Liz Austen

Professor Liz Austen BA, MA, PhD, PFHEA

Interim Associate Dean Teaching & Learning


Dr Liz Austen leads institutional and sector wide research and evaluation in higher education as the Head of Evaluation and Research at Sheffield Hallam University and as an independent HE consultant. She is well known for her work on using evidence for enhancement and exploring methods of hearing student voices, specifically championing creative approaches and ethical practices.


My current role is focused on researching and evaluating the educational context of Higher Education. I lead the development of a 'evaluative mindset' at Hallam and an responsible for the evaluation strategy as outlined in our Access and Participation Plan. I also work as an independent HE consultant, undertaking work to contract with higher education stakeholder. Through previous experience as a criminological researcher, and of teaching research methods, I can lead both quantitative and qualitative research methodology to internal and external research projects. My current areas of research include teaching quality, student outcomes, student engagement and ethical practices. I have published on these topics in academic journals, edited books and national policy blogs.

Specialist areas of interest

Student experience and engagement, student lifestyles, epistemology and academic knowledge, research methodologies, policy reform


College of Social Sciences and Arts

My previous undergraduate and postgraduate teaching experience has been located in the discipline of criminology and focused on theoretical and methodological foundations of criminology, and drug use and deviant lifestyles. I now focus on teaching and learning (online and face to face) with staff, focusing on capacity building. I also support the development of student researchers through taught sessions.

Subject area



My previous teaching experience has been located in the discipline of criminology and focused on theoretical and methodological foundations of criminology, and drug use and deviant lifestyles.


I am an experienced Principal Investigator for internal and external research and evaluation. Most recently, I have led externally funded projects on areas relating to student outcomes (AdvanceHE), teaching excellence (Office for Students) and Critical Whiteness is Higher Education (AdvanceHE) and was a named researcher within projects which evaluate approaches to measuring learning gain (Office for Students) and explored access, success and progress of care experienced and estranged students (Unite Foundation). I also project managed the final months of the LEGACY project (learning gain pilot project – Office for Students). I am also working as a lead evaluator for the QAA Scotland Enhancement Themes.

Internally, my institutional research focuses on digital storytelling for enhancement and evaluations of approaches which address student retention and differential outcomes. In my work I champion the consideration of ethical practices and student experiences, and I have been invited to share my experience and insights across the higher education sector.

I lead research and evaluation within the 'Student Engagement, Evaluation and Research' (STEER) team, which sits within the Student Experience, Teaching and Learning directorate. Our aim is to inform and develop practice within the University, in order to improve the student experience and support the delivery of the University Strategy.




Journal articles

Austen, L., & Donnelly, A. (2023). “Trusted in Being the Experts of Being a Student”: Participatory Evaluation in Higher Education. Journal of Participatory Research Methods, 4 (2).

Austen, L., & Jones-Devitt, S. (2023). Evaluation for All? : Why evaluation within and beyond higher education should be universal and accessible. Open Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 2 (2), 55-69.

Moores, E., Summers, R.J., Horton, M., Woodfield, L., Austen, L., & Crockford, J. (2023). Evaluation of access and participation plans: understanding what works. Frontiers in Education, 8.

Dickinson, J., Griffiths, T.-.L., & Austen, L. (2022). Collaborative methodological reflection: disrupting the ethical practices of a creative method in higher education research. Social Research Practice Journal, 12 (Spring), 22-31.

Austen, L. (2021). Supporting the evaluation of academic practices: Reflections for institutional change and professional development. Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice, 9 (2), 3-6.

Austen, L., Pickering, N., & Judge, M. (2020). Student reflections on the pedagogy of transitions into higher education, through digital storytelling. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 1-12.

Austen, L., Jones, M., & Wawera, A.-.S. (2018). Exploring digital stories as research in higher education. Social Research Practice - SRA Journal, 7, 27-34.

Austen, L., & Malone, C. (2018). What students’ want in written feedback: praise, clarity and precise individual commentary. Practitioner Research in Higher Education, 11 (1), 47-58.

