Category Archives: HEA

HEA Fellowships: Cutting down your wordcount

Colleagues preparing their HEA fellowships often complain that the 3000 word maximum (for Fellowship) is not enough words to say what they want to with the depth and detail required. While academics face this challenge when writing journal articles or books I’m going to concentrate here on the writing aspects of the HEA Fellowship. At Brighton we have an absolute limit for our fellowship application.

This is only a guide and though it may seem that each example only saves a few words, these savings mount up considerably over 3000 words. I am not an expert on pithy writing, but some colleagues may find this helpful.

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John Canning, September 2017

  1. Use adjectives, adverbs and modifiers sparingly. They do not add as much to your writing as you may think.
Instead of...


“The students were very satisfied with the course” (8 words). “The students were satisfied with the course” (7 words).
“The students were really successful on the professional exam.” (9 words) “The students were successful on the professional exam.” (8 words)
“The students put their samples in a cold freezer.” (9 words) “The students put their samples in a freezer.” (8 words)
  1. Remove words that have do not add really add anything to meaning. Some examples include:
Instead of...


e.g. “Students are assessed using the appropriate rubric” (7 words)

Students are assessed using the rubric. (6 words)

“students analyse their data with the appropriate software. (8 words)

“students analyse their data with [software/name/ type] (5 words)

Going forward”

“We are exploring studentfolio going forward”. (6 words)

“We are exploring studentfolio” (4 words)

As a matter of fact”

As a matter of fact the number of students on the module has increased by 20% since 2014.” (18 words)

“The number of students on the module has increased by 20% since 2014.”(13 words).


“The students examine three different species of toad.”(8 words)

“The students examine three species of toad.”(7 words)

  1. Short, pithy statements usually have more impact than longer statements.
Instead of...


“In 2015 I began to get my students to use Blackboard”. (11 words)

In 2015 I started using Blackboard [with my students]. (5-8 words)

I do this in order to try to make my students understand the software”. (16 words)

“I do this so my students understand the software” (8 words)


  1. Unnecessary words also creep in when using hedging language. It can tempting to use this language where we don’t want to sound overconfident.
Instead of...


“In this module I attempt to teach my students how to use SPSS”. (13 words)

“In this module I teach students to use SPSS” (8 words).

“In this seminar I try to get the students to think critically about Jane Austen’s use of language”. (18 words)

“In this seminar students explore Jane Austen’s use of language”. (11 words)

or if the context is clear

“In this seminar students explore Austen’s use of language” (9 words).

On the request of my Head of Department I became the Level 4 tutor in 2016.” (16 words) “I became the Level 4 tutor in 2016.” (8 words).

5. Although application of scholarship is important in Fellowship applications beware of using every possible reference after making a point.

“Assessment and feedback are key problem areas identified by the National Student Survey (NSS) (see Race 2015, Ramsden 2002, Carless 2015, Yorke et al 2015, Higher Education Academy 2013).”

6. Beware the pleonasm (using more than words than necessary to describe one thing).

Instead of…


“The students dissect a tuna fish” (6 words)

“The students dissect [a] tuna”. (4-5 words).

“During fieldwork the students go scuba diving underwater”. (7 words).

“During fieldwork the students go scuba diving ”. (6 words).

(Presumably they don’t go scuba diving anywhere other than underwater).

“The students work together in groups.”

The students work in groups.

7. Multiple words which can be replaced by one word.

Instead of…


“There were not a sufficient number of students to run the course.” (12 words) “There were not enough students to run the course.” (9 words)
“Students are able to choose literature or language” (8 words) “Students can choose literature or language” (6 words)

8. Unnecessary clarifications

While it is correct to assume the assessor is not familiar with your discipline, there is no need to clarify terms which are widely understood.

Instead of...


“ZZ404, ‘Introduction to amphibians’ (frogs, toads, newts, salamanders etc.), is...” (10 words)

“ZZ404, ‘Introduction to amphibians’ is...” (6 words)

“TV soaps (programmes such as EastEnders, Coronation Street, Neighbours) … “ (9 words)

“TV soaps… “(2 words)

9. Unnecessary background

Instead of...


