UCL News


Spotlight on... Anne Preston

6 October 2022

Meet Anne Preston, Associate Professor (Teaching) and UCL East and Co-Lead for the Entrepreneurship Community of Practice. We find out about Anne's enduring love of education, why Mondays make her happy, and that she's been keeping mum about links to a UCL dynasty!


What is your role and what does it involve?

I’m Co-Lead of the Entrepreneurship Community of Practice and an Associate Professor (Teaching), part of the UCL East Programme, which is not an academic degree programme but the big project responsible for bringing UCL’s new campus on the Olympic Park in east London into fruition. We’re an interdisciplinary team of planning, operations, comms, lab management, marketing, project management and of course, academic programme delivery, which is the bit that I lead. I know a lot of people say this, but really, every day is different for me. One day I can be running an online workshop on developing interdisciplinary curricula or I can be participating in a community-based workshop in Newham as a collaborator with an academic team or supporting programmes in a marketing and recruitment meeting. There is of course PMAP (Programme and Module Amendment Panel) and all that is approval of programmes. That is my ‘bread and butter’ but there’s a lot more to developing a great innovative programme for our students than just paperwork and the odd workshop! I’ve loved getting to know the wide range of UCL education areas over the past 4 years, people are always impressed by my ‘little black book’! I just enjoy getting know people and celebrating the diversity that is UCL.

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

Like I said, I’m coming into my 4th year at UCL. Before that I was based at Kingston University in another education role as a senior lecturer in Higher Education teaching and learning. And before that I was a senior researcher and PI on a number of research projects. I’ve always worked in interdisciplinary teams.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

Erm, that’s a hard one! On one hand, I’m your typical academic chasing the next big achievement! On the other, moving into a more ‘third space’ of academia nowadays, I now get the best buzz of helping others achieve... that’s my version of academic impact.

One is working with students to get them inspired and interested in UCL East, I’ve run paid internships with students for the past 3 years and had more than 30 students under my wing.  A lot of them have said how it has helped to build their confidence and given them a new perspective on their own skills and potential. I’m also getting asked to complete references for jobs they apply for, and they often send me updates on how they are doing. I’m proud of this – I don’t get to teach students anymore and I really miss it sometimes. I do get to sort of ‘teach’ academics, but I am more of a partner or collaborator. That’s hugely satisfying too, and I’m proud of the relationships I’ve built with UCL East academic and professional service community!

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list

On top of my to do list is making sure that the new PGT suite of UCL East modules are getting traction by our new and future students based at UCL East – these are a suite of 7 modules which all embed and bring to life the vision for UCL East, from community engaged learning to entrepreneurship and career development. I work with a fab group of academics on these and we’ve all really worked hard to get them on the books at UCL. They launch in 2022 and also in 2023, so one of big to-dos at the moment is making sure future students are inspired by them and find them attractive. This report was completed by some of my interns on this very topic. 

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

Album – Anything with musicals  

Film – I recently watched Alan Turing: The Enigma. It was great and actually, having worked with the AI and computing guys for UCL East these past couple of years, it was made even better!

Novel: I rarely read fiction as I’ve been reading non-fiction most of my working life! The last book I listened to was Becoming by Michelle Obama. At the time, I’m not ashamed to say that I had developed anxiety and couldn’t sleep very well and was feeling constantly on the verge of a panic attack. Michelle’s soothing tone and authenticity really helped at the time.

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

Anyone who knows me probably knows I don’t do jokes, mainly sarcasm...

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

So, based on all this, it would have to be Alan Turing, Michelle Obama and Shaun Ryder (of the Happy Mondays (which will become more apparent later on!)

What advice would you give your younger self?

Care less about what people think of you! As long as you treat people with respect, it doesn’t matter what people think.

What would it surprise people to know about you?

At one point (maybe it would come back if I spent more than a week there) I was fluent in French. When I lived in France, I used to get paid to do radio adverts for a French radio station speaking French with a bad English accent (my accent is actually good so I had to make it worse!) I had to say things along the lines of "dancing in your living room with MAF FM" or something like that.

I guess I can’t pass this by saying that another thing that people may not know about me is that my mum is a lecturer at UCL too! She is part of the music education team in the Institute of Education. We often swap teaching tips. She is why I wanted to work in education, she is a brilliant teacher and has always cared wholeheartedly about her students – she should be a future Spotlight and can sing my praises!

What is your favourite place?

Kingfisher Fish and Chips chip shop in Salford precinct, Greater Manchester, I’m Salford born and bred (think Joy Division, Happy Mondays, Jason Manford) and there’s no better place to feel grounded and grateful for all you have achieved and of course, all that is to come!