Illuminatio June 2009 f:Illuminatio Oct 08 19/8/09 15:35 Page 1
From the Oxford Learning Institute
Contents Creating and developing partnerships:
Lynn McAlpine & Stephen Goss 1 integrating disciplinary and
DEVELOPING LEARNING AND TEACHING (DLT)
“Beyond the Ivory Tower”: the postgraduate
Eleanor Parkin 2 Professor Lynn McAlpine, Director, Centre for
DLT and me Excellence in Preparing for Academic Practice; &
Daniel Bulte 3
Dr Stephen Goss, Director, Oxford Learning Institute
Views of a new academic
Will Norman 4
CETL INITIATIVES The Centres for Excellence in Teaching and
Springboard – introduction 5
Learning (CETL) programme was first launched
Olivia Roche 5
Veronika Fikfak 6 by the Higher Education Funding Council for
Career Accelerator Academic Mentoring (CAAM) England (HEFCE) in 2003.
John Kirwan 6
Experiencing the CAAM programme The initiative was intended loosely
Philip Lockley 7 “to reward excellent teaching practice “What’s wonderful about
Disciplinary Academic Practice Events and to invest in that practice further
Sarah Steele 7 so that the funding delivers this programme is that has
substantial benefits to institutions,
Fixed-term employment in research – Small steps brought people together
and open questions teachers and students”, but the
Alis Oancea 8 practical explication of these broad from different subjects,
DIVISIONAL PERSPECTIVES objectives was left to the institutions
Preparing for Academic Practice in the Humanities bidding for CETL funding. 74 Centres very productively”
Ros Ballaster & Debbie McVitty 9 were eventually approved in January
Dispatches from the Social Sciences 2005, with the associated
David Mills 10 expenditure representing the Council’s largest ever single funding initiative
CETL, MPLS and preparation for Academic relating to teaching and learning.
Practice in the Sciences
Barbara Gabrys 11 The University of Oxford’s successful CETL bid for a “Centre for Excellence in
Divisional Co-ordination: Medical Sciences Preparing for Academic Practice” was coordinated by the Learning Institute.
Catarina Gadelha 12 The Centre was designed to represent a creative and original approach to the
EXTERNAL PERSPECTIVES development of doctoral students and new research staff who wish to follow
A view from the Higher Education Academy careers in academia – individuals who can be termed ‘early career academics’.
Helen Thomas 13
The bid was always intended to be an initiative for change across the University,
Vitae: preparing researchers for Academic Practice rather than being driven by individual concerns or local issues. From the beginning,
Tristram Hooley 14 the Divisions and the Institute were conceived as partners in the CETL process,
CONCLUDING THOUGHTS with specific individuals in the Divisions nominated to provide leadership in their
The future of the CETL programme at Oxford Divisions, and the Institute making a commitment to provide pedagogical and
Tim Softley 15
evaluation expertise. The bid had clear-cut goals, which included the gradual
USEFUL RESOURCES 16 implementation of teaching development programmes within the Divisions
(sometimes at the level of the department or faculty) for all early career academics.
The bid was conceived so that each Division received annual funding to carry
out their development plans. Additionally, the bid included capital funding for
each Division to construct pedagogical space that was pertinent to their
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A key feature of the plan was the creation of cross-Divisional practice’ was seen as central. This meant that activities related to
structures which have facilitated communication and information Roberts’ funding and general career development were deemed
exchange, so that useful practices developed in one Division as equally important and could be integrated into local offerings.
or department could be modified and implemented in others. This issue of Illuminatio thus contains the voices of early career
A striking feature of the CETL is that all those involved are academics who have participated in a range of programmes, as
personally motivated by a belief that this work is important for well as of the CETL coordinators who have provided Divisional
the development of early career academics, the future of the leadership, and of external organisations who contribute to the
disciplines, and their continued contribution to knowledge and academic practice “agenda”.
society. Such communication across Divisional and disciplinary
lines was valued greatly: as one CETL Divisional co-ordinator said, Now, at the beginning of its last year of funding, the Centre’s original
“one of the things that’s been absolutely wonderful about this goals have largely been achieved, and nearly a thousand people are
programme is that it’s brought people together from different participating each year in CETL-derived programmes. The focus of
subjects, very productively – we’re sitting round a table now, attention now shifts to the embedding and sustaining of what is
whereas before we’d never have had the chance to work together seen by many as a record of substantial achievement. There is a
in this way.” Thus, perhaps it is not surprising that forums for the strong sense that this initiative has provided a sound foundation
exchange of ideas on provision for early career academics are on which the University may move forward on a range of issues
imagined as continuing once the CETL funding ends in 2010. that can better support the development of early career academics
– such as, for example, the development of doctoral training
While the original focus and goals of the CETL highlighted the schools. The Learning Institute hopes to continue to work in
development of teaching provision, this attention shifted quickly partnership with the Divisions and other parts of the University in
to a broader perspective in which an inclusive view of ‘academic support of the further enhancement of academic practice at Oxford.
Developing Learning and Teaching
“Beyond the Ivory Tower”: the postgraduate perspective on
“Developing Learning and Teaching”
Eleanor Parkin, DPhil candidate in Italian, Christ Church
Before starting the Developing Learning and Teaching (DLT) scheme, as a doctoral
student in Italian literature, pedagogical theory and indeed the practicalities of how
to be a successful tutor in a Humanities context were somewhat hazy ideas in my
mind. These were concepts based on hearsay, on my own positive undergraduate
experiences, and on scattered stories from my fellow postgraduates who were already
engaged in teaching.
The DLT programme, by building on what I had already learnt in reading and dissecting the theoretical texts together (and by adding
sessions on Preparation for Learning and Teaching the previous year, our own anecdotal and often very useful and amusing stories from
provided me with a structured way of thinking critically about my personal experience), we were able to think about what we do
own teaching practices. I had (perhaps somewhat ironically!) already instinctively, what we should or can do in the teaching context, and
undertaken some undergraduate teaching prior to starting the how this makes us better tutors. These are reflections which will in
programme, but the first-year Italian poetry students I taught during turn (hopefully!) make us more employable when some of us have
the DLT scheme certainly had a tutor who was more student- to make the rather frightening leap from postgraduate tutor to
centred and theoretically aware. gainfully employed ‘real’ tutor.
The scheme typically combines critical reflection; reading of The literature we read in the reading groups, occasionally dry
pedagogical texts; observation and experience of teaching; and the and less relevant for those teaching in a humanities context,
submission of a written portfolio. One of the great benefits of DLT nevertheless gave me some idea of the current issues in teaching
lies, I believe, in the opportunity to engage in such reflection - on and, more importantly, how I could implement some of them,
planning, student feedback, and teaching and learning practices in something which will certainly be useful when I am next asked to
a group situation - through participation in reading groups. By define my ‘teaching philosophy’ on an application form. Writing the
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portfolio (on teaching poetry successfully in the The DLT programme ... outside the ‘Oxford bubble’. Some of us may
‘Small Group Context’) gave me the chance to now hold the illustrious title of ‘Associate of the
explore an area which was both of real interest provided me with a Higher Education Academy’, but the promise of
to me and relevant to my teaching context. a position in an ivory tower at the end of our
Whilst some issues could not be resolved within
structured way of thinking thesis is far from certain.
an hour’s discussion with peers or a mentor (for critically about my own As 21st-century postgraduates, we should enter
example; how do postgraduate tutors gain real the next phase of our careers as prepared as
authority as teachers?), this scheme has certainly teaching practices. possible for what lies ahead; I believe that DLT
further prepared me for one day teaching can form an integral part of that preparation.
