Alumna describes her journey to becoming an "accidental professor"

Journalism graduate, Payal Kumar, describes how choosing the University of Central Lancashire converted her already considerable education into employability.

Fascinated by world religion, Payal Kumar came to Preston already armed with a BA and MA in Religious Studies. “I felt knowledgeable, but rather unemployable!” she says. “At that stage in life, I didn’t want to teach. One of my articles got published in a magazine, and that led to an interest in journalism. I did some research and found that the PG Diploma in Newspaper Journalism from UCLan was one of the best courses in the country. Admission was quite competitive, so I was delighted to be accepted for the course.”

Much was different back in the early 90’s, in the pre-digital age. “We were expected to bring our portable typewriters into the class (yes, I’m that old!) for journalistic assignments,” says Payal. She also has fond memories of her student experience, remembering that “as the only non-white student in the course, I was made to feel that I belonged, by both students and faculty alike.”

Graduation was a defining moment for Payal, the start of more than just her career. UCLan made me employable and was fundamental in allowing me inroads into my first career,” she says. “I left my hometown of Manchester, married and shifted to India. I felt like a starry-eyed journalist who wanted to “change India.” I worked for the next decade as a journalist with an activist orientation for a well-known English daily, Hindustan Times.”

"Graduation was for me the beginning of a tectonic shift in my personal and professional life."

Payal Kumar, PG Diploma Newspaper Journalism

After 15 years in journalism, Payal spent the next 10 years in the corporate sector, rising to Vice-President of Editorial and Production at SAGE Publications Pvt Ltd. But, even with two very successful careers to her name, she wasn’t yet finished with learning and academia. “At the age of 43, I applied for a doctoral course. I felt I was stagnating, and was very keen to learn more,” she says. “The next five years led to a complete reinvention of my identity, from a corporate honcho, to an academic. In fact, I refer to myself as an ‘accidental professor,’ as this was not something I’d planned along the way.”

Today, Payal is the Dean of Research and Management at the Indian School of Hospitality, India. Here, she hires and mentors faculty, ensures academic excellence, and works on forging international institutional relationships. She’s also on the editorial board of some top journals, and an accomplished and busy author in her field. “I’ve written and published 17 books, am working on another five, plus a five-volume encyclopaedia project” she says. “And I’m very proud that top international academic publishers are very encouraging about my book proposals. I’ve never had a rejection yet.”

With a wealth of experience in studying, working and teaching, Payal’s advice to new students is simple. “Go for UCLan. You’ll get the high-level vocational skills that you’re going to need after graduating,” she says. “And follow your heart when it comes to choosing a subject of study, and a choice of profession too. This has been my guiding principle throughout life as I navigated jobs and industries.”

Payal Kumar, Journalism graduate.
Payal Kumar, Journalism graduate.