Talking Teaching: Why I became a HEA Fellow, by James Keatley

“I guess like many others in similar support roles, I’ve always seen myself as more of a facilitator. It takes you a while to appreciate that we are all vital cogs in the system. We all want to learn!” – James Keatley, Project Support Administrator, Faculty of Science and Engineering, University of Wolverhampton.

James Keatley is an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education and a prime mover behind Kudos, Wolverhampton University’s very own HEA-accredited Continuing Professional Development scheme. Here he describes how Kudos inspired his own road to Fellowship.

I graduated from the University of Northampton in 2006 with a geography degree. I’d love to say I had a plan about what I was going to do next, but I’d be lying! I worked for Wolverhampton City Council for a few years doing project monitoring work, getting involved with schemes that the council had funded, making sure they were fulfilling their obligations and helping them achieve what they’d set out to achieve. That was a fixed term contact for about four years, after which I moved on to Staffordshire University in a similar position as a project support officer. That primarily involved dealing with externally funded projects relating to the European Union, such as Life-long Learning Programme (LLP) projects. It was really interesting work. Whatever projects Staffordshire University had on the go, we also had project partners in other EU member states. I was working with different staff from different cultures, doing a lot of travelling and all the while adjusting to different ways of doing things.

I was also responsible for organising Staffordshire’s graduate exhibition, called GradEX, which gave third year students in the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Sciences the chance to exhibit their final year projects. Part of that involved business engagement, asking companies to come in so students could show them what they had done, and hopefully gain employment as a result. It certainly wasn’t uncommon for students to get placements or even jobs that way, which gives you a lot of satisfaction.

From there, I found my way to the University of Wolverhampton. For the past three years I’ve been working for the Directorate of Academic Support. That encompassed IT services, learning and information services, and the College of Learning and Teaching. The latter is where the Kudos Scheme comes in. Kudos is our own HEA-accredited CPD scheme recognising professional academic practice based on the UKPSF. It actually stands for knowledge, understanding, development, opportunities and standing. We are accredited to deliver D1, D2 and D3, so Associate Fellowship through to Senior Fellowship. Part of my job was to work alongside Megan Lawton, the institutional lead here at Wolverhampton, to get the scheme off the ground, get people engaged, and get them through the first year or two. I’m on secondment to another post now, so my involvement with Kudos has recently come to an end for the time being, but it’s something I’m very proud of. From day one, I was there setting up the systems and putting everything in place. On the 1st September 2015, we were good to go. That was a great feeling, knowing we had what it took to support the staff at all our campuses who were applying for Fellowship. As the scheme went on, I was also there to keep track of all the applications, seeing what stage they were at, giving support and advice, being their first point of contact. In many ways it was a learning process for me as well, but as time went on I found my own knowledge broadening. I had direct contact with lots of different people around the university, something that makes you really appreciate the huge range of skills and knowledge that institutions such as ours have to offer. You can’t fail to be inspired by that.

Encouragement from Megan, as well as my experience helping to establish Kudos at Wolverhampton, made me want to get closer to what was going on. That’s how I came to complete my own application for Fellowship. I felt that I wanted to be part of it. By going through the process myself, I found I was able to reflect on what works well and what could be done better. It was a way of pushing my own personal development, while at the same time seeing what other staff were going through. To be honest, at first I wasn’t 100 per cent sure whether I’d tick all the boxes when it came to Fellowship. I guess like many others in similar support roles, I’ve always seen myself as more of a facilitator. It takes you a while to appreciate that we are all vital cogs in the system. We all want to learn! The good thing is that since being involved in the scheme and putting in my own application, I’ve been able to articulate that to others in support positions. That’s incredibly satisfying, helping people to realise that they have what it takes to become HEA Fellows.

Read more about the experiences of others with different levels of HEA Fellowship through our series of Talking Teaching blogs or find out more about the application process here.  

Blog work area: