Academic Skills Development (ASD)

SP Workshop (17-20 March 2022)

A Gulf between Higher Education (HE) Cultures

The Syria Programme (SP) recognises the considerable journey that most of its participants must make between two very different HE cultures, the first where critical thinking and theoretical concepts play no part, where red lines and self-censorship are ingrained, and outputs are predominantly descriptive. The SP Foundation Course was developed in order to introduce core research concepts, which are often entirely alien, as well as to link research and teaching. No SP participant may participate in SP-supported research without having completed this reflective eight-module introductory course.

Academic Skills Development activities seek to address skills gaps and support the challenging transition from a highly politicised, centralised and internationally isolated HE sector constrained by numerous red lines and self-censorship, to an autonomous, albeit regulated, UK HE sector that is committed to knowledge creation and critical thinking, in which everything is open to challenge. A weekly online E-learn Soiree series and ad-hoc training courses are combined with academic writing workshops linked to the Syria Programme commissioned (Strand 4) or grant supported research (Strand 5). The workshops are run in Turkiye to maximise participation. ASD activities individually and collectively help participants to build an understanding of broadly accepted international standards and good practice in both teaching and research, as well as introducing modern methods, practices and methodologies.

SP Foundation Course

This eight-module online course, in both English and Arabic, provides an important introduction to core research-related concepts and connections between research and teaching. It is mandatory for all SP participants.

Weekly E-learn Soiree Series

The Soiree series and ad-hoc training sessions aim to address knowledge and skills gaps, within both research and teaching, addressing topics of relevance to participants, linked to the following themes: Teaching Practice & Technologies, Presentation Skills, Academic Writing, Academic Best Practice, Optimising Profiles, Funding Proposal Writing, Research, and Publications. They are delivered in English with simultaneous Arabic translation in a choice of three formats: Presenter/Discussant; In Conversation; and Master Class, providing opportunities for SP participants to present with their mentors. Soiree recordings remain accessible on the closed SP portal.

Academic Writing Workshops

These workshops are linked to the two SP research strands and support both academic funding proposal writing and academic writing. They are led by SP supporters, often aided by EAP volunteers. These three- to four-day event can also include cultural visits.

Access to UK University Online In-sessionals

Over the past two years, the University of Edinburgh has offered spaces to SP participants on two of its in-sessional courses for PhD students: ‘Writing your PhD: Reviewing the Literature’ and ‘Writing your PhD: Scientific Research’.

HE Academy (HEA) Fellowship

Advance HE, an SP partner, has waived fees for up to 12 Programme participants a year. Candidates are mentored by SP ‘Peer Review College’ volunteers from the universities of Surrey, South Wales (USW) and Kent, who feed applications through their universities’ approved HEA programmes. HEA Fellowship enables those who have no tangible evidence of their teaching experience and skills to gain teaching recognition, enhancing employment prospects.

ASD Steering Group

The current ASD Steering Group is made up of senior academics from the universities of Kent, Queen’s Belfast, Surrey, Cardiff and Edinburgh, who are all members of the SP Peer Review College supporting the Programme on a voluntary basis.

SP Peer Review College

SP ‘Peer Review College’ As with EAP activities, the development and delivery of ASD activities relies extensively on UK university discipline experts, with over 400 committed to supporting the SP in one or more of the following roles: research mentors, editors, RIV hosts, independent expert reviewers, E-Soiree presenters and workshop facilitators.