Aims and Purpose

The Romero Freire Institute brings together four threads of research and scholarly activity:

  • The staff/student partnership initiatives
  • Wider community engagement, research and knowledge exchange, such as the work with Citizens UK and the Reach Out youth project.
  • The Critical Pedagogy Group
  • The pedagogic work of the Directorate of Learning Teaching and Scholarship

It is uniquely made up of representatives from academics, professional and support staff, students, alumni and members of the local community. It has a broad reach and acts as a bridge and mediator between student and community research, consultancy and evaluation, the scholarship of teaching and learning and academic research in Higher Education. It is also a source of support for readers and professors in teaching and learning.

The aims of the institute are:

  • To generate a creative space where all staff, students and the community can come together in common cause, develop research agendas, support each-other writing bids, co-create knowledge and undertake actions that advance the common good.
  • To foster and build capacity for the scholarship of learning and teaching practices in Higher Education, focusing on, but not exclusive to, critical pedagogy; providing mentoring for new writers, potential readers and Professors of teaching and learning.
  • To further develop and disseminate the outcomes of student staff partnerships, which to date have focused on teaching and learning, research and community partnerships, revitalizing Critical Commentary.
  • To act as a conduit for issues arising from student and community research in terms of institutional and wider impact, which in turn will help the institution build its impact case studies.
  • To act as a bridge and mediator between student and community research, consultancy and evaluation, the scholarship of teaching and learning and academic research in Higher Education.


Paulo and Nita Freire’s work has influenced people working in education and community development. The Freire’s developed an approach to education that links the identification of issues to positive action for change and development. Their approach leads us to think about how we can ‘read’ the society around us. With this in mind, the Institute aims to bring together academic, professional and support staff with students and members of the community to explore common issues, conduct research and produce knowledge. It will then seek to ensure that this knowledge has an impact on those effected ‘lived lives’. While Paulo Freire is the more well-known of the two we wish to also honour Nita, in acknowledgement that women’s contribution is often overshadowed by their male collaborators.

Oscar Romero was a prelate of the Catholic Church in El Salvador who served as the fourth Archbishop of San Salvador. He spoke out against poverty, social injustice, assassinations, and torture amid a growing war between leftist rebels and government and right-wing forces. In 1980, Romero was assassinated while celebrating Mass in the chapel of the Hospital of Divine Providence. During Romero’s beatification, Pope Francis stated, “His ministry was distinguished by his particular attention to the most poor and marginalized.” He is hailed as a hero by supporters of liberation theology inspired by his work.

Freire’s work places an emphasis on working with oppressed groups, which are heavily represented within the Newman Student body and often marginalized within Higher Education. Critical pedagogy seeks to empower students and community members to think critically about their own educational situations and the relations of power communicated and maintained by existing social/institutional arrangements. Critical pedagogues’ aims are to raise consciousness about institutionalized inequities and to provide opportunities for students to participate in creating a more just, democratic society (Freire, 1970, 1998). This vision also fits in with the central tenets of Catholic Social Teaching; these being ‘human dignity, the common good, and the preferential option for the marginalized” (Scanlan, 2008, p. 31).

Activities to date and future intentions

The institute helps create coherence for the constituent groups by providing a base, both physically and intellectually, for them to develop ideas, conduct research, share experiences, disseminate ideas and secure funding.

For further information please contact Dr Mike Seal:

Students are partners

The staff student partnership project scheme has run on an annual cycle at Newman, since January 2014. They are an important part of our mission to enhance Newman University as a learning community where all have the opportunity to shape our work in a spirit of hope, co-operation and transformative growth. They are underpinned by the principles of the pedagogy of partnership including:

  • Building from a shared hope – asking how we can improve our understanding and actions and believing in our transformative potential
  • Establishing a dream of transformation – asking what is the best we can be?
  • Promoting respectful dialogue and hearing under-represented voices about our lived experience and espoused values
  • Involving co-investigation and shared reflection through problem-posing, curiosity, rational exploration and creativity.
  • Seeking the co-construction of solutions aimed at a better way of being.
  • An ongoing, transformative and collaborative process of being and becoming.

