MDX Work and Learning Research Centre (W&LRC) in the Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education, has been leading on Continuing Professional Development (CPD), part of lifelong learning, for the last 30 years.
Networks of academics, practitioners and organisations have been set up to engage in Research and Knowledge Exchange (KE) which facilitates a connection between the world of work and higher education.
People already in work and community settings who wish to undertake studies to extend their knowledge and skills are benefiting from curriculum development that leads to recognition for the kinds of learning needed for people at work certified by the University.
The ground-breaking Work and Learning Network was the first CPD network, founded by MDX in 1992.
Now led by Dr Paula Nottingham and Dr Elda Nikolou-Walker, the network is part of the Universities Association for Lifelong Learning (UALL). Darryll Bravenboer, part of the W&LRC leads the SEEC network advances the use of academic credit, a key concept for inclusion and access in lifelong learning, which is part of UALL and is on the Board of Trustees.
UALL Chair, Professor Jonathan Michie, University of Oxford, said in Times Higher Education; “When designing lifelong learning programmes, some universities focus on the needs of local communities, while others look to the world of work. The Universities Association for Lifelong Learning brings together universities with a range of approaches to adult and continuing education. Along with its Work and Learning Network, it is a rich source of advice.”
Director of MDX’s Work and Learning Research Centre and prominent researcher Professor Carol Costley, said: “From Certificate to Doctorate level awards, those in work, paid or unpaid use their work as the focus of their learning through part-time study underpinned by scholarly research.
“Debates and publications arising from our networks have enabled pedagogical research into how people learn at work and the curriculum and teaching techniques required to develop this highlevel learning.”
Current research includes CPD and practice-based learning projects, which can be found in the MDX repository.
MDX has become internationally known for research that explores how people learn in work situations and for its work-based learning and professional doctorate awards that are tailored to accommodate people at work doing university study. In 2020 MDX was identified as the main institution - alongside research-intensive Monash University in Australia - producing knowledge on work-based learning.
Professor Costley explained that although the research trajectory has often been named “The curriculum of the workplace”, it is not a case of taking existing curricular “off the shelf” but designing units of study that enable the needs of the work and life of practitioners to be met in unique ways.
“Colleagues internationally have engaged with this approach through our networks and Middlesex colleagues have been asked to speak at conferences worldwide,” she added.
“It is not just our own networking that has gained success in the ongoing development of professionals through CPD. Our students have also found that exchanging ideas through both professional and academic networks has been a significant part of navigating their learning.”
MDX has run programmes for professionals in corporates – including Asda, Halifax, EasyJet, Toshiba and BT - in local government and public services and for people working in community organisations and charities. The university is also committed to work-based learning in another context by providing higher and degree apprenticeships in a range of public and private sector roles.
Among disciplines with which MDX work-based learning academics are engaged is dance
Professor Costley chairs the International Association of Practice Doctorates (IAPD) which developed in 2009 after the first international Conference on Professional and Practice-based Doctorates was launched between Middlesex University and the UK Council for Graduate Education.
It addresses issues surrounding the innovative ways that higher education, professional associations, businesses and other stakeholders are creating new opportunities in doctorate level learning. The next conference will be in York, March 30-31, 2023.
Other prominent figures in the research centre include Professor David Boud, who is in the top 1% of researchers in the world.
Professor Brian Sutton is affiliated to the Learning Performance Institute and is a veteran of the corporate training world. His research led to a Middlesex MSc for professional people.
Prof Bravenboer represents MDX in a 2025 government initiative for a Lifelong Loan Entitlement (LLE), contributing to its development.
The DfE plan to introduce an LLE ‘account’ from which learners will be able to draw on funding for 480 credits of learning enabling them to use their LLE account throughout their lives and are effective in meeting the needs of employers.
The move away from funding higher education on a yearly or programme basis is intended to significantly increase accessibility for a wider range of learners who may be seeking new skills, upskilling or re-skilling. Current research in the W&LRC is looking at innovative responses to the LLE initiative.
Undergraduate, postgraduate CPD, short courses and the highly successful Doctor of Professional Studies are available in faculties across the university and with Middlesex partners. Find out more here.