The Open University’s Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS) has promoted three of its female academics to Professor. With HESA reporting that only 28% of UK Professors are women in 2019/20, WELS is beating the trend with well over half (67%) of its Professors being female.
Rebecca Ferguson, Kristina Hultgren and Joan Simons have started their professorships, which is a mark of the high-level of their expertise in various areas of research.
Rebecca Ferguson – Professor of Learning Futures, Institute of Educational Technology
Professor Ferguson joined the OU in 2004 as a research student and has since built up a body of work on educational futures and how people learn together online.
Rebecca has been an academic advisor to FutureLearn, the social learning platform founded by the OU, helping to devise the pedagogy that underpins the platform. As well as being involved in new types of courses across the university, she has also been pivotal to the annual Innovating Pedagogy report, including two years as lead author.
Over the last decade, Rebecca has taken a leading role in the worldwide learning analytics community, with a focus on ethical and accessible approaches. She’s currently working on a series of international projects for IET (Institute of Educational Technology) and is currently learning all about fun and how play and learning can relate to each other, as part of the RUMPUS research group.
Kristina Hultgren – Professor of Sociolinguistics and Applied Linguistics, School of Languages and Applied Linguistics
Professor Hultgren’s work centres on uncovering fundamental principles governing language shift and its consequences for social justice, developing interdisciplinary frameworks that enhance understandings of the relationship between language and globalisation.
Recently, she has been leading an international team that brings together linguistics, political scientists and policy makers to generate new understandings of how past decades’ higher education reforms and marketisation of universities may, perhaps unintentionally, drive a global shift to English as a language of teaching. Recognised with a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship, this work will foster a new generation of scholars working in the intersection of linguistics and political science through the establishment of a research group.
“Having gained my Personal Chair through the research profile, I am delighted that the OU recognises research as a fundamental value of our institution, as well as academic leadership that paves the way to addressing pressing global challenges.
“I hope my professorship will inspire colleagues to honour their research ambitions. For my students and my postdocs, I hope it will encourage them to think beyond their discipline and to constantly ask questions about this complex world in which we live.”
Joan Simons – Professor of Health Studies, School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care
Professor Simons has worked in Higher Education for 27 years, 11 of which have been at the OU. She has been motivated to help address the disadvantages experienced by some students, in order to deliver equality of opportunity for all students. This has led to work in resilience of level one students, prevention of passive withdrawal of students, and the part intrinsic motivation plays in student success. Her latest projects have focused on disabled veterans, and the knowledge, experience and skills of Associate Lecturers in supporting students with mental health issues.
Joan’s research interests stemmed from her work with children who had experienced burns and how their pain was managed. This led to a number of studies, including an international travel scholarship and, more recently, the development of a new framework for the management of children’s pain after surgery. This framework and additional resources have been endorsed by the Royal College of Nursing.
“This Professorship would not have been possible without significant support from my amazing colleagues in WELS. With this promotion I hope to be able to contribute to the success of other colleagues in their quest for advancement.”