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Gaining Fellowship improved my career prospects: Tope Oyelade

Tope, Lab technician in the Integrated Medical Sciences programmes, explains how he became one of the first lab technicians in UCL to obtain FHEA accreditation and how it has helped him.

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30 November 2020

Which Arena pathway did you follow and where did you hear about it?

I successfully applied for Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (AFHEA) two years ago through UCL Arena Centre for Research-based Education.

I was recently awarded Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA) and followd the dedicated support sessions for professional services staff, like myself. 

My role as a teaching laboratory technician involves direct contact with students, where I directly contribute to students’ learning.

What was your motivation?

As my role involves direct pedagogic and pastoral responsibilities, I was initially encouraged to apply for AFHEA to ensure I have the opportunity to teach in a limited capacity in a higher education environment. 

My plan is to change my career track from my role as a lab technician to a teaching and research role. I am currently enrolled in a part-time PhD programme in the Division of Medicine and I believe gaining a Fellowship provides a unique opportunity especially aligned with my future direction.

Finally, gaining accreditation provides documented evidence for my continuing professional development and could be taken into consideration for re-grade and/or accelerated increment. 

What was the most useful element?

Planning to apply is a useful part of the journey to me. Visiting the Teaching and Learning Portal reading through other peoples’ case studies as well as the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF) gives me the chance to see gaps in how I currently do things and how to improve on these.

Attending the developing your application workshop for professional services shed more light on how I could go about compiling my narrative and documenting my contributions. 

Reading the 'A Connected Curriculum for Higher Education' by Dilly Fung really helped me understand UCL‘s commitment and contributions to innovative teaching and learning. Drafting the application involves a lot of reflective thinking.

Being able to look back on how I have contributed to the integrated Medical Sciences programmes is both motivating and gratifying.

My initial fellowship application was rejected, I received very helpful and friendly feedback explaining the areas that needed improvement from UCL Arena. I was provided with one-to-one support from a  member in UCL Arena centre and was given the necessary guidance and directions. I found this process very useful and was equally impressed to see how much support there is available for professional services staff.

Start your application today

Join these dedicated events for Professional services staff:

Initial Guidance 

Developing your application:

You are also able to join initial guidance and developing your application for 'all categories' - filter by 'Arena and HEA Fellowships' in the main events listings. 

How has it changed your support for teaching?

Aside from the confidence that comes with knowing you are recognised at a particular standard, the Fellowship has provided me with a form of feeling that shapes how I engage students in a positive way.

It makes me feel like I am part of a community, dedicated to improving students’ learning experience. 

The level of Fellowship builds as you become more senior. It is highly motivating to move from Associate Fellow to Fellow and in time I would like to apply for Senior Fellow. 

How do you think your students have benefited from you taking part?

It has allowed me to see the bigger picture and to align my teaching to that unifying framework within all UK higher education. 

It improves how I engage with students by giving me the confidence to be innovative in how I deliver laboratory teaching. A point in case is when I introduced virtual laboratory simulations as preparation for practical classes. 

When did you achieve Fellowship?

I achieved AFHEA in early 2018 and FHEA in May 2020.

How much of a commitment was it for you?

Drafting my application for the AFHEA was relatively challenging for me. I was not sure my cases were strong enough or had the requirements or engagement the assessors would be looking for.

Attending the developing your application event at the Arena Centre really helped me.

Reviewing colleagues’ case studies and getting feedback from both the UCL Arena staff and colleagues helped my confidence a lot and pushed me to finally complete and submit my application. 

My FHEA was built on my AFHEA. I went to an Arena event for fellowship application writing and get feedback,  and these make it easier to complete the case studies.  

Tope's top tips for applying for Fellowship

  1. Start by gathering as much information as possible on how to apply and what the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF) is. 
  2. Read samples of applications available on the Teaching and Learning Portal. They will help you understand what is required for your application and give you a feel for how to start compiling your case studies.
  3. Attend as many sessions as possible and ask for one-to-one if you need more help. It definitely helped me.
  4. Download the application form and start writing NOW!

    You will be surprised how many case studies you have when you start putting them on paper. If you find writing and reflecting difficult you can join others in the same situation in meetups such as shut up and write.