Can you tell me a bit about your career?
My career has been in education, primarily in the University sector. For the main part of my career, I worked as a Career Advisor at the University of Strathclyde and I finished my full time working as the Director of the University of Strathclyde’s Career Service.
It involved helping people make the best possible choices about what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives. I feel that is very important - you can be as clever as you like, but that doesn’t mean that you know what you want to do, and you can give people as much information of you like - but unless they’ve got somebody objective that can help them analyse that information, it can be a difficult decision to have to make.
I understand you’re part of the learning and teaching committee, what does this involve?
Yes, I’m the Chair of the Learning and Teaching Committee which has an overview of the curriculum development plan, it keeps an eye on the College’s performance in learning and teaching, which is perhaps one of the most important things that the College does! It also receives reports from the industry programme side of the College’s work, so really everything that assures the board that the College is doing everything in its power to get the best possible outcomes for the students.
And I believe you are a board member too, this must make for a busy life! So why did you also want to get involved with the ACF?
Yes that’s correct. I joined the Foundation in 2015 when it was set up, as it was agreed that the College should nominate two board members to join. The Foundation decided that the Chair of the Board should be one of the representatives and that also, since the purpose of the Foundation was to support the College in teaching and learning, then it made sense for the person who was the Chair of the Learning and Teaching committee to be nominated, and therefore I was fortunate enough to be nominated to be part of the Foundation.
My motto is, ‘better busy than bored.’
What is the Innovation Fund and why has the Foundation created it?
This particular fund is only open to Ayrshire College staff. The Foundation can make donations to a whole manner of projects as long as they are going to enhance the quality of learning and teaching and the experience for the students at Ayrshire College. Many of the College staff have great ideas on how to improve their courses and improve their facilities, but sometimes the unavailability of relatively small amounts of cash is holding them back from making these innovations. It was therefore decided that the Foundation would set up a fund, the first part of that fund is the ‘Innovation Fund’ which was launched in August 2017 at an all staff development day at the College and almost immediately, in came twenty-four first class bids!
It was super, it shows the enthusiasm and the creativity of the staff. There is a panel, represented by the Chair of the Foundation, Tracey Stark, myself as the Chair of the Learning and Teaching Committee, the Principal of Ayrshire College, Heather Dunk and the Student President, Lainey McKinlay who review all these bids. Some have been given what they asked for almost immediately, others have been asked to develop their bids further and some have been directed to other sources of funding. Virtually all of the proposals that came forward have been assisted in some way.
What kind of things have people been applying for funding for?
Some were around giving students relevant work experience, others were around equipment which would enhance the courses and would also be letting the students have equipment which is just as good as they would find when they go to work with external employers.
What advice would you give to people who are considering submitting an application to the Ayrshire College Foundation?
They need to be clear that it meets the criteria under which the Foundation can award money and it must have a clear educational purpose. Where possible, external bids should also form some kind of connection with Ayrshire College. For example, if an organisation outside wanted to develop something like outdoor play equipment for pupils, the project could be advanced by getting some of the College’s students to help with that project. People who are bidding should also be aware that because the Foundation doesn’t have a finite sum of money, we cannot give money year on year. The money can be used to start something off, then people have to be clear about how they are going to maintain that in the future. Anyone who is thinking of making an application will get advice from the Chair of the Foundation, or indeed from any of the trustees - we don’t want people to be making bids that are ineligible from the word go.