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Symposia Series

Our symposia series focuses on thematic areas of interest within teaching and learning and are for anyone wishing to improve their knowledge of the latest teaching pedagogies and upskill their practice in key areas.


Our symposium events offer staff a useful forum to encourage the exchange and dissemination of different ways of thinking about key challenges and new approaches. Practitioners are invited to participate in each symposium through submitting an abstract on their work as a fifteen-minute stimulus presentation and case study to support the discussions.


Each symposium is facilitated by a Senior Advisor from Advance HE with specific expertise in the area being discussed. The day will feature a keynote presentation from a leading practitioner in each area, followed by themed sessions showcasing case studies from across the sector. Delegates will have the opportunity to learn from leading practitioners in the sector, debate priority issues and learn from cutting-edge initiatives.


The symposia provide teaching practitioners with access to an open and supportive environment and valuable peer network to share and discuss contemporary practice and initiatives. They enable participants to develop a principled, evidence-informed approach to devising subsequent support and guidance for change in enhancing student success in HE.

Who: Teaching practitioners including: heads of departments, academic programme leaders and developers, lecturers, academic and support staff, and learning technologists.

View the dates of the events below or in the calendar. 


Student Retention and Success Symposium

Date: 21 April 2020 
Venue: Advance HE, York 

Retention and attainment remains a key issue across the HE sector with providers undertaking specific targeted activity to address the distinct challenges of this area across all student groups. This symposium will consider these three areas that are key to institutional efforts to better enable student success; student data, engagement and support.

These areas will be considered through a series of critical questions, including, but not limited to:

  • Improving the purpose and use of student data, are we collecting the right data? Is there any data that would be helpful that is not yet being collected?
  • What do we mean by student engagement? How do we use student engagement to inform teaching practice?
  • How do we best integrate student support services and teaching practice? How do we balance mainstream support with targeted support?

"Really enjoyed the meeting - speakers were interesting and got lots of good ideas and made new contacts with other attendees"

- Student Retention and Success Symposium 2018 delegate

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Employability Symposium: Breaking the mould

Date: 22 April 2020
Venue: Advance HE, York

Call for submissions: Colleagues are invited to submit an abstract for either a 20-minute presentation or a 45-minute workshop before 18 February 2020Find out more.

Individuals and society are increasingly expecting a different return on their investment in a university degree. Given the current policy context and a focus on graduate level outcomes by the OfS it’s important to understand and anticipate what this topography means in order to enable student success.

#EmpSymp20 ‘Breaking the mould’ wants to explore how HE providers are focusing on these shifts: to work in new ways, to collaborate, to provide fuller foundations for continuous learning and ultimately to provide a long-term commitment to ensuring students succeed and maximise their chances of chosen progression, in particular towards employment.

We want to recognise and promote good practice where employability is part of the curriculum, bringing together cutting-edge examples of how sustainable and innovative approaches to employability can be delivered at school, faculty/college and/or institutional levels.

We are particularly keen to encourage submissions that cover:
•    Inter and/or transdisciplinary approaches to employability.
•    Designing inclusive approaches to employability opportunities.
•    Innovative, high impact pedagogies.
•    Policy and institutional contexts focused on systematic and strategic change.

We believe that these areas are essential and, if focused upon, will lead to positive impact, reflected in student learning, student satisfaction and improved core metrics. This approach can further ensure that all stakeholders have a greater certainty in both the quality and ongoing value of their undergraduate course experience.

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Hidden Curricula Symposium

Date: 9 June 2020
Venue: Advance HE, York

The demographic profile of the student body is continuously changing as a result of the sector’s work on inclusivity and growing participation rates. In response to this shifting profile educators must reconsider any assumptions they make in curriculum design, taking into account the accrued cultural and social capital of this emergent student population.

Drawing on research and evidence-informed practice, the event will appeal especially to academic leaders and professional staff with roles incorporating the oversight and design of curriculum, as well as retention and success for learners. By way of a keynote session, participant-led workshops or presentations, and a closing plenary, the event will offer insights and solutions for the enhancement of curriculum design within departmental and institutional contexts.

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Academic Career Progression Symposium

Date: 3 December 2019 (this event has finished)
Venue: Advance HE, York 

In turbulent times and with conflicting demands on higher education, academic careers and progression remain important for staff morale and staff retention.

This symposium will look at different stages of careers from entry into higher education as a new academic (from practice or as a recent graduate), through to line management and on to strategic leadership.  And we will also explore the contentious area of professoriates: teaching and student related, research focused, service and leadership, knowledge transfer and external engagement and the challenges raised with regards to parity of esteem.

The symposium will include a keynote session, participant-led workshops and presentations, and a closing plenary, the event will offer insights into current practice and explore talent management, career planning and equality of opportunities.  Drawing on research and evidence-informed practice, the event will appeal especially to academic leaders with responsibility for staff and their development, Staff Development community, HR and ODHE professionals within higher education.

