The Higher Education Academy (HEA), the body set up over 10 years ago to support universities to enhance the student learning experience, today announces it is to concentrate exclusively on improving higher education (HE) teaching quality with a particular emphasis on promoting teaching excellence from the 2016-17 academic year.
This follows extensive consultation with UK universities and reflects a new HE landscape that sees the removal of much central government funding – including that for the HEA – alongside an increasing focus on the teaching agenda to bring about parity of esteem with research.
Professor Stephanie Marshall, chief executive of the HEA, said: “The HE sector is changing rapidly, and the HEA is evolving with it. As part of that process, we have spoken to UK institutions about their needs, and the aspects of our provision they find most valuable. Time and time again they told us there is a really important role for the HEA as the national body supporting the HE sector in the development of their staff to bring about truly inspirational teaching.
“While the loss of government funding prompted some difficult decisions, the HEA has responded by making savings in our organisation and sharpening our focus on teaching quality and driving excellence.
“We can now be an independent, national voice for the sector in areas that are going to be crucial for the future of HE both nationally and internationally – teaching quality and driving excellence. We’ve reconfigured our services to be able to work with all those who are passionate about better teaching and driving continuous improvement in teaching practice so students reach their maximum potential.”
From August, subscribing universities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will become HEA member institutions under a new multi-level fee structure with the HEA providing access to new online professional development resources for all staff in strategic leadership of teaching, teaching or teaching support roles.
The HEA’s popular accreditation of institutional development programmes will continue to be at the heart of HEA services along with recognition of teaching quality among individual academics through the conferment of Fellowship of the HEA. This touchstone for quality of practice has now been achieved by over 70,000 educators – increasing at a rate of 1,000 per month – and is based on the UK Professional Standards Framework for Teaching and Supporting Learning for which the HEA acts as active custodian.
The HEA’s new offering is grounded in the organisation’s 10-year plus evidence base, derived from national and international best practice, of what works in teaching and in support of the teaching environment. The organisation will continue to be at the forefront of thinking on teaching excellence and will be making its findings available to every member institution.
Professor Marshall added: “As a national, sector-led body with an increasingly international reach, we are uniquely placed to add a vital external perspective of best practice that complements and enhances an institution’s own development resources.”
“Through our national networks, discipline communities, events and discussion groups, we also continue to demonstrate our ability to bring people together to address challenges collectively - most recently through PVCs collaboration via HEA on the development of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), which has fed into the Green Paper.
“The HEA will continue to influence the government agenda – as it has on TEF with the support of PVCs – and will continue to drive for consensus around the common goals of ensuring students receive the highest quality teaching provision so they achieve their potential and the best possible learning outcomes. Such an emphasis will assist the UK to maintain and enhance its reputation for higher education study.”
As well as this new offering for institutions based in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, including Further Education colleges offering HE courses, the HEA will continue to support institutions based in Scotland. The membership provision and fees for institutions in Scotland will remain unchanged for 2016-17, while discussions about how best to meet their needs in a different political landscape, fee structure and QA system are ongoing. This approach is also being adopted for private providers and subscribing international institutions based around the world, including in North America, Europe, the Middle East and China.