Big Conversation

Staff and students engaged in a Big Conversation over the last academic year. The main blog topics are summarised in the two infographics which you can view by following the links below. You can also visit the site to catch up with all the conversation threads from last year, read the winning student contributions, and contribute new posts or comments on our theme for this term.

If you would like to add a post, please email it to and it will be added to the site.


Research-intensive Education

Research-led; research embedded; research active. Much of the discussion on this topic has questioned what is meant by research-intensive in teaching and learning and what more we can do to ensure education is research-intensive for all students. All academic Schools have been working on this topic through their School Education Plans.


Elearning; technology enhanced learning; technology; skills; collaboration. Using technology as a way of supporting and advancing learning underpinned this theme of the conversation. Birmingham Digital Education is a key concept arising from the conversation and one that we are taking forward.


Research-active; collaboration; internationalisation; skills; choice; subject development. Thoughts on subject specific developments have been prevalent in the Conversation,  and ideas supporting collaboration and interdisciplinary learning were mentioned frequently.


Inclusive education. Different aspects of inclusion were referenced in many posts, often as a facet of another theme. Technology was identified as a tool to help the design and delivery of inclusive education, whilst assessment and feedback is an area in which inclusion was viewed as particularly important.

Assessment and feedback

Method of assessment; feedback; learning analytics. Modes of assessment have been a popular discussion point. The idea of 'feedback challenge' was discussed, whereby feedback is considered as an ongoing dialogue as opposed to a product that marks the end of the learning process.

Other themes

The University; postgraduate provision; part time study. The purpose of the University, along its ties with the larger community, were noted by many when thinking about 2026. Questions also arose about part time students and whether we need to address aspects of our PGT provision. These issues were taken forward through the PGT Review.

Wider issues and external influences

  • Pressure on research-intensive institutions
  • Students as consumers
  • Widening participation and inclusive education
  • Growing focus on mobility and employability
  • The nature of a distinctive University of Birmingham Education.

A Distinctive Birmingham Education

What are the distinctive features of a University of Birmingham Education?

We are considering this question in three areas:

Research-intensive teaching and learning

Research-intensive universities are at the forefront of generating knowledge through the very best research and integrating this research with education. Ensuring that all staff are delivering research-intensive teaching, and all students are engaged in research-intensive learning, is a key feature of our Education offer.

Birmingham digital

Technology in education is business as usual. The questions we need to ask now include: How can we use technology more effectively to support learners? How can teachers be supported to innovate? What are the minimum standards of critical digital competence that graduates require? Look out for this topic on the Big Conversation in April and at the HEFi conference in the summer.

Inclusive education

Universities want the best for all their students. Yet, we know that some groups of students struggle to access research-intensive universities and data tell us that for those students who are admitted, some groups continue to under-achieve. In the Big Conversation running from January to March, we will explore these issues with staff and students and identify campus-wide actions that will characterise our University of Birmingham Education.





Read more on the BIG CONVERSATION blog.

HEA Global Teaching Excellence Award 2017 TEF Gold HEFi

Also in 'Higher Education Futures institute (HEFi)'