Austen, L., Heaton, C., Jones-Devitt, S., & Pickering, N. (2017). Why is the BME attainment gap such a wicked problem? The Journal of Educational Innovation, Partnership and Change, 3 (1).

Jones-Devitt, S., Austen, L., Chitwood, E., Donnelly, A., Fearn, C., Heaton, C., ... Pickering, N. (2017). Creation and confidence: BME students as academic partners…but where were the staff? Journal of Educational Innovation Partnership and Change, 3 (1), 278-285.

Jones-Devitt, S., Austen, L., Irwin, B., Mcdonald, K., & Parkin, H. (2017). Are all students 'hard to reach' in a digital higher education (H.E.) context? The Journal of Educational Innovation, Partnership and Change, 3 (1), 147-158.

Jones-Devitt, S., Austen, L., & Parkin, H. (2017). Integrative Reviewing for exploring complex phenomena. Social Research Update, (66).

Austen, L. (2016). Balancing academic gatekeeping and interpersonal positioning: a qualitative analysis of written feedback to undergraduate students. Practitioner Research in Higher Education, 10 (2), 67-81.

Austen, L. (2016). Police and Crime Commissioners : emerging 'drug policy actors'? Safer Communities, 15 (1), 4-10.

Austen, L. (2009). The social construction of risk by young people. Health, risk and society, 11 (5), 451-470.

Chadee, D., Austen, L., & Ditton, J. (2007). The relationship between likelihood and fear of criminal victimisation: evaluating risk sensitivity as a mediating concept. .

Conference papers

Austen, L. (2021). “Don’t’ you, forget about P”(articipation): Reflecting on APP evaluation practices specific to student success initiatives. In SRHE Conference 2021, (Re)Connecting, (Re)Building: Higher Education In Transformative Times, Online, 2021 - 2021.

Austen, L., Dickinson, J., Griffiths, T.-.L., Fletcher, A., Ramdehal, A., & Parkin, H.J. (2021). Changing Structures and Changing Spaces, reflections of Covid19, What does it mean to be a contemporary higher education student? In 'What does it mean to be a contemporary higher education student?' Eurostudents Conference, 17 June 2021 - 18 June 2021.

Austen, L., & Jones-Devitt, S. (2020). Engaging students with evidence. In QAA Quality Insights Conference, The Studio, Birmingham. Quality Assurance Agency

Austen, L. (2020). Digital Storytelling: A qualitative methodology for amplifying hidden voices in higher education. In SRHE International Conference on Research into Higher Education, Newport, Wales, 2019 - 2019. SRHE:

Austen, L., & Jones-Devitt, S. (2019). Ethical dilemmas in institutional research and evaluation: an inclusive approach. In HEIR Conference 2019, Wolverhampton. Higher Education Institutional Researchers Network

Austen, L. (2019). Engaging student and staff voices as data. In QAA Annual Conference, The UK Quality Summit: Successful Partnerships, Liverpool. Quality Assurance Agency

Austen, L., Thomson, C., & Beggs, R. (2018). Going Dragon hunting: using digital storytelling to enhance the student experience. In JISC Digifest 2018, Birmingham. JISC

Jones-Devitt, S., Parkin, H., & Austen, L. (2017). How can digital capability promote teaching excellence? Exploring guidelines for digitally-capable teaching excellence. In HEA’s Annual Conference: Generation TEF: Teaching in the spotlight, Manchester. Higher Education Academy

Austen, L. (2017). How do criminologists write feedback, and what do their students think of it? In British Society of Criminology Conference, 4 July 2017 - 7 July 2017.

Austen, L., & Malone, C. Exploring student perceptions of effective feedback. In 6th International Assessment in Higher Education Annual Conference.

Book chapters

Austen, L., Pickering, N., & Donnelly, A. (2023). Researching and evaluating student engagement – a methodological critique of data gathering approaches. In Lowe, T. (Ed.) Advancing Student Engagement in Higher Education: Reflection, critique and challenge. Routledge

Austen, L., Pickering, N., & Donnelly, A. (2023). Researching and evaluating student engagement. In Advancing Student Engagement in Higher Education. (pp. 18-30). Routledge:

Jones-Devitt, S., & Austen, L. (2022). Researching the impact of learning through COVID-19 and beyond: Time for some critical and counterfactual thinking? In Handbook of Digital Higher Education. (pp. 173-186).

