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The European Union and Beyond

The Effectiveness of Simulations as a University Outreach and Recruitment Tool: Using Simulations to Boost General Interest in Higher Education and Specific Interest in European Politics

European Politics
Higher Education
Karen Heard-Laureote
University of Portsmouth
Karen Heard-Laureote
University of Portsmouth
Vladimir Bortun
University of Portsmouth
Milan Kreuschitz
University of Portsmouth

The pedagogical benefit of active learning environments such as simulations within University teaching has been widely acknowledged, yet empirical evidence of their effects is limited. Starting from the premise that simulations can be used as an effective University outreach and recruitment tool to widen participation in and raise aspirations towards entering higher education, we argue that simulations involving students in secondary education increase their interest in studying European politics and, more generally, political science at university level. The paper uses data gathered via a pre- and post-simulation questionnaire completed by participants at three secondary school-based simulations undertaken in 2017 in collaboration with UACES on the topic of the Brexit negotiations over the freedom of movement. Empirical investigation reveals two major effects of simulations. First, secondary school-based simulations boosted students’ interest in studying European politics in particular and political science generally at University level thus supporting claims that active learning environments amplify interest (Schnurr, 2014) and motivation (Raymond & Usherwood, 2013). The interest boosting effects of simulations are significant because despite the ongoing Brexit process, or perhaps precisely because of it and the many uncertainties entailed by it, comprehension of European politics will arguably continue to be an important asset for present and future generations of UK-based students. Indeed, apart from Brexit, the EU is currently facing multiple crises and challenges with potentially significant consequences for the wider European space and beyond. All this warrants for renewed efforts to propel students’ interest in European studies and political science in general. Our findings suggest that simulations may be a useful and effective tool for this. Second, data suggests that secondary school students tend to associate European politics with international relations rather than European studies, which reinforces the recent trend of the latter becoming a subfield of political science rather than area studies.
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