Principal Fellows of the Higher Education Academy (PFHEAs) run a number of active local groups, which allow members to network, visit other institutions, and discuss topical issues related to higher education. I am privileged to convene the London and South East group, which has over 70 members. In addition to those coming from London and the surrounding areas we also welcome PFHEAs from further afield in the UK, as well as those from overseas who are visiting the capital. Since our inaugural meeting in March 2017 we have organised meetings concerning quality frameworks, and student resilience.
The July meeting was kindly hosted at the UCL Arena Centre by Jenny Marie, with excellent support from Sonale Karadia. The focus of the meeting was promotions for education-focussed staff, a topic which had been suggested at previous network meetings. In order to support the meeting, two documents had been circulated as optional pre-reading. These were Fung and Gordon’s (2016) study, and the HEA’s good practice benchmarks from the promoting teaching series.
After coffee and networking we began with two presentations from organisations with promotion routes to professor for education-focussed staff. We discussed a number of issues including:
- How far these routes met the recommendations by Fung and Gordon
- Terminology around teaching, learning and education
- ‘Metrics’ associated with education, with the feeling that these are more subjective in many cases than associated metrics for research activity, but are still being refined
- The importance of overseeing the whole process of education-focussed promotions, including the choice of panel members and external assessors
- The role of messaging in terms of the parity of esteem between different areas of academic activity, particularly education and research.
- How, and if, peer-review of education feeds into applications for promotion
We then split into groups to discuss three additional sets of promotion criteria, including newly introduced education criteria from two institutions, and criteria from one institution with only a single promotion pathway. Some difficulties were identified with all the frameworks reviewed during the day, and with general aspects of the process including how to find suitable role-models when routes are newly established, and how to evidence the impact of education activities on student outcomes and experience. However, there was a general feeling that the sector is moving in the right direction by allowing for the progression of staff primarily focussed on education, and that these routes will continue to evolve.
We concluded with lunch before, in the tradition of previous meetings, we visited an interesting aspect of the host institution. Group members visited their choice of the Petrie Museum, The Grant Museum of Zoology, or the Slade Art Museum.
As usual after our network meetings I left feeling energised and inspired by the opportunity to meet with academics from across the sector, and particularly those working in other disciplines and other institutions. The discussion on the day left me with lots of ideas for supporting staff applying for promotion, and also generated numerous suggestions for future meetings. I am looking forward to planning our 2018-19 events!