Pre-course reading

AUA PgCert optional pre-course background reading

Getting started

PgCert optional pre-course background reading

We understand that embarking on study can be a real challenge. As an applicant to the programme your range of experience and academic level of study will vary so in order to help you prepare for self-directed learning we have provided a list of resources we hope you find useful – these cover study skills, reflection and HE knowledge areas. Full reading lists will be made available to you on the Nottingham Trent Online Workspace (NOW) when you have enrolled.

The programme focuses on two main areas; HE knowledge and becoming an effective practitioner. Familiarising yourself with the prospectus will help you understand the structure of the modules and the self-directed nature of the programme, you can find it here: Prospectus

A good place to start is with study skills; these will help equip you for reading and writing at level 7 academic study. A reading list of useful study skills texts and online resources has been included for you below.

Self-directed learning

One of the main challenges students will face is adapting to become an independent and self-directed learner. Our PgCert programme provides a supportive framework for students to develop their skills and acquire knowledge but understanding what self-directed study involves will help you to think about your own learning style and how you will determine and manage your development needs to become a successful independent learner. 

This resource by MindTools may help you to identify what kind of learner you are:


We recommend that you access resources at your own institution’s library in preparation for embarking on the programme.  It is likely that your institution will also have study skills sessions that you can access as a staff member. Once you have enrolled on the PgCert you will be able to use NTU’s Library (both online and on site) as well as their student study skills resources. Please note that access to these resources won’t be available until a month prior to Study Day 1.

Pressed for time?

Stella Cottrell’s The Study Skills Handbook (reference below) will give you a good guide to study skills.

If you only have time to read just one text as background reading, read Jennifer Moon’s book on reflection. If you have more time, read David Willetts’ book ‘A University Education’ (full reference under ‘Knowledge’ below). 

Study skills

Study skills: reading and writing for academic study

There are a number of study skills guides available. Not everyone engages with the same material or style of presentation, so the main thing is to find one which works for you.  The following are recommended:

  • Helyer, Ruth (2010), The Work-Based Learning Student Handbook. (Palgrave)

NTU recommended text for learning returners undertaking work based study.

  • Cottrell, Stella (4th Edition 2013) The study skills handbook (Palgrave)

NTU recommended text for learning returners/mature students

  • Barnes, R. (2nd edition, 1995) Successful study for degrees (London: Routledge) An entertaining and intelligent look at learning and studying
  • Northedge, A. (2005) The good study guide (Milton Keynes: Open University) A useful guide to studying with plenty of practical suggestions and exercises to work through.
  • Open University (2006) Skills for OU Study [Online] Open University, available at
  • Terry, J. (2005) Moving on (Collaborative Widening Participation Project: Coventry University, University of Worcester, University of Warwick) Contains useful advice and tips, specifically for mature learners returning to education. Available
  • University of Manchester (2008) Study Skills guidance for Postgraduate Students [Online], University of Manchester, Faculty of Humanities, available at:

Critical writing

For information on critical writing at level 7 the University of Birmingham have this useful resource: A Short Guide to Critical Writing for Postgraduate Taught students,

The following University of Manchester resource is very comprehensive and is quoted extensively in other guides on academic writing:

The following are good additional resources about learning and thinking:

  • Cottrell, S. (2011) Critical Thinking Skills:  Developing Effective Analysis and Argument, Basingstoke: Palgrave
  • Dweck, C. (2012), Mindset: How you can fulfil your potential, Robinson



We recommend Jennifer Moon’s text on reflection within learning.

Moon, J. A. (1999) Reflection in learning and professional development: theory and practice (London: Kogan Page).

More additional readings on reflection:

  • Brockbank, A., McGill, I., Beech, N.C., (2002), Reflective Learning in Practice, Gower.
  • Kolb, D. (1984) Experiential learning: experience as the source of learning and development (New Jersey: Prentice Hall).
  • Schön, D. A., (1987), Educating the Reflective Practitioner, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.
  • Schön, D. A. (1994) The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action, Temple Smith, London.
  • Walker, D., (1985) Chapter 3 in Boud, D., Keogh, R., & Walker, D. (eds.) (1985) Reflection: turning experience into learning Kogan Page, London.
  • Zubizaretta, J. (year not listed) Idea Paper #44 The Learning Portfolio: A Powerful Idea for Significant Learning [online].

Available at: [accessed: 28 November 2018]

For more on this see the University of Cumbria guide which analyses an extract of reflective writing:

Knowledge areas

Knowledge areas


The UK higher education systems is broad and few readings cover all of the aspects of the programme. An interesting read is David Willetts (2017) “A University Education” (OUP: Oxford).

It is also important to keep up to date with developing policy issues in HE. is a good read, and the free weekly email from WonkHE is a useful way to stay abreast of debate.

Most importantly you should ensure you keep up to date with the THES and the AUA Perspectives Journal

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