“I first started teaching at the then Brighton Polytechnic in 1985 when degrees were validated by the UK Council for National Academic Awards (CNAA). This was prior to the 1992 Further and Higher Education Act when the polytechnics became universities and were able to award their own degrees.” (48 words)

“I started teaching at the University of Brighton (then Brighton Polytechnic ) in 1985.” (14 words)

Though I wouldn’t imagine assessors would get hung up over:

“I started teaching at the University of Brighton in 1985.” (10 words)


10. Unnecessary and usually unhelpful filler:

Listing courses taught:

Instead of...


I teach on the following modules:

ZZ 401 Clinical basketmaking 1

ZZ 406 Clinical basketmaking 2

ZZ 514 Forensic baskets

ZZ 516 Computational basketmaking

ZZ 621 Advanced clinical basketmaking

ZZ 723 Sussex Trug making (34 words)

I teach undergraduate and postgraduate modules on clinical, forensic, local and computational basketmaking. (13 words)

11. that

The word ‘that’ is often unnecessary in a sentence.

Instead of...


“When I started teaching this module I found that the content was out of date”. (15 words)

“When I started teaching this module I found the content was out of date” (14 words)

12, Names

a) Using people’s full titles can be nice, but they can be dispensed of here:

Instead of...


I co-teach this module with Professor Bill Badger and Dr Freddy Fox. (12 words).

I co-teach this module with Bill Badger and Freddy Fox. (10 words).

b) First/ given names are not required when using references.

Instead of...


“ As John Biggs and Catherine Tang (2011) note, … “ (11 words)

“ As Biggs and Tang (2011) note, … “ (9 words).

Further reading

Fowler, H. W. 1908. The King’s English, 2nd Edition.” Accessed September 7, 2017.

Strunk W., E. B. White, and Roger Angell. The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition. Edited by Test Editor. 4th edition. Boston: Pearson, 1999.

IoE writing Centre

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'Louder voices for people in the middle of things': Reflections on the HEA 'Beyond Fellowship' conference

I spent yesterday at the HEA's 'Beyond Fellowship' Conference at Aston University. As well as catching up with old friends it was a chance to meet new people. Like me, most of those present support others in obtaining their HEA Fellowships and/ or teach on PGCert courses. I have shared here a summary of the key lessons I took away.

Going above and beyond
Claire McCullach, Eileen Hyder and Cherry Bennett, University of Reading

An occupational hazard of these conferences is that you meet like-minded people – in this case people who think teaching in higher education is important and that it is important for all staff to develop their teaching and gain recognition for the skills and knowledge they have. The tyranny of Key Performance Indicators can mean we are apt to measure success in terms of counting people who have a fellowship of the HEA rather than the process of becoming a fellow, and, perhaps more crucially, the responsibilities of being a fellow. Wouldn't it be great is every fellow took it upon her/ his self to mentor others through the fellowship process?

Digital portfolios for good standing
Chrissi Nerantzi and Kate Botham, Manchester Metropolitan University

We have recently submitted our re-accreditation documentation to the HEA and like many institutions we plan to offer a digital e-portfolio route alongside our 'written' route. I went into this session hoping for a sense of what an e-portfolio might look like, but I left with another challenge-- how do I document my own CPD? I need to record my own development more systematically and this was the challenge I left the session with. This blog is part of that process, but I am not always consistent in the way I record my reflections.

Beyond compulsion, KPIs and targets: an optimistic look at an alternative based on authenticity, prestige and expectation.
Martyn Kingsbury and Huw Rees, Imperial College London

The key lesson of this session was to build your practice on the 'prestige economy' of your institution. As Imperial is very very very research intensive, the speakers had developed an approach to their academic development which centres around valuing the research-based 'prestige economy' rather than fighting against it. Interestingly they found that motivation and demand for PGCert courses and other development increased when the programmes were no longer compulsory. Imperial is an outlier in terms of its research profile, even amongst research-intensive universities. I am still trying to think through the implications for my own situation.

