Research Output

Higher Education Sector Engagement with Higher Education Academy Fellowship

  Considering a historical perspective that looks briefly at higher education changes influenced by government ideological direction is useful for understanding higher education shifts and subsequent impacts across the sector, especially around the language of academic professionalisation in teaching. Largely the drivers that led to higher education massification are agreed as the promotion of higher education as a model leading to high skills employment within the changing global economy and workforce, coupled with the pursuit for social change, alongside the growth in the international student markets as revenue generation. Brown (2006), Deem and Brehony (2005), Gibbs (2001), Teichler (1998), and Williams (1997) are representative of the literature in discussing and analysing these changes and the impacts. Rooted in the discourses of management and policy, embedded in the language of public accountability and badged as ‘new public management’ it began in the 1970s with the Conservative administration of the time. During the 1980s the Education Reform Act explicitly directed universities towards selling teaching and research as a form of service. Followed shortly in the 1990s with the Further and Higher Education Reform Act, granting Polytechnics, university status thus introducing an increased layer of competition that propelled established universities into direct market competition with these new universities. Throughout this time universities have experienced reduced government financial support, have had imposed public accountability measures such as the Research Assessment Exercise, (the precursor to the Research Excellence Framework) and Key Information Sets, in addition to the introduced quality indicators based on the National Students Survey.
By 2009 the student body has risen to approximately 2 ½ million studying at 165 universities. Resulting from this increase competition with Polytechnics, government began to express concern about inconsistency in the quality of teaching at traditional universities. Citing an over emphasis on research and fuelled by the growing dissatisfaction voiced by the student body made public by the introduction of the National Student Survey in 2005, increasing imposition and weight of public measures were seen as a means to address these concerns. As student fees were introduced in 1998 and have subsequently continued to rise, Government supported by media, and increasingly the university sector itself now refers to higher education as a service and students as customers and gateway to increased employment prospects. Less attention paid to intangible aspects it historically has as a transformatory experience for the individual and its role in a democratic society (Fromm 1976; Markovsky, 2008; Tomlinson, 2008).
This competitive market continues to be actively promoted, government use complex regulations and monitoring to audit all measurable outcomes from both research and teaching. These are subsequently publicly played out through distilled information in league tables and the national student survey that focus on student satisfaction, value for money and visible accountability (Barr, 2004). These published performance indicators represent through statistics, figures such as ‘student satisfaction’, ‘employability’ and ‘numbers of staff with PhDs’. Advocated as a major source of information for prospective students, league tables and the national student survey are increasingly influential, complex and expanding in styles. With the 2012 increase in student fees, new ‘best buy universities’ with key information on ‘average salary six months post-graduation’ are being advocated as additional indicators.
The impact of this increased public scrutiny on higher education is investigated across a range of the areas; student fees (Barr, 2004), league tables (Salmi and Sayoyan, 2007) and the debate around student as consumer (Ball, 2003; Molesworth, 2011; Wilson and Williams, 2012). These changes along with a possibility of listing statistics on academics holding Higher Education Academy (HEA) Fellowship status as part of Key Information Sets (KIS) adds an additional element to this visible public discourse on academic teaching identity and professionalism (Henkel, 2005; Kreber, 2010; Kensington-Millera, 2014; Maxwell, 2015).
In relation to the drive to promote academic professionalisation, a report by Turner et al (2013) highlights the importance of full participation by academics in ‘structured development’ to gain insight and understanding of pedagogic scholarship and for this to impact on academic teaching practice. This raises questions about how the sector is driving and managing change through requirements and opportunities for structured professional development and specifically HEA accreditation. For many years universities have run development centred on Postgraduate Certificates in Academic Practice related to learning and teaching, that have in recent decades come to include elements of HEA accreditation as an additional outcome. There is an increasing requirement for colleagues to engage with HEA Fellowship, thus understanding how institutions establish models and frameworks for scalable academic development leading to HEA Fellowship is important for informing support requirements, in addition to understanding changing academic roles and practises.
This paper will present findings from a project that investigated changing institutional requirements, frameworks, processes and initial outcomes of HEA fellowship across the sector. The project internet scoped 145 UK universities identifying a range of accredited frameworks and models that support academic colleagues towards HEA Fellowship. Subsequent telephone discussions with academic development colleagues from Post 1992; Research Intensive and Russell Group universities investigated strategic drivers, framework model rationale, in addition to their perceived value of these models, processes and outcomes.
The paper will explore the language and models of professional development and present initial insights into the experiences of institutions currently supporting professional recognition leading to HEA fellowship. Finally the paper will ask if this drive towards HEA Fellowship represents an academic transition process into the professionalisation of teaching, subsequently raising its profile, or does it represent the introduction of an additional and visible public element of scrutiny into academic teaching identity (Kreber, 2010; Kensington-Millera, 2014).

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  • Date:

    10 January 2016

  • Publication Status:


  • Library of Congress:

    LB2300 Higher Education

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    378 Higher education


James, K. & Fortheringham, J. (2016). Higher Education Sector Engagement with Higher Education Academy Fellowship. In Converging Concepts in Global Higher Education Research: Local, national and international Perspectives



Higher education, teaching, pedagogy, professionalism,

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