National Teaching Fellowship - keep it in the family

Friday, 1 September, 2017

To have one National Teaching Fellow in the family is an achievement. To have two is little short of remarkable. Throw in the fact that those two awards belong to a father and his daughter, and you have a little bit of academic history.

In 2000, Professor Mick Healey was among the first people to become a National Teaching Fellow under the Higher Education Academy’s National Teaching Fellowship Scheme Awards, the most prestigious individual award for excellence in teaching in higher education.

Professor Healey, then a geography lecturer but who now works as a highly respected higher education consultant and researcher, attended the ceremony along with his wife Chris and daughters Lauren and Ruth, the latter being 17 at the time.

Fast forward another 17 years and Dr Ruth Healey, as she has since become, has just been revealed as one of the 55 people who this year will receive a National Teaching Fellowship from the HEA.

It is the first time since the inauguration of the National Teaching Fellowship Scheme Awards that a child has followed in a parent’s footsteps and become a National Teaching Fellow, hence Professor Healey and Dr Healey’s place in academic history.

“I did feel slightly shaky when I heard the news,” admits Dr Healey, Senior Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Chester where she has worked since 2009.

“This is the most significant award in teaching and learning in UK higher education, and one I’ve been aware of before I even started my undergraduate degree. I had said to my dad that it would be really nice, because of the 17 year symmetry, if my application were to be successful this year, but I didn’t really expect it to happen the first time as the process of becoming a NTF is so challenging.

“I didn’t know that we were the first parent/child to do it. I suppose, with the next generation coming through, that things like this might occur as children follow in the footsteps of a parent career-wise.”

2017 had already proved to be quite a year for the Healey family. In July, father and daughter gave a joint keynote presentation and facilitated a workshop together at Writtle University College’s annual Learning and Teaching Conference, an occasion given added poignancy by the fact that Professor Healey’s own father (and Ruth’s grandfather), Austin Healey, was once the institution’s Vice-Principal. In fact Professor Healey spent his formative years growing up there.

“Having the opportunity to work with my dad has given me a whole new insight into what he does,” adds Dr Healey. “It turns out he’s an inspiration to many people in HE throughout the world. To me, he’s just my dad!

“My grandfather was a teacher, as was my mother and also my aunt, so it does kind of run in the family. Teachers are, without doubt, extremely valuable to society. Hence being recognised as a NTF is a great honour.”

“The National Teaching Fellowship award changed my life,” says Professor Healey. “I’d go as far as saying that I wouldn’t be doing what I am today if I had not received it. It would be wonderful if it could have a similar impact on Ruth’s future career path.

“Ruth is well ahead of me in that she’s received her NTF at an age when she’s almost 17 years younger than I was when I got mine. I’m extremely proud of her, as indeed any parent would be, but being a National Teaching Fellow myself makes it that extra bit special.

“Working in the system, I know how competitive the NTFs are. I think anyone who is nominated deserves recognition. Their calibre reflects the high standard of teaching in the UK higher education system today.”

The fifty-five new National Teaching Fellows (NTFs) were announced by the Higher Education Academy (HEA) earlier this week, alongside the fifteen team finalists for the Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence (CATE).

The NTF and CATE schemes are run by the HEA on behalf of the award funders: the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW), and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland (DfE). (The Scottish Funding Council does not take part in NTFS).

There are now over 800 NTFs. Institutions can nominate up to three individuals per annum.  The schemes are open to staff whose teaching or support roles enhance the student learning experience. The NTF and CATE Schemes will run again in 2018; details will follow in due course.