Leading the Leaders and the Laggards: how Senior and Principal Fellows can support institutional and individual goals to enhance the learning experiences of students
Sue Eccles, Bournemouth University

In this session we had to do some group work. A collective sense of 'Why do we have to do this?' went around around the room for the few seconds it took for everybody to recognise their hypocrisy. We are always going on about the value of group work, working in teams, student as producer, student as knower etc. etc., but even we have a tendency to want to sit back passively and listen to someone talk about something or other for 40 or 50 minutes. Anyway –back to the session– as academic developers we are in the middle of things. We don't write and decide strategies (at least not directly), but we are expected to make them happen. In my notes I wrote 'Louder voices for people in the middle of things'. When senior mangers set targets for things like HEA Fellowships it often appears that meeting this target is the responsibility of a handful of people who are not senior managers. Teaching staff have all kinds of targets, aspirations, expectations and ambitions and we can often be frustrated when these conflict with our own targets, aspirations, expectations and ambitions, especially when it is our job to implement strategy. At a time when we are about to launch a new strategy at the University of Brighton, the question of who owns and is accountable for its contents is a crucial one.

A final plenary of the all the speakers (including those from the parallel sessions I didn't make) started with a discussion of 'ethical stealth'- terms which had emerged from one of the sessions. A sense of doing unseen work is very prevalent in my line of work, 'helping other people look good' as a colleague has put it. Ethical stealth is a problem though. One speaker noted that we need to be demonstrating our impact and we need to be confident that what we do has value. Doing good work which is unseen might please God, but not university senior managers.

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Were the noughties the golden age of teaching in UK higher education?

I started my academic job search around the Autumn of 2001, just as the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) was taking place. Those on the market a year or two before me may have a different take, but to me I couldn't have entered the academic job market at a worse time. [I appreciate that anyone entering since has probably had it much worse.] I applied for and interviewed for various geography lectureships and research assistantships without success, but in Autumn 2002 I landed an interview at the University of Southampton in the Modern Languages department; I was offered the job and started in January 2003.

The job I actually got, was at the Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies (LLAS), 1 which was itself part of a national network with 23 other subject centres collectively called the Learning and Teaching Support Network, which later become part of the Higher Education Academy (HEA). My job title was the Academic Coordinator for Area Studies and I was brought in to manage the Area Studies Project, which was collaboration of six subject centres. Despite the learning and teaching focus of the subject centres, I knew very little about teaching in higher education when I started off, and I knew I knew little about teaching in higher education. I thought I knew a bit about higher education policy, but it turns out I didn't know as much as I thought. Over time the job evolved and I led various projects on interdisciplinary teaching and learning, organised workshops for new academic staff in languages and related disciplines. I read lots of papers, I carried out a few research projects, published a few academic papers and reports, and met hundreds of people from all round the UK and beyond. No need to go on here-- I have a CV for all that stuff.

Fast forward to 2015 and, among other things I am teaching new lecturers at the University of Brighton aware they they have come into a greatly impoverished sector. In part I mean 'impoverished' in money terms, but also resource and support impoverished. In the 2000s there were 24 subject centres which provided workshops, research funds, subject specific expertise on a national level, a sense of community and, perhaps most importantly informative and up-to-date websites and publications. The HEA commissioned its own research, projects and reports into a range of matters. Separate from the subject centres was the Fund for the Development of Teaching and Learning (FDTL), the National Disability Team, Jisc (still around) and the later on the Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETLs – there was some disagreement about whether it should be pronounced 'settles' or 'kettles' (See David Kernohan's post on 'Ghosts of Teaching Excellence past' for his excellent analysis)).

Most of these are dead now. The subject centres are gone; the HEA is a rump of its former self trying to work out how to be self-funded, and known to many academics as a sort of DVLA for HE teaching). Many of these projects are mere memories to those involved in them, their websites and resources deleted, hacked, destroyed or if we are lucky, archived.

