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Spotlight on Professor Alison Fuller

22 May 2018

Professor Alison Fuller

This week the spotlight is on Professor Alison Fuller, Pro-Director Research and Development, UCL Institute of Education (IOE).

What is your role and what does it involve?

I am the Pro-Director Research and Development at UCL Institute of Education and a member of the IOE’s Executive Group. My remit is broad and varied, covering anything and everything related to research. My aim is to create the structures, culture and strategies that facilitate and support our excellent and wide-ranging educational and social research, and provide the environment in which our researchers, whatever their level of experience and seniority, can thrive. This is of course a team effort as I work closely with the Research Leads in the IOE’s six departments, Principal Investigators, and our professional services to develop and fulfil this agenda. As a research leader within UCL, I am PVP for Collaborative Social Science and Chair of the Collaborative Social Science Domain. The Domain aims to facilitate and grow cross social and non-social science research, aligning this goal with UCL’s research strategy and UCL 2034.

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

I joined the IOE in 2013 as Professor of Vocational Education and Work and a project leader in the ESRC funded LLAKES Centre located in the department of Education, Practice and Society. I moved into the role of Pro-Director Research and Development in 2014. Previously, I was Director of Research and Professor of Education and Work in the School of Education at the University of Southampton. Whilst at Southampton I developed strong research collaborations with colleagues in Sociology and Health Sciences, undertaking externally funded research projects, for example, on ‘widening access to higher education’ and ‘apprenticeship’.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

Several years ago, my long-time collaborator Professor Lorna Unwin and I undertook an ESRC funded project on apprenticeship. We wanted to understand why the lived experience of apprentices participating in ostensibly similar programmes differed so markedly. Through case study research in a range of companies, we realised how the organisational and pedagogical features of the apprentices’ learning environment characterised the nature and quality of their learning and development experience. As an outcome of this research, we developed the concept of the ‘expansive – restrictive continuum’. From this we generated a tool that employers and providers, as well as researchers, can use to analyse the characteristics of apprenticeships and, more broadly, of workplaces as learning environments for all groups of workers. We developed an ‘impact case study’ based on this work for REF 2014 which showed the impact that the expansive – restrictive framework has had on policy and practice.

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

I am the IOE’s lead for REF2021 – UoA 23 Education. We develop a large submission (219 fte in REF2014), which requires considerable planning and organisation involving colleagues from across the IOE in the assessment of outputs, development of Impact Case Studies, and close working with the central UCL REF teams in OVPR.

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

It’s so hard to choose but here goes... Tapestry by Carole King is my favourite album, perfect combination of terrific lyrics, tunes, and Carole’s wonderful, distinctive voice. For films, it’s Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources. They were filmed together to tell the tale of how two local farmers plot to trick a newcomer out of his newly inherited property in rural Provence. The scintillating acting, scenery and evocative story both draw you in and stay with you. I’ll choose two novels if I may, very different in period, people and place but both perfect - Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and House of Spirits by Isabel Allende.

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

"I was watching the London Marathon and saw one runner dressed as a chicken and another runner dressed as an egg. I thought: 'This could be interesting'." - Paddy Lennox (2009)

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

People with great stories to tell! Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204), the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, and Elton John, who can evoke the histories and times in which they live, or have lived, their amazing lives..

What advice would you give your younger self?

Recognise when you need advice and don’t be afraid or too proud to ask for advice

What would it surprise people to know about you?

I left school at 16 to pursue a career as a showjumper.

What is your favourite place?

Holkham beach on the north Norfolk coast.