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Humble start for Brunel's first Principal Fellow of Higher Education Academy

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Education simply meant a ticket out of poverty to Paul Miller when he grew up in Jamaica. Yet he’s now become Brunel’s first academic to be awarded the highest level of teaching recognition in UK Higher Education.

Newly appointed Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA), Dr Miller joins fewer than 500 people in this elite circle of educators.

It is a far cry from the severely under resourced Jamaican high schools at which Dr Miller started his teaching career.

“When I grew up, we learned there are three ways out of poverty: drugs, prostitution or education. I didn’t do drugs, sure as hell wasn’t going to do the second, so that left one option,” he joked.

Childhood poverty and teaching experience in Jamaica and the UK helped shape Dr Miller’s education and leadership style, which aim to promote inclusion and social justice.

Director of Brunel Educational Excellence Centre (BEEC), Dr Fiona Denney said: “BEEC is delighted Paul Miller has become Brunel’s first Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (PFHEA). Principal Fellowship is awarded to people with a sustained record of strategic impact, who are committed to wider strategic leadership in teaching.”

Since 2014, BEEC has coached 180 academics to become HEA Fellows and Senior Fellows through the HEA-accredited APEX continuous professional development framework. BEEC recently started to help people applying direct to the HEA for Principal Fellow recognition.

Dr Miller, who however applied independently, is Brunel’s first person to achieve this. “This is an important marker for Brunel as an institution, showing the HEA and UK HE sector that Brunel takes educational excellence seriously and is committed to supporting the development of its academic staff at all levels,” Dr Denney added.

"As Brunel continues to push forward excellence in teaching, I very much look forward to working with the Brunel Educational Excellence Centre and colleagues across the university considering HEA applications,” Dr Miller said.