The context for the programme
Hartpury has a comprehensive approach to staff development that has been recognised as an aspect of good practice by successive QAA reviews (IQER in 2011 and HER in 2014). At the start of the programme they had a high proportion of staff (more than 80%) who have either achieved Associate Fellow, Fellow or Senior Fellow of The HEA. As well as prioritising teaching excellence, they had a number of experienced staff who are producing high quality applied research with more than 60% of staff research active.
However, they wished to enhance their approach to developing the research skills and capacity of new staff and early career researchers; these staff find it challenging to embark on research and would benefit from an enhanced research support programme. Through participation in the Strategic Enhancement Programme, we have developed a bespoke staff development programme focused specifically on developing relevant research skills. The programme uses a blended learning approach combining workshops, online tutorials as well as more traditional approaches to knowledge and skills development.
Hartpury has a structured career progression framework that includes HEA Fellowship and research as key elements in determining suitability for progression between grades. By helping staff develop their research output, this work will directly contribute to progression from the ‘Lecturer’ to ‘Senior Lecturer’ grade and from ‘Senior Lecturer’ to Principal Lecturer’ grade. This work is strongly linked to the five aims of the UKPSF and Dimensions A5 (Areas of Activity), K1 (Core Knowledge) and V3 (Professional Values). It is also key to better understanding the impact of research on career progression within higher education.
The areas intended for development
At the outset of the programme Hartpury College provided research focused staff development. In spite of this, it remained a persistent challenge for new staff and early career researchers to embark on research. The College wanted to develop a research mentorship programme and welcomed support from the HEA and other higher education providers with experience of similar programmes. The benefit of a mentorship approach to development is that it can be more readily tailored to the specific needs of the mentee and provides greater opportunities for ‘on the job’ training which is likely to be far more effective than attendance to one-off didactic sessions delivered to a diverse group. Mentors were able to work with staff to meet their specific needs as they develop and as such, this approach is likely to be far more successful.
The scheme needed to be underpinned by monitoring and appraisal schemes designed to identify those most in need of support and to plan the individual structured mentorship programme. Hartpury College already operated a mature teaching observation system to assess teaching quality but wished to address research needs in such a systematic way. As also noted above, they had a consistent approach to appraising staff, within which research performance is a feature, but what was limited in methodical approaches to evaluating research needs and a mentorship programme to support development. New staff and early career researchers therefore were assigned a mentor who, as part of their role, assessed the research needs of their mentee.
As part of the project, mentors also required training to ensure they have the necessary skills to develop the staff they will be working with in the most effective way. A structured training programme was developed on mentorship and the key skills that mentors will need identified.
Finally, the impact of this project on staff progression needs to be evaluated, particularly from the ‘Lecturer’ to ‘Senior Lecturer’ grade within Hartpury’s progression framework.