Embarking on teaching development journeys: achieving status of Associate Fellow (AFHEA) and Fellow (FHEA) of the Higher Education Academy

Posted on: 5 September 2023 by Number of words: 649 (excluding biography) Read time: 3 mins 13 seconds in Researchers

Dr. Jordan Jones (left) and Dr. Yalda Kharaz (right)

As part of the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers, staff on research-only contracts are allowed a minimum of 10 days per year to develop their professional competencies and gain experience to support their future career goals. Through discussions with their supervisors about future career aspirations to teach within higher education, Jordan and Yalda decided to use their 10 days on a pro-rata basis to undertake teaching programs provided by the University of Liverpool for staff to develop and enhance their teaching skills.


Dr. Jordan Jones is a NERC funded Post-doctoral Research Associate in the Department of Evolution, Ecology and Behaviour and Dr. Yalda Ashraf Kharaz is a Post-doctoral Research Associate funded by the Petplan Charitable Trust at the Institute of Life Course and Medical Sciences at the University of Liverpool. 

Case Study

Jordan’s experience of gaining status of AFHEA: 

Having no prior teaching qualifications, but substantial experience teaching students and mentoring within the laboratory setting, Jordan decided to work towards obtaining Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (AFHEA) status. AFHEA provides recognition of professional practice for supporting teaching and learning in Higher Education and one route to achieving AFHEA status is through The University of Liverpool’s Teaching Recognition and Accreditation (ULTRA) framework, supported by The Academy. The six-month long programme is open to all staff within the university who have approximately 3 years’ worth of prior experience teaching or supporting learning in higher education. This provides staff with the opportunity to gain recognition for the high-quality teaching they provide.  

The ULTRA framework consists of several online modules which participants can complete in their own time. The final module relates to a claim which is a reflective piece of work, outlining teaching/mentoring examples demonstrated by the applicant which addresses specific criteria to gain AHFEA status. Jordan explains that many research staff are teaching daily, be it through mentoring students or through teaching new protocols in the laboratory, and the ULTRA framework provides an ideal pathway for those wanting to gain recognition for the teaching they are providing within higher education. She adds that the programme really gave her time to identify which aspects of her role involve teaching and mentoring, and reflect upon these to identify strengths and weaknesses within her teaching approach. Jordan found that the most rewarding aspects of the programme was that through reflection, it highlighted her interest in adaptive teaching techniques to accommodate learning preferences and support for individual students.  

Yalda’s experience of gaining status of FHEA: 

Following her AFHEA, Yalda was keen to further develop her teaching and learning to enhance learning and teaching in higher education in response to increasing teaching responsibilities. She pursued this through the Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PGCAP) curriculum offered by the University of Liverpool Framework for Academic Development Taught Programme. 

The PGCAP is a Level 7 qualification offered by The Academy and is accredited by Advance HE, enabling colleagues with substantive and significant teaching responsibilities to gain a teaching qualification and recognition as a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA). The programme is run part-time and consists of two modules that allow participants to 1) reflect on, evaluate, and improve their knowledge, skills, and values about learning, teaching, assessment, and curriculum and 2) choose to investigate selected areas of academic practice aligned with the University Education Strategy. 

Yalda explained that the programme was primarily run online with multiple sessions run face-to-face, giving her also an opportunity to interact with the tutor and other participants. Throughout the PGCAP programme Yalda became familiar with a wide range of pedagogic literature and available methods on how to improve my teaching. Through the programme for each existing module assignment, in-depth feedback was provided, allowing her to think more deeply and reflect further and improve upon her integration of research-informed teaching into her pedagogical approach. The programme also allowed Yalda to reflect on her current strengths, identify areas for development, and further develop her constructivist teaching philosophy in line with the University of Liverpool's Hallmark framework. Furthermore, the PGCAP has provided her with opportunities for continuous professional development. Yalda highlights her deepened understanding of effective teaching practices, underscoring the importance of ongoing professional development in fostering excellence in higher education. 

Key takeaways

  • The ULTRA framework is an ideal pathway for research staff wanting to gain recognition for the teaching and mentoring which they may be undertaking on a regular basis within their role. 
  • Embarking on a teaching programme can help research staff identify their strengths, weaknesses, and aspects of teaching which they find enjoyable, which can help guide future development and career objectives. 
  • Continued development of teaching and the value of ongoing learning and growth will enhance teaching effectiveness and transformative impact of structured professional development in higher education.