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Let’s Meet… Heidrun Bien

20 September 2022 Posted in: Articles Tagged: By: Clare Driver

Hi, my name is Heidrun Bien.
It’ll be 10 years next January since I joined QMUL and I’ve been able to contribute in a number of different roles. My core role is that of a senior lecturer on a Teaching (TS) contract, in the unit for Psychological Medicine at the Wolfson Institute, so the bulk of my time is spent teaching our Master students online and on campus, but there are several others facets to my role!

From 2016 to 2021 I directed the overall MSc Mental Health: Psychological Therapies Programme; the MSc with the largest yearly intake within the Mental Health Academy, seeing student numbers more than quadruple in that time. I continue as Module Lead and as Lead of our Distance Learning Master programmes, and now get to focus more on wider strategy also as the newly appointed Institute Lead for E-Learning and Online Teaching.

Long before the pandemic hit, the Wolfson Institute has been at the forefront of using E-Learning and blended learning in teaching. When I joined in 2013, I was brought in to teach ALL our Distance Learning (DL) students; back then a seemingly unpopular task, which I however much enjoyed from the start. I am proud to say evaluations have been strong, and it now takes a team to provide our DL teaching. And the virtual learning environment and quality asynchronous materials we developed for our DL teaching offered great potential to also benefit our onsite programmes; undoubtedly an important factor in our programmes’success overall.

Since 2017 I chair of the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry E-Learning user group (ELUG), a brilliant assembly of dedicated staff across roles and institutes. I represent the group in the School Education Committee, other educational strategy boards and university wide E-Learning Steering Group. It’s interesting to see what’s in the pipeline, to represent the users, and to help shape initiatives. ELUG in particular brings together all the different roles – IT, e-learning, academics, and more, with different experiences and outlooks. These are great spaces for people to exchange ideas honestly, as ‘hands on’ people.


A good while prior to the pandemic and the boom in online teaching and learning, ELUG encouraged others to make use of technology and experience that e-learning can be fun, easy, inspirational and inclusive. Our annual showcases were a great contribution and valued by attendees. I’m very proud of what the group achieved in this reaching-out endeavour.


One relates to space, as our office has moved from Charterhouse Square to the Yvonne Carter building in Whitechapel and to a hot-desking approach, with currently no suitable space to deliver online teaching. A big challenge, also given the ambitious target numbers for our programmes. And that is where the main challenge lies, always; to make sure quality also stays in the focus when there is now so much emphasis on quantity. It’s a dangerous misconception to think that Distance Learning programmes, once set up, somehow run themselves. We have greatly talented and motivated staff and students, but always seem to have to fight for resources.

Other interests

Coaching – As part of first QMUL cohort undertaking the ILM Level 5 coaching certificate back in 2017, I am part of the university’s coaching network, and regularly coach staff across the organisation. This brings variety to what I do, and I think also helps my teaching! It’s also extremely rewarding and gives back energy.
Very close to my heart is my role as trustee for ThymicUK, a charity my wife and I founded in January 2021. We represent patients with thymic cancers in the UK for whom there are currently no standard pathways. We support, advocate and share information, facilitate research and aim to ultimately improve the treatments available for these rare cancers in the UK. At times challenging but also very rewarding work that makes a real difference to people’s lives every single day.
I also volunteer in LGBTQ+ initiatives. I am chapter development coordinator for Fulbright Prism, an international NGO empowering LGBTQ+ Fulbrighters to be ‘out in the world’. Here at QMUL, I’m a member of the QMOUT staff group and ensure I keep the rainbow flag on my signature. It’s important for staff and students to see there is diversity. Whenever possible I volunteer at Pride, and I play for The London Royals Hockey Club, the UK’s 1st and largest LGBTQ+ hockey club, actually founded by my wife 15 years ago. These are not only rare places where everyone can feel free to be themselves, they are also important for visibility. Take our hockey club for example, we now have 3 men’s and 2 women’s teams playing in the regular leagues whilst sporting rainbow socks.
I enjoy all sports, really, but especially ball sports – I’m clearly a bit like a puppy – particularly hockey, volleyball, and tennis, though I’m a master of none. I have played tennis with Michael Parkes (see July Newsletter) and can confirm he’s an incredibly good player! I like the team aspect and the competition, so missed this during lockdown and have since had to be careful as my wife is immune supressed.
These days it’s mainly running, cycling and working on the allotment. It’s good for exercise, heart and soul, with the own produce as a bonus. I love to go just after sunrise, a great balance to working on the laptop all day.

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