What does “inclusive practice” look like in a post-pandemic context and can foundation years lead the way?

The current pandemic has disrupted almost every aspect of our working lives and could represent the single greatest change to our sector since the introduction of tuition fees. In response, colleagues across the world have been trying out new methods of teaching and new ways of keeping in touch with each other and their students. Indeed, within the space of a few months, central tenets of pedagogical practice have been turned upside down and approaches that have long been resisted or ignored are rapidly becoming standard operating procedure. We cannot know how long these conditions will last, but we can begin to ask what legacy this period will have on teaching and wider University life once normality – or something approaching it – returns to the sector.  

Having decided to move the 2020 FYNAC online, we are asking colleagues to consider their recent practice and how this might have a positive impact on future teaching, advising, and other areas of our work as Foundation Year Practitioners. We would also like colleagues to think about how well their existing practice has coped with this seismic shift in our circumstances, what holes it has exposed in our current approaches, but also what existing strategies have had positive and perhaps unforeseen impacts on our students during the past few months. Given the conference theme, we would particularly welcome thoughts about how our experiences this term can be used to help make our everyday practices more inclusive.

With this in mind, we have revised our call for papers and suggested some alternative formats that colleagues may wish to consider delivering as part of our upcoming series that will be hosted on the FYN website. We continue to welcome resources that focus on our original questions around inclusivity (included at the end of this document for reference), but we will now also welcome submissions that address the impact of the pandemic more directly, including, but not limited to, the questions below:



·       How do we build an inclusive admissions strategy without centralised exams? Can we draw ideas from mature student recruitment?

·       Without open days, applicant days, or outreach initiatives, how have institutions been ensuring that prospective applicants can experience and understand about higher education?

·       With predictions that this year will see an erosion of gains made to widen participation in higher education, what steps can we take in this new admissions environment to ensure greater equality of access to HE in 2020/21?

·       For those institutions who draw a large amount of their FY cohort via clearing, what impact might this have on the 2020/21 academic year and what are you and your institution doing to combat this?

·       Does the reduced emphasis on A Level grades present an opportunity or a threat to Foundation Year teaching at your institution?

Inclusive Teaching and Transition

·       How do we ensure that students who may have seen significant disruption to their formal education don’t struggle with our courses?

·       Are Foundation Years better placed than other programmes to deal with students who have been disengaged from formal education?

·       How are you ensuring that students currently on your programmes can progress on to further study and does this have any ramifications for future students?

·       How are you re-shaping your assessments in the light of the pandemic and has this challenge led to any insights that may affect future assessment design?

·       Has your recent experience with digital technologies generated any insights in to how these platforms can be better integrated in to future teaching? Have online platforms and resources proved to be the panacea for inclusivity that some proponents have argued?

Assessment and Progression

·       Has the current crisis caused your institution to weaken progression requirements? If so, what impact do you think this is likely to have on student engagement and performance?

·       How easily have you been able to modify your assessments? Has this exposed any weaknesses or caused you to rethink future assessment strategies?

·       Do you believe that the changes to your course since March will have negatively affected your current cohort’s preparedness for Year 1? If so, are there steps you are taking to mitigate these impacts? Do you have any evidence that these are working?


·       Has the shift to home working created issues around workload and have these had a greater impact on particular colleagues within your department/institution?

·       Have elements of your teaching or assessment proved easier or harder to modify and does this have implications for future work practices and workload allocation?

·       Has the burden of redesigning and adjusting content fallen equally on colleagues at your institution and what affects has this had on staff?

·       Has the move to home working lessened or increased the administrative and bureaucratic burden at your institution? Has this period highlighted areas that should be streamlined or, alternatively, exposed gaps that will need to be closed once (relative) normality resumes?

·       Overall, how has your institution dealt with the dramatic shift in working practices? Are there lessons to be learned or best practice that could be shared?


·       How have your pastoral care systems coped with the move to distance learning? Is this better or worse than other departments within your institution?

·       How has your own wellbeing been affected by the change in working conditions and are there tips you could give others or ongoing issues that you’d like help with?

·       How have you found collaborating and liaising with colleagues without the ability for the usual face-to-face contact?

·       What has your employer put in place to help with your wellbeing and are there things that you wish had been put in place (or put in place sooner)?

·       Has this period caused you to re-evaluate your existing relationship to your work? What impact do you think this might have on your approach in the 2020/21 academic year?


