Skip to main content

Spreading the power of Senior Fellowship

07 Jun 2024 | Inci Toral; Kamilya Suleymenova Dr Inci Toral (L) and Dr Kamilya Suleymenova (R), Associate Professors at Birmingham Business School, (University of Birmingham), share how they took forward their Senior Fellowship journey by developing practice-sharing sessions and a theoretical framework to encourage wider engagement with scholarship.

A few years back when we received our Senior Fellowship awards, we were so proud and pleased. Senior Fellowship is not only a nationwide recognition, but the reputation reaches beyond borders. In addition, and perhaps closer to the heart, there is also the personal satisfaction that gives you the confidence of being a good teacher. This is a great feeling, no matter how experienced you are; the prestige of being a Senior Fellow is invaluable. With these feelings, we started on a mission and recently, we experienced a wave of joy as we received messages from several colleagues expressing their gratitude for our support in their successful Senior Fellow applications. We want to share this experience with you in this blogpost. 


One of the greatest things about working at the University of Birmingham is the continuous support you get from formal and in formal channels to create a vibrant academic community. For instance, staff can improve their teaching practice through Beacon, the Advance HE accredited scheme, which offers a remarkable opportunity for colleagues to pursue fellowship recognition across four categories, with three application deadlines throughout the year.  

While both the Advance HE and Beacon schemes provide excellent guidance and explanations, the process of applying can still be daunting. Amidst the demands of teaching, marking, research, leadership and administrative tasks, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Finding the time, energy and motivation to embark on the application process, delve into different descriptors and navigate unfamiliar language can be challenging. 


Inspired by our experiences and observations at the Birmingham Business School, we decided to organise a series of workshops to assist our colleagues, both academic and professional services staff, in progressing towards and applying for Senior Fellowship. Recognising these challenges, we set out to clarify the Senior Fellowship process, making it more accessible and relevant to our Business School colleagues. 

Our workshops centred on sharing our own Senior Fellow application experiences, using specific examples from Business School activities. We quickly realised that reflective writing and self-reflection do not always come naturally to colleagues from diverse disciplinary backgrounds. Therefore, we focused on providing encouragement and support throughout the process. Sharing our own challenges and empathising with colleagues' struggles to find time and energy proved invaluable. Additionally, we emphasised the benefits of the application process, highlighting how it can lead to personal and professional growth.  

Feedback from colleagues indicated that the most valuable aspects of our workshops were the examples from our own School and disciplines, the reassurance and discussions on self-reflection, and the reminders of their accomplishments, often overlooked amidst the daily grind. 


Through our own journey and the workshops that we facilitated, we identified three key categories of benefits associated with the application process. This led us to develop REI (Latin for matter) vignette (figure 1). The vignette offers a spiral framework that suggests a continuous development and growth, aimed at new horizons.  

REI Vignette
Figure 1 REI Vignette
  1. Reflective Process: the application process encourages self-reflection, enabling colleagues to assess their strengths, identify areas for improvement, gain valuable insights from supporting statements, and understand their own career trajectory in relation to the UKPSF.
  2. Engagement with Scholarship: while many colleagues engage with disciplinary, pedagogical, and practice-based literature, the Senior Fellow (or Fellow) application process prompts a more systematic approach, addressing existing knowledge gaps and sparking new research interests.
  3. Incentivising Pedagogical Research and Innovation: this aspect builds upon the previous point. Through the Beacon scheme, both of us discovered a passion for pedagogical research through the Senior Fellowship process, inspiring others to follow suit. The Beacon scheme and Senior Fellowship application serve as powerful motivators for reflection and engagement with scholarship. Once you fall in love with both, you'll want to pursue it yourself! 


Overall, the experience of supporting colleagues through the Senior Fellow application process has been incredibly rewarding. We have witnessed firsthand the positive impact of our workshops, with many colleagues finding them instrumental in their successful applications. The process has also been remarkably insightful, allowing us to learn from others' experiences and witness the beginnings of new collaborations (ie climbing up our own REI spirals).  

Our next step is to establish a "buddy" scheme, further encouraging colleagues to not only consider applying for their relevant fellowship category but also to mentor or support others on their Senior Fellow journey. 

We wholeheartedly encourage everyone to embrace the Senior Fellowship application process, not just for the potential recognition but also for the personal and professional development opportunities it presents. Together, we can foster a culture of continuous learning and excellence within our academic community. 

Dr Els Van Geyte, Programme Lead for Beacon, the University of Birmingham’s Advance HE accredited scheme says

"Together, we are indeed stronger. The Beacon scheme has awarded over 800 fellowships here at the University of Birmingham since 2015, and we are delighted that so many colleagues have taken the opportunity to apply for accreditation and have been successful. However, this does not happen without the contribution from a huge group of people who support them and the scheme. For example, we have over 60 active assessors and 100 mentors across our campuses on our books, and there are many more colleagues in departments stepping up informally to pass on their knowledge of the accreditation process to others. 

"The authors of this piece, Kamilya and Inci, are not just assessors and mentors on our scheme, they have done so much more. Recognising the value in supporting colleagues in their personal and professional growth, they set out to develop targeted materials and facilitated workshops that were specific to their Business School contexts, adding valuable personal experience and advice about the process of applying for Senior Fellowship. It is also encouraging to see how the focus on engagement with scholarship has led to an interest in new research. 

"I hope that their vignette will be the catalyst for others to follow in the authors’ footsteps and that they will use it to work with their colleagues in similar ways." 

Dr Suleymenova is an Associate Professor in Economics at the Birmingham Business School (University of Birmingham). Kamilya's particular interests relate to the use GenAI in HE, and in assessment design and feedback provision for large cohorts. She is particularly passionate about supporting colleagues in their leadership and educational roles.   

Dr Inci Toral, a former senior manager in retail banking, joined Birmingham Business School in 2012. She has held various leadership roles and developed postgraduate programmes. Her research interests include retail and digital marketing and marketing education. She developed innovative courses incorporating design thinking and experiential learning. 

Find out more about the Global Fellowships Relay – #FellowshipsRelay2024

We accredit CPD programmes delivered by higher education providers around the world, in line with the Professional Standards Framework. Find out more about accreditation.


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.

Keep up to date - Sign up to Advance HE communications

Our monthly newsletter contains the latest news from Advance HE, updates from around the sector, links to articles sharing knowledge and best practice and information on our services and upcoming events. Don't miss out, sign up to our newsletter now.

Sign up to our enewsletter