Some CETL's have a legacy, ironically because they funded buildings and refurbishments; our Creativity Centre at Brighton is still in use for its intended purpose. Now teaching excellence is all about a thing called the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).

I didn't realise it at the time, but I was actually part of the golden age of teaching and learning in higher education. Its easy to get nostalgic, and not all was plain sailing, but here I really have to acknowledge my privilege.

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  1. Still going as a separate centre at the University of Southampton

Am I a qualified teacher in UK higher education? Bog snorkelling through the swamp of HESA recognised teaching qualifications

Universities throughout the UK are trying to increase the numbers of academics who hold a teaching qualification. There are many good reasons, but the expectation that the Teaching Excellence Framework will use this as a metric has focused minds on the subject.

As universities our provision is usually based around PGCert in Learning and Teaching in Higher courses and Higher Education Academy Fellowships. This is where clarity ends as far as recognised teaching qualifications are concerned and there is whole bunch of other stuff that 'counts', even if it is not directly related to teaching in higher education. This is not an opinion piece of the strengths and weaknesses of various teaching qualifications, but an opportunity to put on your wet suit, snorkel and face-mask to travel through the swamp of Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) recognised teaching qualifications.

What follows is purely my own work. It is not authorised by the University of Brighton, the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the Higher Education Academy or anyone else.

Am I a qualified teacher in UK higher education?

As someone who teaches on a PGCert in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education and supports staff preparing their HEA Fellowship applications, I am increasingly asked 'Am I (already) a qualified teacher in UK higher education?' Does my X certificate count as a teaching qualification? Does my accreditation as a Y count? I was a secondary school teacher; does that count? I'm an accredited member of the pedagogic branch of the Guild of Advanced Basketweavers- does that count?

The Higher Education Statistics Agency collects data on the numbers of academic staff at each university who are qualified HE teachers.

Some universities publish their data online. I've rummaged extensively around the HESA website and as far as I can see there is no place where all data is published. Moreover I can't even find a copy of the actual definitions of HESA teaching qualifications on the HESA website. The only places I can find them are on individual university websites (example from Newcastle here).

So the categories which 'count' as a qualified teacher are as follows.

01: Successfully completed an institutional provision in teaching in the higher education sector accredited against the UK Professional Standards Framework.

This includes PGCerts and similar university provision for new lecturers which in most cases leads to accreditation at D1 or D2. At Brighton completion of a PGCert will also give you D2 (Fellow of the HEA-- category 03)

02: Recognised by the HEA as an Associate Fellow (AFHEA, D1)

03: Recognised by the HEA as a Fellow (FHEA, D2)

04: Recognised by the HEA as a Senior Fellow (SFHEA, D3)

05: Recognised by the HEA as a Principal Fellow (PFHEA, D4)

These are the Higher Education Academy (HEA) Fellowships. A higher fellowship supersedes a lower one. I received my Fellowship in 2008 and my Senior Fellowship in 2014, so my category is just 04 (rather than 03 and 04)

06: Holder of a National Teaching Fellowship Scheme Individual Award.

This is competitive Scheme scheme which has run since about 2000. According to the HEA website there are 643 fellows as of 2015. I don't know whether this includes those who have retired or died, but there will be only a handful of these in each university anyway (there are currently 132 members of UniversitiesUK).

Categories 01-06 are clear. You have them or you don't. Moreover, they are all designed for the purpose of teaching in UK higher education. Now for the bog-snorkelling where we head into the realms of other sectors, equivalences and interpretation.

07: Holder of a PGCE in higher education, secondary education, further education, lifelong learning or any other equivalent UK qualification.

Now we are into the territory of teaching qualifications designed or other sectors/ age groups. Note that primary PGCE does not appear in this list. Is it 'any other equivalent UK qualification' though? If it was it would be in the list though, surely?

08: Accredited as a teacher of their subject by a professional UK body.

