I feel the success of others as both a duty and reflection of my own progress, creating a ‘ripple effect’ that carries the values and impact of Tentacular Pedagogy in new directions. Through co-creative engagement with diverse stakeholders and ‘students’ from within and beyond HE, via inclusive scholarly projects and communities, the potential for culture change and necessary attitudinal shifts to improve HE can grow exponentially. In such desolute, desperate times, with the war and displaced peoples and communities not just in Ukraine but other places ignored by Western media, as well as illnesses, good news is welcome.

Recent (03/2022) good news include

  • Homerton College Junior Research Fellowship, University of Cambridge, by a postdoctoral researcher Dr Afrodita Nikolova, currently ESRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow. I was Invited Reader/Assessor.
  • Slade and Royal College of Art MA places for former student Frederick Sanders. I wrote Fred’s Slade recommendation letter. See his feedback above.
  • Dr Jade Munslow Ong (Salford) and Dr Shirin Hirsch (ManchesterMet), both PAC@75 and REAP key collaborators, have been named BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinkers 2022. 
  • My nomination for the Manchester Met Equality Award 2022 for my efforts in PAC@75 and REAP by Becky Swain, Director of Manchester Poetry Library and key collaborator for both PAC@75 and REAP. I was also nominated in 2021. Read Becky’s nomination statement below.
  • Earlier this year, an outstanding trans-disciplinary peer’s Associate Professorship application in a Medical School of a Russell Group University was successful. I was external Assessor.

Recent testimonials

I met Dr Kai Syng Tan during my post as a Senior Research Assistant on the Drug Policy Voices at MMU’s Department of Sociology. Dr Tan’s research specialism and work in interdisciplinarity, inclusion, and creative practice as research and pedagogy has substantially expanded my research knowledge. For example, I participated in Dr Tan’s programme of activities like the Anti-Racist reding group as well as university wide neurodiversity and disability advocacy, including the Inaugural EDI Festival, which was empowering personally and academically. I have now moved on to an ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge and I have found my continued engagement with Dr Tan’s lead on EDI (equity, diversity and inclusion) supportive of my career progression including my next post as a Junior Research Fellow at Homerton College, University of Cambridge.  

Dr afrodita NIKOLOVA, ESRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow

I want to nominate Kai Syng Tan for her individual and dedicated practice at Manchester Met to champion diversity and work to develop an inclusive campus. Kai has initiated and undertaken action through the Race Equality Activity Planning (REAP) Group that has promoted diversity, equality and inclusion for staff snd students across the university. This has included through her own research practice, but also dedication to anti-racist practice – including dedicated work leading colleagues in coordinating many of the A&H faculty activities centring on the 75th anniversary of the Pan African Congress and tirelessly advocating for resources to support key EDI work. Kai has advocated for cultural leadership programmes,  and even setting up a book group that has regularly brought together colleagues to discuss a wide range of fiction, poetry and non fiction that focuses on BAME authors and experiences of racism.

BEcky SWAIN 2022

In their lives, I believe most people can point towards one or two people who have been crucial figures in their educational development — combining a unique level of dedicated, compassionate support with challenging, intense critique. Kai is, without a doubt, one of these unique people for me.

Having been my personal tutor for the final year of my Fine Art BA at Manchester School of Art, Kai shaped integral parts of my artistic approach, knowledge-base and practice, as well as my own self-perception and belief in the future potential for higher education. Even now, almost a year since my graduation, Kai and I remain extremely close and she has continued to offer me invaluable guidance, especially during my (now successful) application to the Slade for a MA in Fine Art Media. During that process, Kai sacrificed time and energy to help me prepare for interviews, write glowing references and offer support. As a result of that application, I now find myself the most excited that I have ever been about my future and the direction of my creative path.

Kai’s teaching approach is innovative and, to me, a shining example of how higher education should be practised. Throughout my time as her student, the conversation never once felt self-oriented, placing me and my thinking at the forefront of every single discussion – confirming my belief that Kai always and genuinely prioritises the concerns of her students. During a year of lockdowns, unprecedented adversity and disconnection, I have never felt closer to an educational figure in my life. I also believe Kai recognised that my wellbeing, particularly during COVID-19 ,was inextricably tied to my engagement with the course and my practice as a whole, and was extraordinarily adept at listening and responding to my situation with sensitivity and respect.

Kai’s contribution, however, to my own development and maturation extends far beyond just my practice, and into my own personal growth. Her promotion of EDI values especially, through conversations, her own art and her activities within the university have helped me to consider these concerns far more deeply and critically than before I knew her. Additionally, Kai’s extensive knowledge of art history and contemporary contexts has provided me with countless sources of inspiration and has often led to the catalysis of my next creative surge – a phenomena that any creative knows the true value of. 

I cannot recommend Kai to anyone enough – whether that be as an educator, a collaborator, or manage and leader. It fills me with great joy to know that people like her exist in this world and that other students are currently having the same experience of creative and personal growth as I had with her. 

Frederick sanders, former fine art student at Manchester School of Art, who will become MA student at UCL slade School from 09/2022