Dutch master with a balcony view

February 9, 2007

Name: Gwen van der Velden

Age: 38

Job: Director of learning and teaching enhancement. I lead a team at Bath University responsible for educational development, quality management, e-learning support and academic staff development related to learning and teaching. I'm also involved in national work, including the chairing of the Heads of Educational Development Group.

Salary: Good enough to keep four children, a rabbit and a guinea pig fed and watered.

Practical training/education: I am what you could call a Dutch master, but not in the traditional sense. I studied education in the Netherlands for eight years, ultimately leading to a masters and seven teaching qualifications, including some very odd ones - an idiosyncrasy of the Dutch system.

Number of students you teach/staff you manage: I lead a team of 15 staff in the learning and teaching enhancement office. For the first time in my working life I don't teach, and I miss it greatly.

Worst moment in university life: Writing a major bid in the early days of my career, and being refused a signature by a vice-chancellor, "because the font/letter size/margins were all wrong". It was infuriating. Still, I got the bid, which meant he had to send me the obligatory congratulatory letter.

What is your office like? I'm on the fifth floor, on top of a hill, overlooking Bath. Better still, my office has a balcony.

What university facilities do you use? I probably use the IT infrastructure, meeting rooms and the restaurant and coffee bar most. They allow me to communicate with colleagues and students about all matters learning and teaching.

Who are the most difficult people you deal with professionally and how do you cope with them? Anyone who says: "But we've always done it like that" and regards it as a valid argument is bound to end up in a serious discussion with me.

Best excuses for bad behaviour you have heard: "We always had a good way of doing it, but this time we gave in and tried it your way."

Do you interact much with other parts of the university? That is one of the major attractions of the job. There are few departments or services I haven't been in contact with in one way or another. In the end, my work is about the quality of the "student experience", and students experience pretty much all parts of the university at some point.

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