Professor Willy Kitchen

Cert. HE, LLB, M.A., PhD, PFHEA

Department for Lifelong Learning

Head of Department

A profile picture of Professor Willy Kitchen
Profile picture of A profile picture of Professor Willy Kitchen

Willy is Head of the Department for Lifelong Learning at the University of Sheffield (2015 to present), where he has led the department’s mature access and degree with integrated foundation year programmes for nearly 25 years.  He is a qualified solicitor, returning to the University as a mature student to complete his doctorate in prehistoric archaeology in 2000.  He has a particular interest in lifelong learning policy, and in the scholarship of mature student learning and teaching.  

Willy was awarded Principal Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy in February 2021 in recognition of his work at the University, and nationally, in developing and advocating for effective foundation year pedagogies. 

Teaching activities

Willy first taught for the Department as a part-time Archaeology tutor in 1997, whilst studying for his PhD.  He has taught on the department’s foundation year programme since 2000, contributing variously to modules on study skills, maths and statistics, an introduction to the social sciences, and introduction to the humanities, amongst others.  Over the past four years he has been sole tutor on ACE0346 Foundations of History.

Willy is a strong advocate of inquiry-based, interdisciplinary learning, seeking wherever possible to ground teaching in assessments which develop and extend students’ independent, critical and reflexive thinking skills.  The current iteration of Foundations of History is an examination of developing histories of social protest and political reform in Sheffield, Britain and further afield.

Willy received a University Senate Award for Excellence in Learning and Teaching in July 2008.

Professional activities and memberships

Willy is a founder member of the national Foundation Year Network (2007), acting as Chair of this flourishing national practitioner network from 2017 to 2020.  Willy has been a member of the Executive Committee of the Universities Association for Lifelong Learning (UALL) since 2015, serving as its Treasurer from 2017 to 2022, and as one of its trustee board members since its reconstitution in 2020.

Willy has been an external examiner at the Universities of Cardiff, Durham, Keele and currently for the foundation year at the University of Cambridge.  He has also acted in a range of external validation or advisory roles in relation to foundation year and access provision at the Universities of Glamorgan, Leeds, Loughborough, the Open University, Oxford and Ulster.

Within the University of Sheffield, Willy has been a member of Senate since 2013, chair/deputy-chair of the Extra-Faculty Education Committee since 2016, a member of the University’s Access and Participation Strategy Group in various guises since 2007 and, at different times, a member of the Vice-President Education’s Strategy Group, the Student Support sub-committee of Senate Education Committee, the Education Space Strategy Group (ongoing), the University of Sanctuary Steering Group (ongoing) and was (very briefly) a non-professorial Senate representative on Council.

Public Engagement

Willy is a regular contributor to conferences, seminars and workshops exploring policy, and the learning and teaching experiences of mature, part-time and foundation year learners.

Throughout his career, Willy has sought to work in partnership with outside education providers in Sheffield and South Yorkshire to raise awareness of and support adult learners to consider appropriate pathways into higher education, most recently through his work with Learn for Life in the Sharrow area of the city.