Developing communities of practice: a preliminary analysis of third party institutions in the undergraduate External Laws Programme: a clash of teaching cultures of potential for developing synergies?

Dr Wayne Morrison and Vigneswari Thanapal, Queen Mary University

TRA2 W Morrison V Thanapal (Final Report) [pdf, 288kb]



This is an application for research into the third party institutions that are independent of the University of London and which provide tuition for c. 75% of registered undergraduate external laws students. It is designed to:

  • Provide a baseline set of information about each institution;
  • Identify common features, motivations, operating constraints;
  • Identify cultural pressures upon private institutions and their tutoring staff;
  • Gain in-depth knowledge of tutoring practices, perspectives, teaching aims and constraints of institutions tutoring staff;
  • Gain an in-depth understanding of potential clashes in expectations, goals and understanding of student learning processes and outcomes between ‘London academics’ and staff of institutions;
  • Develop strategies to incorporate the third party institutions into London led resource based learning, and Personal development portfolio (pdp each) preparation;
  • Ease administrative issues concerning admission of students, reception and incorporation of London learning resources with the institutional set.


  • The research will develop and implement a survey of all third party institutions offering teaching for external laws students.
  • Develop and implement a survey of tutoring staff at those institutions
  • Select for case study a number of institutions which will be analysed in depth, including on-site observation and interviews
  • Select for case study a sample of tutors who will be personally interviewed and also asked to undertake follow-up questioner.


It is an operating hypothesis of the study that the past history of the programme as an examination board with minimal materials or support from London has resulted in a culture of operation in the institutions that encourages surface, rather than deep approaches to learning and that pose problems for developing the student learning experience. It is hoped that the material produced will enable the programme to develop approaches that call upon a shared vision, to enable commitment to the developing educational ethos of the Laws Programme, and provide avenues for aligning the capacity to work towards a ‘common purpose’ of maximising the student learning experience.

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