Institute of Education


Q&A with Rupert Higham

Dr Rupert Higham is a Lecturer in Educational Leadership.

What do you most enjoy about your position and why?
I lead the Applied Educational Leadership MA, which has a cohort of around 150 school leaders around the world, taught fully online. I know that any improvements I make can have an incremental effect on them, their staff, their students, and their communities. This makes the hard work worthwhile. I’ve also been involved in challenging and exciting research projects.

What attracted you to take up your position at the UCL Institute of Education (IOE)?
Previously, I was a lecturer at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge. I grew up in London, so the chance to work in the IOE's diverse, vibrant, and world-leading teaching and research community was too good to miss. It was like coming home.

The question that drives me is, “how can we challenge and support young people to act in accordance with their values?”

What is the focus of your research and what benefits do you hope your discoveries or insights will bring?
My research explores the development of student and teacher agency: shaping the world through dialogue and practical response to challenges – with, among, and sometimes against, others. I advance the field through theory, and through participating in empirical research.

As Co-Investigator on a Global Challenges Research Fund project in South Africa, I’m working with an interdisciplinary team to improve rural primary children’s health and well-being alongside their academic success.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?
For the last 3 years I have led a substantial upgrade of my MA programme, including rewrites of nearly every module and a redesign of the online platforms. Hearing back from students excited and happy with the changes is really satisfying.

What's the most important thing you've learned from your students?
While my students benefit from the expertise of my fantastic team of tutors, the most powerful learning dynamic in my MA programme is the online dialogue between experienced school leaders from across the world. We all learn from each other, and enhancing this is central to my role.

What other subjects outside of your area of specialism interest you?
I previously studied philosophy and social anthropology, and these continue to shape my understanding of education. As a former high-school English teacher, I still miss teaching poetry.

How has being in London or at UCL been of benefit to you?
So many people pass through London. Although most of my work is online, at UCL I have the opportunity to meet up in person with colleagues, educators and a wide range of experts from across the world.

What would it surprise people to know about you?
I can – and have – sung Nepalese pop songs in public. I learnt them over 20 years ago, which suggests it’s time for new adventures.