News blog: would academics pay for HEA membership?

The TEF is likely to prove critical in deciding the fate of higher education’s teaching champion, says Chris Havergal

August 27, 2015
Chip and pin payment machine

With the teaching excellence framework waiting in the wings, the higher education sector’s teaching champion should be riding high.

Instead, the Higher Education Academy is contending with the loss of all of its funding council grants, which at one stage made up more than 80 per cent of its total income.

Turning the organisation into a professional body, and possibly charging individual subscription fees, could offer a renewed sense of purpose and a new revenue stream.

But the central question is whether academics could be persuaded to contribute towards the HEA, particularly when most have traditionally looked towards their disciplines for their professional identity.

To persuade people to pay, the HEA would need to offer professional development and services that individual academics felt were genuinely useful, as well as a strong sense of community that spans subject areas.

With the benefit of hindsight, it is easy to say that the introduction of individual fees should have been considered prior to the latest round of cuts in the HEA’s activities, or even before the closure of the popular network of discipline-based teaching support centres in 2011.

The problem is that, even prior to this, some academics and institutional leaders were unconvinced about the value of the HEA.

It is the TEF that is likely to prove critical for the HEA’s fate. If the organisation can persuade the government that its fellowships and expertise should play a key part in the framework, it may find itself in a powerful position.

The HEA could choose to link in some way the holding of its fellowships to professional membership. If staff uptake of fellowships was measured in the TEF, this could prove particularly valuable.

With the carrot of increased tuition fee income on offer for universities that do well in the TEF, institutions could even be persuaded to pay individual subscriptions on behalf of their staff members. And there could potentially be a lucrative consultancy role for the HEA too, if it was seen as the go-to organisation for advice on how to improve TEF scores.

However, if the HEA wants to jump on the TEF bandwagon it will need to act fast, something it has arguably failed to do in the past.

chris.havergal@tesglobal.com

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Reader's comments (4)

Surely it was objective to raise the then ILT into a professional Chartered Institute? "The annual membership fee for the ILT is £75. Applicants applying through the Initial Entry Route for Experienced Staff need to pay an additional application processing fee of £25"
The term professional should really be assigned to those who belong to a professional body that can set the standards of that profession and if need be withdraw that distinction?
I have become disaffected with the HEA since they ended teaching support networks while keeping the highly dubious Change Academy. Incomprehensible appointments to their research wing were the last straw and I resigned my Fellowship - - I think I am the only one to have done so. I should say I got mine before the dumbing down that apparently gets you a fellowship if you cram the right words into a 3000 word essay, with 6 subheadings thoughtfully provided for the terminally disinterested. Has anyone who can write ever been turned down? I can't see many people paying their own money to be members or Fellows. I hope the HEA has as little to do with any TEF as possible.
I'm not sure what the purpose of it would be. We have the UCU to represent our interests, student satisfaction surveys to keep us straight and competition between universities will fuel innovation in teaching. I really don't want yet more edubabble thrust upon me. A chartered body would just allow universities to claim that they have good quality teaching staff without really doing anything about it. When universities start treating teaching seriously and promoting good teachers with a sustained track record (evidenced by the achievements of their students rather than irrelevant publications in noddy journals or ability to spell "pedagogical") to professorial level we will see a general improvement in teaching. We will also see mutual respect between research specialists and teaching/scholarship specialists rather than the current divide.

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