomorrow.”

Aishwarya Tiku

Dr Awesti said that a decolonised curriculum will impact social inclusion within HE. “Decolonising is about rethinking, reframing and reconstructing the current curriculum in order to make it not only more inclusive, but also a more accurate and holistic representation of the multiplicity of voices and perspectives that exist. In this sense, it is not only about bringing in minority ethnic authors and texts and diversifying the topics covered, it’s also about how we read, teach and critique 'traditional mainstream' texts. 

“Decolonising is also much more than this.  It is also about how we teach - how we create inclusive and positive spaces for all students and particularly how we engage with students of colour.  In this sense, decolonising concerns learning to critique the ways that disciplines have historically been oppressive, challenging the apolitical and ahistorical approaches to Eurocentric education, appreciating the daily lived experiences of students of colour, and developing students' awareness of their social positions. 

“For many years, students of colour have been telling HE institutions about their negative experiences and how their university experience is underpinned by feelings of isolation, exclusion and marginalisation.  As such, decolonising the curriculum is a necessary component of making the HE sector and individual institutions more inclusive and positive spaces.”

Considering the future of HE both in terms of the curricula and the practitioner is another key theme and sessions that address the role of student lecturers, preparing for education 4.0, digital transformation, education for sustainable development and pathways to social justice will spark lively discussion, academic debate and great peer challenge that I know will reinvigorate my passion for HE teaching and learning and I hope yours too.

Great speakers, rigorous debate and being able to do it all from the comfort of my home. I am also starting to think of 2022 and what opportunities that may bring…!

Come and join us from 6-8 July. Full details including the programmes for each day, conference abstracts and information on our speakers can be found here.

We are offering discounts for bulk bookings of 10% of 5 places and 15% for 10 places. If you wish to take advantage of this offer please email


Our Teaching and Learning Conference 2021 will continue to position the spotlight firmly on teaching in a global context. In particular, the conference will focus on the theme 'What is the Future for the HE Curricula?'. Book your place for 6-8 July.

We feel it is important for voices to be heard to stimulate debate and share good practice. Blogs on our website are the views of the author and don’t necessarily represent those of Advance HE.

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