Dr Nick Sutcliffe
I’m currently a Principal Lecturer in the School of Education and Childhood of the Carnegie Faculty at Leeds Metropolitan University, where my main responsibility is for academic quality assurance within the school and across the faculty.
I’m also currently seconded for half of my time to the Regional University Network (RUN) office so work in partnership with 24, mostly local, Further Education Colleges whose Higher Education courses, such as foundation degrees and ‘top up’ courses from Foundation degree to Bachelor’s degrees are validated by at Leeds Metropolitan University .
It’s interesting and challenging to work with a diverse range of external partners for whom I’m their link to the university and for the remainder of my post, when I’m not working for either the RUN of Carnegie Faculty QA, I contribute to teaching on our Masters and Doctoral level provision.
This is mostly with mature students who are professional practitioners working in different branches of education so I feel that I’ve almost come full-circle in that I’m now contributing to the professional development of others who are working in schools and colleges as I was some 20 years ago.
After I graduated with an Environmental Science degree in 1980, I worked initially in the home counties as an analytical chemist in the laboratories of a large multinational food products company before re-training four years later as a school teacher at the University of Leeds.
I taught Biology and Science to 11 to 18 year olds in schools in Yorkshire for a number of years and during this time, also studied for a part-time Master’s degree the University of Leeds .
This study at the University of Leeds was pivotal in changing the direction of my career from school teaching to Higher Education and I subsequently completed a Doctorate at the University of Huddersfield.
I’ve worked at Leeds Metropolitan University on two occasions from 1996 onwards, initially as a Senior Lecturer, then with a five year period of working for the Open University as a Staff Tutor before returning to Leeds Metropolitan University and my current role in 2007.
My motivation to study at Leeds
I’d enjoyed completing my PGCE at Leeds and the opportunity to broaden my horizons, to evaluate my professional practice and to work alongside some of the outstanding academics who were in the School of Education at that time, was just too strong a lure to resist!
I think that the challenges associated with part-time study and of really pushing myself intellectually during that time were the things that I remember most vividly now. They were often the things that were really hard work and demanding at the time, for example, when I attended a two hour twilight lecture or seminar session after a long day at school teaching and with a pile of marking to return home to afterwards, it was tough going.
So if I’m being totally honest, whilst they were memorable, I can’t always say they were always ‘enjoyable’ at the time and sometimes felt like things to be endured as a part-time student in full-time employment.
But were enjoyable in retrospect when I looked back with satisfaction on being able to rise to the challenge and I came to appreciate that I’d learned so much in completing the course.
I thought the course was great. I deliberately didn’t chose only modules that linked directly to my work (like Science Curriculum Theory) because I wanted to keep my motivation and interest levels up and so I also chose topics that genuinely interested me like ‘The History of Education’ and ‘Educational Administration’ .
Given my current role, the latter one probably wasn’t a bad choice after all…
The School of Education
I enjoyed working with the staff within the school and as a mature part-time student, I often felt that they were more like colleagues with whom I had a professional friendship.
By the end of my course, I had decided that I wanted to work in Higher Education myself and so their wisdom, help and advice was always most welcome.
Although almost all (except David Sugden and Jim Donnelly) have retired from the university now, I stayed in contact with a number of them for many years after I completed the Masters course at the University of Leeds.
The city of Leeds
I think that Leeds is a vibrant city and it’s a place that I’ve lived and or worked in for almost 30 years now.
I’d like to highlight the contribution that both universities in Leeds have made to my professional development and in stimulating my intellectual curiosity.
On reflection, my top tip in terms of career advice would be:
- Find out what it is that you enjoy doing and then
- Find someone to pay you for doing it
That might sound quite glib in these times of relatively high graduate unemployment, though it’s not intended to be. The current difficult economic and employment times will pass and so this is a longer term project.
It took me several years to find out what it was that I really enjoyed doing and what I was (reasonably) good at. With a long working life, which seems set to be even longer for those graduating at present and in future years, 50 years plus is a long time and a big part of your life if your working life just makes you miserable, getting up to go to work each day is a chore and when you get there, you don’t really enjoy or get much satisfaction from what you’re doing .
It really is worth giving some thought to it in those terms.
My second tip (am I allowed two?) would be to “stay intellectually curious”.
Keep challenging things in a positive way and don’t just accept the first explanation of something because someone says it’s so.
That doesn’t mean openly questioning everything, just for the sake of it, but it’s really important to realise that learning doesn’t just take place in the lecture theatre or on the pages of a book.