Lecturers who dedicate time to improving teaching and learning could be appointed fellows of the Higher Education Academy under a scheme being considered by its senior board this week, writes Jessica Shepherd.
The "fellows" would take letters after their name and would not have to pay subscriptions to be an HEA member.
The academy, which has 16,000 members, aims to raise the status of teaching and learning in the academic sector.
At present, academics who have shown commitment to student learning and teaching apply to the academy to be members of its register of practitioners.
The proposal put forward to the board recommends that this be abolished and that academics should be appointed associate fellow, fellow or senior fellow (depending on their accomplishments) by a committee .
Paul Ramsden, chief executive of the HEA, said the proposal would quieten critics who labelled the current system an "elite members club".
He said: "The proposal would give status to those committed to the student learning experience. It would also make the register of practitioners more inclusive. We would hope that (academic) institutions would take those academics who have shown this commitment more seriously and that their status as fellows would count in terms of their promotion prospects and appointments.
"We need to emphasise individuals and recognise those who are committed to improving the student experience. Instead of being members, academics would be recognised by the academy."
The proposal is the result of a consultation conducted last year of 2,800 university staff, 85 per cent of whom backed the proposed system.
The academy also oversees the National Teaching Fellowship Scheme, which rewards 50 university staff each year for excellence in teaching and learning.
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