Find out more and book now

Assessment Symposium

Date: 24 October 2019 (this event has finished)
Venue: Advance HE, York 

This symposium will address the priority area of assessment feedback, an enduring issue across HE globally, focusing on the connected areas of marking practices and feedback processes. It will offer insights and solutions for the enhancement of marking and feedback practices within departmental and institutional contexts, through building understanding about evidence-informed frameworks, principles and practices.

The day will consider approaches in re-evaluating feedback and marking practices both at a cross-disciplinary and disciplinary level, and look at how feedback and marking practices can be enhanced within institutional contexts.

The breadth of the areas covered means that the Assessment Symposium will be suitable for is for HE staff and student representatives with a keen interest in improving assessment practices and for those with responsibility to further enhance the curriculum and improve the student experience of assessment
and feedback such as programme leaders. 

Depending on level of interest and the quality of submissions for the event, we hope to produce a follow up publication of the same name, in which authors have the opportunity to publish a fuller version (approx. 2,500 words) of the paper they present.

Keynote Speaker

Dr Berry O'Donovan,  Principal Lecturer Student Experience, Oxford Brookes University

What makes good feedback good? Enhancing student learning from, and satisfaction with, assessment feedback

This keynote will draw from recent research studies into assessment feedback in Higher Education that critique current practice and suggest some contemporary approaches to improving student learning from, and satisfaction with, feedback that go beyond technical concerns such as timing and quantity.  Such approaches emphasise the particular challenges of feedback within modular programmes that traverse multiple subject areas and the importance of focusing on the feedback literacy of students.  The research suggests that to capture high satisfaction ratings and high levels of achievement that four shifts in practice may be needed in addition to assuring the technical aspects of feedback provision involved in design, timing and delivery.  The presentation is aimed at those who design feedback processes at the programme and/or module level and for institutional policymakers. 

Berry O’Donovan is a Principal Lecturer at the Business School, Oxford Brookes University. She is a National Teaching Fellow and a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and has been involved in a number of national projects funded by the Higher Education Academy/Advance HE and the Higher Education Funding Council England (HEFCE) including as Deputy Director for the ASKe (Assessment Standards Knowledge exchange) Centre for Excellence. Her research centres on assessment and feedback in higher education and the intellectual development of students. Her latest collaborative paper 'What makes good feedback good' has been recently published [online] by Studies in Higher Education and will form part of the empirical basis for this keynote.  Currently her teaching focuses on introductory and capstone modules focusing on synoptic learning within management education. 

Afternoon Speaker 

Professor Carol Evans, Professor in Higher Education; Academic Lead of Higher Education Futures Institute, University of Birmingham

Building Assessment Communities: The Interdisciplinary Network for Research-informed Assessment Practices (INRAP)

In this presentation, on behalf of INRAP, Professor Carol Evans will give a brief update on the development of the Advance HE Assessment and Feedback Network, and outline some of the key challenges facing the higher education community in advancing assessment practices, and welcome input from colleagues. Our aim is to build an international assessment feedback community to which all colleagues are welcome. 

INRAP’s key aims: 

  • Building and connecting a dynamic community that challenges, critiques and advances knowledge and understandings of assessment and feedback within higher education. 
  • Providing a critical and supportive space for inter-disciplinary collaboration and working.
  • Supporting institutions in using assessment and feedback evidence rigorously through research-informed and evidence-based ways to impact assessment choices.
  • Promoting a holistic approach to curriculum design using assessment as the driver. 
  • Framing, discussing and disseminating new ways of thinking and working in assessment and feedback at discipline and institutional level. 
  • Empowering practitioners and equipping and supporting them to leverage their own roles and realities for the enhancement of their own practice, and in supporting others to do the same. 

Making Evidence Work Effectively Symposium

Date: May 7th 2020
Venue: Advance HE, York

The sector is saturated with data about all aspects of the student experience. This symposium considers how to move away from forensic data dwelling to impactful action at a variety of levels. A ‘what works’ perspective will be adopted to show how evidence can be used more democratically as a driver for thoughtful and inclusive change.  

The symposium shares some pioneering approaches for: using imaginative evidence-informed methods for strategy development, adopting creative and non-hierarchical processes for building evaluative mindsets within institutions.  Whilst some attention has been given to empowering students to begin to use evidence to influence their own experience (Austen & Jones-Devitt 2019), scant attention has been given to supporting and enabling staff in using evidence effectively.

The event will include keynote provocations, participant-led workshops and a closing action-oriented plenary. This day will offer insights into current thought-leading practice and will explore using the symposium as a conduit for further collaborative work.

The symposium will address the following provocations:

  • Should we ensure that strategy development is tested and owned by a plurality of opinion as part of the essential evidence base? Why is this so difficult in practice?
  • How do we really know that evidence is being used effectively and who decides?  
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