Dr Clare Saunders

Dr Clare Saunders

Assistant Director: Educational Development, Centre for Learning and Academic Development and Learning Spaces

Contact details

I lead the Educational Development team within CLAD and Learning Spaces, which comprises a team of expert advisors in academic practice, educational research and development, quality enhancement and policy. I lead our academic development and educational enhancement activities, including:

  • overseeing our portfolio of academic development programmes including the Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice;
  • managing the University’s Educational Enhancement Project Funding, Teaching Awards and Fellowships schemes;
  • coordinating the activities of the Educational Enhancement Network, including the University’s annual Teaching and Learning Conference and a range of special interest groups;
  • working with Colleges to identify and develop opportunities for all to benefit from educational development and enhancement activities;
  • providing advice and guidance across the University on curriculum development issues;
  • liaising with colleagues within and beyond Academic Services to ensure an evidence-informed and strategic approach to our development of teaching staff, learning environments, and educational policies and practices;
  • advising the University and senior managers on strategic developments in teaching and learning;
  • representing the University in national networks such as the Higher Education Academy.


  • Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (2013)
  • PhD in Philosophy (University of Sunderland, 2001)
  • MA in Philosophy (Durham University, 1997)
  • BA (Hons) in English and Philosophy (Durham University, 1996)


I joined the University of Birmingham in 2012 as an Academic Practice Advisor in the Centre for Learning and Academic Development (CLAD), teaching on a range of academic development programmes and providing advice and support to Schools and Colleges on teaching and learning issues. In 2013 I took up my current role as Assistant Director (Educational Development) in the recently-merged CLAD and Learning Spaces, assuming responsibility for coordinating the academic development and educational enhancement activities of the Division.

I started my academic career in Philosophy, completing my PhD on the nature of rationality alongside a range of visiting lecturer duties at the Universities of Sunderland and Durham (1997-2001) before taking up a lectureship post (2001-2002). Although tempted into academia by the challenges of research, somewhat to my surprise I found teaching equally stimulating and rewarding - so, when the opportunity arose to take up the newly-created role of Subject Coordinator for Philosophy at the UK-wide Learning and Teaching Support Network (later part of the Higher Education Academy), I decided to give it a try. Thus, almost by stealth, began my new career in educational development.

My tenure at the Subject Centre for Philosophical and Religious Studies (2002-2011) involved working with academics and departments across the UK, both within these subjects and across sometimes surprising disciplinary boundaries - e.g. working with geography and business colleagues to explore differences and similarities in conceptions of graduate employability; or with law, bioscience and medicine to share good practice in the teaching of ethics. It also gave me an opportunity to be part of sector-wide debates and developments in UK HE, for example working with organisations such as Vitae to enhance support and development opportunities for postgraduate researchers as students, teaching assistants, and tomorrow’s academics.

Throughout my career I have been interested to connect theories, policies and practices; and to explore the insights, benefits and challenges to be found at the intersection of different disciplines.


My teaching responsibilities are currently limited - I am now more involved in the strategic management than the delivery of CLAD’s courses - but I have experience of teaching on all of the University’s academic development programmes, including leading (2012-2013) our portfolio of courses for postgraduate teaching assistants, and the Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice module ‘Effective Academic Practice in Higher Education’.

I also have five years’ experience of teaching a wide range of undergraduate Philosophy courses, including both Anglo-American and European Philosophy; History of Philosophy; Ethics; Epistemology; and Philosophy of Mind.


My recent educational research and development work mostly focuses on curriculum enhancement - for example I have expertise in curriculum design topics including assessment and feedback, and embedding employability in the curriculum.

I also have an active interest in evolving notions of academic practice, both at a conceptual level - e.g. what does it mean to be an academic in the 21st century? - and at a practical level - e.g. how do we provide effective support and development opportunities for new and established academics?

I remain interested in the various philosophical dimensions of academic practice - for example, the role of values in higher education policy and practice; and how reasoning practices and norms inform teaching and learning (or indeed leadership and management).

I have also dabbled in research into equality and diversity in higher education - for example on the relative scarcity of women in certain academic fields - and retain an active interest in all issues pertaining to inclusion.

Other activities

  • Planning group member of the Heads of Educational Development Group
  • University of Birmingham’s institutional contact for the Higher Education Academy
  • Management group member for the University of Birmingham’s Teaching Academy
  • Editorial board member of Education in Practice, the University of Birmingham’s learning and teaching journal
  • Member of Board of Studies for the Postgraduate Certificate in Advanced Research Methods and Skills
  • Advisory Board member for the British Postgraduate Philosophy Association
  • Editor of Discourse: Learning and Teaching in Philosophical and Religious Studies (2010-2011)
  • Management team member for the Inter-Disciplinary Ethics Applied Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (University of Leeds, 2005-2011)


  • Mossley, D & Saunders, C (2013). A revolution in philosophy teaching? The Philosophers' Magazine, 62: 40-45.
  • Saunders, C, Mossley, D, MacDonald Ross, G & Lamb, D (2012). Doing Philosophy: A Practical Guide for Students (2nd edition). London & New York: Bloomsbury Academic.
  • Saunders, C & Addis, M (2010). What’s the value of a humanities degree? Graduate Market Trends, autumn 2010.
  • Saunders, C & Closs, J (2010). Discipline perspectives: philosophical and religious studies. Academy Exchange 9: The Postgraduate Student Experience, 9: 18-20.
  • Saunders, C (2009). Developing researchers in the arts and humanities: lessons from a pilot programme. International Journal for Researcher Development, 1(1): 45-70.
  • Saunders, C & Over, D (2009). In two minds about rationality? In Evans, J & Frankish, K eds. In Two Minds: Dual Processes and Beyond. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Cochrane, A & Saunders, C (2009). Philosophical and religious studies ‘beyond boundaries’. Discourse: Learning and Teaching in Philosophical and Religious Studies, 9(1): 77-92.
  • Lamb, D & Saunders, C (2007). What do our students really think? Discourse: Learning and Teaching in Philosophical and Religious Studies, 6(2): 29-44.
  • Saunders, C (2002). Review of Mark D Jordan, The Ethics of Sex. Women's Philosophy Review, 29: 97-102.


Subject areas: academic practice, educational research and development, quality enhancement and policy.