Just because we operate in the majority world does not mean we can’t meet international standards!
Born in the UK to parents made refugees by the Idi Amin crisis of Uganda in the early 1970s, married to a Canadian, with a son born in Pakistan and now living in Kenya, I see ‘diversity as a strength’ (H.H. the Aga Khan, 1988) and the world as a global village.
I work as the founding Director of the Networks of Quality, Teaching and Learning at The Aga Khan University (AKU), operating across three continents, six countries and 11 teaching sites - AKU positions itself as a single integrated university ‘of and for the developing world’. In my role I think globally to act locally, with the privilege of working across continents and cultures to enhance teaching quality in a university that that is ‘research-led but student-centred’ (Provost Moran, 2014). I wanted to find a way to ensure that our efforts on teaching excellence for student success were the same standards of any world-class higher education institution, which is what led me to the Higher Education Academy (HEA).
In January of this year AKU became the first strategic partner of the HEA in the developing world. In order to benchmark our educational development efforts, we were seeking accreditation in order to award HEA Fellowships ourselves across our various campuses, for a CPD scheme which would be a first for Pakistan and East Africa, where our largest campuses, faculty and students are based.
In order to run the scheme we needed to develop a pool of HEA Fellows, and today 12 of us have gained HEA fellowships (one AFHEA, four FHEA, six SFHEA and one PFHEA). As the strategic lead and coordinator of the scheme, the process of applying for the Principal Fellowship was a most cathartic one. The journey of establishing the Networks of Quality, Teaching and Learning has been a long and winding one, against a landscape that was often barren and rocky with the initial resistance faced - as would be expected from any change management process. Through the process of writing my reflective account of practice (RAP) I was able to traverse that roller coaster of emotions from tears to elation as the resistance of some changed to the buy-in of many. Four years later 70% of our faculty use our teaching support services, with 60% returning for more.
The RAP allowed me to consolidate and acknowledge the leadership role I had played in establishing frameworks, policies, procedures, innovations and strategies that had led to real impacts. It also allowed deep reflection on enabling factors for the change that included support from the top, ownership at grassroots, team work and commitment, and consultation, consultation, consultation! The PFHEA is not just a record of personal achievement but is an acknowledgement of institutional commitment to teaching quality.
And thus for AKU, the PFHEA will support our pioneering of teaching excellence for student success as we seek accreditation of our TEACH (Teaching Enhancement Accredited Certification of the HEA) CPD scheme, in the developing world. The benchmarking through the UKPSF confirms that just because we operate in the majority world, with more difficult access to resources, does not mean we can’t meet international standards!