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Cambridge Centre for Teaching and Learning


CCTL is committed to promoting and supporting the conduct of ethical research and attaches great importance to addressing ethical aspects in all research activities on teaching and learning practices that involve university staff and students.

As teaching is increasingly recognised as a scholarly activity, research into the learning and teaching experience of students and staff is highly valued and useful in providing an evidence-base for improved educational experiences. However, as such research involves students in vulnerable positions, relative to staff members and the institution, it is necessary to plan carefully and consider ethical issues.

Ethics review is required for any educational research that you undertake. Cambridge now has a process for applying for ethics review of internal institutional educational research projects, supported by the Cambridge Higher Education Studies Research Ethics Committee (CHESREC).

This is intended for 'low risk' educational research projects only.


Whose research does this committee support?

We support the research activities of people seeking ethics review for research projects that are focused on the teaching, learning or other educational experiences within the University of Cambridge, or research projects relating to student admissions including outreach/recruitment work with potential students, where they do not have an existing affiliation to a Faculty or Department. This includes, for instance, researchers from CCTL, the Disability Resource Centre, the Cambridge Admission Office, the University Libraries, as well as our student partners in the Cambridge University Student Union and Graduate Union.

We also support research activities undertaken by interdisciplinary teams, or where students are engaged as co-researchers in Cambridge Student-Staff Partnerships on projects not directly related to their discipline. Finally, we support research by those whose local research committees do not necessarily have the disciplinary expertise to support research teaching and learning practices in higher education.


What are the ethical expectations for this educational research?

Where staff seek to enhance their teaching practices, and to improve the learning experience, by collecting data from students in the form of surveys or other types of feedback, they do not normally require ethics review.  However, if the results from this data analysis are to be made publically available in publications or conference presentations, and the research is designed as an educational project involving human participants or personal data, then a more careful research process is necessary. See Research and/or Evaluation for more guidance.

We advise researchers undertaking projects on the educational experience at Cambridge to conduct their research in accordance with the University's Policy on the Ethics of Research Involving Human Participants and Personal Data, and the ethical guidelines of the British Educational Research Association. Other ethical guidelines may also be taken into account, depending on the nature of the research being undertaken, for instance the British Psychological Society or the British Sociological Society.


What are the non-ethical considerations?

If you are planning to take and use photos, videos or recordings of Cambridge students or staff, even for non-commerical University purposes, you should consult with the Legal Services guidelines on photos (Raven-protected).

There might also be occasions where institutional education research is undertaken with no plans for publication or dissemination. For instance, internal research might be undertaken to improve services and would not normally require an ethics review process and approval. Or a regulator like the Office for Students may request specific research data about the University's educational practices, where it is important that unnecessary burdens and delays are avoided.

However, it is still important to consider the ethical implications of this research work, even if such work is not obliged to undergo an ethics review process.

The following links provide some guidance about Cambridge's information compliance expectations:


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