Austen, L. (2021). The unknown student, and other short stories: An ethical and methodological exploration of students as data. In Doing Diversity for Success in Higher Education: Redressing Structural Inequalities in the Academy. Palgrave Macmillan

Jones-Devitt, S., Pickering, N., Austen, L., & Donnelly, A. (2020). Still the pedagogy of the oppressed? Going beyond the Hidden Curriculum to reimagine effective higher education provision for estranged and care experienced students. In Hinchcliffe, T. (Ed.) The Hidden Curriculum of Higher Education. (pp. 77-92). AdvanceHE

Austen, L. (2020). The amplification of student voices via institutional research and evaluation. In Lowe, T., & El Hakim, Y. (Eds.) A Handbook for Student Engagement in Higher Education. Taylor & Francis:

Malone, C., & Austen, L. (2017). Exploring feedback practices that students value. In Elkington, S., & Evans, C. (Eds.) Transforming Assessment In Higher Education: A Case Study Series. (pp. 90-93). York: Higher Education Academy:

Austen, L., & Cowburn, M. (2013). Postmodernism and criminological thought : ‘Whose science? Whose knowledge?’. In Cowburn, M., Duggan, M., Robinson, A., & Senior, P. (Eds.) Values in Criminology and Community Justice. (pp. 21-38). Bristol: Policy Press


Austen, L., & Donnelly, A. (2022). An Evaluation of the Process and Impact of the PGCERT/MA Student Engagement in Higher Education.

Austen, L., Hodgson, R., Heaton, C., Pickering, N., & Dickinson, J. (2021). Access, retention, attainment and progression: an integrative review of demonstrable impact on student outcomes. Advance HE.

Stevenson, J., Baker, Z., Harrison, N., Bland, B., Jones-Devitt, S., Donnelly, A., ... Austen, L. (2020). Positive Impact? What factors affect access, retention and graduate outcomes for university students with a background of care or family estrangement? Unite Foundation.

Jones-Devitt, S., Pickering, N., Austen, L., Donnelly, A., Adesola, J., & weston, A. (2019). Evaluation of the National Mixed Methods Learning Gain Project (NMMLGP) and Student Perceptions of Learning Gain. Bristol: Office for Students.

Austen, L., & Jones-Devitt, S. (2018). Observing the observers: using digital storytelling for organisational development concerning 'Critical Whiteness'. AdvanceHE.

Austen, L., Donnelly, A., McCaig, C., & O'Leary, C. (2018). Evaluation of the National Teaching Fellowship Scheme. Office for Students website: Office for Students.

Austen, L., Parkin, H., Jones-Devitt, S., Mcdonald, K., & Irwin, B. (2016). Digital capability and teaching excellence: an integrative review exploring what infrastructure and strategies are necessary to support effective use of technology enabled learning (TEL). Gloucester: The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.

Internet Publications

Austen, L. (2022). Working together on access and participation evaluation.

Austen, L., Kandiko Howson, C., & Scott, P. (2021). Higher education research: belonging, history, and practice.

Hodgson, R., & Austen, L. (2021). Fixing the leaky pipeline of impact evidence in access and participation work.

Austen, L., Donnelly, A., & Parkin, M. (2021). Students are surviving not thriving through financial hardship.

Austen, L. (2020). How to evaluate changes to teaching and learning in an age of Covid-19.

Jones-Devitt, S., & Austen, L. (2019). ‘Liven up’ leaders: time to inoculate against zombification. Or not?

Austen, L., Jones-Devitt, S., & Hasty, W. (2019). As well as objects, students should be users of data too.

Austen, L. (2019). Once upon a time: hearing student stories.

Austen, L. (2018). ‘It ain’t what we do, it’s the way that we do it’ – researching student voices.


