Case Studies

Case Studies

The following case studies identify examples of real life experiences of staff at the University of Wolverhampton. They capture some of the issues and hurdles that staff have faced and the support that they have been able to access from the University to assist them. 

"I started my academic career as a Psychology Demonstrator in the Institute of Psychology at the University of Wolverhampton in 2007, shortly after graduating with a BSc in Psychology. While privately ambitious in terms of wanting to pursue an academic career, I was the first in my family to go to university, and so I lacked confidence in my abilities.However, my demonstrator position was a fundamental ‘launch pad’ into an academic career because I immediately felt supported and empowered, and from the very beginning I was treated as a valuable member of the Institute of Psychology. Just 1 year into my demonstrator position I was actively encouraged to apply for a University of Wolverhampton funded PhD. I was successful in my application, and commenced my programme of research in October 2008. I would not have completed my PhD if it were not for key members in the Institute of Psychology mentoring me through the process. For example, supporting me to improve my self-confidence, encouraging me to collaborate with them on existing research projects, one of which culminated in attending my first international conference in Brno, Czech Republic, and funding travel and expenses to enable me to attend academic conferences to present my work."

"I started working as a Senior Lecturer in the Institute of Psychology (IoP) at the University of Wolverhampton in 2003. My career was progressing at a steady pace and I was the proud recipient of the Rising Star Teaching and Learning Awards at the beginning of 2006.

However, my academic journey slowed dramatically when my daughter was born at the end of 2006.  My family reside in Taiwan and my husband’s family live some distance away in the north east of England and so I had virtually no child care support.  My decision to return to work following maternity leave was a difficult one, and if I am to be honest filled me with complete dread. But, my Mother supported me from a distance, pointing out that I needed to maintain my own hard fought scientific identity in addition to being a mother. I returned to work, part-time, in the IoP in 2007.

Undoubtedly, from that point my priorities in life changed. However, I still had the desire to further develop as an academic, and I have continued to slowly progress. With the help and support from my family, friends and colleagues in the IoP I have become a more rounded researcher, I am more resilient and have developed better time management skills. There have been numerous overwhelming moments when I have wondered whether being a scientist and a mother was too much. However, the valuable support I have received from my colleagues at the IoP have helped nurse me through these moments. For example, when my daughter has been ill and I have been desperate because of competing demands, the worry and stress associated with these instances has been greatly mediated by the invaluable support I have, and continue to receive from, among others, my colleagues, who have swapped teaching at very short notice, and my research mentor has kept in contact, throughout. Without doubt, this type of support has been fundamental in enabling me to keep an active research profile."

"In 2014, despite working part-time hours, I was successful in applying to the Undergraduate Research Assistantship Scheme, awarded by the British Psychological Society. The application itself, and the successful completion of the BPS project funded by the award was only possible because of the tremendous support I received from my line manager and colleagues at the IoP. I have also recently been successful in applying for a place on the Aurora Leadership Foundation women-only leadership course, which is supported and financed by the University of Wolverhampton.    

I am pleased that I returned to work in 2007.   My life has been much enriched in parallel from working with great people, doing ‘good’ science, and acting as a role model for my daughter who sees me developing experimental materials, and working with children at her school. She leafs through my statistical output and asks me to explain the graphs and figures – she has just turned 9 and wants to be a scientist, and has just been awarded a Certificate of Achievement from her school for “her mature and conscientious approach to science”. I am a proud mummy and a proud Psychologist."

"I started my career in 1995 working as a Sport Science lecturer at Darlington College of Technology. Following spells as a sport scientist with England Netball and lecturing at Coventry University, I started working at the University of Wolverhampton as a Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology in 2001. At this point in my career, my priority was gaining accreditation as an applied sport and exercise psychologist, I had no research aspirations or outputs to speak of. However, I quickly developed an enthusiasm for research partly because of the informal mentoring of Professor Andy Lane. Such mentoring provided a belief that I could cut it as a researcher and the opportunity to do so. My key research achievements to date include 47 papers published in peer reviewed academic journals, 3 books, 13 book chapters, and 10 professional papers. In 2015 I was honoured to be made a fellow of the British Association of Sport and Exercise Science (BASES) for my contributions and commitment to BASES and sport and exercise sciences."