DLT and me
Daniel Bulte, postdoctoral researcher & DLT participant (Medical Sciences)
The tutorial system at Oxford can, to new arrivals, seem like an impenetrable
maze of insider knowledge and incomprehensible jargon. However, as an
undergraduate student, you are surrounded by others in the same boat, and
there are people everywhere at your college who can explain to you all that
you need to know.
In contrast, there is the fate of the new I had found others who wishing to pack their CV with knowledge and
postgraduate student or postdoctoral new skills, and even to obtain a nationally
researcher who wants to get some teaching actually liked teaching, recognised qualification.
experience, or at least wants to make a little
wanted to improve and
money in these harsh times. You would love to It was not a magic cure-all, and finding a
ask where to start - but you don’t even know augment their skills, and paying teaching position at Oxford is still a
whom to ask that question. Your supervisor or closely fought battle between the hoards of
principal investigator may never have been a knew the answers to many hungry graduates and postdocs, but at the very
student at Oxford, so they don’t know the least these are a good source of people to ask
of my questions.
answers; and many postdocs do not have the big question: where can I find the answers?
college affiliations. It can be very frustrating to In fact, I enjoyed it so much that I went back for
having skills and knowledge and a wish to pass the DLT, compiled a teaching portfolio, became
that on, while earning a few pounds doing it, and to feel a member of the Higher Education Academy, and returned to help
blocked at every turn. support the preliminary course (Preparing for Teaching and
Learning at Oxford). However, even if you only take some of the
This was me three years ago. At my previous universities I had courses on offer, you will benefit from so doing.
been inundated with requests or demands to teach, and yet here
I felt lost in the wilderness. Then I discovered the Learning Institute’s Everyone in academia has had some experience with a teacher or
programme for supporting people like me at Oxford. It was, at that tutor who doesn’t care, doesn’t know the material or simply hasn’t
time, relatively new, but at once I realised I had found others who got a clue. The best thing about the Teaching and Learning courses
actually liked teaching, who wanted to improve and augment is that they represent the first step towards ensuring that no one
their own skills, and who knew the answers to many of my ever says that about you. If you happen to become a better teacher
questions. As well as this they offered not just one day of along the way, or get that tutorial position you really wanted, or
PowerPoint and a hearty handshake, but an ongoing simply find a helpful new source of cash, don’t be surprised; that’s
comprehensive array of services for early career academics really why the programmes are there.
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Developing Learning and Teaching: views of a new academic
Will Norman, Oxford DPhil and former DLT participant, now Lecturer in North
American Literature at the University of Kent
The transition from DPhil student to first academic job is commonly, and rightly,
perceived as a challenging one. In my field, Literary Studies, the majority of academic
careers are launched through positions which require the candidate to do at least
some undergraduate teaching. Many of the jobs advertised are fixed-term teaching
fellowships, which make little or no provision for research activity. Competition for
all these posts is high, meaning that candidates need to take the preparation of
their CVs very seriously. They may be required to take on heavy teaching workloads,
and to teach outside their areas of research expertise. Institutions will therefore
be looking for evidence of a professional approach to academic teaching which
demonstrates that the candidate not only has experience in the classroom and
lecture theatre, but has thought carefully about the particular demands of
modern Higher Education.
My own experience, of completing the DLT at 50% of my requirements time for research. The work I did on my
the Learning Institute at Oxford University, was DLT portfolio helped me to focus on
a positive one, and has been useful in several
were fulfilled before I even teaching with a greater degree of clarity
ways. My search for a first academic job was arrived at the post, leaving on aims and outcomes. This, in turn, has
ultimately successful, and I am now a full-time meant both that my seminars are more
lecturer at the University of Kent. It is difficult to me more time to spend on effective, and that I approach preparation
know what part the DLT played in the process of with more confidence and efficiency.
my getting the job, but my interviewers certainly
the other aspects of my job. Tutorial teaching has little currency outside
wanted reassurance that I was a capable and of Oxbridge, and so it was the elements
dedicated teacher as well as a researcher. of the DLT course which concentrated
Like many other institutions, my university requires permanent staff on small group teaching which were most beneficial to me.
to complete a PGCHE (Postgraduate Certificate of Higher Education) Experience of delivering lectures has been important to
as a condition of probation. I have been able to transfer credits from me, in getting the job and in providing a foundation for my
the DLT onto the PGCHE course at Kent, with the result that 50% of current teaching responsibilities. The DLT gave the opportunity
my requirements were fulfilled before I even arrived at the post, to deliver a short lecture, and to receive feedback on it from
leaving me more time to spend on the other aspects of my new job. an experienced academic. That, too, has been useful,
and I would urge graduate students to obtain as much
This is, of course, the second difficulty involved in the transition experience of lecturing as they can. This is a skill in genuine
from graduate student to lecturer – the day-to-day business of demand, and opportunities for students to practice it
keeping on top of your teaching workload, as well as making are limited.
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Introduction: Judith Secker & Hannah Boschen, Oxford Learning Institute
Springboard is an award winning personal and professional development programme,
designed and developed by women for women. It has been created specifically to
enable women to achieve their full potential both at work and in their personal lives
and to gain greater influence. Women are less well represented than men in more
senior roles at all levels in the University; providing Springboard programmes for
women is one of the means by which we aim to address this concern.
Through four workshops spread over three months and a personal staff have all benefited from the programme. Some have been
workbook, Springboard enables women to value their skills and promoted; others have resolved difficulties at home; many have
build on their strengths while conquering their weaknesses. taken the first steps towards realising their full potential. With the
The programme develops the self-confidence and assertiveness establishment of the CETL, it became possible to develop a skills-
necessary to allow women to make things happen in their lives. oriented version of the programme for postgraduate students,
Springboard was introduced for University of Oxford staff in 2001 and the accounts that follow are from two of the women who
and academics, researchers, administrators, technicians and clerical participated in a pilot course for students, held in 2007.
Springboard participant, Olivia Roche, DPhil graduate
I had very high expectations of the Springboard me came during our discussion on image.
course when I entered the room on the first It was one of the first days - I realised for the first time why I so often got a
day in September 2007. A taster session a few negative response from people “for no reason”,
months before had led me to believe that this during my four years at as I thought. I was projecting a negative image
was exactly what I needed to get myself and my of myself. I was being pessimistic and appeared
life back together. And I wasn’t disappointed.
Oxford – when I felt angry and bitter. I worked hard at changing
Very quickly in the first morning I found myself understood, not alone, that – being positive, optimistic, happier and
working with a group of like-minded, intelligent more open to people around me. I found an
women, who had been through or were going and ‘normal’! almost instant positive response from my
through very similar experiences. We were very work colleagues and friends. It was liberating
ably and light-heartedly led by Judith and Tess and empowering. I felt I could control the
through group exercises to which we brought attitude and behaviour of others towards
our own experiences and learned from others. It me by controlling my attitude and behaviour
was one of the first days – during my four years at Oxford - when towards them.
I felt understood, not alone and “normal”! Our homework involved
working through the first four chapters of the Springboard workbook. A year on from Springboard, I am a much happier, stronger woman.
It was an exploration of ourselves, our motivations, our ambitions; I finished my DPhil and got a job in scientific publishing, which I really
it challenged us to look at our behaviour and beliefs from a different enjoy. I moved to a new city and am starting a new life for myself.
angle and it brought insight and for me a sense of excitement. I had the courage to end a long-term relationship that was not helping
This is what I had been looking for. I wished the programme had my confidence or happiness. The skills I learnt during Springboard,
been available in the first or second year of my DPhil rather than the the network of friends I built up and the personal insight I gained
fourth because I could have made even more use of the skills and empowered me to do all this. I learned from others in my group, I built
ideas it gave me, but it still came in good time to help me through. up confidence in myself after a difficult experience during my DPhil in
Oxford and most importantly I learned the need for “me” time and
The next three sessions built on this foundation, pushed us further rewarding myself. No more guilt and self-criticism – I learned to like
from our comfort zones, challenged us even more and enabled us to myself and by continuing to use my Springboard workbook and
learn and understand more about ourselves. A real breakthrough for techniques, someday soon I may be able to say that I love myself.
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Springboard participant, Veronika Fikfak, DPhil graduate
In late 2007 and early 2008, I was part of the first group of postgraduate and debated the beauty and the blessings of being a woman. In the
students to participate in the Springboard programme for women. end, the best lesson that Springboard taught me was not that I should
The programme, aimed at empowering women in academia to see myself as a woman, different from men and not suitable for the
progress in their professional and personal lives, introduced me to quasi-male environment of the academic world. Rather, the lesson I
different techniques with which I could develop skills and confidence shall always carry with me is that I should see and present myself as
to take control over my own life and actively pursue my ambitions. a person, a person with opinions and ambitions, which, thanks to
With women from different backgrounds across the university, I learned Springboard, I plan to pursue confidently in the future.
Oxford Career Accelerator Academic Mentoring Programme
John Kirwan, Oxford University Careers Service
While many DPhil students at Oxford aspire to academic careers, their sole experience
of academia is often limited to Oxford, where they may have studied continuously
since undertaking their first degree. Consequently their appreciation of the wider
world of academia, where nearly all Oxford DPhils will actually begin their academic
careers, may be somewhat lacking.
‘Career Accelerator’ is an innovative academic mentoring I queries about the scheme being dealt with by a part-time project
model (based loosely on ‘Manchester Gold’ a graduate mentoring coordinator who also periodically contacts each mentor/mentee
programme) designed to put Oxford DPhils and early career to check that things are running smoothly;
research staff in touch with experienced academics, all former I the programme closing with a final round-up and evaluation
Oxford alumni, now working as academics outside of Oxford. meeting in Oxford.
The scheme helps mentees to gain a broader understanding
of the range of issues involved in pursuing an academic career, Very positive feedback was received from both mentors and
through mentoring on career-related matters. First piloted by the mentees after the pilot. This was evaluated by the CETL and
Careers Service in 2007/8, with fourteen mentor/mentee pairs, reported outcomes for mentees included gaining:
support from the University’s Graduate Skills Advisory Group I guidance about jobs, CV writing, job interviews
and funding from the CETL, key aspects of the scheme include: I perspectives on working in other institutions
I an understanding of the importance of teaching
I attempts to match mentees with mentors on the basis of I a realisation that there is no model academic career
interests, experience and aspirations, although this is not I opening up of mind / ambition to broader possibilities
always possible; (types of job / institution)
I a six month programme, commencing with an opening briefing I specific knowledge of publishing venues and formats
for mentors and mentees. Participants commit, at the outset, to I a better understanding of employer perspectives in job
completing the process, unless unavoidable circumstances arise; applications
I mentors and mentees agreeing dates/times/locations to meet; I insights into teaching (in one case through observing the
methods of communication (e.g. meetings, telephone discussion, mentor in practice)
or e-mail contact), etc, at the outset of the programme. I insights into how to balance teaching and research.
All mentees are encouraged to undertake at least one visit to
their mentor’s workplace and it is the mentee’s responsibility to Mentors also reported favourably, often being attracted to the
‘drive’ the programme, once launched; scheme by ideas of ‘giving back’ to younger generations, intrinsic
I mentors offering up to 20 hours of consultation time across the interest, the potential for learning and skills development for
specified period, at mutually agreed times. The content of all themselves, as well as anticipation of meeting inspiring young
mentoring consultations is confidential; academics. In 2008/9 the scheme has been expanded to 35 pairs,
I mentors offering advice based purely on the mostly from Humanities and Social Sciences backgrounds, and it
basis of their personal experience of academia, it being entirely looks to be proving a valuable tool in helping to shape ideas about
up to mentees to decide how they use such advice in reviewing academic practice by facilitating a greater understanding of what
their career plans and making any career decisions; careers in academia actually entail. Evaluation of the 2008/9
I one or more personal development workshops on relevant scheme, which ended in June 2009, will provide further insights
themes for mentees (e.g. Academic CVs); to develop the programme still further.
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Experiencing the Career Accelerator Academic Mentoring
Philip Lockley, Faculty of History
Graduate research at Oxford involves both trials and triumphs. Towards the end of
any doctoral project there is also a sense of transition – a moving from student to
specialist, from trainee to practitioner. To feel this is especially welcome to anyone
hoping to use their doctorate to launch an academic career. Yet, until the thesis is
finished, or even in those first terms after completion, transition can sometimes seem
more a state than a stage. And the steps to take to get beyond it, to turn hope or
intention into career progress are rarely clear.
