As part of its remit, the Higher Education Academy offers professional recognition to its members – colleagues are able to apply to be an Associate Fellow, Fellow, Senior Fellow or Principal Fellow.
I was very recently successful in gaining recognition as a Senior Fellow, the first at the University of Reading. The process is relatively straightforward, although it does take time, especially as it can easily fall down the ‘to do’ list with all the demands on HE staff.
For the Senior Fellowship you have to present a case for support. This entails a reflective commentary on your practice which covers the five dimensions of practice as set out in the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF), plus two case studies which examine aspects of your practice in greater depth. In total the commentary comes to around 6000 words (obviously the expectation is different for different levels of fellowship). For me it was an important process because I had recently moved institutions and it was a means of my prior experience being recognised and would strengthen my case for future promotion.
Applications for a fellowship are designed to reflect degrees of experience and development, and so all staff should find a level they can apply for. Universities increasingly need to demonstrate how they meet the UKPSF and fellowships are one way this can be done; recently the University of Huddersfield claimed that it was the first university where all of its staff had become fellows of the HEA.
The process was interesting, in part because it allowed me to review and reflect on (and remember!) a range of projects with which I have been involved. As such it can serve as a reminder of all those ideas and principles that can inform your practice, plus it was a welcome reminder that perhaps I am quite good at my job!
Although the application process is straightforward, writing a reflective account does pose challenges. Being reflective is an aspect of professional practice that I have to promote with my students in teacher training, but writing the application reminded me how difficult this can be! There is a temptation to write a narrative account of your experiences or to look at the areas which need to be covered to meet the criteria for the fellowship. However, thinking more about why I do what I do, or what have I learnt from the various projects I’ve completed and roles I have had is a more productive way of writing. The other challenge is time. Too often my priorities are the things other people want me to do or are necessary to carry out my role, so doing things for myself easily get pushed to one side. However, finding the time to focus on what I have done was personally rewarding.
Of course I needed help and guidance and my first step was to attend a course offered by the Centre for Staff Training & Development (CSTD). As no staff at Reading had applied for a Senior Fellowship before, this was uncharted territory for all of us. However, colleagues within the Institute of Education, who were also writing their applications, were very generous with their time and support, as were colleagues in CSTD, especially Clare McCullagh (who must now know my work history inside out!). It obviously worked, but their reflections and comments ensured the application was as strong as possible.
Applying for a fellowship is worthwhile and if anyone would like any further information, they should contact Jackie Ward in CSTD.
Richard Harris, Lecturer in History Education, Institute of Education