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As HESA publishes the 2015-16 data on academic teaching qualifications in England, we follow up Helen King’s blog post which accompanied the 2014-15 data.

Helen’s post focused on how far the sector had come in the last 20 years in providing formal recognition and development opportunities for teaching staff. We’ll build on this picture and think about the link to provision of information to prospective students.

Anecdotal evidence gathered through HEFCE’s engagements with the sector suggests that the publication of the HESA teaching qualifications data has encouraged institutions to increase the number of staff achieving a Fellowship status of the Higher Education Academy (a specified category within the data).

Another driver impacting the progress of initial teaching development programmes is the degree apprenticeship. The Academic Professional Apprenticeship Standard will provide a route for HEIs to apprentice their own employees through initial teaching development programmes.

Both of these developments are positive. However, one concern is that they may potentially neglect a range of other staff who contribute to teaching and supporting student learning but who currently are out of scope of the data. In many HEIs this includes industry practitioners, library staff, employability and enterprise staff, technicians and freelance experts, amongst others.

Modifications to the HESA data collection might be one way forward. However, not all staff who are on other, non-teaching-related contracts are required to teach, so whilst the data would provide absolute numbers (e.g. ‘two technicians at the University of Poppleton hold a teaching qualification’), this has no meaning without knowing how many technicians in total might be expected to teach, which cannot be easily captured in a standard data collection.

Furthermore, recognition of existing expertise and appropriate professional development for practitioners from industry might not readily lead to a formal qualification that could be noted in the HESA record.

The current approach to collection of the data provides an appropriate means of capturing information about the majority of staff on an academic contract with substantive teaching responsibilities. A missing element though are those professional services staff on administrative or academic-related contracts who have substantive responsibility for enhancing learning and teaching. But, again, the data collection cannot be meaningful unless their contract types are distinctive from other non-teaching professionals.

Teaching in HE is being increasingly scrutinised, via data and other processes, including through the Annual Provider Review, the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) and the future regulatory framework from the Office for Students. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) compliance guidance notes that HEIs should provide details about the general level of experience or status of the staff involved in delivering the different elements of courses (not just those on academic or academic and research contracts).

Data on teaching qualifications provides an interesting quantitative insight into the approaches taken by HEIs to formally develop and recognise a majority of those staff with a particular remit for teaching.

However, it’s important to remember that appropriate initial and ongoing professional development opportunities are essential for all staff who teach or otherwise support student learning.