We are pleased to announce the award of a doctorate to Alison Fixsen, who has been conducting research as a student with the Department of Leadership and Professional Development, Westminster Business School. This was a successful cross-faculty and cross-institutional piece of research, co-sponsored and co-supervised by staff in Westminster Business School, the Faculty of Science and Technology and Corporate Services. Alison is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Science and Technology at Westminster and she was awarded the degree of Doctor of Professional Studies (Personal and Professional Development in Education) for her work-based project ‘Feeling Our Way: An ethnographic exploration of university staff experiences of “soft skills” learning and development programmes’. Her study investigated the experiences, perceptions and feelings of staff members (including Alison herself) from across the University participating on these programmes. The purpose of the study was not to evaluate programmes but to explore ‘between the gaps’ and interpret contemporary learning and development programmes from a novel grass roots perspective. Staff in higher education are having to manage increasing expectations, to re-think and even re-shape roles and identities in the workplace and beyond. Alison found that in a highly structured and siloed university environment, it is rare for academics to have the opportunity to engage in an extensive and personal way with staff from corporate services, and vice versa. The study fills an important gap in the literature on the lived experience of soft skills learning and development among university staff and the potential cultural impact of this work on relations between divisions is exciting.

Following on from her research Alison is currently engaged in a number of activities designed to facilitate a more holistic and inclusive approach to organisational management and development. She has presented her work nationally and internationally and is writing a number of publications based on the work. Alison’s supervisors, Dr Steven Cranfield and Dr Pauline Armsby (Leadership and Professional Development, WBS) and Professor Damien Ridge (Department of Psychology, FST), as well as her institutional co-sponsor Nick Kapoutzis, Head of Leadership and Organisational Development, were delighted at Alison’s success. Nick stated: ‘I’m really delighted that Alison completed her doctorate successfully and appreciative of the useful insights her work has offered us’.

If you would like to learn more about Alison’s research please contact her at A.Fixsen@westminster.ac.uk.