The scheme has consistently attracted a good level of applications.  In the first two iterations all applications were offered funding (in some cases on the basis of revision to project plans).  In the last two iterations the process has had to become more selective.  So, for example, in 2016-17 a total of 22 applications were received.  Of these 17 were accepted, some with advised revisions, with 14 finally taking up the funding.  The main scheme has grown through four full iterations to include three types of project with different purposes:

Student Academic Partnership projects integrating students into the development of teaching, learning, support and assessment communities in academic subjects, facilities and student support services, making a difference to students’ learning or exploring important factors influencing student learning at Newman University.

Student Research Partnership projects integrating students into developing research communities in academic subjects and student support services. These projects are intended to produce, or contribute to the production of, a public research output.

Student Community partnership projects building links between the University and its wider community for mutual benefit and learning integrating the University and its students into the wider community and breaks down barriers to community engagement with the University, as part of the University’s mission of service and commitment to civic engagement.

The funding to support the scheme – including direct funding for the projects, administration and student presentation at external events – comes from the Directorate of Learning, teaching and Scholarship budget.  Staff from across both faculties of the institution, and professional services have opted to participate in the projects in the course of the four cycles. Students also come forward from across the disciplines and year groups.

In recent years the University has gained a reputation for its student partnership work and has therefore been successful in bidding for external funding to support it.  This has included commissioned funding of £9,999 in 2014-15 from the Higher Education Academy to undertake ‘Student researched case studies of flexible learning to support flexible learners’; £15,000 from the HEA’s Vice Chancellor’s Strategic Excellence Initiative in 2015-6 for projects ‘Enhancing retention, progression and achievement through student partnership;’ and HEFCE catalyst funding of £47,000 for a project to deliver ‘Collaborative development of pedagogic interventions based on learning analytics.’  In these cases the focus of the student partnership projects has already been set by the external project and project bid, so there is somewhat less choice for staff and student partners.  However, the projects have all allowed a level of agency in terms of deciding the specific focus of the work and how it is carried out.

The student partnership project scheme has generated a range of public outputs.  There have been numerous presentations at our own learning and teaching conference, for example.  Student partnership projects formed the basis of applications for Guardian and Times Higher Education Awards, leading to shortlisting for the THE award for student support.  Reporting at conference about partnership work in ECEC resulted in an invitation to join the HEFCE-funded REACT project on student engagement.  The HEA published the outcome of our student researched case studies on flexible learning and Newman University was used as a case study for the strategic leadership of student engagement in the GuildHE publication Making Student Engagement a Reality: turning theory into practice. (2015)

An evaluation of the scheme found that there were many participants who felt that their project had had a direct influence over an aspect of the curriculum or wider student experience at Newman, but also a minority who felt that their messages had failed to impact at a sufficiently senior level within the institution. While they did not necessarily have insight into why their particular message had not been ‘heard’, they were uncomfortable about the disillusionment that had, from time to time, set in for the minority of students whose projects fell into this category. One participant questioned why some doors within the institution ‘aren’t open’, while another sensed the projects were not yet routinely ‘touching institutional structures’.

The Institute aims to help in facilitating this dialogue and aims to have reach at a senior management level, and so be embedded within Newman structures. It providea support for those who want to publish and take their findings wider building on the work that is already being developed by the Directorate of learning, Teaching and scholarship, as it will have wider involvement. The Institute also wishes to provide further opportunities to dissemination for projects and runs a seminar series, foregrounding research that has had students and community members as co-researchers. The Institute also provides space, capacity and support for students to develop further research ideas and apply for external research including local community funds. We will commit to producing a special edition of ‘Critical Commentary’ annually, that will showcase the research.

In addition, we aim to develop a digital seminar series either recording of seminars happening that are top and tailed with intro/conclusions/ reflections or interviews with students about partnership work or community dialogue (such as Citizens UK work). In time the instate also aims to develop teaching materials and run seminars on methodological approaches highly applicable to staff student partnerships, such as participatory and action research – in time becoming methodological journal articles. This will include a series of pod/ video casts, on the ideas and key figures such as Freire, but contextualised eg a Romero series on ‘being more human’. In time the Institute should become a recognised centre of excellence for such approaches.

