Nino Uglava

A couple of years ago I came across my diary with faded pages, full of memories, reflections and dreams…

The very first sentence in it says: If only I could study at Oxford… strange enough… trivial enough…I do not even remember myself writing about it, but what I can say now is that childhood dreams do come true… and it would have truly seemed a miracle for somebody from the Post-Soviet era.

What was your first degree and where did you study?

It sounds surprising for everybody that I did my MSc in Higher Education at the Department of Education at Oxford after gaining my DPhil in Linguistics from my home country (Ivane Javakhsivili Tbilisi State University, Georgia). Having an initial degree in Western Languages and Literature from Akaki Tsereteli State University (Kutaisi, Georgia), led me to the notion of exploring languages in depth, which eventually encouraged me to pursue my studies in the same field.

My linguistic interest was satisfied by the PhD dissertation thesis –“Text Modality in Georgian and English Languages”. This is how my professional curve gradually grew from a teacher to an Assistant Professor. My teaching career at Akaki Tsereteli State University adds up to 9 years of delivering courses both in practical and theoretical aspects of the English Language. Being an active member of ETAG (The Association of English Language Teachers of Georgia) gave me an excellent chance to upgrade professionally AT regional, national and international levels through workshops, teacher training sessions and conferences. Working with the National Examination Centre of Georgia made me realize that when in depth knowledge and understanding of an issue are combined with smart management , change is possible.

I felt a desperate need for a change myself. And here it came… I got two scholarships simultaneously (Oxford Colleges Hospitality Scheme and Chevening scholarship), both from the University of Oxford –a one month programme in Language Testing  (St. Hilda’s College) and a one-year programme  – MSc in Higher Education (Linacre College).

Why did you choose to study at OUDE?

I am proud to state that the education given to us during the Soviet regime was very thorough and systematic, but with less emphasis on developing critical thinking skills, research and analysis. After the collapse of the Soviet Republic of Georgia, the country has undergone tremendous changes in every direction. There were times of confusion when the reforms implemented did not meet expectations, when we started ignoring everything from the past and started clinging to the mysterious future.

Realizing that I needed to develop my understanding of education as a discipline,  I applied to three universities after getting a scholarship from the British Council, and unexpectedly I got three unconditional offers from three universities in the United Kingdom. I chose Oxford without hesitation as its name stands for itself at any time and any place. The MSc programme covered the areas I was interested in. The course director, Dr. Hubert Ertl with his excellent research background and diverse research interests was the right person to guide me. An international setting offered at the faculty would broaden my horizon in many ways. And the quality…

What is your favourite memory from your time at OUDE?

15 Norham Gardens is one sweet memory as a whole.  Apart from faculty mornings spent in a cosy atmosphere with the scent of coffee floating in the air, post-seminar discussions, library visits, I do vividly remember my Matriculation Day. It was one of the best days in my life, when I felt proud, extremely excited and inspired to be a part of something unique in this world with my OUDE girls next to me.

One more time to note is August 2008  – the most difficult time for me when studying at Oxford, not because of the pressure of finalizing the research paper, but because of the war in Georgia. Everybody who knew I was from Georgia supported me – my lecturers, my classmates, OUDE students. I cannot call it my favourite one but still the memory of those days will always stay with me.

Who in your professional life has inspired you?

All those people who contributed to my professional development – my university lecturers in Kutaisi, Tbilisi, Oxford, Maastricht, my colleagues – I have worked with so far, my students – I have taught throughout my 13 years of teaching practice, have given me inspiration to explore, achieve, change, upgrade more in order to be a role model for others as an example of hard-work, dedication and professionalism. They helped me to discover my identity as an academic with a diverse educational background and experience, who is open to changes and challenges. Even when selecting the research topic for my MSc Thesis at OUDE I was thinking about this very question and I ended up writing about: “Academic Identities and International Learning Experience”.  I have been inspired by so many people and  it’s interesting to note that now I appear to be a source of inspiration for others.

Looking back at your professional achievements, what are you most proud of?

Not many things have been achieved so far, but the ones that left me with the feeling of satisfaction are quite a few. The changes I made in every place I went, as a student or as a colleague even if it brought a tiny joy to somebody are worth remembering. The latest pride of mine is the faculty and its achievements I am in charge of right now. Being the Dean of General Education at the American College of Middle East, Kuwait, gives me an excellent opportunity to put into practice the educational theories and practices I explored while doing my MSc in Higher Education at Oxford.

It is very exciting to see how the quality of teaching has been improved, how the programme has become learner-centred, how the faculty has transformed into a student-friendly, integrated academic environment. There are still many challenges ahead, but as previously mentioned, with education and management everything seems possible. I do hope there will be more projects I will be proud of in the nearest future.

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of taking up a career in education?

Being an educator is a very influential profession. Those who are ready to sacrifice their time, energy and patience to something tremendously important for our future generations should be aware of the impact they can have at both  micro and macro levels. Be positive, creative and inspiring all the time. Do not be afraid of challenges, failures and experiments. Be very realistic and practical when selecting a topic for your research. It may turn into a very beneficial project later.  Do not give up dreaming…

Dr. Nino  Uglava
Dean of General Education
The American College of Middle East, Kuwait