"So, what happened in the 15 years since my appointment at the University of Wolverhampton to facilitate my career development? Most importantly, I have felt well supported to pursue my career aspirations, and feel fortunate to be working in a highly collegiate environment. I have received two short, but highly instrumental sabbaticals. The first in 2006 to finish off my PhD and the second in 2009 to write a book and prepare research bids. I also received University funding in 2008 from the Early Researcher Award Scheme to undertake research exploring dyadic coping among PhD students and partners. In 2012 I applied for and was awarded the title of Reader in Applied Sport and Exercise Psychology allowing me to focus on research and support others in pursuing their own research aspirations. I was submitted to the Research Excellence Framework in 2014 with positive outcomes for unit of assessment 26. In 2015 I became the Athena SWAN champion for the Institute of Sport enabling me to lead and develop initiatives intended to support equality of career development opportunities.

In my personal life, in 2010 I became a mother for the first time and again in 2012. This has been the most rewarding and transformative experience of my life. A second transformative event was the passing of my mother from a short and devastating illness in 2013. The University allowed me to work flexibly so that along with my father I could provide home care for my mother during her final months. As my parents live in North Yorkshire this was a most welcomed concession from the University, and demonstrated an investment in people that I cannot imagine finding in many other places of work or vocations.

Taking opportunities for flexible working with children and whilst caring for my mother has allowed me to continue my career development and support the University research strategy. Indeed 29 of my 46 peer reviewed outputs have been published since having my first and then second child, and whilst caring for my mother and coming to terms with her loss. A flexible attitude towards working allows me to work full time whilst concurrently meeting all the (lovely) demands that young children present. Maintaining a personal life and hobbies are vital for my well-being. In 2014, in memory of my mother I cycled from Lands’ End to John O’Groats raising over £5,000 for the hospice that helped care for her.

In summary, my advice for anyone looking to further their career is to keep the four F’s in order. Fun working, Focussed working, Flexible working and Family focus (making time for each other)."

I joined the Department of Built Environment in August 2007 as a post-doctoral researcher and subsequently joined the academic staff as a Lecturer in April 2008.

I have been very well supported throughout my time at the University. Two instances in particular stand out. Firstly the support the department provided when I obtained a grant to be seconded to the USA to a six month posting as Associate Professor at Bradley University. While away I was provided with updates every 15 days by the Head of the Department. On my return I was promoted to Senior Lecturer. Secondly, on my return from maternity leave to full time work in June 2010. The department facilitated my return to research which also enabled me to immediately lead an ARCOM Doctoral Workshop. This was only possible due to a flexible working arrangement to facilitate dropping my daughter at the University’s nursery in the morning and collecting her late afternoon, as well as flexibility over additional caring duties. I value this support and the freedom afforded by the department to organise my working time as best suits my family commitments.  As a result I have been able to develop my research profile to establish myself as a highly respected and influential researcher in my field evidenced in my inclusion as part of the University’s Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 submission.

"In my career journey internal university recognition schemes boosted my confidence as a new member of staff. In 2008-09 I was awarded both the University ‘Rewarding Excellence’ award for Teaching Innovation and the award for Blended Learning Tutor. I was the recipient of the £5,000 grant by the University of Wolverhampton, Early Research Award Scheme (ERAS) in 2008. This scheme gave me the confidence to lead a project on my own as I was provided with the support of a mentor. This helped immensely. The university has also provided me with opportunities to engage in collaborative project work and I have since worked on projects ranging from £2000 to millions of pounds.

Other opportunities have also been provided to further advance my career. I have supervised 10 PhD students to successful completion, including a PhD studentship I was awarded through a competitive departmental funding process. Currently I have three female PhD students. I have been supported in my career progression within the department and endeavour to support others in theirs.

University support has enabled me to strike a work-life balance enabling me to fulfil my potential and gain promotion to Reader in 2015. I have benefitted from the comprehensive approach to management, appraisal and mentoring within the Built Environment and feel that I am being support toward my aspiration of becoming a Professor at the university.

I was delighted to be supported through 100 workload hours to lead on Athena SWAN for the department. My head of department and central Athena SWAN support reflects the importance of gender equality to the university, which is why I would wholeheartedly endorse the University of Wolverhampton."


Oriyomi Modupe Okeyinka joined the University of Wolverhampton as a PhD student in Civil Engineering in 2013/2014 through a part funding agreement with the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission.

She arrived in the UK with her two children, both under four years old at that time. Any concerns she had about the potential impact of balancing childcare and study were  softened by the tremendous support she received (including; UoW subsidized childcare at close proximity, supervisory team meeting flexibility, availability of apps everywhere, a virtual workspace which gave her the chance to work from home, and the useful settling-in information provided by the doctoral college induction). Assistance was especially appreciated with registering her children for school and health care services.

