Alison James

Alison completed her doctorate on the work of Dod Procter RA. She is now Head of Learning and Teaching at the London College of Fashion.

The following text is a transcription of a career story collected by interview.

"My name is Alison James, I am Head of Learning and Teaching at the London College of Fashion and my PhD was a biographical analysis of Dod Proctor RA looking at her life and work. London College of Fashion is a higher education college, part of the University of the Arts London. I do teacher training, I teach on dissertations, I do educational projects and innovations, I work with course teams on curriculum designer delivery. I work with students on projects on reflective practice. I make the tea, I...yeah, every, well lots of things. I think I was a bit of a slow burner because erm I think a lot of sensible people probably did their post-grad immediately after their first degree. I'd had enough after my first degree, I wanted very much a life change for all sorts of reasons.

"So it was 17 years before I did an MA... and then one day it was like falling in love, I found this erm qualification on a website which was about biography and education and I thought that's it. That's it! And a whole, whole heap of things that I've always been interested in really gelled at that moment. By then I was you know, very much a mature student, I was really ready to roll, I really wanted to learn. I was terrified of being left behind because I was so much older I felt, than a lot of other people maybe doing their MAs at that time. And I just hit it like an explosion and I loved it and I just did not want to stop that learning and that growth. And as I came to the end of my MEd the University of Southampton said why don't you do a PhD and there was a bit of me that just thought I'm going to have to do it, because I just want to know if I can. I never ever embarked on a PhD in order to belong to a gang, but you suddenly find you are in a gang, there is a kind of belonging. I thought I probably could do one, but I wasn't 100% convinced, you know it wasn't a dead cert in my head. You know, oh I will just go and do a PhD and I will get it. I think there was a level of confidence, a level of belief, that had come with re-engaging with educational research but, I am a bit superstitious, its never a given.

"When you have done something as big as a PhD I think it also shows you are in for the long haul, you can deliver. You can persevere – you can tackle something which is quite deep and quite complex. I think there are all sorts of associations with the fact that you successfully completed a PhD. The confidence that it brings and that sense of validation that comes with having achieved that feeds into how I now approach things... I feel I have the right to say and do things if you like. That sounds a bit daft, but the opportunity to work at university level. You know I took on a role within the London College of Fashion, which is a college, one of six in the University of the Arts, but the interests that have come through the research that I have done with both the MEd and the PhD have led me to be able to undertake investigations at university level.

"I think it counts for, it counts for an academic and professional credibility. Definitely. It's opened a lot of avenues for me, to be able to continue a range of projects. Certainly in terms of my employability my university, like lots of other universities, has been very heavily involved in the Research Assessment Exercise. It automatically meant that I was able to contribute publications to that. You know, it was another kind of err... little bit of my professional capital if you like, it was another thing I could do within the organisation. It's also opened... it's an exaggeration to say international doors, but it, the research also has lead to writing collaborations with colleagues abroad, collaborations on projects which have also lead to educational publications not necessarily related to fine art at all. But I think some of the theories that came through there. So I think it's just opened up a whole, whole range of opportunities really, but I would say it's given me the confidence to spot them and to want to engage with them as well."