Category Archives: Teaching Project Management

Grappling with management responsibilities in academia

This semester I came back from a refreshing and highly productive six month sabbatical to a maelstrom of teaching activity and my first proper management role within my department.  As is often the case within academia, the role was new and ill-defined.  It involves enhancing teaching quality (whatever that means)  across 40 undergraduate and postgraduate units delivered by 18 academics .  Three months in, I wanted to share some reflections on how I am adapting to my new management responsibilities.

In my view, management responsibilities in academia are akin to a medieval game of football.  There are few rules, many hundreds of players,  several often conflicting objectives,  and pretty ineffective levers of control.  So, here are some strategies for playing the game…..


Continue reading Grappling with management responsibilities in academia

A light hearted look at uncertainty

Here’s a little light reading from Manuela Saragosa of the BBC on the topic of uncertainty, although it still contains some essential truths about how we respond to uncertainties that we face.


1. that we humans are not that good at dealing with uncertainty
2. that we suffer from “ambiguity aversion” – a desire to know what the risks are and what options we have
3. that we prefer risks with numbers attached, rather than open ended uncertainties even when those numbers may themselves be laden with uncertainty or even unreliable.

The BBC article is available here How to deal with uncertainty

Enjoy (courtesy of the BBC)






Study Skills for MOP Students

The study tips contained in this presentation, have been drawn from my 8 year experience of teaching and assessing over 1500 Management of Projects students here at The University of Manchester.

study-tips-for-mop-studentsI am also indebted to Mike Courtney and Xiangping Du of the University of Hertfordshire, whose book “Study Skills for Chinese Students” I wholeheartedly recommend to all Management of Projects students.
It is available to buy from Amazon here,

Reflections on completing my PhD

I passed my Viva Voce three weeks ago today and I can honestly say that I am still riding the crest of an amazing emotional high.  I chuckle to myself regularly as I reflect that I am now officially Dr Saunders.  Friends, family and even my kids have had to get used to addressing me as Dr Fi, although I am sure that the novelty of this will eventually wear off – for them, if not for me!

Looking back, I was a reluctant PhD student. Much cajoling and a couple of metaphorical kicks were required from the Head of my Research Group, Professor Andy Gale, before I took the plunge and enrolled on a part-time doctorate at The University of Manchester.  My youngest was only 2 at the time, and it seemed folly, bordering on madness to attempt to squeeze serious intellectual endeavour into my already jammed-packed life.  And yet, now that I have finished I am so proud of my achievement that I wanted to share some reflections for those considering whether to embark on their own PhD journey. Continue reading Reflections on completing my PhD

Lecture Response Systems

banners-learning-lecture-room1200x250Large classes present a number of challenges for HE academic staff.  Students typically sit in vast tiered lecture theatres whilst a lone figure patrols the stage in front of them, seeking to impart knowledge and enthusiasm of the lecture topic.  It can be very difficult to actively engage students in such an environment and to gauge whether the students are actually learning anything.  One approach that a number of academics in the School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering (MACE) have tried is to experiment with different lecture response systems. Such was the level of interest that we made this topic the subject of our School of MACE eLearning Community of Practice meeting in Sept 2015.

We discussed four different lecture response systems during the meeting: Mentimeter, mbclick, Twitter and electronic handset based systems (commonly known as clickers) Continue reading Lecture Response Systems