I was a third-year doctoral student when I felt myself in this scenario. priorities matched. Now based at Sheffield, after experience of
Learning of the Career Accelerator scheme in an email sent to a several institutions, he was keen to advise on combining teaching
wide section of the Oxford Graduate body, I saw an academic and research interests.
mentor as an ideal source for advice and insights on negotiating
the steps between finishing a doctorate and securing an academic Over the six months or so of the scheme, we stayed in regular
career. Of particular interest to me, was the potential in the e-mail contact, meeting twice in Oxford over lunch, and once at
scheme for introductions to academic environments beyond his home institution, when I job-shadowed for half a day. Over the
Oxford. Having come here for graduate work after a first degree at lunches we discussed various issues, including getting published,
a northern red-brick, I had retained an ambition to return north for teaching experience, job applications and interview preparation.
academic practice. Aware of how, in northern cities, universities have The job-shadowing was not something the Accelerator Scheme
been drivers of recent regeneration and development, drawing in itself suggested, but was an opportunity that my mentor offered
new populations and educating long-resident ones, I felt this was during a discussion of teaching styles. As my teaching experience
something to which I’d like to contribute. A scheme within which I at Oxford being limited to one or two students at a time, I was
could request a mentor with experience of moving on from Oxford, especially interested in other teaching dynamics, especially
to pastures northern, appealed. Another interest I had was balancing seminars. I therefore visited my mentor for a morning in his
research and teaching interests in the early stages of a career; how department, observing a third-year seminar class, as well as tutorials
not to prioritise one too much to the detriment of the other. with dissertation students. With an opportunity to talk through my
impressions of the sessions, this was perhaps the most stimulating –
Accepted on the scheme, I met my mentor during a day at the even inspirational and aspirational – moment of the scheme.
Careers Service. In discussion with other mentees, I found that It allowed me to visualise, in a way discussion over lunch perhaps
the reasons others had joined the scheme were varied: few had so could never do, where it was I wanted to get to: beyond the
explicit an interest in leaving Oxford. Meeting my mentor, we got transition state, to a room of students discussing and debating their
on well, noting quickly how my concerns and his experience and subject eagerly, led in their learning by a fully-fledged academic.
Disciplinary Academic Practice Events
Sarah Steele, DPhil in Law, Christ Church
The CETL has run a series of one-day colloquia in conjunction with Higher Education Academy
Subject Centres. These events bring together doctoral students, postdoctoral researchers, and
junior and senior academics, to explore and discuss the challenges and opportunities for those
wishing to prepare for and develop academic careers in particular disciplinary areas. Eight
such sessions have been held so far, and more are planned for 2009-10. Sarah Steele attended
an event in March 2009 co-organised with the UK Centre for Legal Education (UKCLE).
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The “Changing Academic Practice: Implications for Future Legal managerialisation of universities. While this issue appeared at first to
Academics” one-day colloquium brought together various people be a consideration on the peripheries my career progression plans as
from across the UK at the start of their careers in Law teaching. a fledgling academic, many of the shared concerns at the conference
Arriving at the event, I was well aware that Law teaching is complex revolved around the shift away from a focus on preparing students
and multifaceted. Through three years of part-time teaching, I knew for intellectual and professional practice (e.g. teaching), to structured
that academics are expected to demonstrate excellence in a number research requirements and increasingly administrative academic roles.
of roles; contemporary universities suppose that academics will excel
as teachers, researchers, supervisors, administrators For me, this prompted consideration of not
and often as managers. But inasmuch as the role only what teaching and research I undertake,
itself is diverse, I arrived expecting that the forum The colloquium challenged but also which roles I should accept and reject
would pinpoint an overarching career path, within the University environment. As an early
trajectories for academic law practice or uniform me to think about more career academic, I was well-aware of the need
challenges facing new practitioners. I viewed the to publish, to gain teaching experience and to
experience as an opportunity to network and to
than just ticking boxes to network, but had not considered perhaps the
gain assurance that I was ‘not alone’. But instead, ensure career progression, most important point made in the discussion:
what I found was an opportunity not only to turn that young academics need to think strategically
the lens on academic practice, but also on myself but also to consider what it and learn to (occasionally) say ‘no’ to the variety
and my strategies. of other tasks they are thrown. I began to
means to be a practitioner consider that I, as an early stage academic, had
While I advise my students that reflection is core in a complex and changing what Oprah would label affectionately as ‘the
to the learning experience, I had not, until the disease to please’: I realised that many of the
colloquium, mulled over the artistry of being academic environment. roles I take on often add no value to my personal
a legal academic. By considering all the tasks academic development and distract from the
required in the job, as well as my own experience important task of publishing.
and the practice of other new and future legal academics, I found that
the colloquium challenged me to think about more than just about In short, while concerns about how to run tutorials and whether my
ticking boxes to ensure career progression, but also to consider what marks were in the range they ‘should’ be had dominated my mind
it means to be a practitioner in a complex and changing academic before the colloquium, the forum highlighted the challenge is in fact
environment. Particularly, I was challenged consider how I am preparing to think about my objectives and to consider my present trajectories,
myself for academic employment and to ruminate on the issue of the as well as the pathways I can take.
conference on fixed-term employment in research - small steps
and open questions
Dr Alis Oancea, Chair, Research Staff Forum, Department of Education
The Research Staff Forum of the Oxford University Department of Education has
been in place for at least the last five years and has the support of the department
for its work in offering social and academic support for research staff and also in
contributing to the development of more collaborative environments that draw
together various categories of staff, within the department and beyond it.
The Forum has undertaken a number of initiatives, including: Of these, our most recent initiative was a day conference, on 13
interdisciplinary work on fixed-term employment in social science May 2009, on fixed-term employment in social science research.
research; small-scale empirical research on the condition and career The conference was supported by the Centre for Excellence in
plans of research staff; debate and, where appropriate, focussed Preparing for Academic Practice and by the Social Sciences Division.
responses to University-wide, national, and international codes Speakers included Jacqueline Allen-Collinson (University of Exeter),
and regulations affecting research staff; and plans for a tailored, on occupational identity and the lived experience of undertaking
researcher-led programme of research staff development in the contract research; David Mills (University of Oxford), on the
department. We are currently exploring possibilities of linking with demographic profile of social sciences; Lynn McAlpine (University
other forums and organisations with similar remit. of Oxford), on the next generation of social scientists; and Zoe
Illuminatio June 2009 f:Illuminatio Oct 08 19/8/09 15:35 Page 9
Fowler (Independent consultant), on contract researchers, career I What were the complexities behind the generic trend in recent
development, and capacity building. Iain Cameron (Head of years towards increased reliance on fixed-term contracts in the
Careers, RCUK), Rebecca Nestor (Associate Director, Oxford social sciences? Is the trend currently slowing down or being
Learning Institute), Matthew Smart (Divisional Officer, Oxford reversed?
University Social Sciences Division), Justin Hutchence (University of I What developments and forms of action are feasible and
Reading), and Elizabeth Oliver (University of Liverpool) acted as recommendable for the future? What role can/ should legislative
discussants. The conference was attended by key representatives of change play, compared to other aspects of research governance,
Oxford University and of other UK universities, including decision- policy, and practice?
makers and academic and support staff. I am currently preparing
follow-up publications, including an edited collection of the papers Over the last half decade, UK and European documents,
and responses, and a thematic issue of a professional journal. including the 2008 UK Funders and Employers Concordat to
Support the Career Development of Researchers, have made
The questions that structured the discussions at the conference were: progress in addressing concerns deriving from these questions.