The Institute aims to act as a conduit for issues arising from student and community research in terms of institutional and wider impact, which in turn will help Newman build its impact case studies. It aims to build on and embed existing community engagement work and develop research projects that will enrich and articulate the value of this involvement. An example of a partnership project, funded through the staff student partnership programme, involved students participating in a research campaign which gathered testimonial from Muslims and non-Muslims for a commission on Islam and Public Life chaired by Dominic

Grieve QC MP and 20 other. Staff led a student delegation looking at the role of the University. This had a real impact as the commission organiser commented.

I just wanted to send a note to say thank you for your testimony and contribution to the Citizens UK Commission on Islam, Participation and Public Life in Birmingham. The Commissioners are really grateful for your time and your insights. The discussion was incredibly rich and will be instrumental in shaping our final recommendations

Mike Seal subsequently spoke with student at the launch of the Commission’s report in parliament, which has become highly influential.

Community Development

The community partner was Citizens UK Birmingham, of which Newman is a founder member. This is an independent and non-partisan civil society alliance of faith, education, trade union and community groups, acting together for the common good of the city, set up in 2015. Students and support staff have been involved as participants, leaders and co–researchers. Mike Seal was the chair of the Birmingham leadership group of Citizens UK 2016-2019 and on the council and executive of the national organisation. Staff, both academic and administrative, and from across all schools, have engaged in strategic initiatives, very much on a mutual and egalitarian basis.

Newman led an action group and involved students and a number of community groups in a number of community actions across the Midlands. This has included successfully lobbying three CCGs about mental health provision for 16-17 year olds resulting in change in their entire strategy for young people, and involving us in its re-design. Other Newman achievements include:

  • Winning ‘campaign of the year’ in 2014 and ‘action of the year’ in 2015.
  • Actively leading and achieving large turnouts on two major campaigns.
  • Newman becoming a living wage employer.
  • Sitting on the West Midlands Refugee Welcome Board, sponsoring refugee students and families and successfully encouraging other universities to follow suit.

Students have seen the benefits of wider community involvement.

The best part of the course was where we got involved in some of the real life actions of Citizens UK, it made the subject come alive and feel real.

Sometimes the course feels a bit vague and abstract, but not this bit, it reminded me of why I wanted to work with young people.

Citizens UK Birmingham features in the Birmingham Post’s Power 250 list for the region and is credited by public agency leaders for being ‘ahead of the curve’ on working for the common good. The organisation states

‘This has been possible because of the commitment shown by founding members like Newman University.’

Again, in their words:

‘A number of our community leaders who run very successful third sector organisations in the city are alumni from Newman. Newman students and former students are present on every single action team within Citizens’.

Tangible successes include establishing local shops & community buildings as Safe Havens near schools, securing the backing of elected and business leaders to pay the Living Wage and Birmingham committing to resettle 500 Syrian refugees from UN camps. Softer impacts have included the local community feeling that the University is serious in its commitment to them and students and staff feeling more confident, empowered and knowledgeable of the local community’s issues.

The Institute also aims to provide a base for any research arising from the Well Being Centre, in particular the youth work project. ReachOut involves two paid youth workers and Newman students engaging with socially excluded young people aged 11-19 in Birmingham. It is currently funded through the Aim Higher plus initiative which has the overarching objective to increase levels of participation in H.E. from disadvantaged areas. The project is configured into 2 broad streams of activity: youth work in public spaces and school-based outreach work. The Project lead Pete Harris have submitted several bids for research projects linked to ReachOut, including one that explores how young people’s behaviour in outdoor and digital environments is influenced by changing conceptualisations of public space. As the manager Pete Harris notes:

‘A critical pedagogy research centre would provide much needed support for the ongoing submission of this and other research bids’.

Critical Pedagogy

The Critical Pedagogy group, which is currently not tied to a logical research institute, was established in September 2017 and meets weekly. It uniquely brings together academic, professional and support staff and students. We have combined both academic and practical concerns, exploring issues such as divisions between academic and professional staff, the nature of partnerships and how the university presents itself to the community. It has made representations to senior management on a number of these issues, with tangible results such as allowing time for professional and support staff to attend and develop their pedagogic practice. Critical pedagogy was a strand within last year’s Teaching and Learning Conference and was the basis of the approach to this year’s conference, which had a collaborative organising team of students, professional and support staff and academics. We explored ‘how we work together to support student success’. All attendees contributed to the construction of the agenda for the day and were facilitated to develop responses to themes collaboratively developed by delegates.

