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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