However, as the discussions at the May conference proved, the
I How does fixed-term employment affect career patterns, issues around fixed-term employment in higher education research
researcher development, occupational identities, and the lived are still very much alive. One positive outcome of the conference
experience of doing research, among social science researchers? was the recognition, among all those present, of the fact that the
I How do recent trends in the employment of researchers in the Social Sciences can offer excellent qualitative and quantitative
social sciences affect disciplinary development and the strategic analyses of the topic, to inform further policies and decisions
development of research units? at all levels of the system.
Preparing for academic practice in
the Humanities: taking ownership,
Professor Ros Ballaster & Dr Debbie McVitty
“I have concluded that teaching is a process
CETL capital funding contributed to the construction of the Ioannou Centre
of learning for both the tutor and the student” for Classical and Byzantine Studies. Photograph by Martin Cleveland
Sarah Roger (DPhil candidate in Modern Languages), Developing Learning and Teaching Portfolio (April, 2008)
Since the pilot Developing Learning and Teaching programme ran in training and development in teaching in the course of their degree,
the English faculty in 2006 with six doctoral students, CETL-funded and so far sixteen students in English, History, Modern Languages,
preparation for academic practice initiatives have evolved in a range Linguistics, Music and Theology have achieved Higher Education
of directions throughout the Humanities Division. Academy recognition. Faculty mentors also report that the
experience has encouraged them productively to reflect on
The early focus was on setting up teaching programmes in and revisit their pedagogical habits.
faculties, and evolving Divisional support for graduates on those
programmes. Faculties have developed programmes that are Having established teaching programmes, Humanities turned its
responsive to their own subject-specific teaching practices, but attention to the preparation of graduates for wider academic
within the framework of an agreement of minimum provision: that practice, running seminars and workshops on career preparation,
each student should have the opportunity to observe teaching, presenting at conferences, developing a DPhil project proposal,
and to be observed as a teacher by an experienced mentor. publishing research, “managing graduate study” and handling the
DPhil viva, with more activities in the pipeline.
Faculty mentoring programmes have been complemented by
Divisional teaching seminars, which themselves engender lively Most recently, we have piloted a particularly unusual initiative in the
debate across and within Humanities faculties. All DPhil students in Faculty of Oriental Studies: appointing graduates to identify their
pursuit of academic careers have the opportunity to undertake own training and academic practice needs and to run programmes
Illuminatio June 2009 f:Illuminatio Oct 08 19/8/09 15:35 Page 10
to meet these with the support of the Director of Graduate Studies often through trial and error - how to research, how to teach or
and the Humanities Training Coordinator. how to operate within an intellectual culture can leave graduates
anxious about a perceived gap between themselves and an
Likewise, in the History Faculty we have provided funding to imaginary Top Academic.
encourage growth of the intellectual research community
among early career researchers through Peer conversation, mentoring, seminars or
researcher-led events. Before the end of workshops and individual experience encourage
CETL funding we expect to roll out divisional- graduate students to take ownership of the
wide opportunities for our postdoctoral Graduate students are often process of ‘becoming an academic’ through
colleagues on a similar model. critical reflection and practice rather than
convinced that there is a striving to match an externally-imposed
So much for the measurable outputs. The great academic ideal.
“blueprint” for Academic
value of these programmes must always be,
not that they exist, but that they contribute Practice – if only some expert We are lucky to work with a cohort of
to a development in perceptions of what outstanding graduate students and early
academia is all about among the academic would tell them what it is. career researchers. Paul Ramsden’s Learning
leaders of the future. to Teach in Higher Education, a core text for
Developing Learning and Teaching, argues that
Humanities’ work around preparation for academic practice has the highest form of teaching and learning is one in which teachers
developed two key principles: ownership and reflection. When they learn from their students. We are consistently impressed with the
begin programmes of research, teaching and service, graduate intellectual quality and commitment to teaching and learning from
students are often convinced that there is a blueprint for academic our graduates and early career researchers. There is, indeed, much
practice – if only some expert would tell them what it is. Learning – that the University can learn from them.
Dispatches from the Social Sciences:
Dr David Mills, Department of Education
I hold an unusual academic post. My university
lectureship combines the standard duties of
research, teaching, and examining with a
five-year half-time responsibility for the This seminar room at the Department of Education was rebuilt using
CETL capital funds.”
‘development, management and delivery
of the CETL programme within Oxford’s Social Sciences Division’. The Division is
highly decentralized, with funding and strategy decisions devolved to departments.
By comparison with a job description that involves integrating ‘teaching development’
with the ‘graduate skills’ agenda across the division, the lecturing role is easy.
In brief, my job is to influence the way Being ‘embedded’ in My first task was to understand the informal
departments prepare and support their graduates decision making processes within each
who teach, whilst not treading on too many local departments allows graduate department. This is easier said than done, for in
sensitivities. When I took up the post in 2006 I big, factional and relatively ‘undepartmentalised’
teaching co-ordinators to
gradually became aware of the politics that departments, institutional power is diffuse. Key
surrounded tutorial teaching. Most departments respond to local concerns. decision-makers had more pressing concerns
have relatively little control over who does this than short-term teaching initiatives. Initially, a
teaching. Within the Social Sciences the key issues lot of emails went unanswered. Then, suddenly,
are equity (Who gets teaching opportunities, and how transparent and my fortunes changed. As is often the case, the incentive was financial.
fair is this allocation?) and quality (How good are graduate teachers? I had been thinking about using the available funds to ‘buy out’
How well are they supported?). Formal approaches to allocating the teaching time of academic staff who could act as mentors.
teaching – like teaching registers – rub awkwardly against a tried and But the idea was inchoate, and given the pressures on people’s
tested approach to ‘quality assurance’, whereby tutors delegate teaching time, it was hard to find volunteers. Then the Anthropology Director
to their own students, or to trusted colleagues and friends. of Graduate Studies came up with the idea of creating a part-time
Illuminatio June 2009 f:Illuminatio Oct 08 19/8/09 15:35 Page 11
departmental ‘graduate teaching coordinator’ role. Some appointees are Some appointees are doctoral students, others
Being paid for one day a week in term would, are faculty, but all are highly committed to
they suggested, suit a senior doctoral student doctoral students, others are teaching and to reflecting critically on academic
or post-doctoral researcher. Provided they had practice. Each brings different skills to the post.
tutorial teaching experience they would be
faculty, but all are highly Being ‘embedded’ in departments allows them
well-placed to mentor and support those new committed to teaching and to respond to local concerns, and regular termly
to teaching. Establishing a formal post in every meetings allow us to exchange ideas and
department ensured local ‘ownership’, and as to reflecting critically on experiences. Innovations in one department are
the role becomes indispensable, should allow quickly taken up by others. I support the group
sustained commitment once the money runs out.
academic practice. as a whole, convene a division-wide ‘Talking
Teaching’ discussion group, offer sessions on
The idea sparked interest, and took on a life writing teaching portfolios, and maintain a dedicated set of web-learn
of its own. In short succession, most other departments followed resources. My next challenge is to ensure that departments support
Anthropology’s example, and now there are almost a dozen such these roles when CETL funding comes to an end in 2010. So far, the
posts. In each case the role and responsibilities are subtly different. omens are auspicious.
