Strategic alignment between policy makers and university programmes (CABS Talk 2016)

Learning, Teaching & Student Experience: 5th annual conference

26-27 April 2016, Aston University, Birmingham 

Title: Working with public and policy stakeholders to foster student and staff collaboration within an international research project: the case of ‘slow tourism’.

Speakers: Michael Duignan, Sally Everett, Lewis Walsh and Nicola Cade

Conference theme: Student and Staff Collaborations,


Abstract (500 words)

The Lord Ashcroft International Business School (LAIBS) tourism team at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge (UK) has been working closely with a network of European universities (including University of Bergamo in Italy and the University of Girona in Spain) to analyse the role of ‘slow tourism’ for the management and development of a new type of ‘sustainable’ tourism system for historic cities (see Wilbert and Duignan, 2015). The research has engaged with a host of regional stakeholders, from local authorities, NGOs, to cultural and food and drink festival directors to small businesses to establish local needs, perspectives and to gather data. Over the past two years, since the beginning of 2014, business school academics have sought to bring regional stakeholders and the public together with academics, and tourism students to open conversations around the importance and practices of ‘slow tourism’, and to invoke newer, more responsible, forms of tourism management and development in such contexts. In recognition of this work, the research team won the Association of Tourism in Higher Education (ATHE) national award for tourism contributions and leadership in the visitor economy, presented by VisitBritain at the University of Oxford, St Anne’s College in December 2015,

Rationale for workshop and how it relates to the conference theme

Within the conference themes of ‘emerging issues and hot topics’, ‘responsible management education’ and ‘student and staff collaborations’, the opportunity to undertake research to support regional development work and champion ‘slower’ tourism perspectives within historic cities have provided an opportunity for our BSc Tourism Management students to work closely with producers, public bodies and policy makers to explore some of the issues facing small to medium sized historic-university cities.

Working with both undergraduate and research students, the project team focused on how those responsible for tourism management and development in the city could enhance spend and encourage longer stays, promote ‘localism’, cultural diversity, and the back-street quirks of these spaces, alongside educating visitors to engage in modes of ‘critical consumption’. As a result, the project has successfully engaged students in experiential leaning and introduced many to the academic production of ideas. Consequently, some of our students (undergraduate and research) are now involved in writing academic publications based on their analysis of data generated from the field and have gained skills in constructing arguments that can be used in policy and practice against the literature for journals and book chapters. The use of the slow project as a way to constructively align (see Higher Education Academy, 2011) academic engagement with students to ensure their practical engagement was providing optimum ways to help themselves negotiate the real-world application of classroom concepts.


  • To explore how suitable pedagogical techniques can be incorporated in to the learning journey of an international multi-stakeholder project to help embed ‘deeper learning’ (e.g. Lubin, 2003) within the student experience.
  • To foster student engagement with ‘active learning’ (see Petty, 2009) opportunities and live festival projects from initial design right through to joint academic working via data generation, analysis and the writing of high-quality publications.
  • To discuss what business schools need to consider when holistically thinking about how to incorporate key stakeholders, particularly HE business students in to the life and soul of a big European and regional UK project.
  • To critically evaluate how projects such as ‘slow tourism’ can develop a sense of responsible management for students, and in turn promote cultural identity for historic cities and amplify the idea of ‘slow tourism’ as a strategic focus for the development of regional and local tourism within the concept of ‘critical consumption’.

Main findings/outcomes

  1. Student engagement, academic development and employability: through extensive engagement with key stakeholders our links with the council, public organisations and industry have strengthened. The project invited undergraduate BSc Tourism Management students to get involved with the event planning and delivery of EAT Cambridge 2015 food and drink festival. In 2014 a 3rd year student was invited to co-author a regional practitioner report on official ‘impact and innovation’ study of the EAT Cambridge 2014 festival. This fostered student engagement, helped develop a range of transferable skills, enhance career prospects and networks, and provided a space for student to reflect and construct their own meaning (see Biggs andTang, 2011) around the application of theory and the threshold concept (e.g. Meyer and Land, 2005; Zepke, 2013) of ‘slow tourism’ and ‘critical consumption’.
  1. Expansion of our ERASMUS+ exchange to focus on slow tourism planning: our tourism team was invited on an ERASMUS+ exchange with the University of Bergamo to analyse Cambridge’s tourism system and help to map local resources and attractions that embody ‘slow’ principles. The student was subsequently a contributing author on a book chapter on this subject.
  1. Embedding critical perspectives of ‘slow’ within tourism modules: the project has informed the (re)design of ‘Current and Critical Issues in Tourism’ which is a 2nd year UG module focused on introducing tourism students to relevant and innovative ideas changing tourism practice. One of the special interest talks centred on the theory of ‘slow’ and its linkage with urban design and planning, alongside ‘slow tourism’ and the concept of ‘slow food’ originating from Italy in the late 1980’s.
  1. Closer connectivity between academic outputs and public engagement, and tourism practice: the introduction of Cambridge’s new destination management organisation ‘Visit Cambridge and Beyond’ is planned for early 2016. The debates and ideas put forward by the student/staff project is providing the central platform to support some of the practical initiatives of this organisation.


Biggs, J and Tang, C (2011) Teaching for Quality Learning at University. Maidenhead: Open University Press

Higher Education Academy (2011) Constructive alignment – and why it is important to the learning process. [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 15 December 2014].

Lubin, J (2003) Deep, surface and strategic approaches to learning. Dublin: Centre for Teaching and Learning, UCD Dublin. [online] Available at: [Accessed on 9 December, 2015]

Meyer and Land (2005) Threshold concepts and troublesome knowledge (2): Epistemological considerations and a conceptual framework for teaching and learning. Higher Education, 49 (3) pp 373-388

Petty. G (2009) Teaching today: a practical guide. 4th ed. Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes

Zepke, N (2013) Threshold concepts and student engagement: Revisiting pedagogical content knowledge. Active Learning in Higher Education, 0(0), 1-11).

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