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The University of Southampton
Quality HandbookOff campus learning

Principles for Fieldwork

Why we do fieldwork

Fieldwork is integral to many aspects of education. It is an element of an undergraduate and/or postgraduate degree in a range of subjects[1] , and is required by both the QAA subject benchmark statements and by various professional bodies who provide programme accreditation.

Extended, in-depth engagement in the field is an important mode of learning, made richer within the context of a diversity of spaces, places, experiments and interactions with the natural and built world. Programmes should aspire to extend the benefits of field learning to all through the development of well-designed and appropriately supported field experiences. At the University of Southampton, virtual fieldwork has value, but we consider that it is not a substitute for in-situ field learning.

We recognise that delivering high quality field education raises challenges not least around the environmental impact of the trips together with issues of accessibility. Based on the work of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS), the University of Southampton has considered these issues through the principles expressed below. We highlight our commitment to transparent decision making, annual reporting and benchmarking, and a rolling programme of improvement wherever possible, with a particular recognition of the resources and support required for high quality, safe field learning.

Subjects with fieldwork include Archaeology, Biology, Business Studies, Demography, Earth and Ocean sciences, Engineering and related subjects, Environmental Science, Geography, Physics and Social Science, amongst others.

Three Principles of Fieldwork at the University of Southampton

 1.       Sustainable Fieldwork

Travel undertaken for the purpose of fieldwork, and the choice of destination(s) visited, should be clearly justified by the relevant module and programme learning outcomes. This justification should balance the environmental costs involved with the potential pedagogical advantages of learning within particular environments. In particular:

2.       Ethical and Responsible Fieldwork

All fieldwork should be planned and conducted in a way that is ethical, responsible and safe, for students, staff, visited communities and all other stakeholders.

Programmes are expected to follow good practice in terms of health and safety and ethical reviews as codified in USHA guidance, and as evidenced through an environmental impact assessment where relevant.

A clear code of conduct should be available for all staff and students who undertake University fieldwork.

3.       Accessible fieldwork

Fieldwork should provide opportunities for all students to engage with a range of familiar and unfamiliar environments.

It should be planned and conducted in such a way as to be as inclusive and accessible as possible, considering the mental and physical health of students alongside all other protected characteristics.

Fieldwork options should be fair and appropriate and should consider costs and other barriers that might impact a student’s ability to participate (such as caring responsibilities).

An Equality Impact Assessment should be undertaken on all fieldwork and the results published to students.

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