Interest in the IFP is phenomenal

The academic co-ordinator for the new International Foundation Programme, Lynne Roberts, talks to Peter Quinn about exchanging ideas and widening access
Lynne Roberts
Lynne Roberts, Head of Learning and Teaching, University of London International Programmes at LSE
Students who do this programme would be at a level to apply to universities overseas, should they wish to

Developed by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), the new International Foundation Programme (IFP) launches in September this year. Consisting of four courses, the IFP will provide guaranteed access to LSE-led BSc degrees and a range of other undergraduate programmes offered through the University of London International Programmes.

“It's going to widen participation and provide more people with an opportunity to study our programmes”, LSE's Lynne Roberts tells me. “What we also plan to do with the IFP is to have teacher training at a regional level”, she explains. “Initial teacher workshops, seminars and discussion groups will take place so that teachers can actually meet each other, rather than us going to the individual institutions.”

Attended by 21 teachers and administrative staff from institutions in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, Lynne recently returned from hosting one such IFP workshop in Dubai. Accompanying Lynne were three other members of LSE staff: IFP lead consultant, Andy DiMarco; Online Learning Support Development Officer, Craig Summerton; and Assistant Language Co-ordinator, Chris New. Lynne notes that one of the underlying aims of the IFP is to improve students' English to degree level, while online resources made available through the Virtual Learning Environment will play a central role in providing course content.

"The IFP prepares students for undergraduate study, and teachers haven't taught on it before”, Lynne continues. “Some of them have taught on the LSE-led degree programmes, but are teaching Level 3 for the first time – as the IFP is a Level 3, A level equivalent course. A few of the teachers are actually graduates of the University of London. They have come back to the institution where they did their degree and are now teaching."

"For the first time in the suite of LSE-led programmes, the IFP will have its own Teachers' Area in the VLE where they can share lesson plans and ideas."

"I think the teachers really appreciated that we had a team there”, Lynne says. “It was more of a collaborative effort. The teachers were happy to meet each other, because even in Pakistan they do not have opportunities to get together and talk about teaching. That was the most important thing about the weekend: they could meet other people teaching the same course and exchange ideas. And for the first time in the suite of LSE-led programmes, the IFP will have its own Teachers Area in the VLE where they can share lesson plans and ideas. There will also be a directory of teachers with their name, picture, and what they teach.

Lynne Roberts in Dubai

As Craig Summerton explains, the VLE is being developed "as both a learning and teaching aid. Students will benefit from a blended learning approach which combines and aligns learning undertaken in face-to-face sessions with learning opportunities created online. Resources developed include video tutorials which allow students to see a full work through of a difficult concept or exam style question on screen in real time. The VLE also encourages discussion, collaboration and feedback from both students and those teaching the courses at different institutions around the world."

In order that students can benefit from lectures and other classes, the IFP must be studied at a recognised centre that has been approved to provide teaching and support for the programme. To date, institutions in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Pakistan, Russia, Sri Lanka, Trinidad, Turkey and the UK have been approved to teach the programme.

Capped at seven institutions for the first year, Lynne notes that "interest in the IFP is phenomenal and a lot of institutions are now contacting us saying they would like to teach it. The programme is quite rigorous – the mathematics and statistics level is very high. Students who do this programme would be at a level to apply to universities overseas, should they wish to. I've worked for different international organisations and they really want graduates who have strong numerical and quantitative skills. We thought if we could offer a programme that made sure that everyone who did it had an excellent grounding in maths and stats, then the programme would be valuable and appreciated – and accepted – by many different universities."

"With each week's lessons, the guide author also includes concepts that students often find difficult and how teachers can help with these."

While all institutions will teach the compulsory course, 'Mathematics and statistics', they may choose to offer all five of the optional courses – Economics, International relations, Politics, Social psychology and Sociology – or offer a programme of four set courses.

Lynne Roberts leading Dubai workshop

“There's a lot of flexibility in this programme", Lynne tells me. "Cambridge Education Group is teaching it in the UK over a period of six months. Very intense! Other institutions – one in Russia, for example – will be teaching it over two years, with two courses per year along with the requisite study skill support. We want to support institutions rather than prescribe how they do it."

For the first time on LSE-led programmes, a tutor guide will be provided in addition to the usual study guide. Lynne remarks that the tutor guides "suggest activities that can be used inside and outside the class. With each week's lessons, the guide author also includes concepts that students often find difficult and how teachers can help with these.

"Most of the academics who worked on the guides have completed their Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education at LSE, so they have a real interest in international education. We want to see how the guides are received, how they are used and how we can improve them. With a small cohort this year we'll be able to do that and improve the IFP for the second year."

Lynne Roberts

About Lynne Roberts

With a strong interest in education and international development, Lynne first moved into Higher Education in 1997, teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL) and English for Academic Purposes (EAP) at King's College London. She also taught English for Science and Technology (EST) on the Diploma Programme and was a regular guest lecturer in the Department of English.

After King's she moved to Imperial College London, where she advised Masters and PhD students on study, EAP and career skills before joining LSE in 2006 as a study skills adviser. In 2007 she became an educational developer in LSE’s Teaching and Learning Centre, responsible for training the School’s graduate teaching assistants and working on the New Academic Induction Programme. Lynne has also worked with refugee academics and the LSE Choice widening participation programme.

Lynne taught on the Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education at LSE before she was appointed to her current role as Head of Learning and Teaching, University of London International Programmes at LSE, in January 2013. Of her role as academic co-ordinator for the International Foundation Programme, Lynne states that it’s “something new, something really exciting".