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Professor Monica McLean

Professor of Higher Education, Faculty of Social Sciences



Monica McLean is Professor in Higher Education in the Centre for International Education Research. Her previous post (2002-6) was Head of Educational Development in the Learning Institute at the University of Oxford, where she was also course director for the Postgraduate Diploma in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education.

Professor McLean taught in secondary and primary schools after she received a Certificate of Education from Homerton College, Cambridge. She worked in adult education for some years while gaining a BEd from Staffordshire University and an MA in Social Science Research in Education from Keele University. While she was a research fellow in the Education Department at Keele University she completed her PhD which concerns teacher professionalism and is based on fieldwork in schools and colleges.

Her experience in higher education began with a research post at the former Polytechnic of North London where she investigated the 'management of learning' in the institution. Following this, Professor McLean was appointed as lecturer/senior lecturer in teaching and learning in higher education in the Education Department at Keele University and established and led the Higher Education Postgraduate Certificate and MA in Learning and Teaching in Tertiary Education At Nottingham she has led the Ma In International Higher Education, the Pporfessional Doctorate Programme and suppervises several Phd and EdD students in the borad area of higher education.

Research Summary

Dr. McLean's research focuses on pedagogy in higher education and comprises two broad inter-related strands. In the first strand, she locates empirical data about the everyday experiences of… read more

Recent Publications

Monica is a member of the Centre for International Education Research. Her research supervision areas include:

Critical, theoretically-informed investigations of education in the post-compulsory sector, with a particular emphasis on pedagogy and issues of social justice.

Research Topics of current and recent students include:

  • Using Bakhtin to analyse the effects of student-led seminars
  • A longitudinal study of university students of bio-sciences from the point of view of theories about transition
  • A longitudinal in-depth study of Foundation Degree students' learning experience
  • Investigation of the expectation gaps of higher education, employers and professional bodies in management accounting education
  • Exploration of intercultural competence of pharmacy students studying in an international setting
  • Contribution to improving policy and practice of doctoral education in Malaysia
  • Action research to improve academic writing in a second language
  • Supporting the enculturalisation of first generation university students using an academic literacies perspective

Research proposals: please email Monica if you would like to discuss the appropriateness of your research topic.

See also: School of Education research supervision areas.

Current Research

Dr. McLean's research focuses on pedagogy in higher education and comprises two broad inter-related strands. In the first strand, she locates empirical data about the everyday experiences of university teachers and student within socio-political contexts (national and institutional). She uses sociological theory to explore how policies and practices might result in improved teaching and learning. The second strand focuses on learning, teaching, assessment and curriculum in different disciplines and contexts. She usually undertakes research in this strand in collaboration with practitioners and has published papers on higher education pedagogy with academics in sociology, geography history, information technology, English and medicine. She has a close research collaborations on South Africa where she uses the capability apporach to investigate the outcomes of higher education.

This work has resulted in research grants; invitations to give keynote presentations, journal articles; book chapters and so on. She has written three books: Pedagogy and the University: Critical Theory and Practice (2008 Continuum); Professional Education, Capabilities and the Public Good (2013, Routledge, with Melanie Walker); Quality in Undergraduate Education: How powerful knowledge disrupts inequality' ( in press 2017 Bloomsbury with Andrea Abbas and Paul Ashwin)

Current Research Projects:

2016-2020 ESRC/DiFD (£657,481) 'Inclusive higher education learning outcomes for rural and township youth: developing a multi-dimensional capabilities-based higher education Index'. Co-Investigator (a team of 5, PI is Prof. Melanie Walker, Centre for Research on Higher Education and Development, University of the free State, South Africa)(ES/NO10094/1)

2016-2018 ESRC/NFR International Partnership: 'UK academic' in a team focusing on 'Students' experience of HE' in South Africa.

Past Research

2008- 2012 ESRC (£407,132): 'Pedagogic Quality and Inequality in Undergraduate Degrees' Principal Investigator (a team of 4) (RES-062-23-1438)

2008-2010 ESCR/DFID (£200,000): 'Higher Education and Poverty Reduction in South Africa' Co-investigator (a team of 4 PI, Prof. M. Walker).

2008-2009 Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, University of Nottingham. (£20,300) 'Student and staff conceptualizations of integrative learning'. Co-principal investigator ( Profs. M. Walker and A. Booth, University of Nottingham).

2003-2006 Higher Education Academy (HEA) English Subject Centre. (£14,850) Co- principal investigator 'The Production of University English' (with Profs. S, Bruce and K. Jones Keele University).

2002-2003 Higher Education Academy (HEA)History, Classics and Archaeology Subject Centre (£9,437) 'Investigating progression in history degrees' and 'Enhancing student communication' Co-principal investigator: (with Prof. H. Barker, University of Manchester)

2001-2004 Arthritis Research Campaign (£94,923) 'Evaluation of CDROM for medical education' Co-principal investigator (with Dr. A. Hassell, Keele University).

1999-2001 North Staffordshire Medical Education Group (£7,600) 'Evaluation of GP tutor role' Principal investigator.

1997-2000 HEFCE, Funding for the Development of Teaching and Learning (FDTL). 'Training and Mentor Support for Part-time Teachers in Sociology' (£35,037) Co-principal investigator (with Prof. G. Gibbs the Open University and Dr. R. Blackwell the University of Nottingham).

2010-2011 Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) (£3,500) 'Adding subject-specificity to Accredited Programmes Project' Evaluator.

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