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Liz Austen

Dr Liz Austen SFHEA

Senior Lecturer Research, Evaluation and Student Engagement


My current work focuses on student experiences within higher education and the policy context which shapes them.

This includes leading projects which review the complexity of 'teaching excellence' and evaluate pedagogic interventions for improving student engagement and differential outcomes.

I am an experienced lecturer, manager and researcher with an interest in the student experience and the diversity of youth lifestyles. 

My sociological research into drug use has been published in peer review publications, presented internationally, and informed national policy critiques with senior members of the police force and national advocates of drug policy reform.

To find out more visit: https://blogs.shu.ac.uk/steer/tag/liz-austen/ 

  • About

    My current role is focused on researching the educational context of Higher Education. Through previous experience as a criminological researcher, and of teaching research methods, I am able to apply both quantitative and qualitative research methodology to internal and external research projects. This includes an analysis of institutional and sector wide data sets, integrative literature reviews, evaluations, surveys, interviews and focus groups on discourse analysis. 

    My current areas of research include: teaching excellence and digital capability for staff and students, student confidence and belonging within HE and the link to attainment (especially for BME students), student wellbeing and engagement in 'safe spaces' of learning, and the social construction of written feedback and mechanisms for improving the interpretation (satisfaction) of feedback 'quality'. 

    I have experience in a number of different academic roles: Module Leader, Dissertation Supervisor, Course Leader and Programme Leader for Criminology and have been recognised as an inspirational teacher by my students. For the Faculty I have also offered strategic insights via the Faculty Academic Board, as a Faculty Teaching Practitioner Representative and via the Faculty Programme Leader Group. These roles have allowed me to demonstrate academic leadership in institutionally significant tasks such as NSS action planning, course redesign and validation, sector benchmarking and attendance monitoring. This contribution to academic leadership (through line management of Course Leaders) has been acknowledged in my recognition as a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. 

    My disciplinary research interests include drug use, contemporary sociological theory and research methodology. Specifically they include recreational substance use, social justice and the representation of drug users, developments in UK and global drug policy, young people and risk taking behaviour. In addition I am interested in the application of postmodernist theory to crime and deviance and postmodern research methodologies and the construction of knowledge. 

    Senior Lecturer

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

  • Teaching

    Department Of Law And Criminology

    Student Engagement Evaluation Research, Development and Society


    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.

  • Research

    Yorkshire Universities - Using digital storytelling to engage hard to reach students

    QAA Subscriber Research -
    How can digital capability promote teaching excellence?

    REACT (Realising Engagement through Active Cultural Transformation)- Creation and confidence: BME students as academic partners

    SHU Impact Evaluations

    Law and Criminology Learning and Teaching Research Cluster - Analysis of written feedback to students

    The Student Engagement, Evaluation and Research directorate was formed in 2015, to support the needs of students, as identified through the generation, evaluation and analysis of student information. This includes evaluations and surveys, as well as student engagement at all levels of our formal and informal structures. 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.

  • Publications

    MALONE, Cathy and AUSTEN, Liz (2017). Exploring feedback practices that students value. In: ELKINGTON, Sam and EVANS, Carol, (eds.) Transforming Assessment In Higher Education: A Case Study Series. York, Higher Education Academy, 90-93.

    JONES-DEVITT, Stella, AUSTEN, Liz, IRWIN, Brian, MCDONALD, Kieran and PARKIN, Helen (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, Stella, AUSTEN, Liz, CHITWOOD, Elizabeth, DONNELLY, Alan, FEARN, Carolyn, HEATON, Caroline, LATHAM, Gabrielle, LEBIHAN, Jill, MIDDLETON, Andrew, MORGAN, Matthew, PARKIN, Helen and PICKERING, Nathaniel (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, Stella, AUSTEN, Liz and PARKIN, Helen (2017). Integrative Reviewing for exploring complex phenomena. Social Research Update (66).

    AUSTEN, Liz, HEATON, Caroline, JONES-DEVITT, Stella and PICKERING, Nathaniel (2017). Why is the BME attainment gap such a wicked problem? The Journal of Educational Innovation, Partnership and Change, 3 (1).

    AUSTEN, Liz (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, Liz, PARKIN, Helen, JONES-DEVITT, Stella, MCDONALD, Kieran and IRWIN, Brian (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). Project Report. Gloucester, The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.

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

    AUSTEN, Liz (2015). Designing in student engagement via course design. In: LTA Conference, Sheffield Hallam University, 25th June 2015.

    AUSTEN, Liz and COWBURN, Malcolm (2013). Postmodernism and criminological thought : ‘Whose science? Whose knowledge?’. In: COWBURN, Malcolm, DUGGAN, Marian, ROBINSON, Ann and SENIOR, Paul, (eds.) Values in Criminology and Community Justice. Bristol, Policy Press, 21-38.

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

    CHADEE, D., AUSTEN, L. and DITTON, J. (2007). The relationship between likelihood and fear of criminal victimisation: evaluating risk sensitivity as a mediating concept. .

    Chadee, D. Austen, L. and Ditton, J. (2007) The relationship between likelihood and fear of criminal victimisation: Evaluating risk sensitivity as a mediating concept, The British Journal of Criminology, 47, pp 133 - 153

  • Other activities

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

  • Post graduate supervision

    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.

  • Media

    I created and now manage our Directorate blog and Twitter page to promote our work:

    https://blogs.shu.ac.uk/steer/ & https://twitter.com/shu_steer

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