The definition of professional body is important here: "A professional body is a group of people in a learned occupation who are entrusted with maintaining control or oversight of the legitimate practice of the occupation."  For example, the Higher Education Academy describes itself as a 'professional institution', rather than a professional body. It might have some degree of oversight into teaching in higher education, but it does not have control.

The University of Newcastle's guidelines offer 'Subject-discipline accreditation of any kind (e.g. Member of the Academy of Medical Educators (MacadMED)'. While the example may be correct, the 'subject discipline accreditation' description  may not be as HESA intended.

In terms of subject discipline a holder of CELTA, DELTA or MA TESOL (or teaching English to speakers of other languages would be a qualified teacher), but as far as I can see there is not a professional body that regulates and controls the teaching of English as an additional/ second language, but there are professional organisations in the field of English teaching. I'm not a lawyer(!), but there seems to be a clear legal distinction between a professional body and a professional organisation. However, it may be that those who wrote the original guidelines were not using a legal framework. I suspect the spirit rather than the letter of the law was intended here, but I may be wrong abut this.

We were unsure whether our primary school teachers could fit into category 07, but they would definitely fit into this category 08 if they were teaching primary education as they would be members of the General Teaching Council (in England), the professional body for teachers… but wait... the GTC was abolished in 2012! The Teaching Agency took over some functions of the GTC, but is the Teaching Agency a professional body? The Teaching Agency has “...responsibility for the supply, quality and regulation of the education workforce”.  The phrase 'professional body' does not appear, but looks like a duck, waddles like a duck etc. Perhaps the definition of a professional body is not important after all. Does your head hurt? To confuse matters further the Teaching Agency is England-only, so the answers may be different for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

So if we accept primary school teaching qualification in this category, this would only apply if the qualified primary school teacher was teaching primary education and not if the qualified primary school teacher was teaching French. But if a qualified secondary school teacher were to teach primary education, they would qualify as an HE teacher under category 07.

09 Other UK accreditation or qualification in teaching in the higher education sector.

I'm not sure what goes into this category. There might be some older (pre-late 90s) qualifications or accreditation out there. I suppose the English Teachers might come into this category if they are ruled out of Category 08, but only if their qualification was primarily concerned with teaching in higher education as opposed to other sectors/ age groups.

10 Overseas accreditation or qualification for any level of teaching.

This could mean anything as long as it wasn't done in the UK. My wife is qualified as a pre-school and primary school teacher in the Province of Quebec. She's not entirely sure the extent to which the accreditation is recognised in other Canadian provinces but were she to get a job in a UK university her Brevet d'Enseignement places her firmly into the qualified HE category, whatever subject she was teaching. Some while a UK-qualified primary school teacher might not be recognised under 07 or 08, with a non-UK qualification there is no ambiguity whatsoever.

Additional questions.

So what should I do if I can't work out if I'm a qualified teacher in HE?

Do your fellowship of the Higher Education Academy

I am a qualified teacher under HESA, but I don't think my qualification has prepared me well for teaching in a university. What would you advise?

Do your fellowship of the Higher Education Academy

I'm not a qualified teacher in higher education. What should I do?

Do your fellowship of the Higher Education Academy

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Ten useful things to remember when applying for HEA Fellowship­ (D1 and D2, Professional Recognition Route)

The following list is ten things I believe it is particularly useful to remember when applying for Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy, through the Professional Recognition Route. My thoughts are focused particularly on the  Associate (D1) and Fellowship (D2) levels though they apply to Senior (D3) and Principal (D4) as well.  Here at Brighton it is our aspiration that all teaching staff have, or are working towards, a recognised teaching qualification by 2015, and the HEA's Professional Recognition is likely to be the main route for more experienced academic staff.

