Meeting the challenge of research led teaching in HE in FE, by Lorna Cameron

Meeting the challenge of research led teaching in HE in FE

Lorna Cameron

One of the most common areas of disquiet amongst those of us valiantly delivering HE in FE is the challenge of leading students by example by being active researchers ourselves. Many of you will understand this challenge: we want to be active researchers, but timetabling is commonly our enemy. Often my peers delivering land based HE in FE are allocated mixed teaching across FE and HE, with no dedicated time allocated for research. The time-consuming nature of sound experimental design, robust data collection, valid analysis and an eventual write up that is of publishable quality often results in research being pushed to the back of the queue behind the pile of preparation and marking.

The majority of our colleges are not required to submit to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) so why should HE teaching staff have allocated time to produce quality research publications? We are subject to the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) though, and in HE, research led teaching is an expectation for QAA, so maybe a rethink in these attitudes is timely in FE colleges delivering HE? This rethink, though, is in the future and we all face the challenge of delivering research led teaching in HE in FE right now. Our students deserve to be taught and have their research projects led by research active, knowledgeable and experienced professionals, so how can we possibly achieve this aim within the constraints placed upon us without burning the candle not only at both ends, but in the middle too?

I admit that I am a research addict. I find the whole process of research like a hit I need more and more of. The pleasure of answering a novel research question by formulating a valid question, a testable hypothesis, a robust and reliable experimental methodology, analysing stacks of data, trying to interpret these, often, complex results in a quality discussion and then eventually seeing some impact of these findings in my industry is amazing. But how can all this be achieved within the aforementioned constraints? This is a challenge that we within the Equine HE department at University Centre Sparsholt have faced and, at least partially, overcome with the establishment of a collaborative research network across our validating university, the University of Portsmouth and our colleagues at Hartpury University.

The beginnings of our collaboration can be traced back to the supportive and developmental relationship we have with the University of Portsmouth, particularly the School of Sport, Health and Exercise Science. Our original collaboration with the Research Group in Breast Health within this School led to five research projects for our own MSc Equine Behaviour, Performance and Training students producing four publications to date and two in the pipeline for this coming year (Burbage & Cameron, 2015; Burbage et al., 2016; Burbage & Cameron, 2017; Burbage & Cameron, 2018). This collaborative partnership expanded to include Hartpury University leading to a further two publications with at least two further projects data collecting at present (Carter et al., 2017; Carter et al., 2018). These collaborations have led to our students being able to produce better quality research projects at Level 6 and Level 7, increased our own expertise in supervising and writing up research and fundamentally improved our ability to deliver quality, research led teaching whilst also raising the profile of our organisation within the equine industry, ultimately leading to an increase in student numbers at HE, surely a win for all concerned.

These collaborations, however, do take time to establish, a commodity that is sorely lacking for most delivering HE in FE. The benefits, though, in my opinion outweigh the difficulties. I have learned from more experienced researchers than myself. My students have delivered quality research projects and also developed their own networks within the academic and equine arenas presenting their research at international conferences. My colleagues have benefitted by increasing their own research networks and the research output from University Centre Sparsholt Equine has increased in both quantity and quality.

If you are delivering HE in FE and struggling to deliver research led teaching, why not consider establishing your own collaborative research network within your discipline? Historically these collaborations were not encouraged in FE, certainly in land-based colleges as we are often viewed as the “competition” vying for the same limited pool of applicants, but we have to look at the benefits they give to the students we have. Often our student projects suffered from small sample sizes and the lack of a longitudinal nature to their studies, limiting the opportunities for publication. Our collaborative research network with the University of Portsmouth and Hartpury University has allowed our students to be part of larger, ongoing studies with our students and Hartpury’s students, following identical methodologies, allowing data to be analysed together to produce better quality research with greater impact.

If you are interested in hearing more about our collaborative research network or you are interested in joining our equine specific research collaboration, please contact me. Don’t let a lack of allocated time hold back the quality of your research led teaching, just find a way to do it smarter.  We owe it to ourselves and our students.

Lorna Cameron is a Teaching Fellow at University Centre Sparsholt. She can be contacted at : 



Burbage, J. and Cameron, L.J. (2018). An investigation of bra concerns and barriers to participation in horse riding. Comparative Exercise Physiology,

Burbage, J. and Cameron, L.J. (2017) An investigation into the prevalence and impact of breast pain, bra issues and breast size on female horse riders. Journal of Sports Sciences, 35 (11), 1091-1097.

Burbage, J., Cameron, L. and Goater, F. (2016) The effect of breast support on vertical breast displacement and breast pain in female riders across equine simulator gaits. Journal of Vetinary Behaviour, 15 (81).

Burbage, J. and Cameron, L.J. (2015) An initial investigation into breast health issues in female horse riders, Proceedings of the International Society of Equitation Science Conference, Vancouver 2015

Carter, A., Lewis, V., Cameron, L.J. and Dumbell, L. (2018) Preliminary study investigating trunk muscle fatigue and cognitive function in event riders during a simulated jumping test. Proceedings of the 14th International Conference, Rome 2018,

Carter, A. R., Lewis, V., Cameron, L. J. and Dumbell, L. (2017) Preliminary study investigating trunk muscle fatigue and cognitive function in event riders during simulated jumping test. 19th International Sport Medicine and Sports Science Conference, Capetown, RSA