Monday, 7 March 2016

Embarking on Fellowship

"The road must be trod, but it will be very hard" -   J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring.

As mentioned previously in my 2015 Reflection blog post, I am beginning the process of gaining FHEA accreditation. This means I would become a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA). I have been teaching in the academic sector for almost six years and I want this to be recognised, especially as it is becoming a prerequisite for many jobs. It means I would be on an equal footing when discussing teaching and learning with my academic colleagues.and, although it is not currently mentioned, there's always the possibility it could be one of the criteria for the proposed Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) in future.

I do have a PTTLS teaching qualification but this is different in that it is not teaching you how to teach but is recognition that you teach at a standard that befits the Higher Education Academy. It is very similar in practice to other professional bodies who want a Masters, professional work experience and a portfolio before providing professional recognition. The portfolio process is very similar to that of CILIP Chartership, for those who have done that.

A seal of approval ;) Found on

I'm going to be blogging my progress of working towards the accreditation mainly for my own reflective purposes, but also for anyone else who might be considering doing it and wonders what it is like.

The HEA describes itself as 'the national body which champions teaching quality'. It provides a 'benchmark for standards' called the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF) and it is made up of four categories designed to match a person's level of knowledge and teaching experience within Higher Education.

  • Associate Fellow (AFHEA) - for those who don't teach much but do support students
  • Fellow (FHEA) - for those who teach, on average, about six hours a week
  • Senior Fellow (SFHEA) - for those who impact on students' learning through management of teaching teams
  • Principal Fellow (PFHEA) - for those with substantial strategic responsibilities for teaching within higher education

There are several ways to gain accreditation:

You can apply directly to the HEA by completing an essay based on your professional practice, paying a fee, and including two references. Or, you can follow a route set by an accredited institution - which is what I am going to do.

My workplace is an accredited institution and it has a route called the Academic Practice and Professional Excellence Framework (APEX), which has several strands to choose from:

  • APEX 1 - a one year programme for research postgraduates with a significant and ongoing teaching commitment. Participants are required to attend compulsory workshops and create a portfolio of evidence, including reflections on practice; reports on teaching observations; a case study; and a development plan. 
  • APEX 2 - a two year programme for probationary academic staff who attend compulsory workshops and are required to produce a portfolio of evidence.
  • APEX Open - for those who already contribute to learning and teaching - there is no set time-frame for this route; no compulsory workshops; and the same portfolio of evidence is required.

The APEX Open route to Fellow is the one most suitable to my experience and what I currently do so this is the one I have chosen and will be writing about. I have had my induction which broadly explained the purpose of APEX and the HEA. There weren't many attendees as new staff will choose APEX 2 and others already have the qualifications - we were told there are already 66,366 total UK fellows at September 2015, so I will be joining a very large cohort.

I have high hopes for this programme. I found that CILIP Chartership, and subsequent revalidations, helped me to raise my game and to continue with professional development in all the right areas, not just the ones I find easy. I trust that this, alongside recognising my current practice, will do the same.

Every time I think about Fellowship, I think of Tolkein's. The quote at the top seems fitting as I'm at the beginning of this journey (and I still remember what Chartership was like) but I've gone through a heck of a lot worse than creating a portfolio so I'm sure it won't be that bad!

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