  1. Remember the Fellowship is a teaching and learning in higher education award, not a qualification in being an academic. The Fellowships of the Higher Education Academy are concerned with teaching and learning in higher education. Other aspects of the academic role such as research, involvement in academic societies, administrations etc., may be relevant to the Fellowship application, but only in as much as they relate to learning and teaching in higher education.
  2. Remember the Fellowship is a teaching and learning in higher education award, and not a recognition for a long career. It is tempting to include everything you have done over the course of your career, but it is not a recognition for everything you have done over the course of your career. Teaching outside higher education and other work/ or outside work experience may be relevant, but only insofar that it relates to learning and teaching in higher education. This may involve leaving out the achievements of which you are most proud.
  3. Remember the Fellowship is a teaching and learning in higher education award, and not a reward for good character. Getting on well with colleagues, being liked and appreciated by others and being a helpful person are all good qualities. However, fellowships are not awarded for being a nice person or having people say nice things about you, but showing evidence of your learning and teaching practice.
  4. Remember to focus on teaching and learning in higher education. Other qualifications are awarded for teaching in (or learning to teach in) sectors other than higher education. These experiences may be relevant to your practice of teaching and learning in higher education, but they are not substitutes for learning and teaching in higher education.
  5. Remember that teaching and learning in higher education takes many forms. Academic development, developing teaching materials, pedagogic research in higher education and designing and delivering workshops are all suitable examples of teaching and learning and in higher education and supporting these activities. Assessment can be formative, as well as summative. Students can be colleagues or professionals as well as undergraduate and postgraduate students.
  6. Remember to explicitly reference the professional values, core knowledge and areas of activity in the UK Professional Standards Framework. These three areas of the UKPSF are central to the process and should be explicitly referenced in your application. Do not rely on the assessors to spot the relevance of each activity or case study to the UKPSF.
  7. Remember to be reflective. The fellowship application is not just about what you have done, but what you have learnt from that experience, and its impact on your future practice. 
  8. Remember to demonstrate that you are familiar with literature or theory on teaching and learning in higher education. Like any other scholarly field, there is a vast literature around teaching and learning in higher education. You don’t need to be an expert but evidence of engagement with the literature is important. This literature can ‘generic’ and/or specific to your discipline.
  9. Remember the Fellowship is an individual award. Teamwork is good, but the HEA fellowships are awards for individuals. If describing a team activity make your role clear. Be careful how you use the pronoun ‘we’ and how you write about “The department”, “The centre”, “The project team”, “My colleague” etc.
  10. Remember the references are an important part of the application. The referees you might choose when applying for a job are not necessarily the most appropriate for commenting on your teaching and learning practice. Think about which colleagues are best placed to provide your reference.

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Final Début Volume under my editorship.

The last volume of Début: the undergraduate journal of languages, linguistics and area studies I will edit is going online in the next week or so.  I thought I'd share a bit of my editorial.

Editorial: All change at Début

John Canning

Final-year projects and dissertations (FYPD) undertaken by students at the end of their Bachelor degree courses are a topic of current interest in many countries. It is timely to reassert the importance of FYPD and to rethink their role in the curriculum as the context of higher education changes. (Healy et al 2013).

Every year thousands of undergraduates undertake a final year project, an independent study or some other form of original research. Most of this research is never seen by anyone outside the student's own department. I don't know if a copy of my own undergraduate dissertation still exists somewhere in depths of Aberystwyth University. I think I had my own copy, if it survives it is probably in my parents' attic. As far as I know it was not read by anyone other than those who marked it. I can't recall receiving any feedback on it, except the mark which was printed alongside the results of my other modules.

I don't regard the non-publication of my own undergraduate work as a great loss to the world. In contrast I regard setting up Début : the undergraduate journal of languages, linguistics and area studies which enables others to publish their undergraduate work as one of my major achievements. Undergraduate (and recently graduated) authors have received feedback on their work from academics outside their own institutions. They have revised their work and made great work even better.

This is my final edition as Debut Editor. I would like to thank all the authors, reviewers, colleagues at LLAS in Southampton, and colleagues all over the world who have urged their students to submit their work to Début : the undergraduate journal of languages, linguistics and area studies 4 (2013)

Without all these people Début would not be possible.

From September 2013 Billy Clark, Senior Lecturer in English Language at Middlesex University will be taking over as editor.

I look forward to seeing Début  prosper under Billy's leadership and wish him all the best.


