7 November 2020
by Paul Ashwin

How radical is the educational offer of the London Interdisciplinary School?

I have recently published a book in which I offer a manifesto for transforming university education. I was therefore fascinated by the headlines that greeted the news that the London Interdisciplinary School (LIS) has been granted degree-awarding powers, which proclaimed in line with the responses to its original launch, that it marked a completely new departure for UK undergraduate higher education.

Part of my fascination was due to the apparent contrast between my arguments in Transforming University Education: A Manifesto and the portrayal of what is offered by LIS. I argue that the transformational power of undergraduate degrees lies in students’ gaining access to structured bodies of knowledge that transform their sense of who they are and what they can do in the world. This directly challenges the notion that the purpose of an undergraduate degree is to provide students with generic employability skills such as problem-solving. The curriculum for LIS is focused on the solving of ‘real world’ problems with the teaching of problem-solving at the heart of its educational endeavour.

So what is happening here? Does this represent a profound clash of educational ideologies? Is the LIS a radical departure for UK higher education?

A deeper examination of what underpins LIS reveals that there is no such clash and that the LIS approach is far less radical than the headlines suggest. In addition, while the underlying educational approach looks sound, its presentation reflects the damaging hold that ideas of elite education have on public perceptions of what constitutes a high quality undergraduate education.

You can read the full blog post at Hepi.