“Being a professor is a life-style, not a job”

1st September 2018 is a rather special date for me.  After leaving school at 16, with only 2 ‘O’ levels and 5 CSEs (including a grade 4 in maths), I finally achieve the professoriate!

ORNC 5 Jan 2018 - (6)

Professor in Sexualities and Genders: Health and Well-Being                    University of Greenwich, Faculty of Education and Health

Mary Seacole Building, Avery Hill Campus, our Departmental home

In fact, within my own Department there are now two of us new professors: my head of department, Dr Karen Cleaver; across the University there are 9 in total, including two other fellow National Teaching Fellows: Jenny Field, NTF, SFHEA, and Simon Walker, NTF, PFHEA.  The 5 other new professors across the University, appointed on this day, too, I am yet to meet.

David at high school age It’s strange to think of my early days in school, leaving so young and with such relatively poor results.  I’ve highlighted reasons why in a story elsewhere, but I have been fortunate to have been in professional and higher education – both as learner and teacher – for all but 4 years of my adult life, since I started nursing at 17.  Yes, education is a true passion for me; I love learning, and love – even more – the ability to share it with others (NTF claim for excellence).

VC Prof Susan Lee and I - Hull 13 June 2018
Prof Susan Lee, NTF, Vice Chancellor of Hull and I, on the day I examined a PhD at the University, 13 July 2018 – 20 years after my own graduation with MPhil, Wales

The application for promotion started a long time ago.  Prof Susan Lee, NTF, now Vice Chancellor of Hull, headed up the project for promotion at Greenwich.  Until then, only those involved primarily in research could become Readers (equal to the term Associate Professor) and then full professor.  Susan, who was then one of our Deputy Vice Chancellors, explored ways of opening up this promotion for those of us in the teaching and scholarship pathway, and in enterprise, too.  The application forms came out in October of last year, and although I felt I could witness about 18 of the 21 requirements for full professor, in the end I opted to apply for one grade up, to Associate, instead.


In May of 2018, I was assessing first year nursing and midwifery students demonstrating their amazing public health conference posters, which I had taught them how to produce sometime early in the term.  I was using my phone as a stop watch, to time the various group presentations.  I could see an unrecognised number coming in, calling me on a few occasions; then numerous texts from the PA to our Pro Vice Chancellor.  I couldn’t check the messages as I was busy assessing, but, no doubt, curious as for the flurry of texts and messages!  As soon as the session was over, I phoned.  The Pro VC wanted to see me!  He said the University Professorial Committee had met that morning and suggested I re-apply for full professor: what an honour and an uplift!  He warned me not to be (too) disappointed if I didn’t get it this time around, and at least if I didn’t get it, then the 6 external professorial referees would have to say why not, so I could address those issues to re-apply next time around!  I didn’t need to!  Three day’s solid work on the application form, then references from the three referees I had nominated, followed by three anonymous referees, and I got it!

EdD graduation, 2011

Our Pro VC, Prof Derek Moore, a psychologist, said to me that the most important things to do on a long application form are to highlight “primacy and recency”.

Derek asked me: “What’s the highest things you’ve got, and the most recent / current?  What’s your impact?”  Needless to say, being able to show the relevance of my National Teaching Fellowship (2014), followed by OBE (2017) “for services to nursing and sexual health education and, most recently, certification for “strategic leadership in education and learning”, with the award of Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (31 May 2018) (PFHEA) must have all gone a long way in boosting my chances.


1st September 2018

~ the beginning of my new “life-style”!


I am fortunate to be examining 4 external PhDs in this academic year.  The contact, for one, is a fairly new professor herself (Prof Jill Shawe, Plymouth).  When I told her I had applied for this promotion, she wrote back and said that “being a professor is a life-style, not a job”.  Well, that’s not only great advice but totally inspirational!  Being a nurse was a life-style; to be honest, even being a student for the Catholic priesthood and then being ordained, was a life-style, too.  But being a teacher has been the biggest part of my adult life – 28 years on the 6th of April of this year!  So that truly has been a life-style.  Throughout it all, however, striving for excellence in all I do has been a life-style changer.

Thanks to my loving husband John, and all my family, friends and colleagues who have enabled me to live my life-style, live my dream, and become a Professor!








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