Why I value working in user experience in higher education

Presenting user research findings in an experience map at the University of Edinburgh

My boss Neil Allison has written a blog post about doing user experience work in higher education. At the University of Edinburgh we are currently recruiting for four UX-related roles. I’m passing on the message because it’s an exciting time to be pushing forward with UX work at the university.

As Neil says in his post, many UX professionals may not contemplate a move into higher education. But if you work in UX, I think these roles are seriously worth considering. I am not formally part of the UX Service, but I have had the opportunity to get heavily involved in a lot of its projects.

Having worked for the University of Edinburgh for over a year, I can confirm that it is an immensely fulfilling place to work. I have grown and learnt a great deal in a very short space of time, and it has certainly provided me with exactly the sort of challenge and opportunity I was looking for when I joined.

What might surprise you is the variety of work that’s on offer. Neil’s post offers a taste of the projects we have worked on over the past year, and I can certainly echo that.

The University is a large and diverse organisation. It does more than you might first realise, and we have a wider range of users than you might expect. Each project brings a unique challenge.

The past year has seen me doing all sorts of fascinating user research:

Of course, it’s not without its ups and downs — but every job has that. Almost all of my “proper jobs” have been in higher education. So I can’t vouch for how this compares to, for instance, working for an agency, or working for another sector.

But in the wake of events of the past few years, this a time when designers are being forced to consider their role in the world. Trust in the tech giants is shrinking, often with good reason. We need to make sure we are doing work that is fundamentally about improving society.

Higher education may have some flawed characteristics. But you can be assured that it is not evil.

It is not our business to squeeze customers dry of cash, or to get people addicted to a product, or to facilitate the spread of misinformation, or to design the digital interface for a nasty government policy. We exist fundamentally to advance knowledge and improve society.

For this reason, I really value working in a sector like higher education. So while it brings its challenges, it is worth rising up to them.

And the view from the desk is pretty cool.

View of Edinburgh Castle from my desk

If you work in UX and you’re interested, please do read Neil’s blog post to find out more about the UX roles being advertised.

And take a look at the UX Service website to find out more about the service’s work.

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