While coming from a background with different learning and teaching orientation the various doctoral college workshops and support from her supervisors enabled her to adjust to the UK learning environment.  UoW has helped her to develop; her research skills; a teaching career; work experience and interpersonal skills; networking, collaboration and publication skills. UoW sponsorship facilitated  undertaking a PGCHE and P&P in 2015/2016..The careers service offered her various work placements to develop her employability, interpersonal skills and vocational training certification. She also enjoyed opportunities to present her research findings at overseas conferences through university funding., Today, she finds herself  a successful researcher, female engineer and prospective doctoral degree holder.

Hajrija offers a positive example of transitioning from study to forging a fledgling academic career.  She completed her MSc. in Marketing with the University of Wolverhampton in September 2016 which coupled with business placements equipped her to combine theory with practise in the production of business reports

Her work within the university’s Built Environment Climate Change Innovations (BECCI) project BECCI project provided opportunities to conduct research in sustainability for her dissertations. Her undergraduate dissertation examined the role of Corporate Social Responsibility being implemented as a Business and Marketing tool within various industry organisations including: Saint Gobain, UTC Aerospace Systems, Orbit Housing Group, University of Wolverhampton and Parex to name a few. For this she was awarded the University of Wolverhampton ‘Marketing Dissertation Prize’ for its ingenuity and ideas to support businesses with CSR. Also, the management within these organisations were keen for this information to be relayed to them, to understand where improvements to their CSR implementation could be derived and what other industry organisations are doing to gain a competitive advantage. Her research is also planned for publication in a highly-regarded Journal.  Her postgraduate dissertation explored the adoption of green practices by Generation Z. The quantitative approach employed proved useful in comparing the viewpoints and interests held by the generation and whether this would be promising or damaging for the future. This research has also been examined further in terms of its research capability, thus proving interesting for understanding the mind-sets and possible implementations required to sustain Generation Z’s interest.

Moreover, Hajrija worked at UTC Aerospace Systems as the lead within Marketing and Communications at the Wolverhampton site in 2016, as part of a student placement during her Masters studies. She worked on improving internal communications and enhancing employee relations as well as developing links with local businesses including Wolverhampton Racecourse, Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and the University of Wolverhampton. After a spell as a Visiting Lecturer at the University  she has now obtained a full lecturer position here in the Faculty of Social Sciences. She has introduced numerous eco-focussed SMEs from the Built Environment sector to her lectures to showcase the eco-advantage they hold over other businesses. Her method of integrating such businesses into an academic environment was recognised as an important element by the Business faculty, as it can be used as a tool to inspire students to act responsibly and support the work within the industry

"I started working in construction at the age of 16 as an apprentice plumbing and gas engineer. From there I worked in the waste management and construction department at a college and eventually went on to a construction management trainee role. The role included day release to study a HNC in Building Studies with a view to studying a degree in construction management.

I wanted to move into a role which had more opportunities to work on larger sites with more technical and unique aspects. I applied for graduate posts but couldn’t get passed the psychometric testing stages. After seeking advice from the careers development centre at uni, I signed up for a ‘meet the employer event.’ This presented a unique opportunity to speak with the employer and let them meet me in person instead of just through a standard application form. If it wasn’t for the lecturers and staff that worked hard to arrange this event, I am convinced I would not have been able to move forward with my career. It was this event which lead to my current role as a Trainee Site Manager with Shaylor Group.

The lecturers at uni have always encouraged myself and the other students to progress through our careers and reach the goals you set for yourself. Studying and working can be likened to walking a tight rope sometimes with the pressures making you want to quit. However, despite how difficult this journey has been, my lecturers in the ABE department have always been available to give me that little push in the right direction or just a small word of encouragement which has kept me going throughout the 5 years. The lecturers understand what it means to juggle a degree, a career and your home life so that support network has always been available.

 I was ‘Wolverhampton Homes woman in construction 2014’ which gave me a great confidence boost at a time when I felt like leaving construction for good. The uni has a culture of recognising accomplishments and hard work which creates an environment of inclusivity and inspiration to be better. Being a British Indian Woman in a man’s world has been difficult at times and I have had occasions in the working environment where acceptance hasn’t come easily, if at all. However, I have never felt out of place at uni, I have always felt a sense of belonging. In fact, I have been able to benefit from the vast experiences from the lecturers and have been able to apply these lessons in my own career."

As a mature student, retraining after thirty years in industry, Robert brought a diverse skills set to the various roles that he has had within the University of Wolverhampton.

