Alison Lee, 1952-2012

October 4, 2012

"A truly major scholar" who transformed our understanding of doctoral research has died.

Alison Lee was born on 25 July 1952 and brought up in the small Tasmanian town of Burnie before going on to read German at the University of Tasmania in Hobart. This led to a scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) to continue her studies in Europe in 1974.

Back in Hobart, Professor Lee taught German and English at Claremont High School for a decade, before returning to the academy at Murdoch University in Perth for a master's in English and science fiction. Soon, however, she began to focus on education and work towards a PhD, eventually published as her first book, Gender, Literacy, Curriculum: Re-writing School Geography (1996).

She took up a position as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) in 1993, and was promoted to professor of education in 1998. Early in her time there, she set up writing groups for staff keen to complete their doctorates and publish the results, something that proved particularly empowering for young women. One of her students recently recalled Professor Lee's "uncanny gift of asking one, maybe two, questions or comments, which would have the effect of moving my learning on to a whole new level".

Eventually appointed founding director of UTS' Centre for Research in Learning and Change, Professor Lee became a leading authority on doctoral education, publishing a series of co-edited texts such as Changing Practices of Doctoral Education (2008), Publishing Pedagogies for the Doctorate and Beyond (2010) and Reshaping Doctoral Education: International Approaches and Pedagogies (2012). She was also involved in major projects investigating the training of healthcare professionals and research on substance-dependent mothers of young children.

The latter produced a DVD that Professor Lee said "highlight[ed] the victimisation, neglect, deprivation and mental illness that women with substance dependence typically suffer, which frequently results in loss of their children ...[It] does not present a pretty picture, but it does present pictures of hope by identifying a better way to support and rehabilitate these women and help them rebuild their lives and their families."

At her funeral, Bill Green, professor of education at Charles Sturt University in Australia, paid tribute to Professor Lee as "a truly major educator, a gifted, dedicated, often inspiring teacher". Her collaboration with him on research supervision and doctoral pedagogy, he added, was "some of the most engaging and productive work I've been involved in, in my whole career".

Professor Lee died on 4 September and is survived by her mother, two sisters and a brother.

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