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Formal recognition for teachers

23 January 2013

Staff members wishing to gain a recognised qualification in university teaching against the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF) can do so for free via UCL pathways.


The UCL Professional Development Programme in Academic Practice (PDPAP) is mapped against the UKPSF for teaching and supporting learning in higher education. The PDPAP was accredited by the Higher Education Academy (HEA) in May 2011.

Dr Rosalind Duhs, Senior School-Facing Teaching Fellow in the UCL Centre for the Advancement of Learning and Teaching (CALT), says: “The UCL Council White Paper 2011-2021 states that ‘we aim to be in the top three institutions in the country for all measures of educational excellence, including retention, value added, student satisfaction and employability’. Giving staff members the chance to gain formal recognition of their teaching is a key way of helping to achieve that goal.”

There are three levels for staff wishing to gain recognition:

Descriptor 1: Associate Fellow of the Academy (AFHEA) (early-career teachers)

Individuals able to provide evidence of effectiveness in relation to their professional role(s), which, typically, will include at least some teaching and/or learning support responsibilities. This teaching and learning role may sometimes be undertaken with the assistance of more experienced teachers or mentors. Typically, those likely to be at Descriptor 1 (D1) include:

a. Early-career researchers with some teaching responsibilities (e.g. PhD students, GTAs, contract researchers/post-doctoral students etc.)

b. Staff new to teaching (including those with part-time academic responsibilities)

c. Staff who support academic provision (e.g. learning technologists, learning developers and learning resource/library staff)

d. Staff who undertake demonstrator/technician roles that incorporate some teaching-related responsibilities

e. Experienced staff in relevant professional areas who may be new to teaching and/or supporting learning, or who have a limited teaching portfolio 

Descriptor 2: Fellow of the Academy (FHEA) (experienced teachers)

Individuals able to provide evidence of broadly based effectiveness in more substantive teaching and supporting learning role(s). Such individuals are likely to be established members of one or more academic and/or academic-related teams.

Typically, those likely to be at Descriptor 2 (D2) include:

a. Early-career academics

b. Academic-related and/or support staff holding substantive teaching and learning responsibilities

c. Experienced academics relatively new to UK higher education

d. Staff with (sometimes significant) teaching-only responsibilities including, for example, within work-based settings

Descriptor 3: Senior Fellow of the Academy (SFHEA) (senior teachers)

Individuals able to provide evidence of a sustained record of effectiveness in relation to teaching and learning incorporating, for example, the organisation, leadership and/or management of specific aspects of teaching and learning provision. Such individuals are likely to lead or be members of established academic teams. Typically, those likely to be at Descriptor 3 (D3) include:

a. Experienced staff able to demonstrate impact and influence through, for example, responsibility for leading, managing or organising programmes, subjects and/or disciplinary areas

b. Experienced subject mentors and staff who support those new to teaching

c. Experienced staff with departmental and/or wider teaching and learning support advisory responsibilities within an institution

In order to gain recognition, staff must submit a portfolio providing evidence that they have met the necessary requirements of the framework for their chosen descriptor level. The portfolio can be submitted electronically with images, sound and video.

Participants can choose from a range of different pathways, including the option to work with colleagues. Rosalind says: “It’s important that different categories and seniorities of staff will all find the UCL PDPAP relevant to their work as teachers. Working in a group to gain recognition is enormously rewarding and diverting because there aren’t many spaces at UCL where you can talk about your teaching; it’s very worthwhile.”

CALT can provide full support to people working towards the qualification. Staff wishing to learn more can visit the CALT – UK Professional Standards Moodle page and email Rosalind ( to find out more about how to start work on their portfolio.

Page last modified on 23 jan 13 11:57

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