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Spotlight on Dilly Fung

15 January 2014

Dilly Fung

This week the spotlight is on Dilly Fung, Director of the Centre for the Advancement of Learning and Teaching (CALT).

What is your role and what does it involve?

As the incoming Director of CALT, I have the privilege of leading the centre into a new phase of UCL’s development – one in which education is becoming as highly valued as research.

Reporting to the Vice-Provost for Education, Anthony Smith, I lead a great team comprising highly experienced Senior and Principal Teaching Fellows and talented professional staff. 

Together we’re developing distinctive new ways of collaborating creatively with academic and professional colleagues across UCL, to raise the quality of students’ learning and enhance the wider student experience. This also involves focusing on the development of academic practice more broadly and of academic leadership; these themes are the focus of my own research.

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

I took up the post of Director very recently, in October 2013. Previously I was Senior Lecturer in Academic Practice and Head of Academic Development at the University of Exeter.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

At Exeter I designed an innovative developmental scheme for staff who teach, based on peer dialogue, which focused on research-based education.

It was the first such scheme in the sector to be accredited by the Higher Education Academy. I was invited to speak about this at the national launch of the new UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and supporting learning in higher education in 2011, and many institutions are now following suit. 

Such a scheme enables a university to confer upon its own staff, through peer review, nationally recognised professional awards, fellowships in four categories (Associate, Fellow, Senior Fellow and Principal Fellow). 

Any colleague with a teaching role, whatever their job title, can apply for the awards on the basis of their experience of successfully teaching and/or supporting students’ learning. At Exeter, this meant that the university was able fundamentally to review its promotion criteria and its different ‘job families’ to make them more inclusive and flexible. 

One effect of these changes is that more colleagues can be recognised and promoted to the level of full professor where appropriate, through teaching-led academic routes. It also creates a vibrant space for peer engagement around the special challenges and possibilities of teaching and learning in a research-intensive environment.

I'm delighted to say that we are introducing a similar – but even better – scheme here at UCL. It is called UCL ARENA (Advancing Research-based Education in Academia), and will provide a conceptual space, with a menu of opportunities and events, whereby colleagues across the university can engage with one another in dialogue around the notion of research-based learning. 

It will also provide postgraduate teaching assistants, early career and more experienced staff – including those who lead on the education agenda in their area – with the option to gain full professional recognition for their expertise in the field. 

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

We're currently planning UCL’s one-day Learning and Teaching Conference, which will take place on 3 April 2014. Its theme is "inspiring students with research-based education", and President and Provost Professor Michael Arthur will be addressing the conference. 

His contribution testifies to the high value he puts on raising still further the quality of education provided across the university and his particular interest in connecting learning and research more explicitly, so that we take students ‘to the edge of knowledge’.

At the conference, we'll not only be launching our UCL ARENA scheme, but also a fresh approach to engaging students as agents of change at UCL, which will be known as UCL Pitch. This initiative invites students to form small groups to ‘pitch’ for some funds to undertake a small research project directed at bringing about improvements to a specific aspect of their experience at UCL. 

Students’ projects can lead to creative solutions as varied as the development of enhanced learning resources, improvements to learning spaces, and the creation of peer-assisted learning schemes. They also provide students with opportunities to develop leadership, teamwork, project management and presentation skills to add to their CVs. 

Look out for further information about both UCL Pitch and UCL ARENA at the Conference, or from April onwards on the CALT website. Details of the April conference are now available. We’re also inviting proposals from colleagues across UCL to lead sessions on the day in which they share their perspectives on and experience of inspiring students with research-based education.

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

Alchemy by Dire Straits is still, after many years, my favourite album. Choosing a best film and novel is impossible, as I have such eclectic tastes.

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

A selection of my new UCL colleagues – I’m really looking forward to getting to know them all!

What would it surprise people to know about you?

I am a huge football fan, and supporter of Southampton FC – nothing beats the tension and drama of a live Premier League game.

What is your favourite place?

My hometown of Sidmouth in Devon.