Given the unusual nature of this year’s format, we are not asking colleagues to (re)prepare formal abstracts. Instead, we encourage potential contributors to contact the Chair of UEA’s Local Organising Committee (Dr Mark Walmsley) via the conference@foundationyear.ac.uk email address. This will allow for a more tailored discussion about how you might wish to present your research. To give colleagues a sense of potential formats, we have listed some ideas below, but please feel free to suggest alternatives. Given the personal nature of some of the questions above, we understand that some colleagues may wish to publish resources anonymously or under a pseudonym. Please let Mark know if that is the case and he can discuss this with you.

We realise that many colleagues will still be getting used to some of these online technologies, so please feel free to contact Mark if you have questions about how to produce/edit certain resources. The Local Organising Committee will be producing a presenter’s guide that hopefully collates some useful information about creating digital resources that are as inclusive as possible. If you have any tips or thoughts about what could be put in such a guide, please do contact Mark at the address above. There is no strict deadline for submission as much of the content will now be released asynchronously online, so please discuss potential timelines with Mark who will be responsible for curating the overall programme.

Blog Posts: This would be ideal for colleagues who wish to make a short, focused contribution on a particular topic or curate a list of useful online resources. We would suggest that blogs are no more than 800 words long.

Poster Presentations: This is a creative and informative way for colleagues to share case studies and provide examples of inclusive practice in a more accessible and illustrative format.

Pre-recorded Pecha Kucha Presentations: This short-paper format was popular at the 2019 conference, so we invite colleagues to use screen-recording software to record their audio over the top of their 20 slides. You can find more information about Pecha Kucha presentations here (https://www.pechakucha.com/) and find examples from last year on the FYN website.

Pre-recorded Panel Papers: If you feel that your research is ill-suited to the short formats above, then there is still the opportunity to pre-record your paper and produce a video file of your slides with audio narration. These should remain no longer than 20 minutes in length and we would encourage presenters to think about alternative methods of audience engagement.

Live Workshops with pre-meeting resources: Delivered by an individual or team, these interactive, one-hour sessions focus on a single topic and actively encourage audience participation. To streamline these events for online platforms, we would expect workshop organisers to produce pre-event resources that may also include some form of interaction. The live content would then focus on discussion and peer-to-peer engagement. Depending on projected take-up, these events may be ticketed to avoid digital meetings becoming unwieldy.

A note on inclusivity and digital resources: When producing resources, we would encourage all contributors to consider accessibility. Fonts and slides should comply with the guidelines produced by the British Dyslexic Association where possible. To aid colleagues with visual impairments, blogs and posters should be presented in file formats that are compatible with e-readers and make sure that alternative text is attached to any embedded images. To ensure colleagues with hearing impairments can fully access pre-recorded media, presenters will also be asked to provide PowerPoint (or equivalent) files with transcripts, subtitles, or edited notes. A guide on how to produce accessible resources will be made available to all contributors and members are encourage to pass on any tips or resources that they are aware of.



Initial Conference Questions, which colleagues may still wish to address:

Inclusive Admissions

·       What role can (and should) outreach initiatives play in recruiting students on to Foundation Year Programmes?

·       Who are we including in “inclusive” approaches to admissions and why?

·       How is inclusivity framed within the context of international admissions to FY study?

·       Does FY study complement or compete with contextualised admission processes for Year 1 programmes?

·       What does an inclusive admission practice look like in an increasingly marketised environment?

·       What do students want and/or expect when they apply for a Foundation Year and does this differ by cohort?

·       Are FY programmes purposefully widening access to your institution, or is greater diversity simply the result of lower tariffs and applicant behaviour?

Inclusive Teaching and Transition

·       What kind of knowledge is preferred within the academy and what consequence does this have for inclusive practice?

·       What does an inclusive curriculum look like in your subject?

·       Do universal inclusivity policies help or hinder students with specific learning differences?

·       Can digital technologies provide the answers to inclusive teaching initiatives?

·       How does inclusive teaching practice differ at year 0 from years 1-3?

·       Should inclusive teaching practices at year 0 avoid adopting a deficit-model approach to student capabilities? If so, how?

·       How well does your faculty reflect the diversity of your student cohort? Does/could this present a challenge to achieving greater inclusivity?

·       Do you face challenges when preparing students for teaching at year 1 and above that you know will be less inclusive than your own practice?

·       How well are FY students integrated into the wider research and teaching culture of their destination departments?

·       How do students find the move into year 1 and how does your institution manage this transition?

Inclusive Strategy

·       To what extent are inclusive practice policies part of the strategic oversight of FY programmes?

·       How can inclusivity be prioritised in strategic conversations at senior levels of University administration?

·       How well is FY provision itself included within relevant departments/faculties/institutions?

·       How can we promote wider adoption of inclusive practice within our own institutions?

·       What are the differences between diversity and inclusivity and are these differences acknowledged within your institution or department?