HEA Fellowship: Recognising commitment to professionalism in higher education

In 2018, nine Navitas staff were awarded HEA Fellowships. Since then, interest has continued to grow with the 2019 Navitas HEA Fellowship Program attracting more than 30 applicants. In the article below, Louise Lumsden from Advance HE shares more about the framework and principles underpinning Fellowship and its relevance to a range of teaching and support roles.

We know that there is great teaching taking place in universities across the world, but all too often it goes unrewarded and unrecognised. HEA Fellowship is an international recognition of a commitment to professionalism in learning and teaching in higher education (HE) which fills that gap and more.

HEA Fellowships are embedded in the UK and have been adopted by increasing numbers of higher education institutions globally. There are over 108,000 HEA Fellows across each category in over 88 countries with almost 1,700 Fellows in Australia.

Aligning with the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF)

An application for HEA Fellowship demonstrates that your practice is aligned with the Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF). This is an internationally recognised framework for benchmarking success within higher education teaching and learning support. It is central to an application for Fellowship.

The UKPSF identifies the diverse range of teaching and support roles and environments. These are reflected and expressed in the Dimensions of the Framework. The UKPSF clearly outlines, through the Dimensions of the Framework, the professional practice of all those involved in teaching and learning support within higher education. Click through the diagram below to explore these in more detail:


By aligning your practice to the UKPSF you show that you are committed to improving the quality of your teaching and supporting of learning to enhance the learning experience of your students. This is a powerful message both for an individual and for the institution that they work in.

Four categories of Fellowship

You can choose to apply for Associate Fellowship (AFHEA), Fellowship (FHEA), Senior Fellowship (SFHEA) or Principal Fellowship (PFHEA). These aren’t ‘ranks’ or ‘levels’ but categories that reflect the wide range of professional practice carried out by individuals who teach and/or support learning in HE; from those who have a partial role in teaching/supporting learning through to senior professionals with strategic impact on teaching and learning in an organisational, national and/or international setting. You may be a head of department, or new to teaching, or somebody supporting teaching such as a librarian or laboratory technician. Depending on your evidence from your own successful and effective professional practice, you will be able to apply for the category of HEA Fellowship that is most appropriate for you.

Reflection, evidence and impact in learning and teaching

The four categories of Fellowship are awarded on the basis of evidence of personal professional practice which meets the requirements of one of the four Descriptors of the UKPSF. The UKPSF has been developed as a standards framework for the higher education sector that sets out the knowledge, skills and behaviours demonstrated by those teaching and/or supporting higher education learning. Fellowship is intended both to encourage excellence in teaching and to provide academics with a portable qualification transferable between institutions. Learn more about the Descriptors on the website.

In my experience, the strength of Fellowship lies in the individual’s reflection on their practice – what’s working and how it can work better. The reflective process means you really think about how you are engaging with your students and the impact that you have on their learning and overall academic experience. That in itself is motivating and rewarding; we all want to do our best, and the reflective discipline that Fellowship encourages offers a recognised and structured way to continuously develop approaches to teaching. Here’s what a recent Senior Fellow says about their experience:

Not only has my Fellowship given me the opportunity to recognise and celebrate the uniqueness of my own role, but also to challenge the perception of what it means to be a ‘teacher’ in a higher education environment and to recognise the value of roles that straddle the perceived ‘divide’ between academics and professional staff.”

– Helen Cooke, The Open University

You can find out more about becoming an HEA Fellow here. To find out more about the Navitas HEA Fellowship program, please contact learningandteaching@navitas.com.

Advance HE was formed from the merger of the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, the Higher Education Academy, and the Equality Challenge Unit. Teaching and learning are core to Advance HE’s work and HEA Fellowship and accreditation are fundamental components of that commitment.