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Effective supporting mechanisms for education-focused academics

04 Jun 2024 | Dr Xue Zhou; Dr Lilian N. Schofield Dr Xue Zhou and Dr Lilian N. Schofield of Queen Mary University of London share some of the effective mechanisms and practices that various institutions have implemented to support Teaching and Scholarship educators.

As teaching and scholarship staff, we found the recent blogposts hosted on Wonkhe by Hannah Cobb and Kate Black interesting and resonating with our thoughts on our role as education-focused academics. Both articles addressed pertinent challenges facing education-focused academics, such as the ambiguity surrounding scholarship, unclear promotion criteria, and a lack of community support.  

In our contribution to this ongoing discourse, we highlight some of the effective mechanisms and practices that various institutions have implemented to support the diverse Teaching and Scholarship (T&S) educators.  We believe it is important to acknowledge areas where some progress has been made by some institutions in terms of having a clear framework for career progression and support for diverse T&S staff.  

Scholarship support 

Many higher education institutions now have a dedicated scholarship community and a Research and Scholarship Centre. This centre facilitates the monthly sharing of best practices in teaching and offers a series of professional development sessions that cover topics such as innovative teaching methods and the impact of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). It also provides guidance on how to publish in scholarly journals, write impactful blogs and present at conferences, as well as advice on collaborative applications for educational funding.  

At the university level, opportunities are provided for leading cross-faculty scholarship projects. For example, the Queen Mary Fellows and Warwick WIHEA fellow scheme provided T&S staff opportunities to lead educational projects such as experiential learning, team-based learning, peer-led team learning and AI literacy. These projects offer part-time opportunities that allow staff to extend their scholarship beyond their specific disciplines and gather evidence of impact at the university level.  

Additionally, some universities awards funding, supporting staff in integrating innovative ideas into their teaching practices. This internal initiative enables T&S educators to familiarise themselves with the funding process and get preliminary data to apply for external funding, enabling them to scale up the project and reach a wider impact.  

Leadership development 

Institutions offer leadership opportunities at the school level, some on a triennial basis, to enable staff to develop their leadership skills and take on leadership roles. Positions include Programme Director, Chair of the Examination Board, Director of Employability, Director of Student Engagement, Director of Scholarship and Director of Education. To facilitate a smooth transition into these roles and to provide leadership development, staff are supported through a mentorship programme and training. Additionally, taking on leadership roles provides evidence that can be included to support applications for Senior Fellow and Principal Fellow distinctions. 

Teaching recognition 

At both the faculty and university levels, educational excellence is celebrated annually.  

At the school level, the scholarship newsletter celebrates staff contributions to scholarship. This includes innovative teaching methods, initiatives enhancing student engagement and recognition of external roles awarded to T&S educators.   

At the university level, recognition is celebrated; for example, Newcastle University hosts the annual Learning and Teaching Conference, an internal conference that celebrates innovative teaching across various disciplines. This event provides an opportunity to demonstrate how innovative teaching aligns with the university's strategic goals and how they contribute to various working groups.   

In addition, universities such as the University of Birmingham and Northumbria University also introduced education excellence awards, which recognise innovative teaching, extraordinary contribution to students’ learning and community support. 

Universities also support staff in applying for national and international teaching and learning awards, such as the PRME Education Award, the BAM Experienced Education Award, and the National Teaching Fellowship.  

Training support 

Funding is also available to T&S educators to develop their scholarships. The funding pot can be used for staff to attend conferences and purchase relevant materials, such as books. At Queen Mary University of London, should these expenses exceed our allocated budget, additional support from the university is available to facilitate attendance at international teaching and learning conferences, such as the Academy of Management Teaching and Learning Conference. These opportunities enable us to engage with the national and international teaching and learning communities, allowing us to exchange ideas and adopt innovative teaching methods to maintain the highest quality of education in our field.  

Furthermore, T&S staff are afforded the chance to participate in external training sessions organised by professional bodies. These include the BAM education-focused professor training, Advance HE's Leading Departments, and the CABS leaders in teaching and learning programs. 

We agree with both arguments in Hannah and Kate’s blogposts but also argue that some progress has been made by some institutions in terms of career progression as outlined above. The framework for promotion has become clearer, especially with T&S educators progressing to Readers and Professors.  

In addition, staff who joined from an industry background and those engaged in enterprise can go through the enterprise and external engagement progression track.  

Moving forward 

Of course, we also recognise that more actions need to be taken to ensure T&S staff feel on board and supported in their career development journey. Here are some areas we suggest universities to consider beyond our current success: 

  • Scaffolding approach of induction and mentorship of new T&S staff, supporting them in how to engage in scholarship activities that help them build evidence for their career progression. 
  • More can be done, particularly reviewing workload allocation to enable T&S staff to meet some of the criteria for promotion. This would allow T&S educators the space and time to be the educators they want to be and innovate and apply educational strategies to scholarship. 
  • Although support may exist and be available to all staff, there is need to ensure that the information about all these opportunities is well communicated to all staff and that staff are encouraged and supported to take the opportunities. 
  • A need for a clear and wide range of activities and output that counts as scholarship, such as publishing blogposts, external engagement (national and international), publishing reports and scholarship outputs in reputable outlets. 

Being able to have the opportunities outlined above makes us feel like part a of teaching and learning community and motivated to pilot innovative teaching in our subjects. We also feel proud of our work and working in an institution that fully recognises the challenges for T&S staff and continues to improve the support mechanism for the T&S staff to advance in their career. 


Dr Xue Zhou, Reader in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Queen Mary University of London. 

Dr Lilian N. Schofield, Senior Lecturer in Non-profit Management, Queen Mary University of London. 


Teaching and Learning Conference 2024: Future-Focused Education: Innovation, Inclusion, and Impact 

Join us 2-4 July 2024 at Nottingham Trent University City Campus for the Teaching and Learning Conference 2024. Find out more and book your place


We feel it is important for voices to be heard to stimulate debate and share good practice. Blogs on our website are the views of the author and don’t necessarily represent those of Advance HE.

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