From a background in senior technical and quality roles within an international packaging company, Robert retrained as a Building Surveyor at the University, qualifying, with distinction, in 2012.

With his background in world class manufacturing, he was invited by Dr. Paul Hampton to support some work with Royal Academy’s Steps at Work programme;  encouraging teachers of STEM subjects to visit manufacturing sites around West Midlands. Robert became the West Midlands Coordinator and was able to develop good contacts with some of the West Midland’s leading automotive and aerospace businesses.

Off the back of that work Robert was encouraged to consider a new project that had been successful in obtaining EU matched funding for supporting low carbon, energy savings businesses. Built Environment Climate Change Innovations (BECCI), supported over 100 Small to Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) involved in energy savings in the West Midlands over a three year period – from 2013 to the end of 2015.

As Knowledge Transfer Manager (KTM), Robert developed and managed the operational and delivery side of this £1Mio+ project. He was able to bring the transferable skills of project management and organising small groups to the BECCI team. The challenge was to understand which energy technologies were most relevant and of most interest to West Midlands SMEs. Working closely with large Housing Associations, Robert and his fellow KTM developed approaches involving small groups of SMEs being supported through Industry Challenges and Technology Showcases as well as Technical Workshops.

This worked well and the BECCI team met their targets, which, in part, led to them being invited to bid for an extension project for a further three years (2016 - 2018) – again successful. The key differences were that the focus was on all types of buildings, but this time only within the Black Country, Shropshire and Herefordshire. This has proved more challenging than expected; most of the businesses assisted in the first project were from outside the Black Country and finding ways of engaging with them forced Robert and his colleagues to find develop different approaches and more focussed ways of establishing links through networking and sharing information between other like-minded projects. It was and is a fascinating challenge.

Always keen to stretch his knowledge, Robert was encouraged by his project director to look towards further relevant qualifications. He is now mid-way through an MSc in Sustainability and Adaption in the Built Environment.

"My move from industry to academia was partly motivated by the flexibility available to meet the responsibilities of parenting my young daughter and managing the care of my elderly parents. Although professionally qualified and industry experienced, lecturing and research were new challenges.

The research module of the Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice in Higher Education led to a published conference paper. Three conference and eight journal papers later, I have just submitted my thesis for a PhD by Publication. This route is particularly appropriate for practitioners who come into academia from industry later in their career."

Paul is Head of Department Built Environment, within the Faculty of Science and Engineering at the University of Wolverhampton. A Chartered Surveyor and past Chair of the West Midlands branch of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), Paul studied at the University of Wolverhampton in 1995. Paul also sits on the RICS national flood forum and Global Board of QSi. 

Paul is proud to have studied at Wolverhampton and strongly believes the organisation provides opportunities for alland holds a real passion for inspiring graduates in their transition from Higher Education to the world of work.

Glynis is the first female president of Quantity Surveyors International (QSi) and  first academic to hold this position. Glynis has been associated with various professional bodies over the last decade and provides professional CPD presentations and industry tutoring for the University, RICS, QSi, ICWCI and CIOB. 

An alumna of the University of Wolverhampton and Course Leader and Senior Lecturer for Quantity Surveying at the University of Wolverhampton, Glynis’ research focuses on 3D digital quantification, online courses and designing pedagogy that promotes professional judgement in the HE curriculum. Glynis is the author of numerous academic papers and has delivered key note speeches at international conferences.

As a past industry practitioner Glynis has worked in both the public and private sectors and was a key member of the Egan task force looking into integration and collaborative working practices. Glynis really welcomes the opportunity to support women into property and construction and is proud to be associated with Athena SWAN

"I never thought I would have a career in the built environment and never thought I would become an Academic. Fortunately I was privileged to have a mentor and I am likewise extremely keen to give something back to the sector and act as a mentor for the next generation of practitioners".

As a child of the baby boom generation, there was a distinct difference between the aspirations of boys and girls. Boys took preference under the assumption that they would have to provide for a family and needed a secure, well-paid career.  I gained a place at a grammar school passed 9 O levels and held down a fairly responsible part time job on Saturdays was not sufficient reason for expecting a career. There was no question of my staying on at school for A levels.  Not suitable for girls!   I was given little choice by my parents and advised to take a secretarial course at the local college.  I was persuaded that I could get a good job, well paid and it was something I could come back to if necessary post children. 

Having taken on roles at various levels as a secretary and by the age of 21 I was PA to the MD of a large engineering company and at last I had my own secretary.  I managed the administration offices and the accounts staff, dealt with clients and customers and made myself fairly indispensable.  I was well paid and living well.  The challenges were declining and I have to admit to becoming bored.