Healey M., L.Lannin, A, Stibbe and J. Derounian (2013) Developing and enhancing undergraduate final year projects and dissertations. York: Higher Education Academy. Available from:

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Applying for Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (Professional Recognition Route)

Added 17/12/2013

See also: Ten useful things to remember when applying for HEA Fellowship­ (D1 and D2, Professional Recognition Route) 

This post is only about becoming a Fellow by Application. The alternative route to Fellowship is through accredited provision (e.g. a Postgraduate Certificate course taken by early career lecturers). I do not discuss the Senior and Principal Fellowships here.

Disclaimer: I don’t work for the Higher Education Academy (HEA) or assess Fellowship applications. These are all my own thoughts/ opinions.

From time to time I have discussions with colleagues asking for my advice about applying for Fellowship of the Higher Education. In some cases they have been advised that it would be a good to get the Fellowship. The application route is aimed mainly at experienced teachers in higher education who have not yet got a fellowship through the professional recognition routes or through membership of the Institute of Learning and Teaching (ILT) prior to about 2005.

Why apply for Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA)?

There are many reasons why you might apply for the Fellowship. Some universities are aiming to ensure that all academic staff either have the FHEA or are on their way to getting it. After all students do not want to be paying up to £9,000 to be taught by people with have never studied teaching in some form.  An increasing number of jobs are listing FHEA as an ‘essential’ job requirement, as opposed to a ‘desirable’ attribute as was often the case in the past. Those without FHEA may find themselves being unsuccessful in applying for jobs and promotions they are otherwise well qualified for.  Even if your university has no requirements for FHEA there is the possibility that this could change or that you may wish to apply for a job in a university which does have the requirement. With many academics facing redundancy and re-deployment being FHEA-less at a time of great uncertainty could be a potential barrier to taking the next step.

Most of those who talk to me about FHEA are experienced academics or educational developers who have ‘never got around to it’. (Newer colleagues tend to get theirs through the accredited provision route). They find the application form somewhat daunting though it is only around 3000 words in total. Unless individuals are strongly encouraged/ forced by their managers, more pressing professional and personal activities take over and the FHEA application is always at the bottom of the ‘to do’ list.

The application process

The HEA website helpfully lays out the application process. The centrepiece of your application is the Account of Professional Practice (APP). This is laid out in five sections under which you need to write your evidence. It can seem daunting at first, but all you are really doing is writing about your own practice. Writing about the things you do shouldn’t really be that difficult. The sub-questions in each section are actually there to help and give ideas.

  1. Evidencing A1: Design and plan learning activities and/or programmes of study
  2. Evidencing A2: Teach and/or support learning
  3. Evidencing A3: Assess and give feedback to learners
  4. Evidencing A4: Develop effective learning environments and approaches to student support and guidance
  5. Evidencing A5: Engage in continuing professional development in subjects/disciplines and their pedagogy, incorporating research, scholarship and the evaluation of professional practices

Things to remember.

Essentially the guidance notes and sub-questions are telling you exactly what to write, removing some the ambiguity in the previous form (I got my fellowship in 2008).

‘Learners’ are not just 18-22 year old undergraduates, but could be academic colleagues, evening class students, community learners.  I was not involved in teaching undergraduates when I applied and my ‘learners’ were the academics I ran and organised workshops for.

Similarly assessment and feedback are not just assessed summative assessments, but also formative assessment and feedback. This might include feedback to colleagues, evaluation work or providing academic support to students outside the formal boundaries of their course.

Most importantly the FHEA is a benchmark for all those who teach or support teaching in higher education. In short this is not about being the best, most popular or innovative teacher, but about showing that you are competent to teach in higher education. Awards such as the National Teaching Fellowship Scheme exist to recognise and reward excellent learning and teaching. The FHEA is about competence, not greatness .


Crucially, this is about you and the things you do and think . Writing about yourself, your experience and your practice can only be beneficial for your development as a teacher in higher education.  Don’t see it as a burden. See the Fellowship application as a great opportunity.

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