Reflections on a collegiate and inspiring conference

Foundation Year Network Conference, July 2019

As we indulge in the delights of teaching our new cohort of foundation year students, I am reminded of the FYNAC19 that took place in July at University of Sussex. This was my first time of attending the Foundation Year conference and I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. Well, suffice to say, it is now going to be a definite date in my diary each year. Why you ask? Let me explain…

The theme this year was the deficit model, the idea that our foundation students somehow lack certain knowledge or skills that we then remedy through the foundation programme. There was no shortage of lively responses to this with the full spectrum of viewpoints represented. For example, we were encouraged to both praise the deficit model and combat it. We were asked to consider where the deficit lay, what other models could replace it and how to create a way out of it. Lively discussion ensued around embodiment of the deficit model in students themselves and around the philosophical basis behind it. The model was examined from the perspective of a range of subject disciplines, a particular strength of this conference, where contributors taught in subjects as diverse as liberal arts, STEM, archaeology, psychology and business.

Within this theme, the diversity of contributions was amazing. During the course of the conference, I was inspired by tales of active learning including board game construction, mini museums and collage, all led and developed by foundation students themselves. Use of a Dragon’s Den approach to liberal arts education, digital story-telling and British Sign Language as routes into learning were all enthusiastically shared.

There was music (an entertaining pecha-kucha on a serious theme of social mobility, set to the tune of “working class hero”), merriment (beginning a conference with a “snowball fight” has to be a first!) and much to consider (particularly, in light of the Augar review and the contribution from Adam Finlayson from the Office for Students).

With reflection however, the aspect of FYNAC19 that will perhaps last the longest for me, is the collegiate atmosphere and the supportive network of individuals that attended. The chance to network and exchange ideas whilst being united in a common goal of promoting the excellent work of foundation year students and practitioners was significant. With this in mind, I very much look forward to the next instalment in 2020.

Dr Wendy Garnham, Senior Lecturer (Psychology), University of Sussex. 


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