1. What is your current role at UCL and what does it involve?
My role is that of Sub-Dean and Faculty Tutor in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities. I’m currently also Acting Faculty Tutor for Social and Historical Sciences. This is now a full-time post, though it wasn’t always so. Perhaps this is an indication of how the university has been moving forward in recent years.
It’s not easy meaningfully to describe in a few words what the Faculty Tutor role involves, and to cite the actual “brief” official job description of it would probably take me well over the word limit for this profile, so let’s forget that! Essentially, the Faculty Tutor has overall responsibility for the academic and general welfare of all students within the Faculty, from recruitment and admission all the way through to graduation, and deals with a wide range of problems as and when they occur. The main focus is on undergraduate students (since the Faculty is fortunate to have a very active and efficient Faculty Graduate Tutor), but all students effectively fall within my remit. In addition to that, the Faculty Tutor has a large role to play in all Quality Assurance matters (monitoring, approval and enhancement processes, for example), as well as complaints, grievances, examination irregularities, and represents or is the conduit for the Faculty on many senior UCL committees and other groups. Teaching and learning, and the student experience, are also areas that are now assuming even more importance for Faculty Tutors.
As for the role of Sub-Dean, I can’t be so specific, I’m afraid. The UCL Statutes say there must be one, and that the Faculty Tutor is de facto Sub-Dean of their Faculty as well, but apart from approving scholarship nominations I don’t think I’ve ever done anything else in that particular capacity hitherto. The title’s a nice one to have, however, especially when one doesn’t have to do much for it.
2. What attracted you to this position?
Hmm, that’s a tough one, and I’m not sure that “attracted” is perhaps the best word to use in this question. I started my career at UCL in 1976 as Queen Alexandra Lecturer in Danish in the Department of Scandinavian Studies, and in 1992 I was offered a part-time (50%) secondment as the Arts Faculty [as it was then called] Tutor which I accepted, since I thought this would both broaden my personal and professional experience of UCL and also be of some benefit, I hoped, to my Department in the future. In 1996, given the ever-increasing workload, it evolved into a full-time post, so it was then a big decision time for me. I think what led me to opt for it rather than return to a full-time post in Scandinavian Studies was the variety of the job and the wonderful opportunity to continue to play a role in the positive development of both the Faculty and UCL as a whole.
3. What is the most enjoyable part of your job?
The people, without a doubt. By this I mean not only all my colleagues in the Faculty and in the wider UCL community, as well as beyond, that I’ve come into contact with, but also the many students (with the odd notable exception or two!) whom I’ve had the pleasure to know, for whatever reason (good or bad) over the past 19 years.
There are, of course many other hugely enjoyable aspects to my job. The variety of it, as mentioned above: no two days are ever, and have been, the same. The recruitment and schools liaison aspect of the post has given me the opportunity over the years not only to travel within the UK, but also internationally. As someone coming from an academic post, I have always relished the “problem-identifying-and-solving” aspect of it. Nothing I have ever done as Faculty Tutor may ever have resulted in a world-class publication (though in its day, my Degree Programme Specification for the BA in Scandinavian Studies was published by the QAA as an exemplar of how actually to do it!), but the sheer pleasure of first identifying, and then being able to resolve (though not always, it has to be said) a previously unaddressed issue or problem, whatever that might be, has continued to give me enormous satisfaction over the years.
4. What is your life like outside UCL?
My first reaction to this question is: what’s that, and does it really exist?
Seriously though, my non-UCL life revolves principally around my home and family in Walthamstow: Kitty (my wife, whom I first met at UCL when she became the Arts Faculty Administrator around the same time as I became Arts Faculty Tutor); our two children, Freddie (16) and Ellie (11); a very young dog (Tommy); a very old cat (Tiggy); and an even much older 93 year-old father-in law (Hugh), who was a former lecturer in Classics at the University of Exeter. On a daily basis, not much happens beyond the routines of ordinary and daily, but also busy, family life. I do, however, very much enjoy cooking, so weekends are a great opportunity for me to practise and experiment with that (Indian cuisine is my current favourite). Outside home, I have been and still am actively involved in my local community. Up until very recently, I was a long-standing Governor as well as Chair of Governors of my children’s primary school, and I am currently Treasurer of our local Residents’ Association, one of the most active associations in the borough and with a big agenda still ahead of us.
5. You are retiring at the end of October this year, so what do you plan to do during your retirement?
We’d like to have another dog to be a companion and friend for Tommy, and to be able to take both of them for even more walks – Epping Forest is just a ten-minute drive away from our house. Kitty, alas, has a very long list of household tasks for me to do, and I do mean a long list, with quite a bit of building involved! We live in a four-bedroom, two bathroom house, and not only is there lots of accumulated clutter to get rid of (all mine, I freely admit!), but now is my opportunity to put everything in order. We also have a cellar, which is in urgent need of attention to make it a much more useable space. I have always liked DIY, but in recent years, I simply have not the time or the weekend energy for it, so I am very much looking forward to this opportunity to get stuck in again. Then there is our (rather small) garden, which is like our cellar and needs a total, and long overdue, revamp.
We also intend to take this opportunity to travel a bit more, especially around the UK (and perhaps even beyond), to visit places we’ve never been to before. Travelling to new places has always been part of our family life/culture, and school holidays permitting, we shall continue do this but with even more enthusiasm than before.
Finally, there is at least one book (on Faroese literature) that I’ve never managed to be able to write since I became Faculty Tutor. The research for this has all been done (and has been for many years now), and luckily it cannot ever be replicated by anyone else, so please watch this space … there is just the writing up (well, maybe a little bit more than that) to do before it hits your in-tray!