Spotlight on... Helen Matthews
30 October 2019
This week Helen Matthews, Director of UCL Academic Services, reflects on her various roles at UCL, the upcoming launch of the School Governor network... and inflatable daleks!
What is your role and what does it involve?
Until very recently I was Head of Academic Policy and Quality Assurance in Academic Services, leading the team dealing with programme approval, academic partnerships, quality assurance and academic regulations. My role has just been expanded to include responsibility for student records, examinations and student data services, which is quite a daunting prospect.
How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?
It depends when start counting. I first came as an undergraduate in 1986, came back for a part-time MA in 1994, and started working here in 1996 as Departmental Administrator (Manager) in the History Department. More recently I was Deputy Faculty Tutor for the Faculties of Arts & Humanities and Social & Historical Sciences.
Before I started working in HE I was a committee administrator for a local authority, and also had responsibility for making legal orders to divert public footpaths. I still have my pair of council-issue wellies with reinforced steel toecaps for footpath inspections.
What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?
Most of the work I am involved in is very much a team effort, so I wouldn’t want to claim all the credit. For example I am pleased to have contributed to the review of the academic regulations and creation of a single academic manual, but most of the credit is due to the Academic Regulations Manager, Lizzie Vinton, who managed to digest all the feedback from the academic community to identify clear options for discussion and then draft a coherent set of regulations.
Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list
I’m working on a lot of projects in my day job, which mostly come under the headings of trying to improve academic and student administration processes at UCL for everyone (students and staff). There has been a huge amount of change over the past few years, and we have made a lot of progress but there is still much to do. I’m really grateful to academic and professional services colleagues across UCL for their support.
I’m also excited to be involved in planning the launch of UCL’s School Governor network on 18 November. I am Vice-Chair of Governors at a primary school and find it very rewarding, but opportunities to engage in networking with other governors are limited by my work commitments. The UCL network aims to provide opportunities for governors to network and share best practice and to learn about the latest research and ideas from the UCL Institute of Education. It will also promote the benefits of school governorship as a voluntary activity and support governors to act as positive ambassadors for UCL with schools.
What is your favourite album, film and novel?
I’m not really into music at all, but I like to listen to The Duckworth Lewis Method when driving through the countryside in the summer. I enjoy 1960s caper films but cannot choose between The Italian Job and The Assassination Bureau (Limited). It’s even harder to pick a favourite novel, but I’ll plump for Foucault’s Pendulum.
What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?
What is white and fluffy and sounds like an owl? (A towel).
Who would be your dream dinner guests?
Oscar Wilde, Dorothy Parker and Kenneth Williams so they could keep each other entertained while I eat.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t be afraid to take a risk with your career – you’ll be surprised where it might take you.
What would it surprise people to know about you?
I used to have an inflatable Dalek in my office in the History Department.
What is your favourite place?
Taormina in Sicily for the combination of history, scenery and wonderful food.