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Reimagining and transforming the university experience from a fear of grading to a love of learning 

Please note registration for the conference will close on 1 April 2024.  Registration is free. 
If you submit a proposal, we will manually book you a place at the conference in addition (please do not worry if you notice that the Eventbrite registration is closed - we have held some spaces back for speakers).

Programme schedule

Find out more about our programme schedule here.

This inaugural one-day Freedom to Learn conference, is open to anyone working or studying in higher education with an interest in exploring ways to free staff and students from some of the constraints that can hinder genuine collaboration, connection, and joyful learning experiences.  

 Co-hosted by King’s College London and University College London, Freedom to Learn is an opportunity to engage in a conversation that might help us navigate the modern challenges faced by educational institutions. In particular, this is a space to share our experiences of the policies, practices and pedagogies of wellbeing, inclusivity, accessibility, joy, care and learning that often exist in tension with the rules, regulations and requirements of curriculum design and assessment. 

 At this conference, we value not only research but also ideas, speculations and personal narratives. Reflecting a learner-centric model, our Freedom to Learn conference keynotes will include student speakers and we encourage contributions from both teaching staff and students as well as collaborative efforts. The conference is seeking submissions that align with its themes and aims to stimulate dialogue and inspire delegates. 

 Session formats

There is an option for asynchronous video submissions of ideas or work, which will be openly shared via King’s Academy channels. Additionally, there are three in-person, synchronous sessions. To enable this to run as a free conference for delegates, live streaming of sessions will not be available, with the exception of the keynotes, which will be recorded. 

 Our primary goal is to foster dialogue, ensuring that all participants gain at least one significant insight. We aspire for the conference themes to be evident in the submission process, review criteria, structure of asynchronous resources, and the overall event organisation. 

It is noteworthy that, apart from the workshop format, we have intentionally shortened the more conventional allocated times for papers. This is one of our efforts to challenge and disrupt traditional educational and conference norms. 

 There are four formats for submissions: 

1. Pre-session recording
  •  Duration: Up to 5 minutes. 
  •  Content: Share your 'freedom to learn' idea, issue, or experience in video format. 
  •  Types: Talking head (human or AI avatar), voice over, animations, etc. 
  •  Deadline: Video submissions by Monday 25 March 2024. Videos will be shared with delegates by Thursday 4 April 2024. 
2. In-person case study/research paper
  • Duration: 10 minutes presentation + 5 minutes for questions. 
  • Content: Share a specific example or research related to the conference themes. Focus on goals, outcomes, implications, and recommendations. 

Note: Presenters can provide paper or electronic summaries of research questions, literature, and methodology as there will be no time to go over these in the session. 

3. In-person Lightning Talk
  •  Duration: 5 minutes max. 
  •  Content: Provoke the audience with inspirations, changes, or impactful actions related to 'freedom to learn'. 
  •  Presentation: Optional 1-2 slides.  

Time for questions will be factored at the end of the sessions, but the goal is to hear as many voices as possible in these slots.

Note: If you wish to use one or two slides (max!) then bring them on a USB stick but we have no expectation of electronic resources. Feel free to imagine a soap box at speakers’ corner if you wish! 

4. In-person workshop or roundtable/panel
  • Duration: 45 minutes including Q&A 
  • Content: A workshop proposal should show how the session will be interactive and active for participants. It may work through a technique, enable participants to engage with a process, or result in the production of something (a tangible object, conclusion or commitment to action!). A roundtable proposal should name 2-3 panellists who will either share the platform to talk briefly (3-4 minutes each) on a related aspect of ‘freedom to learn’ which is then opened for discussion or propose an open debate / dialogue session with 3-5 themed provocations. 


Submitted proposals should be around 500 words. The reviewing panel, consisting of staff and student members from King’s and UCL, will review each submission based on its alignment with the conference themes. Acceptance might require revisions to format or content.  

  • Proposals should be submitted using the MS Proposal Form by 5pm, 19 Jan 2024
  • Proposals are around 500 words

We will feedback the outcome of the proposals by 12 February 2024 with a re-submission deadline of Monday 19 February 2024.

For any questions, please contact

Keynote Speakers

Monica de Quinto Schneider

Monica de Quinto Schneider

Monica is a recent graduate of BSc in Politics and International Relations at UCL who has worked tirelessly throughout her academic journey to advance equality, fairness, and student-centric approaches within UCL and higher education at large.

Monica's involvement in the 'UCL Liberating the Curriculum' and 'UCL Inclusive Curriculum' Projects stands as a testament to her passion for reforming higher education. Through these roles, she engaged in research examining the coloniality of both reading lists and the curriculum within the UCL Political Science Department as part of a larger movement towards decolonisation. This work culminated in her co-authorship of the article, 'Diversity or Decolonization? Searching for the Tools to Dismantle the 'Master's House,' published in the London Review of Education. Through her advocacy and involvement in departmental EDI networks, Monica achieved tangible change in the form of a departmental commitment to diversity going forward, and the implementation of a queer theory module based on a prototype reading list and module outline she created.

In her third year, Monica became active in the ungrading movement at UCL, speaking about her experiences of grading and higher education at the UCL Centre for the Pedagogy of Politics: Ditching Deficit Thinking Day in May 2023.

Presently, she is channelling her passion for justice and equity as an intern at Lawyers for Justice in Libya. Her commitment to making a positive impact in academia and the world at large continues to drive her professional journey.

Connie Gillies

Connie Gillies

Connie Gillies is a recent UCL graduate with experience in a range of educational settings. She has worked and volunteered in primary and secondary schools, helped young people with a diverse range of educational needs, and tutored various ages.

Connie was a member on the 2019 “Education in an Uncertain World Panel” with then Education Secretary Damien Hinds and participated in the “Freeing the Feedback” roundtable discussion at the UCL Education Conference 2023. She worked with Dr Cathy Elliott on the UCL Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences Changemakers Project on assessment and is deeply interested in improving learning and assessment for young people.

Lea Wowra

Lea Wowra

Lea is a journalist and student from Germany. She graduated from UCL in 2023 with a BA in International Social and Political Studies and is now undertaking her MSc in Marine Science and Policies at the University of Edinburgh. Her interests lie in environmental anthropology, political ecology and the intersection of marine ecosystems and people.

Lea took part in the first ungraded module at UCL called “the Politics of Nature” which was taught by Dr Cathy Elliott. The course has inspired her to look past marks and grades and encouraged and given her the confidence to explore another academic discipline. For Lea, this has brought the joy of learning back into academia.

Although she still struggles not to define herself by those numbers on feedback forms, caring less about marks and more about learning has been liberating and she is embracing the freedom of being led by passion rather than pressure.

Gabi Nieuwoudt

Gabi Nieuwoudt

Gabrielle (Gabi) Nieuwoudt [she/her] is an advocate for all things decolonised and intersectional. Gabi envisions an education system that nurtures curiosity, is accessible to all people, and embraces radical compassion.

While completing her Masters in Mental Health Studies at King’s College London, Gabi led the organisation of the 'Decolonisation in Action' symposium, a day of reflection, where students and staff came together and were empowered to act and embrace decolonisation within academia (and beyond).

Event details

The Great Hall
King's Building
Strand Campus, Strand, London, WC2R 2LS

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