Glenn Waller discusses his ambitions for Psychology

The head of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Psychology is Professor Glenn Waller. He joined the University of Sheffield in 2012 and became Head of Department in the summer of 2016.

Psychology at the University of Sheffield has got a new shine about it. From what is being taught to where it is being taught, there are new developments that are benefiting students and staff alike. Overseeing the review process has been Professor Glenn Waller, Head of Department, and he is clear about the way he wanted to progress the department. He explained, “My view , on becoming Head of Department, was that it was important to make a thorough, but quick assessment of where changes needed to be made then grasp the nettle and make things happen as quickly and as effectively as possible.

“With colleagues I have undertaken a curriculum review and Psychology is one of the University departments taking part in a pilot of the programme level approach to learning and teaching. There have been changes within our team of academic staff and we have been adapting to our new location at Cathedral Court while options are considered for redevelopment of the Psychology Building.”

The changes Glenn has had to manage, within challenging times in respect of student recruitment and higher education finance, have been significant. He is optimistic, however. “I am lucky to have a team of academic and support staff who are embracing the changes we need to make and our efforts are going to bring success over the coming years.”

Glenn has a number of goals that are driving the changes to structure. As is the case across the higher education sector the Department of Psychology is measured through assessment exercises, such as the Research Excellence Framework (REF) and the Teaching  Excellence Framework (TEF). Important surveys, such as the National Student Survey, also provide important evaluation of a department’s teaching. Glenn is, however, satisfied that the department is setting itself up for success in the coming reviews. He says, “As Head of Department I am in the fortunate position of being able to help colleagues develop and grow in their roles; it’s a side of the role that I find rewarding. In creating the environment where staff and students alike are developing, exploring and learning new things, I am confident that the outcomes of everyone’s work will be very positive.”

Glenn knows that every person who studies or works in a university has different skills and aspirations, and it is important to be able to embrace the opportunities that creates. His own route into university was well considered. He explains, “I was one of the first members of my family to attend university and, while I was interested, I wasn’t really sure what university was for. I knew that to make a success of my time at university, I would need to study something I had a passion for but as I left school I didn’t know what that thing was.”

Rather than go to university straight from school, Glenn instead chose to work and found himself working as a psychiatric nurse for a while. Whilst doing that he developed his all important work ethic and found a subject, psychology, that he could really focus on and enjoy studying. He says, “If I could talk to my 17 year old self, I would advise him to do exactly what I did. ‘Don’t rush or be pushed into studying something you don’t want to. Find your passion and your degree will be an exciting exploration of the subjects you find most inspiring.’”

Having chosen a subject area Glenn studied at Reading, Liverpool and Oxford before moving into jobs in the NHS at St. George’s, University of London and the University of Southampton.

During his career as a clinical psychologist, he has developed a research focus in the cognitive-behavioural psychopathology of eating disorders. He applies what he learns from working with patients in the development of evidence-based therapies. In talking to Glenn it is clear that he is proud when he sees  the practical implications of his research creating effective and efficient therapies that can be of benefit to as many people as possible.

Glenn collaborates with scientists and clinicians across the UK and internationally and is held in esteem by his peers. He is a member of the NICE Guideline Development Group (Eating Disorders) and is a Fellow of the Academy of Eating Disorders (President 2014-2015). He is also a founder member of the Eating Disorders Research Society and is Chair of the Scientific Committee for the British Association of Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy.

Glenn is mindful of the key challenges currently facing the higher education sector and has views on where solutions could be found. “It seems as though there is a lack of coherence across the sector with too much being made of the differences between universities,” he says. “The sector needs to be considered as a whole and robust policy introduced following thorough consideration rather than decisions being imposed on the hoof.”

But Glenn is confident that Sheffield is a university and a city that will weather any storms that blow by. He says, “Sheffield is such a safe and green city with excellent surroundings and a friendlier spirit than many cities. Graduates are often tempted to stay, which is great for the region. I am looking forward to working with the University to ensure we continue to offer an excellent place to study and work, as well as building cutting edge facilities that support a strong strategy for impactful teaching and research.”