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Two Royal Economics Society grants awarded to School of Economics academics

7 July 2021

The Royal Economics Society has granted the School of Economics two grants from a specific COVID Academic Support Fund.

The School of Economics is pleased to announce it has received grants from the Royal Economic Society (RES), from a specific COVID Academic Support Fund.

According to the RES, the fund has been created to ‘support members who have been particularly affected by the impact of COVID-19 on UK universities and academic departments and to support innovations in teaching economics that have arisen from online/blended learning deliver during 2020.’ The School of Economics is already very active and forward thinking in enhancing how economics is taught, and these grants will no doubt further advance this reputation. 

One aspect of the project, led by Dr Rabeya Khatoon, seeks to look for a better understanding of international students who come to study postgraduate taught programmes, and their need for personal tutoring. Academic advising is an essential component of students’ academic experience in higher education. With the pandemic, this role has become more important, but it remains an under-researched area. A large proportion of postgraduate taught students in the UK are international students, contributing about ten percent of the total teaching income. This makes academic advising challenging, with the different demographics of the students, different needs, potential cultural and language barriers, and often a compressed timescale of their studies for a one-year taught postgraduate programme.

With an increasing number of postgraduate students and the quality of service that they require from academic advisers, an academic advising 'team' approach has been trialled at Bristol. The research will use a mixed-method approach combining qualitative, semi-structured interviews and machine learning to identify some key barriers of students' accessing academic advising from the academic advising team, their perception about academic advising, general health and wellbeing, and practical study skills.

Dr Rabeya Khatoon said, ‘I am delighted to receive the grant. A research project to inform personal tutoring at the postgraduate level has been in my mind over the last couple of years. The challenges that the pandemic posed to us have driven me and this funding leads towards its realisation. I look forward to working on the project and disseminating the findings to the wider community.’

The second project, which will be undertaken by Dr Simon Halliday, Dr Danielle Guizzo, and Dr Christian Spielmann, will look at teaching innovation. Having adapted to blended learning after a very difficult year, the School of Economics will now analyse the many aspects of this innovative approach to teaching. It will map the effectiveness of blended learning technologies implemented during COVID-19 (such as asynchronous resources and online assessments), as well as offering new teaching methods and pedagogies that can better suit the teaching of economics post-COVID. The project’s goal extends well beyond the teaching of economics, seeking to understand how to enhance teaching in the higher education sector more widely.

The three grant holders said, ‘We are really excited to receive the RES COVID support fund for innovative teaching. Teaching during the pandemic has meant that instructors have had to adapt quickly and flexibly; it will be fruitful to step back and evaluate our experiences during the pandemic to shape economics education going forward. The School of Economics at Bristol is the perfect place to carry out this research: Bristol is the home of the Economics Network and the School is known for pioneering curriculum innovations such as adopting CORE’s The Economy and for having an active Economics Education Research Group working at the forefront of economics pedagogy and scholarship. We look forward to working on this project and sharing our findings with the sector.’

It was a competitive process and being awarded these grants is a proud moment for the School. Head of School, Professor Sarah Smith said ‘I am delighted that we have been awarded this funding. I am proud of the way colleagues have worked hard this year to embrace blended learning and online tutor support. This award will allow them further to develop and test best practice and to share knowledge with the wider economics community.’


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