Our Director of Learning, Teaching and Scholarship, said:

‘The conference was a powerful example of hopeful, collaborative partnership working and proved generative of positive proposals to enhance the student learning experience across the University.

In November 2018 a member of the group organised an international staff week, based on critical pedagogy principles entitled ‘University as Community: breaking the circle of certainty – students and staff working together’. It was attended by over 50 participants from 10 different countries and included support staff, students at all levels and academics. It lasted four days and culminated in an exhibition, presentation/ performance for all staff including one of the Pro-Vice Chancellors. Evaluations from participants included:

I do not feel as powerless as I did before and will definitely go back and take actions in our place

This has showed me that there is another way, and the next conference I am going to organise after xmas will be based on the ideas I learnt here.

This has definitely changed the way I see colleagues and students, particularly academic colleagues, we are all trying to work for the same thing, although it often does not feel like this. I normally feel isolated and marginalised – but not this week, which shows it does not have to be like this (support staff comment)

Thinking, working and playing together. I’ve never seen lecturers share their vulnerabilities, but I admire them more for it, it shows that we all have them and admitting them means we build strength, not weakness. (Student comment)

Having contacted participants, subsequently impacts have been:

A colleague went on to completely re-organise the conference they were responsible for in January, and it was enthusiastically received and let to concrete change at a strategic level

Another colleague rewrote their communications strategy, changing the way that committees were organised in the institution.

Another colleague wrote an institutional paper on the method, which they circulated to all colleagues in regards of their own teachers and have started using in their teaching practice.

At our own institution this approach was cited by the senior management team as influential in their proposed changes to a communications strategy. It is to be the organising principle of the next teaching and learning conference.

The International coordinator, a student and I are writing up the approach, expanding on a number of themes that are under theorised, for a chapter in ‘Hopeful Pedagogies’.

The group successfully developed a book proposal to capture our critical pedagogical approach called ‘Hopeful Pedagogies in Higher Education: Dancing in the Cracks.’ which has been commissioned by Bloomsbury. Reviewers comments included:

I definitely see the value in this book. I would likely recommend this book to pedagogues as one that would add to the books they are currently using.  the book will make a significant contribution to the theory and practice of critical pedagogy and Freirean educational theory.

The book includes a convincing and compelling blend of theory and practice. The book will appeal to academics, students and activists, working to transform higher education as a form or emancipatory education.

I think it is a very exciting project that seeks to operationalise many of the principles of Critical Pedagogy into the knowledge production process. It will be of interest to course designers across the disciplines given that the issues of student engagement and empowerment are now general requirements within universities. The other target audiences will be educational developers.

A colleague comments on the group:

‘This is the first time I have seen academics, support staff and student coming together, finding common ground and seeking to act on identified themes, good on you mike for pulling this together’.

In the recent Big Conversation ULT adopted some of the principles of critical pedagogy in running the sessions. The Institute could build on and support the University in developing these approaches to staff and student consultations on a number of issues, which would seem to be essential in the time of change that Newman is undergoing.

Higher Education

Research into Higher Education

As stated in the aims, the institute could also provide a base for those interested in teaching and learning. There is a large crossover between members of the critical pedagogy, those that participate in Students and Partners Projects and community development, and those with an interest in learning and teaching. This is evidenced by the aforementioned critical pedagogy groups involvement in the learning and teaching conference. Most recently Newman’s first National Teaching Fellowship, Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and Collaborative Award in Teaching Excellence were gained by intended founders of the institute. In addition, all potential institute members have FHEA’s, and the majority have SFHEA’s or are working towards them. We would want the institute to provide support to readers and professors in learning and teaching and mentor those who want to gain HEA Fellowships, Awards and become readers and professors in learning and teaching.


