Flexibility in Higher Education

  • Overgaard, Charlotte (Primary Chief Investigator)

Project: Research

Project Details


This is a study of student and teacher experiences of flexible deadlines within undergraduate and postgraduate university study. The study aims to understand how allowing students to determine their own deadlines for smaller, formative assessment tasks leading up to a final major work at the end of semester might affect their academic performance, progression towards successful completion of a unit, ability to maintain a work-life-uni balance and future work capabilities.
This proposed research builds on an initiative within a postgraduate unit, SOC811 Comparative Social Policy, in the Department of Sociology in 2019, whereby students were given increased levels of flexibility. This experience suggested that the academic outcomes for online/external students increased overall compared to previous years, while the on-campus students’ results were more polarised: while most on-campus students kept a steady engagement with the unit throughout the semester and were able to manage their own time other students found it harder to manage their time without convenor-determined deadlines. However, all students submitted all their work during the semester weeks, and only one student submitted anything past the hard deadline of week 15 and even then only by one day.
Due to the promising results of this initial change, we wish to investigate further potential benefits associated with flexibility, including academic performance and ability to maintain a more sustainable balance between the demands of paid work, carer responsibilities and university study. We also propose to investigate whether there are differences in the profile of students that benefit from this kind of self-management of deadlines. Therefore, we propose to roll out this approach across a number of units in sociology and gender studies in order to formally document, analyse and share teachers’ and students’ experiences of students being able to set their own deadlines.
StatusNot started