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My route to Professorial Teaching Fellow: Parama Chaudhury

The economist on what she loves about her job at UCL and gaining recognition for her teaching.

Parama Chaudhury being handed an Enterprise Award by Provost Michael Arthur and Dr Celia Caulcott. Vice-Provost (Enterprise)

28 October 2019

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

A researcher and teacher of economics and an active member of the teaching community, being awarded her Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (PFHEA) this year, she describes her experiences at UCL and what she thinks of the Academic Career Framework.

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

I wear several different hats. First and foremost, I teach four modules for undergraduates from the 1st to the final year, and ranging in topic from the relationship between employees and employers to the ramifications of Brexit.

My research is on economics education and innovations in teaching and learning.

I am also Director of UCL’s Centre for Teaching and Learning Economics (CTaLE) - which won a UCL Education Award in 2018 - and finally, I am Academic Director of CTaLE and UCL Economics’ Economics for Foreign Policy course for the British Government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

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

The world we and our students live in is changing fast, so the main challenge is keeping our education system relevant and up to the task.

This includes both the kind of people skills that we and our students need to develop to survive and prosper, as well as our understanding of technology and how it affects our lives.

At CTaLE, we work on ways to harness the powers of education technology and to try to design modules and inter-modular activity that equip our students with communication, interpersonal, and problem-solving skills that will be essential in a world in flux.

What’s the best thing about your job?

Meeting new cohorts of students each year and hearing back from past students about how something they did or heard in my class has helped them.

I work with an amazing team at CTaLE and UCL Economics. I have also been lucky enough to make friends across UCL, from colleagues in other academic departments, the UCL Arena Centre, and Digital Education. This community has taught me so much and provided such invaluable support!

What do you think of the Academic Career Framework?

I think recognising an explicit education career track and incentivising scholarship in teaching and learning is absolutely essential to develop the sophisticated education system that we need in today’s world.

I’m extremely proud of working at an institution which is among the first to realise this and operationalise it.

When I was preparing to apply for promotion, I talked to people across UCL to understand the nitty-gritty of the Academic Career Framework, and was pleasantly surprised to find how helpful everyone was in making sure I understood the criteria and how I matched up against it. I would suggest this to anyone applying in this round.

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

The status has definitely become much more high-profile since I joined eight years ago, and I hope that UCL can continue to dedicate resources to maintaining the importance of education in a world-leading research university.

The biggest constraint is probably the fact that education involves a lot of necessary expenditure while the benefits are often in the future. So committing to improving the status of teaching and investing in a high quality education may be a challenge in these cost-cutting times.

What achievements helped you to make a case for promotion?

I would like to think that my overall profile made a strong case – from a track record of successful introduction and evaluation of innovative education techniques and technologies and pedagogic research, to my role as a Faculty Lead for UCL’s BME Attainment Gap project and my development of a successful education consultancy programme within economics.

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

Hang tight, it’s a wild ride!

Seriously though, I wouldn’t trade it for any other life, but be prepared for lots of lows and incredible highs, and remember that you are educating the future citizens of the world so you have a responsibility like few others!

You have to figure out what combination of research and education works for you and try to find a job that fits that profile. I know of too many people who are miserable in this career because they like just the research bit or just the education bit, and are in a job that that doesn’t fit that preference.

Academics face an increasingly tough labour market, so it’s not like everyone will have a choice. I feel incredibly lucky to have been at some of the top universities in the world, and becoming Professor at a place like UCL with its history of inclusion. At all of these places, I felt that education was taken very seriously, even when this wasn’t explicit in the career structure.

So there are possibilities out there for youngsters starting out, so good luck and welcome to the community!

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