Intended milestones and outputs for the centre 2019-2022


  • Launch the institute at the book launch of the hopeful pedagogies book
  • Run a seminar series drawing on staff-student partnerships, critical pedagogy, the scholarship of learning and teaching and educational research.
  • Support another round of Staff Student partnerships, providing a space for the development of ideas and help in dissemination, including inputting into university planning systems
  • Support the Teaching and learning conference, giving a space for its planning and for the dissemination of its ideas and strategic implications with the institution.
  • Support the Critical Pedagogy group, giving a conduit for its activities.
  • Set up a support group for those looking for promotions to reader and professor in learning and teaching, gain at least two new promotions.
  • Input into the articulations of the visions of a human Newman for the Big conversations and aid in any more consultancy conversations.
  • Investigate and develop a high profile piece of community/ educational research eg ESRC SHRC European monies
  • Build a relationship with the Office for Students, investigating funding and research opportunities.


  • Run a seminar series drawing on staff-student partnerships, critical pedagogy, the scholarship of learning and teaching and educational research culminating in a national conference on an identified theme.
  • Support another round of Staff Student partnerships, providing a space for the development of ideas and help in dissemination, including inputting into university planning systems.
  • Gain funding for a high profile piece of community/ Educational research and/ or a piece of research with the Office for Students.
  • Input into the REF Impact case studies.
  • Produce a special edition of Critical Conversation showcasing staff student partnerships and other student publications.
  • Examine different models (eg cooperative or a social enterprise) for developing and undertaking consultations and undertaking evaluations on community projects.
  • Support the Teaching and learning conference, giving a space for its planning and for the dissemination of its ideas and strategic implications with the institution.
  • Support the Critical Pedagogy group, giving a conduit for its activities and developing local links with other West midlands institutions.
  • Set up support group for readers and professors in learning and teaching and develop a programme of research and developments.
  • Input into the development of the new strategic plan, building on the world cafe Big conversations.


  • Run a seminar series drawing on staff-student partnerships, critical pedagogy, participatory methodologies, the scholarship of learning and teaching and educational research culminating in an international conference on an identified theme.
  • Support another round of Staff Student partnerships, providing a space for the development of ideas and help in dissemination, including inputting into university planning systems.
  • Conduct a high profile piece of community/ Educational research and/ or a piece of research with the Office for Students.
  • Produce a special edition of  a peer reviewed journal showcasing staff student partnerships and other publications from the institute.
  • Secure a book contract on a theme identified with the institute
  • Launch a co-operative, social enterprise for developing and undertaking consultations and undertaking evaluations on community projects based on expertise developed.
  • Hold a national Teaching and learning conference.
  • Support the Critical Pedagogy group, giving a conduit for its activities and developing local links with national and international Friere/ Romero institutes.
  • Consolidate support group for readers and professors in learning and teaching implement programme of research and developments and mentor those seeking promotions in the next round.
  • Input into the development of the new strategic plan, building on the world cafe Big conversations.


Areas of research and profiles of members

Areas of research

Critical Pedagogy

Queer Pedagogy

Participatory Research

Higher Education Research

Reflective and transformative practice

Community Development and Community Organising.

Research and areas arising from Student and Community Partnerships.

Profile of current members

Jane Allcroft is interested in the crossover between pedagogical approaches and ‘gender studies’, particularly practices of inclusivity. She has a first degree in English, an MRes in Sexuality and Gender Studies and is an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (AFHEA). Her day job involves supporting staff and students in an administrative capacity within the university. She has also worked briefly in the university Student Support Services on secondment. As a student she undertook a Student Academic Partnership project with Academic Support Tutors which was short-listed for a Times Higher Education Award and was the ‘student voice’ on the HEA ‘What Works: Student Retention and Success Change Programme’. She has written a ‘student perspective’ section for the book ‘Enhancing Learning and Teaching in Higher Education’ (Edited by John Lea, 2015), and worked with a fellow mature student to plan a chapter for John Lea’s follow-up book. Jane gave a joint paper at the 2015 Learning and Teaching Conference at Newman University on ‘Supporting students – A Heutagogic approach’ and an individual paper at the Association for Learning Development in Higher Education (ALDHE) 2016 conference in Edinburgh and produced presentation materials for the Birmingham Digital Literacies project 2017.