CETL, MPLS and preparation for Academic Practice in the Sciences
Dr Barbara J Gabrys, MPLS Academic Advisor
For a scientist faced with this issue, a question of definition – “What is Academic
Practice?” – arises immediately. At Oxford, the Mathematical, Physical and Life
Sciences (MPLS) Division comprises ten departments: Chemistry, Computing
Laboratory, Earth Sciences, Engineering Science, Materials, the Mathematical Institute,
Plant Sciences, Physics, Statistics and Zoology. Would the term “Academic Practice”
mean the same to a zoologist studying a life of a minuscule amoeba, as to an
astrophysicist witnessing the births and deaths of stars? And what about people
creating abstract mathematical constructs, or building artificial intelligence?
Our approach to the CETL rests upon the We will continue to provide The theme of the seminars in Michaelmas
assumption that there are indeed common, Term was: Becoming an Independent Researcher.
recognisable elements of “Academic Practice” essential professional support Individual sessions covered topics such as:
which allow us to build a coherent programme managing your time; writing research papers and
for people who wish to
for aspiring and early career academics in the grant applications; giving a good research seminar;
Division. The PLTO and DLT programs which are develop academic careers and making a good impression at interview.
more discipline-specific have been embedded
in the Departments from the beginning of the Hilary Term's seminar theme was entitled:
CETL. Close links with Divisional systems for providing transferable Starting a New Job whilst Keeping Your Sanity. The seminars included:
skills, and with the current Oxford Learning Institute programme handling new roles; assessing your strengths and weaknesses through
in “Developing Academic Practice”, help to forge a holistic approach Belbin profiles; interacting and managing other people; building your
in which all the roles that academics play are acknowledged research group; and an introduction to ‘Designing for Teaching’.
In Trinity Term, the seminars were grouped under the heading
An integrated programme of this kind, developed for post-docs and of Enjoy your Job. The main theme was "Independence and
research staff in MPLS, has been taking place in the Division during Interdependence" and key areas explored included "Managing
the 2008-9 academic year. It was pioneered by Professor Jane your mind: work-life balance".
Langdale in Plant Sciences, and was adapted by me for use within
MPLS. The aim of this series of seminars is to prepare senior post- So, what next? Currently, the most pressing concerns about the MPLS
doctoral researchers and newly-appointed academic research staff for CETL programme are:
careers in academia at and beyond Oxford. The sessions are grouped
in three blocks, by term, and together form a unified whole; it is thus I rationalising and streamlining all current training provision in the
recommended that participants attend the whole series. Division and departments
Illuminatio June 2009 f:Illuminatio Oct 08 19/8/09 15:35 Page 12
I finding ways of honouring the University’s commitment to the new I have no doubt that there are no simple answers, but I remain
Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers hopeful that, after the end of the CETL’s period of operation, we will
(http://www.researchconcordat.ac.uk/) continue to provide essential professional support for people in the
I the need to provide a natural development path to aspiring MPLS Division who wish to pursue and develop academic careers.
scientists, starting from the first days of the DPhil until well into the
early stages of an academic post
Dr Catarina Gadelha
An integral part of most postgraduate or
postdoctoral training programmes is an
involvement in teaching. Postgraduate
students are encouraged to take their first
steps in teaching through participation in
practical demonstration classes, or helping
to train project students in the lab –
a task for which they have a unique
advantage in being able to talk the Siu Po Lee, a fourth year Biochemistry student, has just completed her viva for
her undergraduate project. She is pictured in a teaching laboratory which was
language of science and the language of refurbished with the support of the CETL capital funding stream, and where she
was supervised for her project by a trained postgraduate student, Nicola Laurieri.
undergraduates. Postdoctoral researchers
are often encouraged to run tutorials
and/or lectures, if they are keen to develop academic careers. These young teachers –
postgraduate students and postdoctoral staff – can thus make a significant addition
to an institution’s pedagogical capacity.
The need for training such people who are Teaching portfolios ... participants for academic practice. Teaching
involved in teaching is ubiquitous across the practice can include tutorial teaching with support
University, but is perhaps felt most keenly in the represent impressive of a designated mentor who is an experienced
Medical Science Division because of the many member of University staff and usually also a
additions to CVs during
researchers who teach. To solve the problem tutorial Fellow in one of Oxford’s Colleges.
of training as wide a group as possible, the the process of searching for
Medical Sciences Division set up a mechanism for Those who wish to further their training are
disseminating information about a comprehensive jobs in academia. encouraged to prepare professional portfolios,
programme of training courses, educational documenting achievements and reflecting on
research, mentoring, networking and resource their teaching. To support this activity the Medical
provision - all aimed at supporting postgraduates and postdoctoral Sciences Division assigns a mentor to assist planning and delivering
researchers who wish to teach. Linked to the main University Skills Portal, a course, providing feedback and support in preparing the portfolio.
the Medical Sciences Skills Portal (www.medsci.ox.ac.uk/skillstraining) Teaching portfolios grant formal accreditation by the Higher Education
allows students and post-docs to see what’s available, to book a place Academy, both representing impressive additions to one’s CV during the
and subsequently to give feedback on their learning experiences. process of searching for a job in academia.
More importantly, records of those people that have been on Divisional
Training courses are retained on the Divisional tutorial register. The training available through the Medical Science Division has support
Other opportunities to teach have arisen directly through networking at from the HEFCE-funded Centre of Excellence in Teaching and Learning
training events to promote increasingly independent teaching to prepare (CETL) which is focused on “Preparing for Academic Practice”. In addition
Illuminatio June 2009 f:Illuminatio Oct 08 19/8/09 15:35 Page 13
to providing training directly in teaching, the Medical Sciences Amongst these training activities are many which are student led,
Division has provided a series of other activities preparing students and including the highly successful Annual Divisional Student Science
researchers for Academic Practice. These activities include: honing writing Symposium which is run entirely by students with a senior academic
skills for academic papers as well as for a thesis; presenting work to a as adviser. Almost 100 participants joined in this event in 2008 with
specialist and general audience; awareness of intellectual property issues prizes awarded for the best talks.
and the ethics of conducting research and designing experiments.
The thorny, but highly relevant, question of raising research funding is Join in with what’s on offer – it’s enjoyable and will widen your
also covered with difficult issues of eligibility being addressed as well experience, which is what Preparing for Academic Practice is
the more practical question of planning for Full Economic Costing all about.
where the Research Services Office of the University gives expert advice.
The changing role of academics – a view from the Higher
Helen Thomas, Assistant Director, Higher Education Academy
Whatever sphere we are engaged in, the mantra that repeats in each is ‘change,’
accompanied, invariably, by clichés claiming change as the only certainty.
The role of academics in Higher Education is clearly no exception.
With the Dearing Report into Higher Education Academic Practice cannot technologies effectively in their practice.
