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Ms Alison Higgs

Profile summary

  • Central Academic Staff
  • Lecturer in Social Work
  • Faculty of Wellbeing, Education & Language Studies
  • School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care
  • Social Work
  • alison.higgs

Professional biography

After completing her first degree in English Language and Literature, Alison worked in community-based mental health and housing projects for several years before training as a social worker. Initially she worked in Child Protection, before moving into the health sector,  working in a specialist hospital team with adults and children affected by HIV and AIDS.  She subsequently spent several years working in two tertiary specialist NHS hospitals with adults and children living with cancer and cystic fibrosis. During this time, she developed her teaching interests, designing and delivering education and training courses for medical, nursing and home care staff. Alison was also given the opportunity to lead seminars for medical students at King's College London.  She began working as an Associate Lecturer for the Open University on K260 (Death and Dying) and K100/KZX100 and K101 (An Introduction to Health and Social Care). Alison was seconded for one year in 2002 to establish a schools-based social work service for an inner London local authority.

In 2004 Alison moved into full-time lecturing and began teaching on a social work programme in an inner London University, before joining the OU as a central academic in 2008.

Alison is now a lecturer on the OU social work programme, based at Walton Hall. She chairs the level 3 social work practice module (K315) and has led the production of the recent rewrite. Alison is a member of the OU Human Research Ethics Committee.  She has also served on different NHS Research Ethics Committees since 2005, including City and the London and the Institute of Psychiatry.   Currently Alison serves as a member of the Riverside Research Ethics Committee.  

Research interests

Health care ethics

Black and minority ethnic students' experiences in practice placements

Student writing and scholarship

Professional identity

Death and dying/living with life-threatening illness


Teaching interests

Multi-agency and interprofessional working


Palliative Care

Working with Life-threatening conditions

Impact and engagement

Alison has acted as an External Examiner and external validator for undergraduate and postgraduate health and social care and social work programmes for fifteen years.

Languages: French and Italian


E-learning, ethics and 'non-traditional' students: space to think aloud (2012)
Higgs, Alison
Ethics and Social Welfare, 6(4) (pp. 386-402)
Social justice (2015-02-01)
Higgs, Alison
In: Bell, Linda and Hafford-Letchfield, Trish eds. Ethics, Values And Social Work Practice (pp. 112-121)
ISBN : 335245293 | Publisher : Open University Press | Published : Maidenhead
Teaching ethics for social work: whose values? (2016-07)
Higgs, Alison and Martin, Anne
In : Joint Social Work Education and Research Conference (JSWEC) 2016 (15th July 2016)
Effective Feedback in Blended learning (2015-09)
Higgs, Alison
In : The Future of Education: 5th Conference Edition (11-12 June 2015, Florence)
Changing identities changing contexts: the roles and identities of expert patients, service users and volunteer school governors (2015-07-15)
Higgs, Alison; McCormick, Mick and Sieminski, Sandy
In : JSWEC Joint Social Work Education and Research Conference 2015: Social work education and research across boundaries (15 -17 July, Open University, Milton Keynes)
The ethics of e-learning: exploiting the potential benefits, avoiding harm and thinking about intent (2010-07)
Higgs, Alison
In : ICERI 2010 (International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation) (15-17 November 2010, Madrid, Spain)
Changing identities in the student group: using creative writing (2009-07)
Higgs, Alison
In : JSWEC 2009 (8-10 July 2009, University of Hertfordshire)


Victoria Cumming, recipient of the Andrew Cornell Award 2017

WELS student wins Andrew Cornwell Award 2017

Victoria Cumming received her Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Social Work and was also given the Andrew Cornwell Award 2017 for the highest-performing graduate in the social work programme at the Open University's degree ceremony

6th November 2017
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