Dr Adam Benkwitz is Head of Sport and Health and Social Care at Newman University. He is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA), an Honorary Researcher with the Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust (BSMHFT), and a member of the International Sociology of Sport Association (ISSA) and the British Sociological Association (BSA). He acts as a reviewer of grants for the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), and Advance HE, as well as reviewer for numerous international journals. He currently works on a range of funded research projects with partners including Rethink Mental Illness, Sport England, Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust (BSMHFT, where he is Chair of the Recovery Committee), Aston Villa Football Club Foundation, Birmingham MIND, Birmingham and Solihull Recovery College (for which he is Chair of the Advisory Group), Sport Birmingham, West Midlands Combined Authority, Birmingham County FA, as well as colleagues at numerous other HEIs. He leads the ‘Mental Health through Sport’ partnership, see In addition to supervising masters and doctoral students, he has been involved in numerous staff/student projects relating to student engagement, mentoring and enhancing the student experience via learner analytic

Jane Beniston is a senior lecturer in early education and care at Newman University. She is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA), TLA trainer and verifier and also verifiers Children’ University activities. She is a member of the Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE) and British Education Research Association (BERA). She also acts as a reviewer for an international journal on articles around educational issues and research. She has been involved in many student partnership projects since 2014, winning an award for best student partnership project. These partnership projects have led to two collaborative journal articles and numerous conference presentations. One research project through the HEA around assessment and achievement has produced the development of new first year module supporting transition to HE. Jane was also the lead researcher on the 2 year funded REACT project investigating student engagement, definitions of engagement, and visibility of engagement opportunities.  Other partnership projects involve investigating barriers to learning for EAL home students and a Community music project with final year students. Jane’s current doctoral research focus is around transformative learning and student experience. She has developed new innovative student led modules for the degree programme which hand over responsibility for curriculum content and assessment to the students. She is also currently co-writing three chapters for ‘Hopeful Pedagogies in Higher Education: Dancing in the Cracks’ due in 2020.

Julie Boardman is a Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood Education and Care. She is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA). She is currently working on an Education Doctorate with a focus on the ‘datafication’ of young children and how that impacts on practitioners working in early years. The research aims to offer practitioners a ‘voice’. Driven by a desire for social justice she began as an early years teacher and worked for a while as an Ofsted early years Inspector. She has worked previously in HE specifically with Foundation Degree early years students who balance being a student with busy lives and work. She has campaigned for raising the status and pay of teachers and practitioners in early years settings and for play to be embedded and valued in the curriculum to help prepare children for life’s uncertainties in the 21st century. She has recently collaborated on a book chapter on how much of early years pedagogy can be transferred to HE learning spaces, and how much of democratic practice in early years settings can be viewed as ‘critical pedagogy’ in HE. She values working in a collaborative way with others-  children, pupils, students and colleagues. She is responsible for the Staff Student Consultative Committee and supporting Erasmus students. She has collaborated with colleagues internationally as part of Erasmus teaching exchanges to Italy, Norway and Hungary. This collaborative, participatory way of working is reflected in her research design and methodology.

Deborah Harris is a Senior Lecturer and Programme Coordinator for both BA (Hons) Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) and Post Graduate Certificate in ECEC at Newman University. She is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA) and acts as a reviewer for international journals and academic texts.  She has co-authored a number of peer reviewed journal articles and research reports  focussing on pedagogical aspects such as  ’Play and Learning in the Early Years for Inclusion’, ‘How Music Can Support Communication in Pre School Settings’, ‘Student Engagement’ and ‘The Changing face of the HE student,’ presenting  at both international and national conferences.  Deborah has been involved in the REACT Project  ‘Realising Engagement through Active Culture Transformation’ which was a two year project working with a number of universities and students on student engagement and has also been actively engaged with students working on staff student partnerships that have focussed on induction processes, the child’s view of the world and students and attendance. She has also undertaken research with stakeholders around early childhood degrees. Deborah is currently co-writing a chapter for ‘Hopeful Pedagogies in Higher Education: Dancing in the Cracks’ due in 2020.

Margaret Holland is a University Chaplain with emerging research interests in the training and development of Chaplains and the impact Chaplains have on their communities. Margaret is one of the principal researcher and developers for the £200,000 Centre for Chaplaincy funded project into School Chaplains induction and training.  Her conference presentations have included the role of chaplaincy in a student’s induction and exploring models of reflection that fit chaplaincy. She is a member of the British and Irish Association for Practical Theology and the Conference of Catholic Chaplains in Higher Education.

