CORE is drawing on the experience of the Q-Step centres in the UK to develop its new course for students who are not specialising in economics and aren’t expected to have advanced maths skills, CORE EQuSS. We asked Simon Gallacher to tell us more:
Who are you?
I am Simon Gallacher, Head of Student Programmes at the Nuffield Foundation and responsible for the Q-Step Programme (quantitative skills for social science undergraduates) and Nuffield Research Placements (structured research experiences for post-16 students to help develop their scientific thinking and data skills). Although once a research chemist, I have worked for over 20 years in education research and policy and have always been a strong advocate of the value of data in the social sciences
What is Q-Step?
Q-Step is a six-year experimental programme, located in 18 universities in the UK and aiming to bring about a critical change in the way in which undergraduate social science students experience and become able practitioners of applying quantitative analyses. Now in its fifth year (co-funded by the ESRC, the HEFCE and the Nuffield Foundation), the Programme is becoming established in the institutions, where students are benefitting from new and creative teaching and learning regarding quantitative methods related to the subjects they are studying and also from being able to apply these skills directly in work experience placements.
What do you think is exciting about CORE-EQuSS?
The CORE-EQuSS shares similar goals to the Q-Step Programme, recognising a need to equip students with the right quantitative skills (and confidence!) to fully engage with their subjects of study. The development of engaging and up-to-date teaching and learning materials (and the opportunity for students to benchmark their progress) that are meaningful in the context of (say) business studies is timely and welcome.
What can the Q-Step programme and CORE-EQuSS learn from each other?
Q-Step and CORE-EQuSS are approaching a 21st century skills challenge from similar perspectives: how can graduates in ‘non-STEM’ subjects gain experience of the thinking and data handling skills that will be central to research and employment in an increasingly data-driven future? Q-Step is showing great promise, and the role of new staff and fresh/refreshed learning materials in this cannot be underplayed, and also reminding us that bringing about ‘deep’ change in higher education is not an overnight matter. The CORE-EQuSS team has made formal links to two of the Q-Step Centres (at UCL and the University of Bristol, where CORE will complement existing Q-Step courses in criminology, environmental planning, international relations and social studies to further develop students’ quantitative understanding of the economic dimensions of their subjects) and there are active communications between both programmes.