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Designing the Learning University

Universities are centres of knowledge generation and learning, yet paradoxically they have very little self-knowledge. They are structured to learn about topics external to themselves, but have limited mechanisms to absorb knowledge of themselves. Institutional self-awareness and the ability of an organisation to know itself from diverse and multiple perspectives are essential capabilities in our increasingly dynamic, complex and unpredictable world.

This research seeks to understand how a university might learn about and change itself in response to the multi-faceted experiences and knowledge of its people. It will investigate and reimagine the mechanisms used to gather, process and act on stakeholder feedback to develop institutional metacognition and continuous improvement. Using a multi-method methodology including ethnographic, co-speculative design and systemic design methods, I aim to collaboratively visualise existing stakeholder feedback action cycles, and reimagine them for a preferred future state.

The primary site for this practice-based research is Oxford Brookes University where I currently work as a senior lecturer in design. I approach my research from the position of an Insider Researcher, with the inevitable advantages and disadvantages this entails. The motivation for this research stems from my own experience working and studying within universities, and my belief in the value of higher education.


More about Sarah

Sarah Britten Jones is an artist, designer, researcher and academic, with a background in retail management and supporting small businesses. Sarah has exhibited in the UK and USA and is an artist member of Open Hand Open Space studios in Reading. She has taught in Higher and Further Education in the UK and USA since 2005 and is currently a Senior Lecturer in Design at Oxford Brookes University. Her research is focussed on the use of systemic design to understand and reimagine universities. It explores how universities can harness their diverse, situated knowledges in order to gain the necessary requisite variety to continuously adapt in our changing environments.

MFA Ceramic Art, New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University USA, 2007

PGCE Post Compulsory Education, University of Greenwich, London, 2012

BA (Hons) Ceramics with Glass (First Class), Bucks New University, High Wycombe, 2000

Senior Lecturer in Design, Lecturer, Teaching Fellow, Oxford Brookes University, 2017 - present

External Examiner, University of Derby, 2020 - present

Staff Governor, Activate Learning, Oxford, 2015 - 2017

3D Lecturer, Module Leader and Course Leader, Thames Valley University (now University of West London), Reading and Banbury College, 2008 - 2017

Adjunct Lecturer, Instructor of Merit and Graduate Teaching Assistant, New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University USA, 2005-2008

Project Manager and Business Information Advisor, Wired Berkshire and Business Link Berkshire and Wiltshire, 2001 - 2005

Royal College of Art (RCA), Three-minute thesis competition, runner up, 2022

Brookes Research Excellence Award, Sharing sustainable built environment practices across boundaries and borders, with Dr. Julia Wedel and Dr. Esra Kurul, 2022 - 2023

Our Domain Public Art Project, St.Retail of Reading, with Jon Lockhart, 2022

Brookes Teaching Innovation Project (BTIP), Co-designing responsive student feedback mechanisms, Oxford Brookes University, 2021 - 2022

Full Tuition MFA Fellowship, Alfred University New York, 2005 - 2007

International Study Scholarship, Kutztown University of Pennsylvania and Bucks New University, 1999


2017 Activate Learning, Oxford, The Failure Institute, performance

2007 Schein-Joseph International Museum of Ceramic Art, NY, USA, 3 Months Work

2007 Turner Gallery New York, USA, Three Months Work Part II

2006 Scholes Library, New York, USA, Alfred Mugs


2022 Our Domain, Reading, St. Retail of Reading, public art proposal with Jon Lockhart

2016 Radiant Gallery, Plymouth, Dog Show

2016 South Hill Park Bracknell, Engage, Takin’ the Lead

2015 OVADA, Oxford, Seven Counties Open

2014 Folkestone Triennial Fringe, B&B Project Space: Vernacular Habitation, Hipster Replacement

2014 REME Museum, Arborfield, New Grounds, Big Boy

2010 Salisbury Arts Centre, Open 2010

2007 Soho20, New York, USA, 13th Annual International Women’s Exhibition

2007 Southern Tier Biennial, New York, USA, Olean Public Library

2003 BBC National Eisteddfod of Wales


2020, 2019 and 2018, Royal College of Art, Work in progress show

2018 571 Gallery, Triangulations, with Peter Driver & Robert Fitzmaurice

2018 Jelly Gallery and Reading Business Improvement District, Artline

2015 Cohen Gallery, New York, USA, Places, with the Wednesday Group

2014 Reading Museum, The Boundless Museum with Jon Lockhart

2013 Whitley Arts Festival, Constellation, Soul Trader

2013 Performance Art Bergen, Norway, Bomb & Shield performance at Mon Plasir

2012 Gallery@49, Bracknell, Boundaries & Beyond, Closed

2012 New Greenham Arts, Newbury, Insight

2011 LV21, Gillingham, Public Art Collaborative Performance on Lightship

2009 Resonance FM, Found Sound Stories with Janek Schaefer, Cuckoo Snore

2009 Thames Valley University, Journeys Between the Hand and the Eye

2006 Turner Gallery New York, What the Papers Say, with the Wednesday Group

2006 Robert Turner Gallery New York, Some paper airplanes, with Terese Longva

2005 Ceramic Art London, Henry Moore Gallery, Royal College of Art

2003 The Sainsbury Centre, Norwich, Norwich Fringe

2003 Oriel Myrddin Gallery, Carmarthen, Joy of Kitsch

State of Design Report I & II, RCA, co-author with Professor Ashley Hall et al, July 2021

Teaching Insights, Staff-student e-zine, A personal cartography of OBU, July 2021

Contextual Studies Lecture Series Report, FAD, Oxford Brookes, March 2021

Enhancing the RCA Student Experience, with Nous Group & Jonathan Martell 2018

New Grounds, REME Museum, Exhibition catalogue, 2014

Norwegian Wood, Artist book, 2013

500 Ceramic Sculptures, Lark Books, 2009

Ceramophile, Volume XVIII Number 1 Spring 2007

Ceramic Review, A Potter's Day Sept/Oct 2005 edition

Oriel Myrddin Gallery, Exhibition Catalogue The Joy of Kitsch Jul 2003

University of Brighton, Really Sayin' Somethin' - one day symposium exploring participatory practices in art, design and architecture. Knowing the knower, presentation on practice-based research, May 2022

Performance Philosophy Biennial, Amsterdam, Netherlands, Between institution and intoxication: how does performance philosophy intervene? Artists in decision-making spaces, paper presentation, March 2019

Oxford Brookes University (OBU), Brookes Learning and Teaching Conference, Exploring the space between institutional and learner anxieties, paper presentation with Louise Williams, June 2018

Contemporary Arts Research Unit (CARU) and OBU, Oxford, Arts re-Search Conference, paper presentation, The artist in the boardroom, Dec 2017

Cohen Gallery, New York, Places, Group discussion with Q&A, Nov 2015

Open Hand Open Space, Reading, Artspeak, Useless, artist talk, Dec 2012

Performance Art Bergen, Norway, Chaired panel discussion of Meeting Point at Stiftelsen 3,14 Gallery, August 2012