Hodgson, R., & Austen, L. (2022). 'What works’ in student retention and success. Presented at: Student Retention and Success Symposium, Online

Austen, L., Jones-Devitt, S., Pickering, N., Donnelly, A., Weston, A., & Adesola, J. (2020). NMMLGP evaluation and student engagement. Presented at: Learning Gain National Conference, Birmingham

Austen, L., & Jones-Devitt, S. (2019). Exploring Critical Whiteness. Presented at: NEON BME Learners Working Group Final Symposium, Sheffield

Austen, L., & Illie, S. (2019). Learning Gain and Disciplinary Effects: Lessons for the Sector. Presented at: UK Deans of Science Winter Conference, London

Austen, L., Pickering, N., & Judge, M. (2019). Digital storytelling student reflections on the transition into higher education. Presented at: Foundation Year Annual Conference 2019, Brighton

Austen, L. (2019). Digital storytelling as research in higher education. Presented at: Diversity, Equity, and Innovation: Educational Research for the Future, Bristol

Austen, L. (2019). Capturing and responding to student voices: innovative alternatives. Presented at: Student Voice Think Tank event, Glasgow

Austen, L. (2019). Digital Storytelling (Researching Students for Impact). Presented at: The Secret Life of Students, London

Austen, L., Jones-Devitt, S., & Lawton, M. (2019). Feedback Literacy and Patchwork Assessment. Presented at: Open University Assessment Programme, Milton Keynes

Austen, L., & Jones-Devitt, S. (2019). EDI and Institutional Readiness. Presented at: Towards Embedding Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in the Curriculum Collaborative Network, York

Austen, L. (2019). Supporting students navigating the data landscape. Presented at: QAA Scotland Student-Led Project Event, Glasgow

Austen, L. (2019). Measuring Learning Gain: Lesson from LEGACY. Presented at: University of Leicester Pedagogic Research Group, Leicester

Jones-Devitt, S., & Austen, L. (2019). Use, not abuse, of the Student Voice: recent research and relevance for programme leaders navigating a cold, neoliberal climate. Presented at: QAA Scotland Programme Leaders Group, Herriot Watt University, Edinburgh

Austen, L., & Jones-Devitt, S. (2019). Reimagining pedagogic research: using creative approaches that make a real difference. Presented at: Edinburgh Napier University Pedagogic Research Group, Edinburgh

Jones-Devitt, S., & Austen, L. (2018). Challenging wicked problems and folk pedagogies to address the BME attainment gap in higher education. Presented at: Equality Challenge Unit Annual Conference, Birmingham

Austen, L., Pickering, N., Jones-Devitt, S., & Donnelly, A. (2018). Institutional considerations for learning gain projects and beyond. Presented at: National Learning Gain Conference, Birmingham

Austen, L. (2018). Variation and innovation in student voice research. Presented at: Student Voice Seminar Day, Bristol

Austen, L., & Malone, C. (2017). Exploring student perceptions of effective feedback. Presented at: Transforming Assessment (international webinar), Monash University

Parkin, H., & Austen, L. (2016). Digital Capability and Teaching Excellence. Presented at: 39th HeLF Meeting - Digital Skills and Scholarship, University College London

Austen, L., & Parkin, H. (2016). Digital Capability and Teaching Excellence. Presented at: JISC Student Experience Experts Group, Birmingham

Other publications

Austen, L., & Jones-Devitt, S. (2020). Staff Guide to Using Evidence in Higher Education. Quality Assurance Agency Scotland:

Austen, L., & Jones-Devitt, S. (2019). Guide to using Evidence in Higher Education. Quality Assurance Agency Scotland:

Austen, L. (2018). Book Review: 'Teaching Excellence in Higher Education: Challenges, Changes and the Teaching Excellence Framework'. Higher Education Review:

Other activities

I am was the External Examiner for BA (Hons) Criminal Justice delivered at University College Doncaster and accredited by the University of Hull (2014-2018).

Postgraduate supervision

I am currently supervising a PhD candidate in the Sheffield Institute of Education. I also have experience as an external examiner and independent chair for viva examinations.

I have completed the Research Supervisors course which equates to1 completed PhD supervision, and I am able to contribute to PhD supervision with an additional Director of Studies.


I have presented my work in keynotes, workshops, webinars and masterclasses.


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