Dr. Simon Brownhill, Doctor of Education, 2012

What are you doing now?

I am a Senior Teaching Associate in the Faculty of Education at the University of Cambridge. I am the Deputy Co-ordinator of the Bolashak programme, an innovative course which aims to support teachers and teacher educators in developing pedagogies and leading education change for the benefit of 21st century Kazakhstan. I also supervise undergraduate students on the Education Tripos programme and postgraduate students on the Masters in Primary Education programme. I make contributions to the PGCE Early Primary & General Primary course. 

What were the main reasons you took the course? 

I needed a new professional challenge - I never thought I could ever be a doctor! The course was part time – I could not have done it if it was full time as I was a full time lecturer at the University of Derby.  I also knew I would get support from those who taught on the programme.

Why did you choose to study the course at the University of Derby?

The course was at my place of work at the time and fitted around my work commitments. I had done my undergraduate (BEd) and postgraduate (MEd) at the University so it seemed a natural progression to try and get the ‘hat trick’ (EdD). Also, the fact that the course was work-based – I am a practitioner-researcher, not a ‘pure’ researcher.

What impact has studying this course at Derby had on your career?

It has had a tremendous impact on my publishing record – I have 5 peer-reviewed journal articles, an edited book, a book chapter and a research book (my EdD). It has improved my ability to share my research with others in both verbal (oral) and visual (PowerPoint) form, having been invited to present as a keynote speaker about my EdD research at education conferences in Ireland and Indonesia. I have been able to use my experiences of undertaking doctoral research to support my ability to supervise undergraduate and postgraduate students in undertaking their own research work – I feel I have become a better supervisor as a result of having gone through the process myself. I am now working at the University of Cambridge – I do not think I would have secured my position if I did not have a higher degree.

How did the lecturers inspire you?

They inspired me through their honesty (‘the realities of research’), their guidance and advice, their willingness to support and tailor the programme to my individual needs, their ability to listen and respond to questions and queries with care and consideration, and their enthusiasm for my research focus.

How do you feel the University has helped you in your career so far?

I am completely indebted to the University of Derby – my connection with the university started 20 years ago when I came to Derby at 18 years of age to do my 3 year BEd course. Once complete, the University took me on as a full-time lecturer at 25. When I look back I cannot believe that I was working for the University at that age – they gave me my career in academia.

The University has helped me to develop my skills as an educator and a researcher. It has supported me in being creative, reflective and passionate about what I do. Colleagues willingly ‘took me under their wing’, nurtured and supported me, and allowed me to fly in ways that I never thought I would be able to. The University has inspired me to write, research and disseminate to the best of my abilities whilst never forgetting to put learners first, whether they’re children, young people or adults, supporting and nurturing them to have a positive impact on those that they come into contact with in their professional role.

What are your future plans?

I am not sure! At present I am working on a collaborative book about professional training, four collaborative research papers, and supporting colleagues in writing their own professional books so I am quite busy at the moment.

What would you say to anyone thinking of coming to study this course at the University of Derby?

Do it! It is empowering! It is also really hard work. I am still amazed when I look at my business card and see Dr. before my name.