Apurba Kundu

Staff. Deputy Dean for Education

Looking after quality assurance, quality enhancement and the student experience, Dr Apurba Kundu is Deputy Dean for Education in the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. He makes sure that our learning, teaching and assessment practices are up to scratch, that we follow all the rules and regulations of our university; that our external examiners are happy with what we’re doing; and that what we’re doing is up to speed with practice around the country and around the world.

What one thing inspired you to do what you do now?

If I had to point to one thing, I think it was rowing at the University of Leeds. I had rowed for four years in High School, and I loved the comradery, I loved the teamwork, I loved the physicality of it, I loved the competition, and I carried that on when I went to Leeds.

I was lucky enough to be Captain one year at Leeds as well. That really teaches you teamwork, it teaches you collegiality, it teaches you leadership, and I think, this was over a period of 7 years of being on a rowing team, but that intensity, and that pulling together, I think that’s helped me throughout my career, and throughout my personal life as well.

Dr Apurba Kundu outside on the Cambridge campus

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve taken away from your own education?

It’s got to be curiosity. I was lucky enough that my parents left it to me to choose what I wanted to study.  There wasn’t a pressure of ”be a doctor, lawyer, engineer” kind of thing. It was choose what you are passionate about, but I suppose more than passion, it was curiosity. Looking back on it, I wanted to figure out why we do as humans the things we do, and I was just allowed to follow that. If you’re curious about something, it will be interesting to you, and if it’s interesting to you, you will be able to put up with the late nights, and the challenges, and the exams, and the reading, because you’re curious.

What single piece of advice would you give your younger self?

I don’t think I’d give my younger self any advice. He wouldn’t listen anyway! He was young and when you’re young it’s rare that you listen to advice, so I’ll let him make his own mistakes. And hopefully learn from them. But I think trying and succeeding, or trying and failing, is better than depending on advice.

Dr Apurba Kundu's speech at the inauguration ceremony at Collegium Civitas, Warsaw, Poland.

What do you think university will be like for students in the future?

I think for many of us it will look almost exactly the same. I think the model of the university being a place where young people can get together, socialise, exchange ideas, network, and discover themselves and discover their interests, will continue to be a really important part of university. So again, not just the course, but all the extra-curricular activities that you can find at university – I think will continue for a significant population of students., but I think how it may be different is that, with the greater use of technology, we will be able to deliver a lot of the course online, but that will mean that the face-to-face interactions will be richer, and there will be an even greater need to come together for that.

I think what technology will allow us to do, let’s say ten years from now, I think the university will become more and more of a lifelong learning experience. I think as more education moves online, perhaps it will be easier for people once they leave university to come back and have more education, because they’ll be able to do it without physically coming to university.

And finally, because of our longer relationships with universities, I think they’ll become more of a hub space, especially the ones that are city-centre based like Anglia Ruskin is. We try to encourage an open campus - well, pre-pandemic we did, but I’m looking forward to the campuses being even more open, so the local community will see this as a resource they can use throughout their lives, not just for the period of their three years undergraduate education or one-year Master’s. I hope they will be students for life.

What’s the most interesting thing you get to do in your role?

The most interesting thing is the fact that almost every day is different. I could be poring over documents and reports to see what we might do better, I could be looking at close data, I could be going to graduate shows, I could be hosting a student open mic event, I could be travelling to our university campus in Trinidad to help oversee the quality assurance process of the business school operations there.

Almost every day is different, almost every day brings me into contact with different colleagues, different people, different students. I never get bored in the job, and if I do feel a little bit bored well tomorrow’s going to be another day, and will bring me a fresh set of interactions and challenges.

An interview with Apurba for the ARU Students' Union lockdown series

What projects are you working on at the moment?

So there’s the big one I think we’re all working on at the moment. It’s trying to take the best of what we’re doing now in the extreme circumstances of lockdown, and take that forward into the next academic year. The good to take forward, the bad to drop, the in-between to modify. I think we’re all trying to think through that while doing the day job as well. That’s the big project. Trying to envisage what we would want come next academic year, balancing that against what the wider environment might be. That’s a challenge because to a great extent we’re not really in control of the wider environment.

The other project I’m involved in that’s not related directly to my role, but I’m heavily involved in is, a couple of years ago, I co-founded the BME, the Black and Minority Ethnic Network for staff here at Anglia Ruskin. One of our main goals at that time was to have ARU sign up for the Race Equality Charter, which is kind of national kitemark of race equality and equity excellence. I’m very pleased that our university is moving forward with it, and has actually got a deadline of next February to put in our application, and our network is going to be ever more involved with helping colleagues who are leading that to interrogate our data and develop action plans, so I’m really looking forward to that.

Tell me something about Cambridge that most people might not know…

That’s a tricky one because Cambridge is so well known, but if you don’t know Cambridge you might be surprised at how cycle-friendly it really is.  Everyone cycles. The weird and wonderful bicycles that I see that can take one parent and three children, or two parents and one child, or three parents and six – no, I exaggerate slightly, but it’s super cycle friendly. If you come from mainland Europe, you will probably think ‘oh ok, this is like home,’ but if you come from any other parts of the world you’ll be surprised how many people cycle. But I think a lot of people know that.

I wonder if people know how pretty it is. It is a beautiful city. A river runs through the middle of the city, so I think people would be surprised by how green it is.

One thing that people might not know – a top tip maybe: the best pubs are outside the city centre. The best pubs are the neighbourhood pubs. So if you’re a visitor and you like your pint, I’d encourage you to step out into the smaller neighbourhoods in Cambridge. That’s where you’ll find some lovely pubs, whether they’re around the fireplace or around the river or in the garden, do explore.

Dr Apurba Kundu announcing the ARU Student of the Year Award 2013