Teaching & Learning


My route to Professorial Teaching Fellow: Richard Pettinger

Richard (School of Management) on constantly striving for excellence over a long career at UCL.

A photograph of Richard Pettinger

6 November 2019

Professor Richard Pettinger is one of six colleagues promoted to Professorial Teaching Fellow this year – a grade introduced at UCL in 2017-18.

Having been at UCL for nearly 30 years, he has seen much change and progress at UCL and welcomes the recognition of teaching.

You’ve just been promoted to Professorial Teaching Fellow. What is your role?

My role is professor of management education, which pretty much reflects what I have been doing for a very long time now. It is great to have the recognition and title of course!

I’m hoping my new title will help me play a role in getting standards in teaching and learning as high as possible.

I will use it to develop the reach and expertise of the UCL School of Management and the standards that we all set here, in order to influence business and management education as widely as we can.

What are the challenges in your role and how are you addressing them?

The challenges are being able to strive for excellence and constantly improving the education we deliver, whilst balancing the busy life of an academic.

My challenges are to:

  • continually raise standards
  • deliver cutting edge teaching and learning
  • develop every aspect of work
  • and gain as wide an identity as possible for everything that we do here.

I meet with companies and organisations on a weekly basis; I am in regular and constant touch with other universities; I have book contracts to deliver; I have conferences to address; I have consulting and seminar briefs to deliver.

So, it is a very full life! You have to be totally committed to everything that you do and embrace everything that comes your way.

What’s the best thing about your job?

All of it! But above all, the great people that I get to work with, the diversity, the ability to go to different places and work - and meet yet more great people.

This is what has led me to all of the things I have been lucky enough to do and to be a part of.

What do you think of the Academic Career Framework?

It is work in progress. We have a great start and we now need to carry on.

We still have teaching fellows being employed on very bitty and insecure contracts and we need to change that: teaching fellows at all levels make a huge contribution to everything that we do here.

We have had principal teaching fellows for some years now, and from last year we have had professorial teaching fellows. We need to go on from this and set out routes in to university teaching for postgraduate teaching assistants, exactly as we do for PhD students and post docs on the research and lecturer routes.

We need the space and flexibility to employ people who have great expertise when they become available.

We need to ensure that everyone who comes into teaching at UCL has exactly the same opportunities to go as far as they can or choose. Part of this requires a culture and attitude change: many departments still see the REF as the driving force, and anything alongside that as being useful and valuable but nothing more. Many academics still do not grasp the value that the teaching fellows and their work bring and deliver. We have to change all of that. It is an essential part of the evolution of the university.

With the growing numbers of students, and the new facilities needed for them, there are great opportunities coming along for anyone who wants an excellent and fulfilling career in university teaching.

We also attract people of great expertise from every walk of life, and every location in the world, and there ought to be ways of having them on payroll and recognised as making a full contribution to UCL.

What are your thoughts on the status of teaching at UCL?

I have been here long enough to see it come some way towards full circle.

When I first arrived (in a part time role) I shared a course with one other, and took on the teaching purely because he wanted to concentrate on research. Shortly after that, research became the driving force and priority all round; and that has persisted up until now. 
The new routes into a career in teaching have moved things along of course. I was the first person ever to be appointed as principal teaching fellow through the promotions route when that was introduced, and now there are professorial opportunities, which is excellent progress.

As mentioned, we have to break down the barriers and traditions - and prejudices - that we are a research university. We can, and need to, have great teaching without diluting the research effort at all - we need both and we need to be known for excellence in both.

What achievements helped you to make a case for promotion?

My age and length of service (I have been here nearly 30 years), and therefore, experience.

I have been at the cutting edge of business and management education for a very long time now.

I introduced the dimensions of the connected curriculum long before it was known as such: we have been working in full harmony with employers, presenting course work to employers, and teaching wider aspects of self-development, for 13 years now. We have worked with the UN, Metropolitan Police, SAP, Cisco, Unilever, Credit Suisse, Daily Telegraph, Daimler, Ford, IBM, Bacardi - as well as with a host of start-ups and tech ideas that are always constantly emerging.

We have a fantastic team of tutors and administrators and collectively started pastoral care programmes and bespoke careers services long before they were fully established across the university; indeed it was our early efforts that helped inform personal tutoring at UCL now.

We started widening participation and gender equality, again, well before it was institutionally recognised.

I started up the BSc/MSci Information Management for Business programme in 2006, and this has grown into a major and very influential programme. To date this programme has produced over 2,000 graduates, and 92% of the graduates get graduate level jobs or postgraduate places at top universities in the UK and around the world.

I have worked on summer school programmes, executive programmes, teaching and learning conferences, and academic conferences, for over 20 years now. I have also had over 50 books and numerous articles and papers published.

What would you say to people just embarking on a university career?

Enjoy it!

Say 'yes' to everything that you are asked to do (at least in the first instance). You can do this alongside developing your own contacts and networks and interests - and then you go on and on.

Take every opportunity that comes your way!