Mick Healey

Mick Healey

Mick Healey

University of Gloucestershire, UK

Rethinking final year projects and dissertations

Mick Healey

Higher Education Consultant and Researcher

mhealey@glos.ac.uk; www.mickhealey.co.uk

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“For the students who are the professionals of the future, developing the ability to investigate problems, make judgments on the basis of sound evidence, take decisions on a rational basis, and understand what they are doing and why is vital.  Research and inquiry is not just for those who choose to pursue an academic career. It is central to professional life in the twenty-first century” (Brew, 2007)


Final year projects and dissertations (FYPD) are a topic of interest in many countries.  The final year dissertation provides an excellent training ground for students who wish to continue research at Masters and Doctoral levels, as well as showing evidence of the all-important independence and critical thinking skills emphasised as graduate attributes. Effectively implemented, the outcome from undergraduate dissertations can be highly motivated students effectively empowered as independent self-learners.  For many students, it provides a transformative experience, yet for others the experience is less inspiring and sometimes quite negative. The traditional dissertation has come under pressure for reform as student participation in higher education has increased, there has been a growth in professional disciplines, and staff-student ratios have deteriorated. Some departments have dropped the dissertation altogether or made it optional, but this could be seen as ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater’.


This interactive keynote, followed later in the afternoon by a workshop, will explore ways in which we can rethink the dissertation, while at the same time retaining a significant element of research and inquiry and deliver key graduate attributes. Our argument is that a more flexible approach is needed in the form, function and assessment of final year projects and dissertations to meet the needs of all students. These may include group, work-oriented and community-based projects. There can also be novel ways of disseminating the findings – via exhibitions, undergraduate research conferences and other forms of public engagement. Preparation for the dissertation needs to begin from the day students enter the university.



Mick Healey is an HE Consultant and Researcher and Emeritus Professor at the University of Gloucestershire, UK. Until 2010 he was Director of the Centre for Active Learning, a nationally funded Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.  He is currently a Visiting Professor at University College London and The Humboldt Distinguished Scholar in Research-Based Learning at McMaster University, Canada. He was one of the first people in the UK to be awarded a National Teaching Fellowship and to be made a Principal Fellow of the HE Academy.  He received a SEDA@20 Legacy Award for Disciplinary Development in 2013 and in 2015 he received the Distinguished Service Award from the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.  Mick is an experienced presenter. Since 1995 he has given over 500 educational presentations in 25 different countries.  He has written and edited around 200 papers, chapters, books and guides on various aspects of teaching and learning in HE, and has over 5000 citations. He was co-editor of the International Journal for Academic Development (2010-13) and is currently Inaugural Senior Editor International Journal for Students as Partners. He is often asked to act as an advisor to projects, universities and governments on aspects of teaching and learning, including the Canadian Federal Government and the League of European Research Universities.  In 2013 he was lead author for the report on Developing and enhancing undergraduate final year projects and dissertations.