(1997), the emphasis on and the importance of Growth in student numbers and a decrease in
developing a professional approach to teaching stand still. the unit of resource are reflected in an average
took root. This was further nurtured by the White increase in the student staff ratio of 10-15%.
Paper The Future of Higher Education (2003) which This challenges the tutor-student relationship
called for standards for teaching which all those new to teaching in which has been at the heart of British higher education. Larger group
Higher Education should meet. The political interest in teaching and size calls for new skills to stimulate and facilitate effective learning.
learning has not abated since. During the last year Government The more diverse backgrounds of future students may present
sought contributions to the debate on the future of Higher Education; pastoral and support needs which are markedly greater than those
HEFCE, commissioned The Future Workforce for Higher Education and, we currently encounter. How far should academic practice extend
through the Financial Sustainability Strategy Group, a report on the to meet these needs?
Sustainability of Learning and Teaching in English Higher Education
was published. These are informing the Government’s framework for The report on the Future Workforce for Higher Education envisages
higher education for the next 10-15 years. What a reading of the academic careers where the emphases on teaching, enterprise, or
various reports highlights is that the future profile of Higher Education research will vary over time. It also identifies a demand for academics
demands an intensification of many developments that are already to work more across disciplines and to engage in an enhanced
underway; the impact on academic practice is far from insignificant. relationship with employers. How will this fit with individual
academic identities and practice which are so importantly shaped
The student profile will continue to change with increased by disciplinary specialism?
participation rates in higher education; there will be more part-time
students, and greater diversity in background and qualifications on Responding to diversification in the range of activities undertaken,
entry. To respond to this diverse student profile, academics will have and to a greater alignment of academic working preferences
to develop greater flexibility in the content and design of curricula, to student demands and needs; and incorporating greater
and in assessment; and will need to offer greater variety in delivery interdisciplinary work in both research and teaching are not matters
modes to cater for students’ needs. This includes continued use of of choice. Academic practice cannot stand still: it must respond
technology, including Web2 technologies, demanding that academics flexibly and professionally to the changing profile of the Higher
acquire new knowledge and skills to enable them to apply these Education context.
Illuminatio June 2009 f:Illuminatio Oct 08 19/8/09 15:35 Page 14
Preparing researchers for academic practice
Dr Tristram Hooley, Senior Manager, Stakeholders & Networks, Vitae
Researchers’ career paths lead them in all directions. Around 50% of researchers start
their post-doctoral careers in the HE sector with the rest working in manufacturing,
finance, business and IT, health, public, administration and a wide range of other
sectors (What Do PhDs Do? – Trends, 2007). The (very) high level skills developed
by early stage researchers through their experience of research and engagement
in professional development serve them well when they move out of academia
into industry. However, a broad range of transferable skills also create strong
foundations for academic careers which increasingly require academics to be
excellent researchers, teachers and administrators. Academic practice combines all
of these activities, and also requires many practitioners to be able to manage projects,
finances and people, and to engage with outreach and knowledge transfer activity.
In 2002 Gareth Roberts wrote that “science Opportunities for skills Currently the Vitae Database lists 168 practices
and engineering graduates’ and postgraduates’ (as of February 2009) which focus on the
education does not lead them to develop the development for doctoral development of academic practice –
transferable skills and knowledge required by researchers and members of representing nearly 30% of the total number
R&D employers” (SET for Success, 2002). He also of practices recorded on the database.
noted that “ UK PhD study and postdoctoral work research staff have improved Examples include the University of Oxford’s
is not particularly good training for would-be seminar series Preparation for Academic
academic staff, because of its near exclusive dramatically. Practice in the Sciences, and the University of
focus on research and its lack of preparation for York’s Preparing Future Academics programme.
other elements of the academic role including The development of teaching and learning
teaching, knowledge transfer/reach-out activity and student practice continues to be a focus for many academic practice
welfare” (SET for Success, 2002, p.127). These findings led to the courses. However there is also a developing range of practice that
rapid development of a funding stream (known as the Roberts’ focuses on other aspects of academic life, including: publishing; public
funds) and a highly energetic response from the sector, into understanding of research; commercialisation of research; networking;
which the Vitae Database of Practice provides a valuable insight. organising academic conferences; ethics; applying for funding; and
Seven years on from SET for Success and the opportunities for skills on many more subjects beside. (The Vitae database of practice can be
development for doctoral researchers and members of research accessed at www.vitae.ac.uk/dop; you are encouraged to explore the
staff have improved dramatically. database further, and to add your own practices to it.)
Roberts’ concerns about effective preparation for an academic career The picture that emerges from analysis of the Vitae Database
have encouraged skills developers, careers staff and staff developers shows a sector that is supporting researchers to think carefully
to innovate and to provide a much larger range of support for both and critically about their careers, and which is engaged explicitly
doctoral researchers and members of research staff. There has been with issues centred around the development of academic practice.
a proliferation of courses, workshops and activities designed to Those who work with researchers to help them prepare for academic
develop researchers as effective academics. For example, careers practice see the academic skill set as complex, multi-faceted and,
services, which have always supported researchers in academic importantly, as one which overlaps with other (non-academic)
careers, have been able to expand their contributions in this area. professions. There has been a great deal of progress since the
Many careers services have appointed specialists and developed publication of SET for Success and we can be optimistic that today’s
a range of practices designed to encourage researchers thinking researchers will be well placed to make a strong and confident
about academic career management. transition as they take up academic posts.
Illuminatio June 2009 f:Illuminatio Oct 08 19/8/09 15:35 Page 15
Concluding thoughts: the future of the CETL
programme at Oxford
Professor Tim Softley, Associate Head (Academic), MPLS Division
Why is the work of the Oxford CETL programme important? Why should it be continued
it beyond its formal end in 2010, even if this requires the use of scarce resources of both
time and money? Those of us who were graduate students twenty or thirty years ago
progressed to where we are today without the support of a CETL programme, so why
is the present world any different? Surely the way to become a good researcher and
teacher is just to get on with doing good research and good teaching? And why should
senior academics spend their time mentoring the next generation, when they could
better spend that time in their own teaching and research?
