In this month’s blog we welcome an insight into Pro-Vice-Chancellor (International), Professor Judith Lamie’s career. An accomplished researcher in EFL (English as Foreign Language), Professor Lamie joined Swansea University in 2021.
International Higher Education has always had its challenges. We’ve seen changing patterns of demand and delivery, higher student expectations, changing employer needs and increasingly rigorous government regulations and immigration controls. We can now add to this a global health pandemic, increased volatility in the global market place andBrexit. These are all placing a significant burden on all players within the academic environment – schools, colleges and universities – and the communities and countries in which they are placed.
It’s been an interesting time to join Swansea University as the new Pro Vice-Chancellor International.
I’ve spent over 30 years in International Higher Education – the last four positions I have held have been at Executive level. Would I say that this has been as a direct result of a defined career plan, probably not; on reflection what it has been and continues to be is the result of education, opportunity and occasionally stepping outside my comfort zone. I was the first in my family to go to University, indeed I was the first to do ‘A levels’. After graduating from the University of Warwick with a first class honours degree in English and Education, I began my career as an English teacher and Advisor in the Okinawa Board of Education in Japan. This was to be the beginning of my academic interest in international education and applied linguistics, particularly in the Far East, and change and innovation, which has formed the majority of my academic career.
I had anticipated that after spending a couple of years in Japan I would return to the UK and take up a teaching position. Living and working overseas, however, sparked my interest further in how we teach a foreign language, and what some of the challenges and barriers might be for those both teaching and learning. It was of particular interest for me at the time in Japan as I was both a teacher of English and a student of Japanese (I had no Japanese proficiency before I went and in the 1980s there was no internet to help you out!).
Whilst in Japan I completed a research Masters, again with Warwick and at the same time gained a formal TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) qualification. The more I read about language teaching methodology, the more it captivated me, and what appealed to me more than anything was the application of that theory in practice, analysing the different meanings in different cultures and contexts, and exploring the impact on educational policy. Prior to the 1980s in Japan the only method to be in permanent use in Japanese High Schools was the Grammar Translation method. There was a major curriculum review in the 1980s and the focus shifted to Communicative Language Teaching. The Japanese Ministry of Education set the national curriculum standards for all school levels from kindergarten to upper secondary. There were prescribed textbooks and guidelines for the objectives and content of each school subjects were specified in the Course of Study.
The teachers I worked with in Japan were committed to delivering the new curriculum, but there were of course challenges associated with practice and capability, attitude and behaviour and fundamentally I realised to the process of change. I then got interested in ethnomethodology, but let’s leave that for another blog at another time!
On leaving Japan I took up an academic position at the University of Birmingham, and this was where I also completed my PhD. I had the opportunity to continue my work evaluating change in English Language Teaching, and also started publishing and presenting at conferences, this has helped me build my network of contacts, contacts that I have kept to this day.
I have now led international agendas at a number of institutions. I have discussed changes in policy with national governments and prime ministers, I have discussed educational standards with the CEOs of multinational companies and had the opportunity to experience language teaching and change in action in various contexts across the globe. None of this would have been possible had I not taken that first bold step to work overseas (prior to the 1980s the furthest south I’d been was Bournemouth) and taken that first venture into applied linguistics.
I continue to research and publish and more recently this has focused on internationalisation and transnational education. My latest book, The Evolution of Transnational Education, with Professor Chris Hill, was published by Routledge in January 2022.
We live in an increasingly connected world that demands the appreciation and understanding of other cultures and countries. I am passionate about education, about the opportunity it can afford us to learn, to experience new things and to change. As the landscape of International Higher Education continues to change and evolve and the long-term impact of Covid-19 on recruitment, mobility patterns and teaching and learning become clearer, there is a need to further explore issues of risk and response in order to ensure relevance and sustainability of approach. Yes this is a challenging time in so many ways but it is also an exciting one.