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The Royal Society of Biology (RSB) has launched a framework to support academics looking to progress on a teaching focused pathway.

The Government has expressed a strong and urgent desire to build a culture that allows university teaching to have an equal status with research, in terms of professional recognition, career progression and pay. At present the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) Green Paper is under consultation. It is now considered inevitable that the TEF will run alongside the established Research Excellence Framework (REF) in future years.

The RSB's new Higher Education Teacher Career Progression Framework, developed with the Heads of University Biosciences (HUBS, a Special Interest Group of the RSB) and The Physiological Society and launched at the HUBS Spring Meeting last week, aims to:

  • Provoke discussion among members and allied societies that will enable a coherent and modern framework by which excellence among university teachers in the biosciences, life sciences and related subjects may ultimately be recognised and rewarded in universities.
  • Provide a guide to teachers seeking to assemble portfolios to progress their next steps in educational careers.
  • Direct teachers in higher education to the support available from learned societies.
  • Provide guidance for those who are mentoring staff whose career progression requires evidence of achievements in teaching.
  • Support bodies involved in the assessment of an individual’s teaching (e.g. promotion panels).

The framework has been divided to indicate the experience a teaching focused academic may be expected to demonstrate at the level of lecturer, senior lecturer/reader and chair/professor.  The framework is then separated into four areas: Effective Teaching, Professional Engagement, Professional Recognition, and Educational Leadership and Strategic Impact.

Traditionally universities have been responsible for carrying out two main activities, education and research. Some have considered that the gradual increase in importance of the REF, has led to an imbalance such that research has been considered a highly geared activity compared to education.

The REF is designed to quantify research excellence in universities and is associated with the universities receiving directly linked income. During the last few years when universities have undergone change in terms of educational finances (reduction of HEFCE grants for payment of student fees and introduction of student loan systems) discussions concerning the importance of education within universities have come to the fore. 

It has been recognised that imbalances among academics exist in many universities. For example, for many years promotion was geared towards research successes, which are relatively easy to measure in terms of research income and published research manuscripts, compared with education success. This is now starting to be addressed. However, the definition of markers of success for an academic who has the main activity of education, have not been comprehensively defined. There is now an urgent need to define these, in a manner that is complete and cohesive.

Read more about the RSB's Higher Education Policy work.