SHIFT 2020: Our keynote is Prof David Webster, Director of the Centre for Innovation in Learning & Teaching at SOAS


Registrations for SHIFT close on 13 December - don't miss our annual learning, teaching and assessment conference which is taking place on 10 January 2020.

Please register for SHIFT 2020:  Effective learning relationships for genuine engagement and freedom to learn by Friday 13 December.

We're proud to announce our keynote speaker, Prof David Webster form the Centre for Innovation in Learning & Teaching at SOAS, University of London.

Prof David Webster: Pedagogic optimism in the face of dark neoliberal clouds

If we are sufficiently credulous, we might believe- perhaps having taken the Office for Students at face value- that universities can fix the whole, broken, divided and inequitable world. If only we would teach better, we'd somehow overcome the effects of privilege and successive governments and catapult our learners into high-paying jobs - earning us a medal (or at least a good TEF rating) in the process. If we'd only ramp up our surveillance of students, we'd put a stop to extremism and radicalisation, and if we would just invite/tolerate extremist speakers on campus, bad ideas would be defeated in some public exchange of ideas where truth always wins in the end. 

Most of us in HE see through this, and baulk at the claim that our interventions will magically fix all social ills, remove systemic barriers to social mobility (be it via 'toughening up' students, or via frankly preposterous notions that we live in a meritocracy), or guarantee students the jobs that don't exist. In the face of these narratives, though, how do we hold firm to what HE can do? This session will seek to help us navigate some of this toxic discourse, before setting a course for more utopian waters. Despite all of the above, education remains a place of radical possibility, and if we steer clear of neoliberal phantasms, by engaging in reflective and inclusive pedagogic praxis, we can make changes that make a positive difference.

About Prof David Webster

Professor David Webster is Director of the Centre for Innovation in Learning & Teaching at SOAS, University of London. He previously worked at the University of Gloucestershire, where he taught Religion, Philosophy and Ethics. He has a PhD in Buddhist Philosophy and is a National Teaching Fellow. 

David is interested in trying to help colleagues work on making their pedagogy more inclusive, collaborative and effective; sometimes all at once. He is on Twitter as @davidwebster and blogs at

An overview of the programme for SHIFT 2020 is available on the conference website, further information will also be published there.

Please note: SHIFT 2020 will take place at Stockwell Street, Greenwich campus.