Widening participation expert joins Aston University as visiting professor

Widening participation expert joins Aston University as visiting professor Widening participation expert joins Aston University as visiting professor

February 16, 20222 min read
  • Liz Thomas is a leading researcher in widening participation and closing the achievement gap
  • She has a very strong international and national reputation for using her research to inform policy and practice
  • Professor Thomas will work within the University’s College of Business and Social Sciences.


A leading researcher whose work addresses patterns of under-representation in higher education has joined Aston University as a visiting professor.


Liz Thomas is an expert in widening participation and closing the achievement gap. She has joined the University’s College of Business and Social Sciences to work largely with Aston Business School on inclusivity and employability.


Professor Thomas has previously worked on the Teaching Excellence Framework Main Panel (Widening Participation Expert), been Chair of Advisory Group, Evaluation of pre-16 outreach work, Office for Fair Access (now Office for Students) as well as an International member of the Vice Chancellor’s Quality Review, University of South Wales, Australia.


During the next Research Excellence Framework (REF) period her research will focus on higher education student and graduate experiences in the ‘new new normal’.


The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an emergency pivot by higher education providers worldwide, from predominantly present-in-person teaching, to primarily or exclusively remote and online learning. As the pandemic has progressed, HE providers have adapted to the new normal, providing a range of hybrid learning, engagement and support opportunities.


Employers are also seeing the advantages of more flexible and hybrid ways of working, and this suggests that graduates will need demonstrate additional skills and competencies in relation to autonomy and time management, team working, digital skills and effective communication through a wider range of media.


Professor Liz Thomas said:


“I am very excited to have been appointed visiting professor in the College of Business and Social Sciences at Aston University.


“I'm very much looking forward to working with colleagues on equity in higher education and employment.


“Belonging will continue to be an important theme within my research, both conceptually and practically, and within higher education and employment, in the post-pandemic world. We need to capitalise on the advantages that have emerged, and ensure inclusion, and equitable outcomes for all.”


Professor Helen E Higson, associate dean accreditations at Aston Business School, said:


“I am looking forward to welcoming Liz to Aston Business School to share her knowledge on inclusivity and employability.


“She will bring further leadership internally in areas which fit very well with Aston University’s values, student demographics and objectives.


“She has a very strong international and national reputation for using her research-informing policy. Much current practice and policy in HE in the UK is influenced by her work.”


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