Ellis Urquhart, a Lecturer in Tourism in the Business School, joined ENU as a student in September 2008 and then as a full-time Lecturer in January 2019. He's now taken on additional roles as the Programme Leader for the MSC Tourism Suite and the Business School's Academic Lead for Student Engagement and Retention.

Ellis shares his career story in this Q&A.

Tell us a bit about your career to date?

While I may not look it, I’ve been at ENU for a fair amount of time. I started as an Undergraduate in Tourism & Airline Management in 2008 (actually, when we were still Napier University) and then started my PhD in visitor attraction research in 2014 as part of ENU’s 50th Anniversary Scholarship programme.
When completing my amendments, I joined the subject group as a part-time maternity cover for a year before accepting a full-time role as Lecturer in Tourism in 2019. Since then, I have been lucky enough to teach at UG, PG and Research Degree levels both here in Edinburgh and on our TNE partnerships in Switzerland, Hong Kong and Singapore.
More recently, I have taken over Programme Leadership for the MSc Tourism Suite and now act as the Business School’s Academic Lead for Student Engagement & Retention to lead initiatives in this area. In September this year, I’ll have been affiliated with ENU for 15 years and it still never fails to surprise me!

How did you secure your current role?

While I was a PhD student within the Tourism and Languages subject group, I operated on a casual contract for some time (prior to the now Student Experience Contract) where I engaged in Dissertation supervision and some ad hoc teaching activity. I happened to be teaching in similar areas to a colleague who was heading on maternity leave and I moved into that role, temporarily, 3 days a week while I was completing my PhD corrections.

I arrived at my current role when my Undergraduate mentor and 3rd PhD supervisor retired mid-way through the year and I applied to their position. They supported me in my application and then passed the baton to me, which I always find as a nice legacy to look back on.

Tell us a bit more about your role

I’m currently on a Learning, Teaching & Scholarship pathway within the University and my role has three key remits. Firstly as a Lecturer in Tourism. Secondly, I act as the Programme Leader for our MSc Tourism Suite that hosts 2 programmes (International Tourism Destination Management & International Heritage & Cultural Tourism Management). Finally, I was recently appointed as the TBS Academic Lead for Student Engagement & Retention. Within this remit, I lead on School-wide initiatives to enhance positive progression and outcomes for our large and diverse student population within the School. Understandably, this takes a lot of time and involves a lot of data collection/interpretation but within the role I can identify patterns within year groups, cohorts, programmes and modules to provide targeted interventions and, most importantly, academic staff support and development to strengthen engagement and subsequent retention. 

What is the best thing about your role?

For me, the best thing about working here has to be the collegiality of the ENU staff. I think we can all agree that, at times, higher education is not always an easy space to work in and the pressures can be substantial. However, I continue to be amazed at how the ENU community band together to work on projects, help each other out and share good practice. While most academics have some element of competitiveness, this hasn’t prevented colleagues from working together cohesively and offering support to peers which continues to make ENU a great place to work.

Have you faced any particular challenges?

I think, along with everyone else, the biggest challenge is time or lack thereof. An academic pathway often pulls you in so many directions and this is particularly challenging when starting out in academia. The drive to ‘cover all your professional bases’ is a real challenge for early career academics but also for established staff. It does also take a long time to say no to things as they come along. When I started at ENU we didn’t have an ECA policy or process, we had the 1 year new start allowance but it was quite unstructured. I think a big step forward for the University has been the implementation of protected time for new staff coming through so they can take the time to carve out their own pathway and build a development plan, not to cover everything, but to excel in their areas of interest.

What has helped you in your career?

I have really benefitted from mentorship and management that has understood and supported my personal career goals and pathway. They have been able to guide me with appropriate opportunities for my stage of development but have also been open to me pitching something different. I big helping hand in my career has also being told “no – don’t take that on”. As an ECA, I did struggle to say no to things or push opportunities back/away for another point and I was lucky enough to have management that protected my time as well as encouraging me to take things on that would be beneficial and realistic within the limited time we have.

What does your future hold?

In the short term, I plan to build on my School-wide student engagement role, which is real a area of focus for The Business School. Longer term I plan to pursue Associate Professorship on the Learning, Teaching and Scholarship pathway and explore further school leadership opportunities in academic areas that I can shape and develop.

Away from work, what do you do in your free time?

Outside of work, it is safe to say I am fond of a rosé wine or two and during the summer months (loosely speaking), I am often in my garden to absorb whatever sun is available. Aside from that, I do like visiting any and all attractions around the city (the perks of getting in free with my Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions membership).

I continue to be amazed at how the ENU community band together to work on projects, help each other out and share good practice

Ellis Urquhart