Tom Hunt is Senior Lecturer in Theology. His first monograph, Jerome of Stridon and the Ethics of Literary Production in Late Antiquity is due out by the end of 2019. He is the author of 8 peer reviewed articles and book chapters. During 2015-2017 Tom received a British Academy Small Grant for a project on the impact of the Algerian War of Independence on the study of late Roman North African Christianity (£3600). He has delivered papers at conferences in North America, Europe, and Australia. Tom is interested in the ways that the production of disciplined knowledge is determined by social relations of gender, class, and race.

Leoarna Mathias is Senior Lecturer for Student Engagement at Newman University, and her scholarship is focused on how students experience modern HE contexts, and the nature of academic labour in the 21st century. Having graduated in Law in 1994, Leoarna has an MA in Education and is working toward her PhD by Publication at the University of Lincoln. She has delivered a number of papers at conference both nationally and internationally, including at EFYE, SEDA and the UCLAN International Paolo Freire Conference, and has published 2 peer reviewed papers during 2018. She has conducted research at Newman through both Student Staff Partnership projects and through small research grant funding, which has for example, brought about better understanding of the impact of partnership working at the institution. An active member of the critical pedagogy group here at Newman, she is currently co-writing five chapters for ‘Hopeful Pedagogies in Higher Education: Dancing in the Cracks’ due in 2020. She has also recently become a TedX Speaker, having presented in June 2019 at an event hosted by Aston University, in which she spoke about repurposing degree level studies beyond their economic worth.

David McLoughlin is a visiting fellow. He is currently writing a book review of Romero’s latest intellectual biography and will be giving a lecture on him in Liverpool later in the year. He is working with the international Christian Worker Movements who use a form of Friere’s pedagogy and lectures on Liberation theology. He is conducting a four years research project in collaboration with, Dr. John Vincent at the Urban Theology Unit in Sheffield, on the changing use of the Scriptures in radical Christian movements in particular the Young Christian Workers and the other Cardijn Movements. He is conducting a Long-term theological project reflecting on changing patterns of Work. This is the fruit of collaboration with Christian Worker activists in Britain and abroad for nearly twenty years e.g he co-authored the 2006 Reclaiming Time: Report from the Human Life and Work in the 21st Century Enquiry Programme, London: MCW Publications.

Tina McLoughlin is Newman University’s International Co-ordinator and previously the Aimhigher Manager working with schools and colleges across the west midlands. She has a long held interest in widening participation reflecting her own education journey as a mature student and previous posts in higher education.  As well as encouraging students from widening participation backgrounds to undertake study and placement abroad she is currently researching professional and support staff relationships in HE. Following first degrees in humanities and social policy, a PGDIP in English Studies she has more recently completed an MA Education and PGCertHE at Newman which stimulated her interest in critical pedagogy.  This led to her designing the first Erasmus+ Staff and Student week (2018) adopting an critical pedagogy approach for  ‘University as Community- Breaking the circle of certainty’. She is currently writing two chapters for ‘Hopeful Pedagogies in Higher Education: Dancing in the Cracks’ due in 2020. Research interests include; widening participation, class, staff development and identity, intercultural communication and transitions. She is a member of Erasmus+ Sector Consultative Group for Higher Education, a member of Critical Pedagogy Group at Newman and Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Sarah Parkes is a Senior Lecturer and tutor for transition and retention. She is principally interested in the factors affecting student transition, progression and success within a widening participation context. This includes transformational approaches to curriculum design, delivery and institutional organisation. She is a member of the Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE) and British Education Research Association (BERA); part of the Foundation Year Network, European First Year Experience (EFYE) network and Association for Learning Development in Higher Education (ALDHE). She has a first degree in English Literature and Education Studies, an MA in Professional Inquiry and is currently pursuing a doctorate due for completion by March 2021. Practically since 2011/12, she has either led or been part of efforts to enhance and transform student learning experiences as evidenced through involvement in a variety of Seedcorn, Student Academic and Student Research partnership projects. She was also project lead of the HEA & Paul Hamlyn ‘What Works: Student Retention and Success Change Programme’ at Newman (2012-16) and HEFCE Catalyst project (2016-18); is an Advance HE CATE 2019 award winner, Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and Newman Distinguished Teaching Fellow (2018). She is hence recognised as an innovator in her field. Over the last two years, Sarah has delivered three keynote addresses and published nine peer-reviewed papers. She is currently co-writing three chapters for ‘Hopeful Pedagogies in Higher Education: Dancing in the Cracks’ due in 2020. Accepted by Bloomsbury, this book aims to re-examine the conceptual terrain for critical pedagogy and, through examples, assess its potential to be actualised within Higher Education through hopeful pedagogies. She also regularly presents at national and international conferences relating to practice in HE.

