It's the stuff of agony and ecstasy

January 13, 2006

Name : Alison Halstead

Age : 50

Job : Dean of learning and teaching, Wolverhampton University.

Salary : Salary is fine, but the tax kills it.

Background : Physics undergraduate at Imperial College London, PhD in materials engineering with the Cabot Corporation on the failure mechanisms of complex cobalt wear-resistant alloys. Worked in industry, then did a postgraduate certificate in teaching in further education and higher education before working at Brunel, Coventry and the Open universities.

I've been at Wolverhampton for three years.

Working hours : Office hours are 7.45am to 4pm (to beat the traffic). I try not to work at weekends, but with deadlines for papers and bids I can be antisocial at times.

Number of students you teach/staff you manage: I teach on professional development programmes and lead our Centre of Excellence in Teaching and Learning, a Higher Education Funding Council for England £4.5 million project with about 20 staff. We are all very different: e-learning, student support, educational development and researchers.

Biggest challenge : I was put forward for a national teaching fellowship, and writing the reflective account was unbelievably challenging. The pain was taken away when I got one, and I was ecstatic that Wolverhampton was the only university to be awarded three.

Biggest bugbear : Bureaucracy that has no benefits for staff or students. The audit method is dated, but it's good to see some changes that give more emphasis to enhancement.

How you solved it : Keep chipping away by asking "does it make a difference" and, if it doesn't, question why you do it.

Worst moment in university life : Jumping out a window of a ground-floor lecture hall in my first week as a lecturer because the door handle had mysteriously vanished.

What university facilities do you use? The virtual learning environment Wolf [Wolverhampton Online Learning Framework], the e-portfolio Pebble Pad, e-innovation studio, voting assessment kit and onlinejournals.

Who are the most difficult people you deal with? Staff who lack a "can-do" philosophy and try to stifle innovation. I find ways to move forward anyway.

Do you interact much with other parts of the university? I interact with a lot of schools and service departments, and as many staff and students as I can.

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