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The Evolution of the IBDP – The radical new IBDP pilot giving our students greater freedom to pursue their mission-aligned passions

In December 2022 Head of College Nick Alchin announced a bold new undertaking in partnership with the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO), with a commitment to offer an additional IB Diploma option to UWCSEA students from 2024. This new diploma option is part of a small scale pilot, designed to have a significant impact on the future of education and the IB Diploma worldwide.

To understand more about this pilot programme and what it means for students, we interviewed Dr Jenny Gillett, Assessment Design Lead for the IBO, along with Ellie Alchin and Ben Clapp - Directors of Teaching & Learning on Dover and East campuses respectively. Ellie and Ben are leading the cross-campus working group responsible for this exciting collaborative project.

UWCSEA East IPPF student group

Dr Jenny Gillett, Assessment Design Lead for the IBO

What is the IB Diploma pilot with UWCSEA?

The IB already offers some different assessment options, but this pilot is a much more radical approach aimed at giving students greater flexibility to pursue their interests in complex, interdisciplinary, UWC Mission-aligned areas, such as sustainable development, peacebuilding and intercultural understanding. 

At the IB, we’re also exploring possibilities for embedding more innovative and authentic assessment into our programmes; assessing for complex competencies, for example, and allowing for greater student agency and flexibility. This bespoke pilot programme with trusted partners - UWCSEA (and UWC Atlantic) - allows us to develop these models, with the possibility of then expanding to schools around the globe after 2030.

Why are you doing this now?

The IB is currently undergoing a review of our 16+ programmes for 2030. Normally we review one programme at a time, but we are now reviewing the whole experience to address flexibility and innovation. At the same time, UWCSEA is undergoing an innovative evolution of their curriculum with the new 9/10 programme that gives students more flexibility and choice, more complex real-world problem solving, more interdisciplinary thinking, and more authentic assessment. 

Together, these two initiatives present the perfect opportunity to combine innovation and flexibility in this pilot programme. The timing is right!


This is such a large undertaking that we were looking for a trusted partner who was eager to collaborate and co-develop the curriculum together. UWCSEA already works in close partnership with the IB on a number of projects and pilots, with its experienced faculty involved in writing curriculum, delivering workshops, and producing example work. The College was eager to partner on this and it is a perfect and natural progression for their already established Grade 9 and 10 programme which introduces students to different forms of project-based assessment.

UWCSEA Dover High School German lesson

Ellie Alchin - Director of Teaching & Learning, UWCSEA Dover and Ben Clapp - Director of Teaching & Learning, UWCSEA East.

What does this pilot look like in practice?

A cross-campus steering group made up of the Head of Curriculum and Research, Directors of Teaching and Learning, Vice Principals, IBDP Coordinators, and two dedicated Course Designers, is working to develop a 300 hour project-based course. This course will replace two subject choices at Standard Level, leading to a dual award grade out of 7. In addition, many of the requirements currently placed on students’ subject selections will be relaxed, allowing for greater flexibility.

The programme also opens the way for greater community engagement and real world, authentic life challenges and contexts which is very exciting. It is a step away from the hypothetical into authentic collaboration with the community, driven by real-life contexts.

What is the impact on students? 

A positive one! The addition of the 300 hour project-based course will give students a choice to do more work in our UWCSEA mission competencies. Students who would choose this might be excited about a specific competency and want to pursue their understanding, experience and contribution in a deeper and more meaningful way. 

They may already be doing great work in the 9/10 programme and when making their subject choices for 11 and 12 we can ask them if they would like to continue on with the interests and passions they've already been exploring and would like to continue this work into grades 11 and 12 for their IB Diploma. Through this programme they will have the flexibility to do so. It represents the perfect evolution of education, shaping the curriculum for deeper learning and greater impact.

Is this still the IB Diploma?

Yes! The IB will award a diploma, exactly as per the current model: graded out of 45 points, with grades out of 7. As long as students meet the existing passing conditions, they will earn an IB Diploma.

What does it mean for university admissions?

This is an IB Diploma: it is recognised globally and students must still meet certain requirements to attain it. They must complete three Higher Level subjects (HLs) as well as the IB Diploma ‘Core’, comprising Theory of Knowledge, the Extended Essay, and CAS (Creativity, Activity, Service).

What is significant about this opportunity is that now students can demonstrate depth and passion for a particular area of study, and they can align this depth of learning through their IB choices with their future aspirations. 

As is currently the case, if there are specific subject requirements for a desired course or country, then students still need to meet those requirements; the key is making the right choices for each individual.

Advocacy will also play an important part in the success of this pilot and we have already begun discussions with a range of universities.

What’s next? 

Both campuses have recently made appointments for dedicated Course Designers, who will lead on writing the projects which constitute the backbone of this programme. In collaboration with the Directors of Teaching and Learning on both campuses, and our College Head of Curriculum and Research, they will develop the curriculum model and learning experiences for students choosing the new option. Current and future students are also involved in helping to shape the course, and their input is crucial as we seek to introduce greater optionality in our learning programme. We’re excited to share more details in the coming year, and course details will be available to the graduating Class of 2026 as part of their transition to Grade 11 in August 2024. 

This is an extremely exciting time for the IB and at UWCSEA we are thrilled to be at the forefront of this evolution in education to make it more meaningful, relevant and ultimately impactful for our graduates.