The BA Social Sciences programme at King’s College London – launched in September 2019 – is trying to live out a set of principles and practices not commonly found in higher education. These include: an emphasis on social science for social justice, forms of direct democratic decision-making, alternative assessment practices, and a focus on small-group, participatory approaches to learning. The co-created research project was undertaken by ten students and three staff members from the BA programme. Together, the team gathered and analysed qualitative data derived from interviews with members of the programme community, in an attempt to understand the journey of the programme’s first year and its efforts to put its principles into practice.
Although focused on a single programme, the book’s analysis has wide relevance for the field of higher education. It grapples with various enduring and important questions facing students and practitioners, such as how to meaningfully foreground democracy, partnership, emotional care, and ‘engaged pedagogy’, the role and limits of free speech in the classroom, and how to deconstruct enduring currents of inequality and marginalisation. It covers some of the persistent challenges faced by the sector, including issues around marketisation, institutional control, wider educational inequality, racism and classism, employment rights, as well as contemporary movements – such as those grounded in ‘decolonising the university’ – and moments – such as the recent universities strike and the impact of Covid-19.
The project team was made up of postgraduate research student Freya Aquarone and 10 BA Social Sciences students: Laura Nehéz-Posony, Propa Rezwana Anwar, Samira Salam, Eleni Koutsouri, Minkyung Kim, SooYeon Suh, Tope Mayomi, Julia Pilarska, Emily Houghton and Yara Boodai.