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Karen MacFarlane

Karen MacFarlaneAbout Karen

Research Fellow

Currently carrying out research and an evaluation of GCU’s Curriculum for the Common Good, Karen’s other institutionally focused research projects have included an evaluation of the first two years of the Advanced Higher Hub and analysis of the National Student Survey data.  Karen also led the HEA project, ‘Students in transition: a lifecycle approach in Scottish Higher Education: A review of research, policy and practice.’ Karen is also the University’s representative on the Universities Scotland working group on Widening Access measures. Karen initiates, co-ordinates and carries out research and evaluation activity in collaboration with research colleagues across the University in the areas of widening participation, academic practice development and the student experience. This includes leading and engaging in educational research and impact evaluation and producing research publications of national and international quality. As well as enhancing the University’s national and international profile in relation to educational research, Karen’s work provides an evidence base for policy and practice in learning and teaching across GCU through institutional research aligned to key institutional priorities and impact evaluation.


Karen’s background in research and development spans more than 30 years starting in psychological research at the University of Manchester in 1987 and moving on to lead a number of research projects for the Scottish Qualifications Authority before joining GCU in 1996 to lead the FE/HE Links project. This research work led to a new developmental role for Karen when she helped to establish and then manage GCU’s Greater Glasgow Articulation Partnership (formerly the College Articulation Project), a role which also included liaison with external stakeholders in relation to policy and practice (partner colleges, Scottish Government, SFC, QAA, Universities Scotland, SCQF, SDS, etc.). From 2011-2015 Karen’s role as GCU Widening Participation Manager involved monitoring and evaluating the impact of a range of widening participation activities, at GCU targeted at transition, progression, and retention; developing GCU’s Schools and Colleges Engagement Strategy and developing the Transition and Progression Road Map; monitoring and reporting the impact of the University’s strategies and procedures to support care leavers; working with GCU’s Strategy and Planning department to establish and maintain a robust data system for reporting progress against Scottish Funding Council’s Outcomes Agreement targets on participation and progression especially in relation to the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation.

Research interests

Widening participation to Higher Education, transition, progression and retention; articulation; student experience and engagement; gender; widening access measures.

Selected publications

MacFarlane, K., Transition through immersion in HE: An evaluation of how a transition and immersion programme for school pupils embeds a culture of the university experience for key stakeholders, Journal of Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning, Volume 18 Issue 3, November 2016.

Wayne, Y., Ingram, R., MacFarlane, K., Andrew, N., McAleavy, L. Whittaker, R.  Students in Transition A Lifecycle Approach in Scottish Higher Education: A Review of Research, Policy and Practice, Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland, UK, Higher Education Academy, June 2016.

MacFarlane, K. and Wayne, Y., Supporting Equality of Access to Higher Education in Scotland:  Access and Transition Through Immersion in Higher Education for Advanced Higher Pupils. Paper presented at the Society for Research into Higher Education conference, Newport, South Wales, December 2016.


MacFarlane, K. and Alexander, M., Connecting the many not the few: a model to support the student journey to Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland. Paper presented at the European First Year Experience Conference, Nottingham Trent University, June 2014.

Connor, C. & MacFarlane, K. (2007), Work Related Learning (WRL) in HE– a scoping study, Centre for Research in Lifelong Learning, Glasgow Caledonian University, Higher Education Academy.

Gallacher, J. & MacFarlane, K. (2005) Higher Education in Further Education Colleges: An analysis and discussion of the available data. Glasgow, SQA.


Contact details:

Karen MacFarlane

Research Fellow

George Moore Building (Room M301.06)

Tel: +44 (0) 141 273 1341

Email: k.macfarlane@gcu.ac.uk