John Peters current research interests include student partnership, critical pedagogy in HE, appreciative inquiry, collaborative educational development and personal tutoring. He has recently, regularly published and presented in partnership with student researchers. John was principal investigator for the £200,000 HEFCE funded NTF project the ‘National Action Research Network for researching and evaluating PDP and e-portfolio practice’ which was published as a special edition of the Journal of Learning Development in HE in 2010. In 2010 John was awarded £40,000 from the JISC to research the use of personal learning systems to support staff development. John has co-authored and co-led a number of successful externally-funded projects at Newman including a £10,000 HEA strategic enhancement project on flexible pedagogy, a £15,000 HEA project on ‘enhancing retention, progression and achievement through student partnership’ and an ongoing £47,000 HEFCE Catalyst Fund project on the ‘collaborative development of pedagogic interventions based on learning analytics’. John has co-authored a book on Worcestershire Voices of the First World War and is a member of the AHRC funded Voices of War and Peace research network.

Ruth Roberts is a lecturer in Counselling and Psychotherapy. Ruth’s emergent research interests are in developing reflective practice with counselling trainees and co-created curriculum development within professional trainings. Ruth has practised as a counsellor since 2004 and has extensive experience of supervising counselling trainees. Ruth worked as Educational Counsellor at the University of East Anglia for 9 years and has a strong interest in supporting students in Higher Education. Her theoretical orientation is strongly influenced the Person-Centred and Experiential approaches as well as Mindfulness based approaches. Ruth co-edited a book on Counselling and Psychotherapy in Organisational Settings for Learning Matters and is currently writing a chapter on Critical and Contemplative Approaches in Higher Education for inclusion in Hopeful Pedagogies in Higher Education: Dancing in the Cracks, edited by Mike Seal.

Mike Seal is a Reader in Critical Pedagogy and programme leader of the postgraduate course in Trade Union Education and the certificate in Community Leadership. He is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a National Teaching Fellow. He is co-convener of Social Work and Social Policy REF unit of assessment and convener of Critical Pedagogy group. He was previously head of Foundation Years (2017-2019), Criminology (2016-2017) and Youth and Community Work (2010-2018). He has authored seven monographs, the latest being Interrupting Heteronormativity in Higher Education, Queer and Critical Pedagogies for Palgrave Macmillan. Previous books include Participatory Pedagogic Impact Research: Co-production with Community Partners in Action for Routledge. He has edited three books including Trade Union Education – Transforming the World for New Internationalist and Teaching Youth work in Higher Education: Tensions, Connections, Continuities and Contradictions for University of Tartu Press, Estonia. He is currently editing his eleventh book Hopeful Pedagogies in Higher Education: Dancing in the Cracks, with other Newman Staff for Bloomsbury Press. He has written 14 book chapters, 14 peer reviewed journal articles and over 25 other publications. He has delivered papers at over 80 academic and professional conferences and seminars worldwide. Mike has been involved in 32 funded research projects including 13 as principal investigator. In total he has generated £2.6 million of research funding from the British Council, Erasmus +, Leonardo and the European Commission, the largest being £600,000. He has run 6 Student-as-Partner Projects, is co-convenor of BERA’s Sexualities SIG and is on the editorial boards for the International Journal of Open Youth Work and New Internationalist.

Management and structure of the institute.

There is a chair who acts as the first point of contact for the Institute. This is currently Mike Seal. However, the work of the Institute is directed by a standing committee with representatives from academic, support and professional staff, students and community members which meets regularly. This is in turn directed by a wider steering group that meets quarterly and included a wider section of interested parties and representation from senior management including council. The Institute is represented at both the Research Committee and Teaching and Learning Committee.