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Dance expert named National Teaching Fellow

A long-standing commitment to helping dancers across the UK develop as professionals, and for promoting community-led dance, has today (12/6/14) won University of Roehampton lecturer Sara Houston a National Teaching Fellowship.

Posted: 12 June 2014

image for news story Dance expert named National Teaching Fellow
Sara Houston is a National Teaching FellowPhoto credit: Mike Massaro

Dr Houston joins a select group of under 700 academics who have become fellows since the scheme began in 2000. She is the first lecturer in dance in London to become a fellow.

An ‘honoured’ Dr Houston, also chair of the Foundation for Community Dance, said: “These fellowships raise awareness of the importance of great teaching and that’s so vital, especially when students are deciding which universities to apply to, and while there’s so much focus on the profession in Government and the national media.

“Roehampton has developed a close working relationship between lecturers and students which has led to some really innovative practice and so, although this is an individual award, my thanks go to colleagues and students for their support.

“The on-going thinking and conversations we have at the University, and within the community dance profession, have led to really exceptional ideas, which I’ve been lucky to be able to help develop and share. I believe that we should share the motivation and inspiration that we can gain from teaching students for the benefit of the whole profession.”

Through her work, Dr Houston has raised the profile of dance as a career, helping to give the University’s degrees an international reputation. She has changed students’ views on performing in major venues as the pinnacle of success, to creating advocates for dance, and expanding people’s understanding of what a career in dance could include. She has brought professional focus, theory and pride to the community and participatory dance sector, placing it on a par with major set piece performances.

National Teaching Fellowships are the most prestigious awards for excellence in higher education teaching. Dr Houston was chosen from among 180 nominations, and will receive £10,000 to spend on professional development. What she learns will be shared with other staff and will directly benefit Roehampton students.

The fellowships are organised by the UK’s Higher Education Academy organisation and are funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England. Fellows are nominated by their university and submissions had to show evidence of individual excellence, raising the profile of excellence and developing excellence.

Professor Stephanie Marshall, Chief Executive of the HEA, said: “Students deserve the best possible learning experience and it is lecturers like Sara who can make a real difference to their futures. I wish her all the success in her learning and teaching experiences.”

National Teaching Fellows become recognised across their subject area and in the wider teaching and lecturing community as being among the best in the country. They could be called upon to give advice, share best practice or draw national attention, through their status, to a particular issue or field of study.

Fellowships promote excellent teaching in universities, and are a driver for academics to raise their standards, and those of the sector as a whole. This in turn results in better educated students, raising the standard and employability of graduates.

Dr Houston’s citation from the HEA for her fellowship described her as a ‘tireless champion’ of professional development, and a ‘leading figure in the community dance movement who has steered national initiatives to safeguard quality and standards’. It said she had inspired students to see the worth in themselves as leaders within the dance and education sectors and found ‘her engagement with the profession always transfers to the university classroom.’

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