Oxford Brookes University International Teaching and Learning Conference 2024

Academic Ambition for Social Justice: the challenges and possibilities of leading authentic change in higher education

Wednesday 19 June 2024 (online)

Academic ambition for social justice encompasses our commitment to progress Higher Education’s role in creating a fairer, safer and more just society (Watermeyer et al, 2022). Integral to this  ambition is the creation of a more inclusive, democratic and compassionate academy (Buitendijk, 2019).

Many of us are motivated by, find personal satisfaction, and even professional recognition, in the positive difference we might make for our students, teams or discipline. We exercise a satisfying degree of ‘academic agency’ (Lawrence, Morón-García and Senior, 2022) in creating a course to be proud of, where students have every opportunity to benefit from HE, and where we might indulge the love of our discipline and, and, through our teaching, inspire the next generation of scholars or practitioners  (Lawrence, Morrell and Scott, 2023). This academic agency is integral to our ‘quest for fulfillment’ (Cleary, 2021), to our authentic educational leadership, and is an antidote to the tumultuous rip-tide of contemporary HE, where due to external factors beyond our control, we might feel overworked (Morrish, 2018), underappreciated (Hulme, 2022), even vulnerable (Lemon, Harju-Luukainen and Garvis, 2022).

Academic fulfilment comes from leading positive change: in challenging pedagogic power structures, for example, working in partnership with students to co-create curricula (Dalrymple et al, 2023) and effective feedback practices (O’Donovan et al, 2021); constructing pedagogic practices mindful of students historically excluded from HE (Bhopal, 2019); rethinking brutalising institutional structures, for example reshaping educational systems, process and practices with those that use them (Lawrence et al, 2023); or in repositioning graduate potential as active citizenship, for example in service-based learning (Peace, 2023). We can all be ‘scholar activists’ (Clarke, 2022) and leaders of positive change, whatever our role supporting teaching and learning. Should we be perhaps hopeful that the collective impact we might have on our immediate and wider learning communities, if not society as a whole, is increasingly embedded in measures of academic success such as, in the UK, REF, TEF and KEF? 

However, pursuing our academic ambition for social justice presents challenges. How do we remain true to the values of our discipline, practice and ethic whilst working within and across epistemological subject boundaries and a complex, sometimes conflicting regulatory terrain (Watermeyer et al, 2023)? Striking a careful balance across these forces is essential to maintaining integrity and effecting authentic change: ‘Every critical practice has to be precisely designed for the specific time and space, with humility and care’ (Harcourt, 2020, p. 434)

‘Academic Ambition for Social Justice’ will celebrate those that have led educational change in the name of creating a fairer, safer and more just academy and society, and provide inspiration for those of us wishing to become the poets of our academic destinies.


We welcome colleagues from across the international learning community.

Key-note: Professor Kalwant Bhopal, Professor of Education and Social Justice, University of Birmingham

Panel of Possibility: Nurturing visionary educational leadership.

A panel of educational leaders discuss their experience of working in service to social justice and consider how we might enable and sustain visionary educational leadership.

Playful Plenary: Turn on, tune in…and tap into your academic ambition.

Hosted by Dr Rowena Senior, SFHEA, Reader in Higher Education (HE) in the School of Law and Education at the University of Hertfordshire, UK. 

Enjoy ‘story creation for academic ambition’, allowing you to reflect on the day, consolidate your learning, and hone into your own academic ambition. 

Submission process and timeline

We welcome submissions from all members of the HE learning community: all staff, students and stakeholders. Staff-student collaborations are particularly encouraged. All papers are blind peer-reviewed against this scoring rubric.

Please submit your proposal using the Submission form.

Deadline: 25 January 2024, 12.00pm GMT.

We aim to confirm selection by 29 February 2024.


Inspiring Strategic Change: reshaping our institutional educational structures, processes or practices to be more humane, inclusive and effective.

Leading Programmes and Modules: creating modules and programmes of study to inspire the next generation of scholars and practitioners or in service to our partners and place.

Driving Educational Innovation and Enhancement: creating inclusive and inspiring teaching, learning and assessment that enables every student to benefit from HE.

Student Leaders shaping hopeful futures: students co-creating curricular, challenging institutional practices and rethinking processes. 

Selection criteria

  1. Relevance to the conference themes.
  2. Evident transformation: what changed for the better? How do you know it changed ? Draw on qualitative and quantitative data: evidence such as student academic awards/attainment, feedback from students and partners, or engagement data. 
  3. Scholarly foundations: who inspired the work? What research or change management methodology did you use? Please use simple Harvard Referencing
  4. Inspiration and hope: What will others learn that they might adopt or find useful in their academic practice?

Types of submission

300-400 word abstracts, excluding references. Please note: Some submissions lend themselves to being pre-recorded, we indicate where submissions are pre-recorded only. Academic papers: a scholarly account of making a material difference to the learning community (students, staff and stakeholders). 20 minutes.

  • Academic papers: a scholarly account of making a material difference to the learning community (students, staff and stakeholders). 20 minutes.
  • Practical wisdom workshops: participatory sessions applying effective practice/innovation to the delegates’ practice/context. 50 mins.
  • Round table discussions: a panel of students and staff share expertise, reflect on experience and engage the audience in deep conversation, 50 mins. 
  • Recipes for success: practical teaching and learning insights presented 'PechaKucha' style, 10 minutes (pre-recorded).
  • Poster/Infographic: A visual representation of work, to be curated at an online exhibition. 
  • Free form: Surprise and delight us with a novel submission, work on the basis of 20, or 50 minute time slots.