Dental Academy head receives national award

The head of the University of Portsmouth’s Dental Academy, Sara Holmes MBE, has been selected for the most prestigious award in higher education for excellence in her field.

The National Teaching Fellowship awards by the Higher Education Academy recognise excellence in higher education teaching and support for learning.

Fellowship award-winners receive £10,000, which may be used for their professional development in teaching and learning or aspects of pedagogy.

Sara is one of just 55 lecturers and learning support staff to receive a National Teaching Fellowship and was selected from over 180 nominations submitted by higher education institutions across England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Successful nominees were backed by their institutions and submissions had to show evidence of three criteria: individual excellence, raising the profile of excellence and developing excellence.

Sara was selected for her strong vision and for her innovative and original approach to teaching and learning.  She led the development of the University’s Dental Academy, which opened in September 2010, and its predecessor, the School of Professionals Complementary to Dentistry.

Under her direction, the Dental Academy, in partnership with King’s College London Dental Institute, delivers a unique model of team-based undergraduate teaching for dental care professionals and student dentists to train together.

The students work side by side in the reality of the primary care environment, similar to a high street practice – an approach that benefits the students by mirroring the way they will go on to work in their professional careers.

Sara, who originally trained as a dental nurse, believes that dental graduates of the future must have a sound knowledge and practical understanding of team-based working and that it is the responsibility of dental educators like her to meet this challenge.

She said: ‘It’s a huge honour to be recognised by the Higher Education Academy for something about which I feel so passionately, but I would not have been selected without the hard work and support of my fellow colleagues.

‘The unique model we created for the Dental Academy is already producing high quality dentists and dental care professionals who have benefited from working in teams and who are working in the community. I strongly believe that we can develop that model and find new and innovative ways of teaching and delivering the best graduates.’

Professor Craig Mahoney, chief executive of the HEA, said the awards carry considerable prestige within the sector and are highly competitive. He added: ‘The 55 new Fellows created this year have all made a highly valuable contribution to learning and teaching within their institutions and often more widely.

‘At the HEA we are committed to recognising and rewarding excellence in teaching. Students deserve – and expect – the best possible learning experience during their time in higher education, and fantastic staff such as National Teaching Fellows help to deliver this experience. I am extremely proud of the HEA in delivering this programme and I congratulate all successful recipients.’

The new National Teaching Fellows will officially receive their awards at a ceremony that will take place in London on Wednesday 10 October 2012.

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 roles support the student learning experience at institutions in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.


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