I would like to tell you a little bit about my academic career and why I decided to apply for the SFHEA from China in the hope that it may encourage others to do so.
To provide a brief overview of my academic background, I trained to be a qualified Englishlanguage teacher in China in the late 1990s, and then worked as a Lecturer in Language Education at a Chinese university for seven years, prior to obtaining a full UK research scholarship to do my PhD (in Education) at the University of Exeter. After completing my PhD I continued to work as a Post-doc Educational Researcher and Associate Lecturer in Modern Languages at the University of Exeter, where I obtained the Fellowship of Higher Education Academy (FHEA). I then took up the position of Educational Developer (Research) at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University in 2015, where I have been leading on the Postgraduate Research (PGR) Development Programme (aka PhD Research Skills Development) and the Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) Training Programme, and facilitating the Certificate in Professional Studies in Higher Education (CPS) Programme (successful completion of the programme leads to the FHEA award).
Initially I was not confident about my SFHEA attempt, as I did not feel I was ready or good at disseminating my own achievements. This was until near the latter part of my second year leading the PGR/GTA Programmes, a colleague who I worked with closely encouraged me to give it a go. In hindsight, obtaining the SFHEA was my hope to be recognized by a renowned professional or academic community, especially in the aspects of leadership and management in academic development, which in my case refers to programme design and management of Researcher Development and Teacher Development, and acting as an inter-/cross-cultural mentor to academic staff in scholarship (including PhD supervision).
Surprisingly, the application process (i.e., my writing journey) turned out to be a long yet meaningful practice of reflecting on what I have accomplished in terms of scholarship activities, where I was from in terms of academic and identity construction, and more importantly, who have influenced me as a life-long learner, teacher, educator, mentor, and researcher.
Firstly, it was not until I drafted the Application Form that I got a panorama of the breadth of academic work I have completed in two academic years (2015-2017), and how many PGR students and academics I have supported, mentored, and potentially influenced. Secondly, it became a small delight of self-awareness that I, as an Early Career Academic, struggling with self-confidence, had actually been able to design and develop a whole new Programme from scratch, and had been able to lead and manage it well enough to maintain high student engagement. Thirdly, it was not until the SFHEA application that I became fully aware of the efficacy of my mentoring on some academic colleagues, however humble or informal such mentorships appeared – these colleagues are Chinese or international academics who are very experienced (either in a Chinese educational context or other educational contexts from all over the world). My previous academic experience in a Chinese context and a UK context, as well as my intercultural communication competency, enable me to be a good mentor to some of these colleagues, both inside and outside of the PGR/GTA programme I lead.
Now looking back on the above (i.e., my SFHEA application journey), I once again realize that I have been influenced by both Chinese and western (British) educational and academic systems, cultures, and ways of thinking. As a life-long learner myself, I have learnt a lot and received a lot of powerful mentoring from my own teachers, mentors and colleagues over those years. There is not enough space here for me to thank them individually, but I want to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to Dr Henk Huijser (Queensland University of Technology, Australia) who has generously advised on my SFHEA application; Professors Keith Postlethwaite and Wendy Robinson (University of Exeter, UK) who have modelled so powerfully the meaning of ‘successful PhD supervisors’; Dr Martin Wedell (University of Leeds, UK) whose support characterized the approachability of a mentor, and Professor Yongbin He (Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, China) who often provides marginalized staff with unreserved support. Perhaps it makes sense for me to end this blog by Newton’s quote:
“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
More information on HEA Fellowship is available here.