The SCiP Alliance has been generously hosted, since its inception in 2017, by the University of Winchester. A prime benefit of this is the staff team's access to the University's intellectual capital. The opportunity to commission research internally and access technical, academic or financial expertise is crucial to the delivery of our activity. Just as importantly, we also enjoy free and extensive personal development opportunities that enhance our happy, skilled and effective team at no cost to the Alliance's limited funds.
Enjoying the University's November 2022 graduation ceremony, held in the beautiful surroundings of the ancient cathedral, I found myself reflecting on the many ways in which I, and the Alliance, gained from my use of the staff fee waiver to study for a Masters of Research in Education through the University's renowned education faculty last year. I experienced huge personal satisfaction in reawakening the joy of academic study I'd last experienced in the very different context of my undergraduate study of the Japanese language in the mid-1990s, but more than that, I gained several very specific skills:
A theoretical and reflective outlook
A year balancing my SCiP Alliance role with a new identity as a mature student provided me with a new sense of confidence, and crucially the knowledge and language to engage in academic debate and to assess academic proposals with new eyes. Weekend and evening seminars demanded that I think through and articulate my own position in lively debates. Producing and presenting an academic poster explaining my own approach to the theoretical underpinnings of methodological choices, for example, gave me confidence in critical reflection and analysis. The opportunity, through the completion of a dissertation, for a supported deep-dive on the ethical implications of participatory work with vulnerable young people enabled me to tap into the University's expertise on ethics and to reflect deeply on issues that impact on the Alliance's work.
Reviewing tenders for our commissioned work and understanding research papers in the Alliance quest to synthesise and communicate the latest evidence requires a keen grasp of both language and concepts. My re-immersion in educational and research debates has enabled me to better question and evaluate the latest research that crosses my desk. I find myself interrogating methodologies more rigorously and examining the extent to which the underlying principles chosen by research tenders chime with those of our community.
A community of practice
And of course one of the benefits of being part of an academic community is the community of practice and mutual support. This degree expanded my networks in the University of Winchester's Faculty of Education and I enjoyed belonging to a small cohort of passionate fellow students from whom I learnt so much about their chosen focus in the field of education.
To conclude, I benefited hugely from finding satisfaction in immersing myself in literature, conducting research with a group of young people I care passionately about and receiving feedback from peers and tutors, culminating in the confidence boost of a distinction grade. But more than that, the University of Winchester's generosity and expertise made me a more reflective and skilled asset to the Alliance team and community.