University academics top of their class


Two University of Leeds academics are celebrating after receiving a prestigious award for excellence in higher education teaching and support for learning.

National Teaching Fellowships, announced today by the Higher Education Academy (HEA), have been awarded to Dr Simon Lightfoot, a senior lecturer in European politics, and Dr Andrea Jackson, a senior lecturer in the School of Earth and Environment, and incoming pro-dean for Student Education in the Faculty of Environment.

The success ensures the University of Leeds retains its leading position for excellence in teaching and learning, with the highest number of National Teaching Fellowships of any higher education institution in the UK.
Successful nominees are nominated by their institutions and submissions have to show evidence of three criteria: individual excellence, raising the profile of excellence and developing excellence.

Dr Jackson is an HEA Senior Fellow and a University of Leeds Teaching Fellowship holder, with a track record in innovation and excellence in student education.

She developed Countdown to University Study, an online resource to help students with their transition from school to university, through enhancing institutional and academic community awareness and inspiring independent learning and critical thinking. Since 2009, it has been used by more than 60% of incoming undergraduate students in the School of Earth and Environment, from 13 different countries. The resource, as a model of best practice, has subsequently been developed into University-wide initiatives, with Flying Start for undergraduates and Step up to Masters for postgraduates.

Dr Jackson said: “I feel really privileged and a great sense of pride to have received the award of a National Teaching Fellowship. It is fantastic to know that the work I do with students and in helping enhance student education is valued. I know it will give me greater confidence to do even bigger and better things and I'm looking forward to becoming part of a network of other award winners to share practice and learn from each other. The award also helps raise the profile of the fantastic work we do with our students here at Leeds.”

Dr Simon Lightfoot is also a University of Leeds Teaching Fellowship holder and is Director of Student Education in Politics and International Studies. He was nominated for his passion in politics and his work in ensuring the subject matter is engaging to students, working hard to make higher education open to all through his widening participation work.

Dr Lightfoot visits higher education institutions across Europe, both to engage students in their learning – to encourage debate and critical thinking – and to share best practice with colleagues, by asking them to relate their difficulties in teaching politics in their respective countries.

Co-author of Teaching Politics and International Relations, he has also presented papers at national and international conferences and engaged in enhancement projects in Ireland, Hungary, Romania and Slovenia. In 2009, he won the Political Studies Association's Bernard Crick Prize for Outstanding Teaching.

Dr Lightfoot said: “I am clearly delighted that my work over the years has been recognised by my peers. I have great admiration for National Teaching Fellows both here at Leeds and in the discipline and to have my name added to the list is a massive honour. I was extremely fortunate to be taught by three exceptional academics, who despite their very different styles, conveyed the excitement and complexity of the subject matter of politics, whilst also providing empirical and theoretical depth. Twenty years later, I hope students see my passion and enthusiasm for the subject in a similar way.” 

Dr Jackson and Dr Lightfoot were nominated by Professor Vivien Jones, the University’s Pro Vice Chancellor for Student Education, who said: “I’m delighted by these well-deserved awards and would like to offer my personal congratulations to Andrea and Simon, who are living proof that excellent teaching is an inspiration to students, both during their time at university and later in life. At the University of Leeds, we pride ourselves on our high quality and innovative teaching, which means that we can offer a first class educational experience to our students.”

Professor Craig Mahoney, Chief Executive of the HEA, added: “The 55 new National Teaching Fellows announced today are all an inspiration to me. They have each made a significant impact on the teaching at their own institution, and many of them even further afield.”

The successful National Teaching Fellows (NTFs) were chosen from over 180 nominations submitted by higher education institutions across England, Northern Ireland and Wales. Each will receive an award of £10,000 which will be used to support their professional development in teaching and learning or aspects of pedagogy.

The scheme is funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, and the Department for Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland, and is open to staff whose teaching or support roles enhance the student learning experience at institutions in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Dr Jackson and Dr Lightfoot are available for interview. Please contact Ben Jones, Press Officer, University of Leeds; call 0113 34 38059 or email