Message from the Director of CETL – Grahame Bilbow

Before starting my usual introduction to the current issue of Teaching and Learning Connections, I should like to share some very significant news. The University has just signed a three-year agreement with the UK Higher Education Academy (HEA) to become one of the HEA’s growing group of ‘international strategic partners’. During this period, the University will work with the HEA on the accreditation of CETL’s continuous professional development portfolio (its programmes, seminars, workshops, events and so on).

Once accredited, the University will be in a position to reward and recognise staff members’ commitment and professionalism in teaching and learning tangibly, by awarding HEA fellowships to its staff. At present, nearly half of all academic teachers in British universities hold an HEA fellowship; indeed, HEA fellowship, at one of its four levels, is increasingly becoming a requirement for staff teaching or supporting teaching in a university context. For a research-intensive university like HKU, recognising teaching in a way that is as rigorous as the way in which research is recognised is extremely important. If you are interested in seeking HEA fellowship, I would urge you to check out this link:

Now, on to this issue, with its focus on interdisciplinary teaching and learning. For some, interdisciplinary education is a challenging concept, especially if they work in a context that is built along disciplinary lines. One of the most frequently mentioned inhibitors to interdisciplinary working is the impermeable boundaries that are perceived to exist between traditional disciplines. Like many other universities, HKU is, in general, built around a discipline-based structure, with each faculty focusing on relatively discrete teaching and research areas. One notion that offers some promise for interdisciplinary work within such a discipline-based structure is ‘boundary crossing’. Boundary crossing involves professionals entering territories with which they are relatively unfamiliar and are faced with the challenge of negotiating and combining elements from different contexts to create something with an integrated form (Akkerman & Bakker, 2011). It is through boundary crossing that new practices may be created or existing ones may be altered to accommodate to traditional boundaries.

Coming back to my earlier comments about our new partnership with the HEA, it is worth mentioning that such a partnership can serve to facilitate boundary crossing by tempting academics to enter an exciting wider learning and teaching community, which is, to some extent, outside their own specific disciplinary area. When sufficient people do this, the community itself initiates interdisciplinary conversations on how learning and teaching can be enhanced through collaboration between individuals from different disciplines. The ‘join-the-conversations’ events that we have been promoting since early 2015 have played such a role. We are therefore optimistic that the award of HEA fellowships will create a powerful new space for boundary-crossing activities that will lead to some truly creative interdisciplinary work.

This issue of Teaching and Learning Connections contains a variety of ideas about how interdisciplinary teaching and learning opportunities can be created within an existing structure. These ideas all involve boundary crossing to some extent.

I hope you enjoy reading this issue and I look forward to keeping you informed of the latest developments of our collaboration with HEA in future issues.

I would like to end this message with a quote from a recent article published in Studies in Higher Education: ‘Creating interdisciplinary education in monodisciplinary settings is not a case of pitting monodisciplinarity against interdisciplinarity; it is about taking advantage of the full landscape, the structures and the spaces between them.’ (Lindvig et al., 2017, p.12).


  • Akkerman, S. F. & Bakker, A. (2011). Boundary crossing and boundary objects. Review of Educational Research, 81(2), 132-169.
  • Lindvig, K., Lyall, C. & Meagher, L.R. (2017). Creating interdisciplinary education within monodisciplinary structures: the art of managing interstitiality. Studies in Higher Education, DOI: 10.1080/03075079.2017.1365358.
Professor Grahame T. Bilbow
Professor Grahame T. Bilbow

Director, Centre for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning
The University of Hong Kong

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