Three minutes with Alison Chambers

Ever-wondered what a pro vice-chancellor does? Alison Chambers from Bucks New University explains all.


What does your job involve?

I’m a member of the university’s senior management team (SMT) and together with the vice-chancellor and other SMT colleagues I am responsible for developing the strategic plan and providing strategic leadership across the university. I have overall responsibility for our health and social care portfolio and for academic partnerships in the UK and EU. 
I spend a lot of my time as an ambassador, highlighting why the professional, practice-based and industry-related education we provide makes it such a special place to study. I also manage our relationship with partners across the health and social care sectors, mainly in the north west London and Thames valley regions, as well as further afield. 

Why is networking important?

You can achieve so much more if you work with others. Building up a network of colleagues across organisational boundaries helps to develop a common purpose, a shared understanding of each other’s priorities and respect for each other’s expertise and trust. 
It’s really important for healthcare educators to have close working relationships with healthcare providers; that way, we can work together to support workforce development and, through research collaboration, develop an evidence base to underpin service transformation and clinical practice.

What research are you doing?

I’m in the early stages of developing a joint research proposal with a former physiotherapy colleague from the University of Central Lancashire and allied health professionals at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust. We aim to explore the interconnectedness between multiple professional identities and how these impact on the learning experience of students in practice-based learning environments. In particular, we are keen to understand more about the how role modelling and anti-role modelling plays out in the micro-interactions between students and clinical educators. 
We hope this work will help to inform ways in which we prepare students to maximise learning in practice-based settings and support clinicians in their role as educators.

Any tips on how to follow your lead?

Take every opportunity you are offered; think big and big things happen; be prepared to get it wrong and for it to take much longer than you imagine it might. In my case, it’s been 30 years and I’m still not quite where I want to be! 
I’ve always been ambitious and people who know me say I’m very driven. I think you have to be prepared to stick to beliefs and principles, even if those around you disagree, and take risks. My career has taken a fairly convoluted path.  Find a mentor who you trust and is willing to tell you those things that others won’t – you need to learn to take constructive criticism well.

Do you miss clinical practice?

Yes and no. I do in many ways and I can still recall quite clearly some highs and lows of being a clinician. It’s too late to go back. I’m really happy to be in a position to develop the clinicians of the future; it feels like a really important job to me.

We hear you are on the move in July

I’m going to join a fantastic team at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). It’s an exciting time in Greater Manchester with the devolution agenda, which includes health and social care. I studied physiotherapy in the early 1980s at MMU and would never have imagined I would be going back 30 years later as a professor, pro vice-chancellor and dean of health psychology and social care. That feels really special.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time at Bucks and have worked with inspiring colleagues. I’m particularly proud of the new human performance, exercise and wellbeing centre which I initiated and have led to date. The innovative, interdisciplinary teaching, research and enterprise centre brings together health, sport and exercise sciences. It builds on Bucks’ existing strengths and provides opportunities to grow the university’s academic portfolio. The new multi-million pound human performance research and teaching laboratory will be an amazing facility for students and staff. I will enjoy watching it develop from afar. fl
  • Professor Alison Chambers is pro vice-chancellor, faculty of society and health, Bucks New University.

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