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Meet the Senior Tutor

Three questions for Dr Mark Wormald, who has been Senior Tutor at Pembroke for eight years.

How would you describe the role of Senior Tutor?

Mark-WormaldWhen I started, I was given the simplest of job descriptions: what is laid out in the College statutes. (‘The Senior Tutor shall have responsibility for the educational provision in the College. This responsibility shall include student discipline on academic matters.’)

I think that the Senior Tutor is where the buck stops for a range of matters, including undergraduate education, support for graduates, the recruitment of Fellows, the quality of teaching, pastoral welfare and the overall educational experience of our students. I regard it as very important to maintain the integrity of the whole package that our students get when they come here.

In order to do that I work closely with our Tutor for Graduate Affairs, Professor Loraine Gelsthorpe, a team of tutorial staff, undergraduate and graduate tutors, Directors of Studies and other College officers. It is very much a team effort.

I have lots of contact with students, although much of it may be invisible to other students. I often get to know students when they’re struggling. I think it’s an incredibly important part of the role to combine an academic perspective with a dose of humanity. However, I can’t say I’ll miss handing some of the really distressing human problems when I hand over the role in September 2016.

Other parts of the role include regular meetings with other Senior Tutors. I have served on a range of the standing committees over the years and am currently chair of the Graduate Tutors’ Committee. Since 2002 I have also been chair of the Advisory Group on Communicable Diseases.

Alongside all of this I also teach and research in English, and am currently working on a book about Ted Hughes’ fishing.

What major changes have you seen during your time at Pembroke?

The range of opportunities we have been able to offer our students has grown, both here and overseas, and I take great pleasure in that.

We’ve consolidated the outward facing nature of the College through the expansion of our International Programmes. Our partnerships with international universities have also allowed us to complete major projects in the College – I very much remember being part of the team that worked with Nihon University in 1995 on the negotiation of the agreement that led to the construction of Foundress Court.

Our fantastic Development and Corporate Programmes have also meant that way we have responded to the changing financial climate and fee regime has been as impressive as any College in Cambridge in terms of undergraduate and graduate support. That wouldn’t be possible without the support of our network of really amazing alumni who have understood what we want to do.

Another big change is that the fellowship is getting much younger – and it is growing significantly. Our student body is growing too and I think one of our successes is that despite this growth the community hasn’t changed its sense of intimacy and supportiveness.

What do you think makes Pembroke unique?

I would say the fact that everyone enjoys being here, although that is true to some extent of every college.

There is a certain kind of humanity to Pembroke – a flexibility and a responsiveness. We can also be an entrepreneurial community. When decisions need to be made quickly, we make them.

The outward facing approach I’ve mentioned is really characteristic of Pembroke too. We look out both beyond the College and the University. We make a point of being the type of community that wants to help our students work out who they are and to prepare them for life in the world. We’re an academic community – that’s why we’re here – but we’re also a place where our students can develop as people and experience all kinds of opportunities beyond their academic work, whilst being supported as well as possible.

Really, when I think about what makes Pembroke unique to me, I’d like to take a phrase that someone recently used of the College when they described it as ‘grand and warm’. That’s exactly what Pembroke is – a beautiful old place that is also very warm.


For more about what it is like to be a student at Pembroke, see the College website.

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