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Birkbeck College University of London - Universities HR Strategic Enhancement Programme

The context for the programme

Birkbeck is a world-class research and teaching institution a vibrant centre of academic excellence and London's only specialist provider of evening higher education. The institution wished to explore how The UKPSF could be more strategically embedded into people /HR practices to enable them to deliver their mission. The aim was to enhance excellence in teaching and to support ongoing career development for all staff involved in teaching and supporting learning. They also aimed to develop links across internal functional boundaries in HR/OD educational developers academic leaders and staff engaged in teaching and learning support so that activities can be aligned and impact on teaching effectiveness optimised.

At the start of the project the College was piloting a new scheme ‘Academic Review’ which provided an excellent vehicle for developing the above strategic intentions with structured support through a programme. The HEA’s programme provided an opportunity to undertake this strategically important pilot with support from experts at the HEA and other selected higher education providers. The programme was designed to specifically build expertise within HR and senior leaders. This expertise was able to inform people processes and the development work for the new people strategy over 2015-16.

Birkbeck was keen to learn from other institutions and share their own learning as the pilot unfolded over the year. They also believed that HR’s championing of its participation in the programme would encourage the wider engagement with UKPSF at the College including professional services. One of the objectives of taking part in the programme was to learn more from others about effective tactics for engaging staff with UKPSF. Further the Review pilot was intended to support individual academic’s greater engagement with the UKPSF through for example embedding in the scheme particulars and training.

The areas intended for development

Birkbeck will be piloting a new Academic Review Scheme over 2015-16. The Review provides a more effective performance management and career development process than the current scheme and aligns with for example mentoring and academic promotion. All academic staff will participate improving on the current scheme where participation is uneven.

The Review allows examination of all academic activity across teaching research and administration plus career plans/learning at one time thereby supporting realistic exploration of workloads and development. Specifically the paperwork provides a structured forum for individual reflection and self-review of: Teaching and supporting learning activity; creativity and innovation in practice; learning from student and other feedback. There is also a section specifically on career development with direct reference to the HEA recognition of teaching excellence and continuing professional development activity in learning and teaching. The Review meeting allows discussion of activities and recognition/feedback from the Head of Department or senior colleague. 

Collection and discussion of metrics about performance in teaching and supporting learning through Review will support individuals and the College to develop in response to drivers to improve teaching excellence such as the TEF whilst also enabling and valuing engagement with the UKPSF.

The paperwork also guides exploration and recognition of mentoring and support for others’ development including research and PhD students involved in teaching and supporting learning. The University is developing robust mechanisms for pilot evaluation and this programme will support development of good practice. The pilot will also inform strategic decisions about appraisal and career development for others involved in teaching and learning support.

Academic Review has been carefully developed with wide consultation and commitment from senior academic leaders and trades unions. Birkbeck College believed that Review would be a catalyst for developing their culture towards more effective career management and on-going development of excellence in learning and teaching guided by professional frameworks.