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National Teaching Fellowship 2020

We are delighted to announce that Professor Robin Naylor (Economics) has been awarded a National Teaching Fellowship 2020, the most prestigious awards for excellence in higher education teaching and impact on student outcomes. This is a very special year for the National Teaching Fellowship Scheme as it celebrates its 20th anniversary.

Professor Naylor has been a national champion for widening participation policies across the UK HE sector, through his roles in the Royal Economic Society and the Economics Network and through his research on intergenerational socio-economic mobility. A recipient of many teaching awards at Warwick and nationally, Robin is a co-author of the influential CORE: The Economy global curriculum for the teaching of university Economics.

We spoke to Robin to find out more about his work and what the award means to him.

What does it mean to you to be awarded a National Teaching Fellowship?

"I see the National Teaching Fellowship as providing an opportunity to develop new networks and engagements with colleagues across Warwick and more broadly across the sector, nationally and internationally, to work on interesting and important projects. The award is an encouragement to develop projects in the broad area of widening participation for under-represented groups in order that there are equal opportunities for all students to access higher education and realise their potential. That potential is all too often hidden and unrealised in a context in which admission to university is based on simplistic measures of prior attainment, such as GCSE or A-level grades. But research and policy development must not stop at the point of admission: we also need a better understanding of the reasons for different outcomes at university and in the graduate labour market."

Tell us a little more about your work on widening participation.

"In 2001, Professor Jeremy Smith and I published a paper based on a statistical analysis of the factors associated with the degree class awards of the full population of university graduates in UK universities. The stand-out finding – which surprised us both – was that those students who had studied in state comprehensive schools prior to university had, on average, a much higher level of attainment at university than those who had attended private schools, controlling for a large array of other factors, including their A-level grades per subject. The paper continues to have scholarly, media and policy impact: across the sector, the analysis has been the basis for contextualised offer strategies adopted over the last two decades by higher education institutions and we were both particularly delighted when Warwick also adopted a policy of contextual offers. Jeremy and I have both been active members of the University’s Widening Participation Committee for several years and, along with Tammy Thiele, I co-chair the Widening Participation Research and Evaluation working group, where our focus is concentrated on trying to understand and develop local strategies to address the BAME awarding gap, which is a high-priority issue across HE in the UK."

How does your research affect your teaching?

"I think that if you are immersed in the methodology and subject matter of your discipline, you will want both to push yourself to deepen your understanding through your own enquiries and research and also to share research methods and findings through engagement with your students. Personally, I know that my capacity to respond to the multitude and the variety of the more technical queries of students would be much more limited had I not developed my own research agendas. In terms of content, I find students are more interested than has generally been the case for a long time in issues of inequality and fairness. Hence, my research on intergenerational mobility has provided a rich terrain on which to develop discussion and analysis with students at all levels."

What do you enjoy the most about teaching?

"Right now, in the context of Covid-19, I’m absorbed in the process of thinking about how to develop teaching and learning strategies in the Department so that we can deliver an excellent educational experience to all of our students next year. The genuine thrill that I think we all get from an in-person lecture, class or supervision meeting (at least when things go particularly well…) is going to be hard to replicate even in synchronous remote events – let alone in an asynchronous mode. But we are all – staff and students – so familiar now with online communication media that I think we should be very optimistic about the prospects for adapting with a high degree of effectiveness to the new circumstances: though it would be naïve to think that there won’t be a lot of time, thought and effort involved. After all, necessity is the progenitor of innovation. I’m really excited about the coming new academic year – though you might want to challenge me on that some time in late October or November…"

Professor Robin Naylor

Read more about Robin's work on the National Teaching Fellowship web pages