I am fortunate to be part of an institution that has invested significant time and resource into the Higher Education Academy Fellowship scheme – originally to support some of us to become a team of internal mentors, and then to establish our own in-house professional accreditation scheme. When I joined Anglia Ruskin University in 2013 I was pleasantly surprised that the opportunity to consider a higher level of Fellowship was so enthusiastically encouraged and championed by the senior management team. It was refreshing that there was such a genuine institutional desire to invest in ‘me’ (in addition, of course, to our students!). Given all the other priorities that inevitably come with a new senior role I did pause to consider the work it might entail, but perhaps it was the competitive streak in me because when I found out that no one in ARU had yet been awarded the Principal Fellowship then that’s all I needed to go for it! Competitive through and through!
I am proud that I was ARU’s first Principal Fellow of the HEA – and was particularly thrilled when our Vice Chancellor at the time bowed in front of me when the news was announced (that was priceless!). However, I have to admit on reflection that I am even more proud of the many colleagues I have since mentored and supported who have been awarded their Senior/Principal Fellowships. As an academic manager, I have always felt that I should lead by example, and I couldn’t realistically expect my colleagues to apply for theirs if I had not experienced uncomfortable attempts at self-reflection (which never comes easy!), or the hours involved in constantly re-drafting the application, or spent time trawling emails to find ‘feel-good’ comments about my teaching from students, staff and the wider academic community! I guess I have always endeavoured to champion teaching excellence, authentic learning and pedagogic innovation and it was wonderful to have my work and strategic impact formally recognised.
Rather than sit back and bask in the glory of a PFHEA (however tempting!), I found it was just the beginning because it encouraged me to search out new opportunities and challenge myself by taking on new projects outside of my comfort zone. One of these was becoming the Chair of the university’s working group focused on delivering inclusive learning and teaching for all. I am proud to have helped bring about a step-change in our practice in terms of accessible learning materials, assistive technologies, staff training and peer mentoring. The PFHEA acted as a catalyst - igniting my passion to realise positive transformational change. The journey certainly did not stop at the fellowship and I am now a very proud National Teaching Fellow (2017) and was the team lead of a Finalist Award team in the Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence (2016). A spring board for more? Most definitely!
To find out more about HEA Fellowship please click here.