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.
- Evidencing A1: Design and plan learning activities and/or programmes of study
- Evidencing A2: Teach and/or support learning
- Evidencing A3: Assess and give feedback to learners
- Evidencing A4: Develop effective learning environments and approaches to student support and guidance
- 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.