University technicians

What is the Technician Commitment?

The Technician Commitment is a sector wide, collaborative initiative led by the Science Council and supported by Gatsby’s Technicians Make It Happen campaign, to ensure visibility, recognition, career development and sustainability for technicians working in higher education and research. 

Universities and research institutes are invited to become signatories of the Technician Commitment and pledge action against five key challenges affecting their technical staff. 

It is spearheaded by Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz and Professor Sir David Greenaway and formally launched on May 31st 2017 with 36 founding signatories, of which the University of Plymouth is one.

Technical careers at the University of Plymouth

Degree courses at the University of Plymouth are underpinned by a significant element of practical classes and fieldwork. They are designed to meet the needs of industry and commerce and an emphasis on experiential learning aims to equip our students with the skills required for the workplace. While the theory is delivered by our academics, much of the practice is supported by our technicians.

Traditionally technical roles have neither been well understood nor recognised. However, the role has been evolving and has assumed greater significance as pressure on academic roles has increased. Technicians are now highly skilled, many have degrees and a growing number have doctorates. Academics and students alike rely on their support in laboratories, workshops, studios and the field, where their development of techniques and expertise in the use of complex equipment is vital.

From boat skippers to circuit board designers

The University of Plymouth has a cohort of 180 technicians at all grades, from apprentice to Faculty Technical Manager, supporting a broad range of subject areas across our five faculties. Roles are therefore very varied and no two roles are the same. For example we employ technicians who:

  • support the operation of our wave tank in the COAST Lab
  • teach the use of CNC machines in our engineering workshop
  • skipper our fleet of boats based at the Marine Station
  • write programmes for psychology projects
  • support digital skills development for undergraduates in the Plymouth Business School
  • design and manufacture printed circuit boards
  • provide clinical skills training for medical students
  • run lighting, sound and projection facilities in our theatres and studios
  • produce digital maps using equipment deployed in drones and quad bikes
  • support laboratory and field work in terrestrial and marine disciplines.

The Technician Commitment

“We are proud to be a signatory of the Technician Commitment initiative which supports technical staff to develop their careers and be recognised for the great work they do. We are determined to ensure we are visible as key members of staff driving forward the successes of the University of Plymouth and that our expertise is well utilised and sustained across the university.”

Andrew Atfield
Technical Lead for the Technician Commitment

<p>Andrew Atfield</p>
Professor Kevin Jones

Professor Kevin Jones

“Technicians play a vital role in the kind of experiential learning that we emphasise at the University. Supporting the Technician Commitment makes it clear to all how important this group of people is to our student experience and highlights the opportunities for growth and development within those roles”

Professor Kevin Jones, TC Academic Champion, Executive Dean, Faculty of Science and Engineering

Colin Shipp, TC Institutional Lead, Human Resources Director, says:

"All our people working at the University are dedicated to providing a great student experience and our Technicians provide a vital contribution.

The Technicians Commitment provides a clear and helpful framework for developing, supporting and recognising our Technicians, not just within our University but across the sector."


Technicians in the spotlight

Outstanding Technician Awarded Papin Prize at HETS 2021

Natalie Sobey has won a prestigious Papin Prize, named after technician Denis Papin, recognising the invaluable role played by technicians in higher education and research.
Natalie won the prize for Contribution to Teaching Higher education and research technicians from across the UK have been honoured with prestigious awards which recognise excellence in academia at the UK’s only event dedicated to celebrating the success and achievements of technical staff.
The awards were presented at HETS where almost 500 delegates attended the event.

<p>Papin Prize Winner: Natalie Sobey</p>
<p><a href="https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/staff/natalie-sobey">Natalie Sobey</a> has won a prestigious Papin Prize, recognising the invaluable role played by technicians in higher education and research. Natalie won the prize for Contribution to Teaching, as announced at the UK Higher Education Technician Summit in Nottingham. See more on the <a href="https://sciencecouncil.org/celebration-at-hets2021/">Science Council website</a>. Almost 200 nominations were received across ten categories and a team of judges selected the most deserving winners from more than 50 higher education and research institutes.<br></p>

Thirteen Papin Prizes were presented across a range of categories at the biennial Higher Education Technicians Summit (HETS) organised by Midlands Innovation and TALENT in partnership with the Science Council and Technician Commitment.
Two additional COVID-19 categories were added to this year’s list of awards to acknowledge technicians who made significant contributions to the COVID-19 response in local communities and nationally.
Almost 200 nominations were received across ten categories and a team of judges selected the most deserving winners from more than 50 higher education and research institutes.

Meet our technicians

Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business

School of Biological and Marine Sciences

School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Faculty of Health: Medicine, Dentistry and Human Sciences

Faculty of Science and Engineering

Our technicians manage the technical operation in laboratories, workshops and studios. They supply practical expertise for practical classes, fieldwork, undergraduate and MSc projects, postgraduate research and commercial projects.