The Bartlett


Prof Iain Borden recognised as a Principal Fellow by UK Higher Education Authority and UCL Arena

22 January 2020

Iain Borden, Vice-Dean Education and Professor of Architecture and Urban Culture at The Bartlett UCL, has been recognised as a Principal Fellow by the UK Higher Education Authority and UCL Arena scheme.

Headshot of Professor Iain Borden in black and white

Here, Iain shares his motivations for applying, and explains some of the ways in which he has benefitted from the scheme.

What was your motivation?

I was keen to engage with Arena Open in order to think reflectively about my range of teaching practices, and also, as Vice-Dean Education for the faculty, perhaps to encourage others to do the same. This scheme is a really valuable way for all of us to not only improve our teaching practices and quality, but also to demonstrate that we are doing so in a professional and considered manner.

What was the most useful element? 

Having taught constantly at the Bartlett for 30 years across undergraduate, graduate and PhD programmes, as well as being involved in all kinds of teaching-related administration, policy and strategy, it gave me a chance to step back a little and properly reflect on this range of activity. It is amazing how it all goes by so quickly, and being so closely involved with everything you often can’t see the wood for the trees, and having the opportunity to look back on it all was really helpful.

How has it changed your teaching?

I continue to teach at all levels, from undergraduate and PhD, and as Vice-Dean Education for the faculty I have an oversight of our education and teaching strategy. What the scheme really reinforced to me is just how inter-connected these things have been are over the years, in that classroom teaching experience impacts on strategy and vice-versa. This may seem obvious on reflection, but writing my application really emphasised for me how dependent on each other these have been. For example, as with many colleagues, I am looking to decolonise the curriculum in the programmes I teach directly, as well as encourage this in all our programmes across the Bartlett, and – in my own module teaching for sure – we are changing seminar themes, adding new readings, films and teaching materials, changing some teaching practices and other things which are all aimed at this UCL-wide initiative. Without doing the latter, and considering in advance what it might be, the strategy would not make sense.

Receiving highly positive feedback from the final Arena/HEA assessors was also very helpful in affirming some of the work I have been doing – particularly our new Bartlett Promise scholarship scheme for students from under-represented backgrounds, which I first suggested a few years ago, and which has just recently been officially launched.

How do you think your students have benefited? 

I would turn this round the other way. One of the things that makes UCL such a fantastic place to work as an academic is the quality of our students, and their willingness to embrace, encourage and even demand change. Much of my teaching practice changes and reflections have come about from this direction – for example, my students have been making suggestions about teaching in relation to decolonisation, climate change and inter-cultural interaction for years, and are as much the instigators of changes of strategy as they are impacted by it.

How much of a commitment was it for you? 

I probably spent about 5-7 working days in total on this, particularly as I have accumulated rather a lot of teaching-related activities over the years which needed to be considered, summarised and included. It was an enjoyable process though, and definitely worth doing.

Top tips for applying for the Fellowship

  1. Talk to the Arena staff early on about what kind of pathway and level to pursue, and then keep talking with them. They are incredibly helpful – for me it was Dr Brent Carnell and Dr Jenny Marie – and really experienced at offering advice and giving feedback on my application.
  2. Don’t worry about having a lot of time to commit in one block. Do a few hours here and there, and it soon builds up to a complete application.
  3. Don’t prevaricate, just start!

About UCL Arena

UCL Arena is UCL's professional development pathway for teaching: a scheme of awards accredited by the Higher Education ACADEMY giving teaching and support staff nationally recognised fellowships. It gives experienced staff the opportunity to gain both a UCL Arena Fellowship and the corresponding HEA Fellowship in one of four categories:

  • Associate Fellowship
  • Fellowship
  • Senior Fellowship
  • Principal Fellowship

These awards are made on the basis of your successful experience of teaching, supporting students’ learning or leading an aspect of education at UCL.

What is Arena Open?

Arena Open is for all staff who are not enrolled on one of the formal programmes. Iain submitted via UCL Arena Open. He obtained one-to-one support and guidance from senior members of the Arena Centre team, which included a briefing session and feedback on drafts.