I moved to Wales to run a hotel, married and started a family.  For 15 years we ran a small agricultural contracting business blossomed into civil engineering contracts as government subsidies changed.  We worked all over the country on some very large projects including the A30 in Cornwall,  A5 Shrewsbury, A55 extension on Anglesey, sea defences in Brighton and many minor site excavations, waste tip cells and smaller road/bypass jobs. Administration of the business was tough and time consuming and e moved back to Wolverhampton with our four children.   

In 1999 when my youngest was just three years old, I was contacted  to see if I would do a couple of days copy typing at the University.  The word-processing software package was new and I was a likely to succeed as anyone else.  I think that maybe my age and experience were more in line with the venue for the work – in the Vice-Chancellor’s Office!

A couple of days in September 1999 have extended to now.  Over the last 18 years I have progressed from copy typing to Senior Lecturer in Construction Project Management, there have been several challenges along the way and I also hope that it is not over yet. Upon reflection my story could be described as fate, being in the right place at the right time or grasping at opportunities.  I am not sure. However, there have been two major elements that have enabled my progress. The first is being part of an organisation that provides, supports and encourages opportunity.  The second is my first line manager, my mentor and my friend Professor Roy Newton.  Both elements still exist and remain as important as ever to me. 

I came to Wolverhampton in 1999 as the University was in a maelstrom of change.  A new Vice-Chancellor and a dying business as it struggled with lack of development, an aging estate and unsupported systems - but it did have money. Restructuring included a new executive lead for Strategic Planning and Resources.  The appointment of Professor Roy Newton to this role was to change my life.  A few years’ later I asked ‘why me’ he replied I had good people skills and a broad business overview.  This ‘big picture’ view was recognised as an asset for the first time – I just thought I was not very good any anything in particular.  I was mentored and encouraged to take a more pro-active role in the projects and operational activities developing before me.  A few small projects completed and an ever expanding knowledge of the workings of a modern university, the next major learning curve came with the proposal for a major regeneration project for the University.  This was to encompass the estate, the business systems and the academic offering as a programme of projects with an expected finish date of November 2007.

I had been appointed as PA to the PVC six months after starting as a temporary secretary.  The expansion of the Masterplan required more resources and I was promoted to Project Administrator and then to Strategic Project Officer and head of the Project Office for the University.  The Masterplan raged until 2007 when it closed having completed its planned objectives.  At one point in the programme I was part of a team co-ordinating 29 new and refurbished building projects, along with business process projects around IT and finance and the complete overhaul of the academic offering.  During this time and as part of an educational business it became obvious that I needed qualifications and I studied for a Master’s degree in Business Administration part time whilst working full-time and looking after a large family.  My husband also suffered a life-changing stroke while I was nearing the end of studying.  Studying became my constant and something to retreat into.  I gained my MBA in 2007 at the age of 51, the masterplan ended and my mentor retired.

The journey had been tough and exciting.  Promotion was coupled with coaching and mentoring in academic practice as I presented at conferences, wrote academic papers, and published articles and book chapters on the experiences.  In 2006 a request from the Dean of Engineering and the Built Environment to do some guest lecturing was timely and lead to a secondment into the School as a lecturer in Project Management made permanent a year later.  10 years on I am still enthralled by the job and life has become very good for me.  Senior Lecturer and postgraduate Course Leader for Construction Project Management is my current working status.  I still have ambitions but less options.  Making a difference to others, sharing my experiences and introducing the softer side of management to construction is my satisfaction. Lessons learned?  Listen and absorb, think and learn deeply enabling application and critical judgement.  Set your ground rules, follow your instincts and take opportunities.  You don’t have to know the end to start and to take part.  Life has a way of providing if you trust others and yourself.

As a member of the Civil Engineering department of the School of Architecture and the Built Environment I am the lead investigator for different nationally and internationally funded research projects. This has allowed me to offer exciting opportunities to female engineers, who recently graduated from our postgraduate programmes. Three female engineers are either working directly on the projects, as research assistants, or assisting me with my teaching commitments, as visiting lecturers. My research assistants, who are currently undertaking PhD programmes within the University, are being exposed to state of the art research initiatives, something that will hopefully help them to progress their career upon finishing their programmes. In addition, having the role of a visiting lecturer, some of these colleagues have been able to undertake a Postgraduate Diploma in learning and teaching and thus set the foundations for a future career in Higher Education.