Special issue


Foundation Years (FY) have proliferated within UK Higher Education in recent years, and their benefits and successes have been well documented (e.g. the enhancement of opportunities for underrepresented students, second-chance education, skills and confidence enhancement, and a pipeline into STEM. However, when managed centrally, their implementation can be a contentious site of interdisciplinary unease and ‘mutual suspicion’ and as much as a fruitful avenue for innovative collaboration. One of the key issues is the question of how to embed academic skills / literacies development within a meaningful, ‘integrated’, interdisciplinary context effectively whilst utilising expertise from both academic departments and learning development / skills teams, and thus navigating disparate disciplinary agendas, communities of practice and strategic priorities. This paper reports on how this complex terrain was navigated at Royal Holloway, University of London, to successfully embed academic skills (using Universal Design for Learning pedagogy) into an academically authentic, inclusive, interdisciplinary ‘Global Perspectives and Academic Practice’ unit that facilitated student integration into academic departments. Whilst we report on how the programme led to higher than sector average attainment, retention and progression (the EE described it as a ‘TEF Gold offering’), we critically analyse the challenges of embedding and aligning such provision within the communities of practice of a research-intensive institution. Throughout, we suggest ways forward at both practical and strategic levels to ensure the immense potential of integrated academic literacies development within FYs can be realised.

Practitioner Notes

  1. Given the growth in Foundation Year provision, successful and 'authentic' skills integration is an increasingly vital part of the emerging HEI landscape
  2. Integrated academic literacies development, when implemented via a UDL pedagogical framework, can significantly increase student skills, confidence, attainment and progression
  3. Implementation and integration can be a contentious site of interdisciplinary unease which tap into issues of professional identity and academic legitimacy within the academy
  4. UDL pedagogies offer a means of facilitating successful academic literacies integration and offer a clear 'route to excellence' (Layer, 2017)
  5. In embedding academic literacies and skills development, practitioners are encouraged to appeal to ‘hearts and minds’ via the dissemination of literature on good practice and the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, strategic alignment of activities and adopt a data driven approach to demonstrating efficacy.