Debby Cotton

A Plymouth University professor has been awarded a National Teaching Fellowship in recognition of her expertise in the theory and practice of teaching in higher education.

Debby Cotton, Professor of Higher Education Pedagogy, has earned international renown for her work in areas such as sustainability pedagogies in higher education, the impact of technology on how students absorb information, and the experience of care leavers at university.

Starting her career as a rainforest ecologist at the University of East Anglia, it was during her DPhil at Oxford that Professor Cotton first became interested in the underlying factors that influence teaching– particularly the ‘hidden curriculum’.

She joined Plymouth in 2001, and has become the institution’s Head of Educational Development, within its Teaching and Learning team.

“It is a tremendous honour to become a National Teaching Fellow,” Professor Cotton said, “and to continue Plymouth University’s fine tradition in this field. Our students are an inspiration. Some of the stories of how they’ve succeeded against the odds to secure an Honours degree are profoundly humbling. It’s important to understand these background factors so that we as academics can support them day-to-day.”

The award continues a long-running story of Plymouth academics being recognised by the Higher Education Academy for their teaching excellence, and is the twentieth time that the honour has been conferred upon a staff member at the University – with six in the last four years alone.

Professor Pauline Kneale, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Teaching and Learning, said: 

“This is deserved recognition for a truly outstanding academic, whose work has supported many colleagues at Plymouth, and has helped to underpin the teaching culture here at the University. And it demonstrates again just how many influential thinkers, theorists and practitioners we have in our teaching line up that so many have been made Fellows over the years.”

Professor Cotton will formally be awarded the Fellowship at the NTFS Awards dinner in Liverpool Cathedral in October. As part of the award, she will receive a cash sum that she can invest in her pedagogic research activities.