Finishing or finished a PhD? Why you should try to earn recognition with the Higher Education Academy

If you’re finishing or finished your PhD, and are looking for a role in academia, then definitely consider completing a Higher Education Academy Fellowship. The HEA is a national body that champions teaching excellence, specifically within Universities, and there is potentially financial reward for you if you complete the fellowship….read on!


One of the HEA’s flagship schemes is their series of fellowships, aimed to recognise teaching excellence. If you’ve done any degree of teaching/lecturing, demonstrating or provided help on field courses, you are more than likely eligible to apply for Associate Fellowship. This level of fellowship is geared towards PhD students with some teaching experience, and is a first level recognition of your pedagogic understanding. In order to be granted fellowship, you need to write a short reflective account of your teaching experience (~2 A4 sides), and ask two people to provide references for you. The reflective account is focussed on two aspects of the UK’s Professional Standards Framework. You need to choose two of the following Areas of Activity to write your account on;

  1. Design and plan learning activities and/or programmes of study
  2. Teach and/or support learning
  3. Assess and give feedback to learners
  4. Develop effective learning environments and approaches to student support and guidance
  5. Engage in continuing professional development in subjects/disciplines and their pedagogy, incorporating research, scholarship and the evolution of best practice

Having written the reflective account and got your two supporting statements/references, the submission goes to a panel review in order to assess the level to which you meet the requirements. Typically, all being well, you receive your confirmation of fellowship around 6 weeks later.

There is lots of progression within the HEA too. Once you have more experience teaching, you are eligible to apply for full Fellowship (which is often a requirement within 2 years of taking up a lecturing role). The fellowship really helped me to understand how best to approach teaching, and offered me insight into new methods I could make use of in the classroom. Importantly, it gave me a really good knowledge of teaching practice, all of which I was able to use confidently in response to interview questions for various Teaching Fellow and Lectureship interviews.

And now the financial reward…! The fellowship costs £100 (for associate level), although you might be able to use your bench fees/Research Training Support Grant, if you are still undertaking your PhD. However, this formal recognition has a huge impact when you begin to negotiate your first academic employment contract. Indeed, in my case it was sufficient to allow me to jump up one salary band as I could clearly demonstrate formal recognition of my teaching ability. This £100 investment was well worth the short amount of time it took to compile the portfolio.

If it’s something that interests you, I’m quite happy to share my resources and advice, please do get in touch!



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