The Oxford CETL programme is about ‘preparation for academic Firstly, the very existence of the CETL programme highlights the need
practice’, and it is therefore about preparing the junior members for us to constantly regenerate our disciplines through the injection
of academic community for what we as academics do – teaching; of new blood of the highest quality. Oxford is particularly good at
research scholarship and inquiry; and service to the academic hiring outstanding young academics and we must ensure that this
community. Much of the emphasis of the CETL program to date has continues and that these young academics can survive the first
quite rightly been concerned with the development and embedding challenging years in a full appointment.
of training and support for graduate students and post docs to teach
– notwithstanding Oxford’s emphasis on teaching by close contact Our University strategic plan states:
with senior academics, our grad students and post docs have the
potential to offer a fresh and imaginative contribution to the “The Collegiate University has a prime role in developing the next
learning of Oxford’s undergraduates, that complements the generation of academics and researchers. The colleges and departments
teaching of more experienced academics, and they can also act as already provide teaching opportunities for postgraduate research students
very effective role models. The CETL programme helps to ensure and postdoctoral researchers. The developments underway via the work
that this wider sharing of the teaching responsibilities does not of the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) on preparation
diminish the world-class education that the Oxford undergraduates for academic practice, together with the expansion of Career Development
can expect. Fellowships, will make significant contributions to fulfilling our responsibility
to those who aspire to teach. More broadly, we will pursue through the
But as the CETL programme continues to move forward I believe we departments and faculties, the Careers Service and the Learning Institute,
must also give emphasis to preparation for the research and service the provision of top-quality training for all our research graduates,
aspects of academic practice. Being a successful researcher means integrating research, employability, and personal skills, in order to equip
much more than just having good ideas and getting on with putting our students and postdoctoral researchers for their professional futures.”
them into practice. And while service to the academic community is
something which we may wish to protect younger academics from, a Although it may be tempting, especially in the sciences, to regard
little exposure to this side of academic life will not be harmful. It is our researchers and graduate students as “another pair of hands in the
generally accepted that our academic system would fall apart without lab”, it is surely in everyone’s interest to provide some broader support
people who are prepared to referee papers and grants, to prioritise for their potential academic careers. Indeed providing this support
funding applications, to organise meetings, mark exam papers, lead may make all the difference as to whether they are able to stay in
course reviews, select students, write references and award academia, or whether they want to do so.
nominations, appoint staff, etc. The academic world is what it is
because largely we have not handed these tasks to administrators or Secondly, the academic world is different now from twenty years ago.
computers. Allowing the apprentice academics to see something of Expectations on academics for tangible outputs are higher than ever
this part of an academic’s role will enable them to find the right before. We need to account for the money we are receiving. We are a
balance when they are appointed to an academic position. much more regulated community and the reporting burdens are much
heavier. Undergraduate education is moving towards a more student-
CETL is a national programme and other universities have done centred approach; students are paying fees (and maybe we would like
quite different things with their CETL awards. Durham for example them to pay higher fees) and their view on the education they receive
has established a centre for “active learning in computing”.....and a does count. The government, HEFCE and the research councils place a
group of Northern universities have set up a centre for “music and very high priority on developing people, and in awarding funding they do
inclusivity”. So why has “preparation for academic practice” been a want to know what kind of personal and professional development we
useful development for Oxford? are offering awardees of fellowships/studentships. The media does want
Illuminatio June 2009 f:Illuminatio Oct 08 19/8/09 15:35 Page 16
to know what we are doing to train people for teaching – and, perhaps and good ideas; it gets people out of the rut of their immediate
especially, what we in Oxford are doing. And Oxford has developed into departmentally focused situation. It gets people talking and thinking
a truly international community; increasingly we are appointing people about how to support the needs of our young academic colleagues.
from overseas who may have rather little knowledge of the UK HE It gets the students and post-docs from different situations to meet
system and will need much help and guidance to get them started in it. together to share their experiences. Re-inventing the wheel is a very
common Oxford trait, especially in our world of subsidiarity and college
Thirdly, the academic world is an increasingly complex one: it independence. But just now and then it is useful to recognise that others
presents diverse opportunities, and we need to make sure that young may have thought about this before ... in another college ... in another
academics understand what kind of world this is going to be, and department ... in another University ... and that they may just have
understand what options they have open to them. Academic practice done something a little better. Or that we can lighten the burden of
does still mean doing good research and being a good teacher, above supporting academic practice by putting on some training jointly with
all else. But it also means developing an international profile and other departments. It is particularly helpful for a graduate student who
international connections; communicating the outputs of research; is doing some class or tutorial teaching, and who maybe hasn’t had
advocacy for, and service to, our disciplines; mentoring individuals; this unique Oxford experience. I would suggest that the key to the future
leading a small team, while simultaneously being part of a wider team; of the Preparation for Academic Practice programme will depend on
collaborating and networking with others inside and outside Oxford; three factors.
engaging in inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary research
programmes; managing and taking financial and administrative Firstly, it will be important for all academics to recognise that the
responsibility for projects; being aware of ethical, safety, and other academic apprenticeship aspect of a graduate student’s or postdoc ‘s
impacts of research; raising money; making judgements on others; training is significant, and to recognise their role in supporting the
interviewing and being interviewed; supporting the welfare of others; apprenticeship. This should be the starting point for our thinking
making tough decisions. It means selling what we are trying to do about academic practice, as it is the departments and faculties who
to others. It means constantly trying to deal with emails about tiny are best placed to know what is needed in their disciplines. This inner
matters while simultaneously trying to think about solutions to knowledge must be built in to any future programmes. Secondly, we
the world’s major problems, challenges, its culture and its history. must think about how an academic practice programme can provide
It means conveying the excitement of our own disciplines to the seamless support from the first year research student to the end
next generation in an undergraduate lecture or tutorial while of probation as an academic, while at the same time having the
sharing the burden of examining and progress-report writing. flexibility to deal with the very wide range of backgrounds of the
students and researchers who will benefit from the training.
How do we prepare someone who is starting up as a graduate student or
post doc for what is to come as a future academic? Yes, their publication Thirdly, we must accept that some resources are required, and although
record will be a crucial determining factor in whether they get a job, but establishing this claim as a priority is going to be challenging, it will be
we all know that there is more to it than that. Much of the support that is a major regressive step to throw away the good work done to date.
needed can be done at the level of the individual supervisor – researcher The resource levels required do not need to be high. But we will need
relationship. The CETL emphasis on embedding activities in departments people to lead us in this work, to keep us talking and thinking about
is crucial, highlighting the notion of the disciplinary apprenticeship. these issues, to support what we do in our departments and take some
But having a University-wide programme of preparation for academic of the administrative and reporting burden away from us, and to act as
practice raises the profile of such work, helps to share good practice advocates for this important work in the outside world.
Social Sciences – Professional Training for Social Scientists
Useful Resources http://www.sbs.ox.ac.uk/social+scientists/
Resources within the University of Oxford, related to Academic http://www.learning.ox.ac.uk/rsv.php?page=289
Practice, can be found via the following weblinks:
Oxford Learning Institute www.careers.ox.ac.uk/research-staff/
Higher Education Academy
Humanities Division – Training and Support: http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/
This edition of Illuminatio was edited by Lynn McAlpine, Nick Hopwood
Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division – and Richard Arnold. Comments on the publication are always welcome
Skills Training and should be sent to email@example.com
http://www.mpls.ox.ac.uk/skillstraining/courses/academicpractice.htm Oxford Learning Institute
lhttp://www.mpls.ox.ac.uk/skillstraining/courses/trainingtoteach.html University of Oxford
http://www.mpls.ox.ac.uk/skillstraining/coursesnew.html Littlegate House
St Ebbe’s Street
Medical Sciences – Skills Training Oxford OX1 1PT