How the HEA lost its way

May 15, 2014

While making some valid points of comparison as well as some misleading ones between the Higher Education Academy, the Staff and Educational Development Association and the Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, Sally Brown misses the fundamental diagnosis (“Strengthen roots to survive pruning”, Opinion, 1 May).

What the HEA has never resolved is what kind of organisation it is and who it is principally for. It is not the hugely successful SEDA, which is run almost entirely on a voluntary basis by its members and is not in receipt of public funds. It is not the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education or Supporting Professionalism in Admissions, both organisations that have focused missions, clarity of “membership” and appear to deliver what they say they will.

The HEA never resolved the status of the ILTHE members that it acquired in 2004, and it compounded the issue by dropping the annual registration fee in 2005 and then converting ILTHE members plus a whole new cohort of “registered practitioners” to fellows in 2006. A fee applied to the accreditation of institutional programmes was scrapped in 2004-05. In 2011, a raft of new charges for fellowship was introduced; at the same time, accreditation was restricted to subscribing organisations. The financial basis was and is totally flawed.

The HEA needs to establish a truly sound foundation, formulate clearly and transparently a mission that it both can and does deliver, and find the strength to confront and address challenges of its historical base. Simply put, what it needs above all – and has never had – is really good leadership and governance with all the integrity and professionalism that implies.

Helen Thomas
Higher education consultant, York

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