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2021: Advance HE year in review

15 Dec 2021 | Advance HE A summary of just some of the highlights of our work in 2021.

Although 2021 has been yet another year of disruption in higher education, we delivered a wide range of valuable support and resources working with, and in support of, our members and others in the sector. Here are just some of the highlights of our work in 2021. 


On behalf of the Disabled Students’ Commission we published its annual report Enhancing the disabled student experience. Advance HE has responsibility for providing secretariat support, as well as overseeing the management, coordination and dissemination of research and other DSC outcomes.

Resources were developed as part of the Tackling Racism on Campus project funded by the Scottish Funding Council.  


Our Governance team reported on its review of the Senior Staff Remuneration Code on behalf of the Committee of University Chairs (CUC). 

Forming part of our 2020-21 member benefits was an initiative on tackling structural race inequality in HE. We delivered a webinar and publication and podcast series on understanding structural inequality.


We launched new guidance on Education for Sustainable Development in higher education, with QAA, intended to help UK higher education institutions incorporate Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) within their curricula.  

Our Global Member Benefit, Student Partnerships in Assessment, invited members to engage in dialogue about the benefits, pitfalls and challenges of embedding student partnerships in assessment across the globe. 


For our initiative on tackling structural race inequality in HE we ran an invitation-only roundtable event on meeting the challenge: supporting senior leaders in conversation, change and accountability in addressing race with Professor Donna Whitehead, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of London Metropolitan University and Dr Zainab Khan, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Teaching and Learning) of London Metropolitan University.


We launched our new strategy to 2024 with three strategic goals to enhance confidence and trust in higher education, address systemic inequalities for staff and students and advance education to meet the evolving needs of students and society.   

We were commissioned by Wellcome to develop a new development programme targeted at those in research that belong to groups currently underrepresented on higher education and research boards and governing bodies.


We launched the transformed UK Athena Swan Charter to provide a paradigm shift from prescription to autonomy and flexibility and a reduction in administrative burden, including a halving of data requirements, with Advance HE moving from a focus on assessment or judging, to a developmental and supporting approach. 

We published the Student Academic Experience Survey 2021 with HEPI. 

The first Advance HE Associate Fellows were recognised in Pakistan as part of the Pak-UK Education Gateway initiative, a partnership between the British Council in Pakistan and the Higher Education Commission. 

Copenhagen Business School in Denmark became the second institution in mainland Europe to be accredited by Advance HE to award Fellowships to its staff. 

Our Programmes and Events portfolio was refreshed to ensure it meets the sector’s evolving needs and included an increased focus on digital delivery and the development of new offers and online pedagogy to support effective and engaging teaching.


We established the Race Equality Charter Governance Committee to provide sector-driven assurance, expert advice and guidance to the Advance HE Board for the development of the Charter.

We published Hybrid Higher, a leadership intelligence report on how to achieve a purposeful hybrid balance between virtual engagement and in-person collaboration.  

Our flagship Teaching and Learning Conference 2021 Teaching in the Spotlight: What is the Future for HE Curricula? in July focused on embedding race equalitystudent engagement and inclusive assessment and feedback approaches attracting more than 400 delegates over three days with keynotes from Professor Janice Kay CBE, Provost and Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Exeter, Salma Hussain, President of King’s College London Students’ Union and Professor Charles Egbu, Vice-Chancellor of Leeds Trinity University. 

Srinakharinwirot University in Thailand passed the milestone of 100 teaching Fellows recognised by Advance HE.


We launched a new Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Advice Service for staff working within member institutions in the UK who have EDI within their remit or EDI leadership responsibilities.  

Doug Parkin, Principal Adviser for Leadership and Management at Advance HE kicked off the consultation for a new global leadership survey and framework by inviting expressions interest in the project consisting of a series of roundtables, literature review and dissemination events to inform the survey design and develop a global leadership framework for enhancement and recognition.

We announced 55 new National Teaching Fellows, surpassing 1,000 awardees of the National Teaching Fellowship Scheme (NTFS) in its 21-year history. Fourteen teams were awarded the Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence (CATE) in 2021.

Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University became the first university in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to achieve Advance HE accreditation.

As part of our Connect Benefit Series for 2021-22, we moved to six-monthly and three-monthly themes. The Student Success longitudinal project runs from August to February, focusing on access, retention, attainment and progression, and embedding employability in higher education. Outputs for this project include literature reviews on access, retention, attainment and progression, and employability, with additional associated outputs including webinars, summits, podcasts, and a range of blogs.   

Three-month themed projects include Transitions, retention and progression ran from August to October, focusing on the challenges and opportunities of different experiences and approaches to transitions, retention and progression in higher education.

Interim analysis from a survey by the Disabled Students’ Commission to gain an understanding of the impact of Covid-19 on disabled student experiences was published.


Professor Osama Khan Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Education and Professor in Practice at the University of Surrey, shared what it was like to co-create bespoke e-learning modules on race equality with Advance HE and what impact the programme has made on staff and students.


We reached a 150,000 milestone of teaching and learning fellows around the world recognising a personal and institutional commitment to professionalism in teaching and learning in higher education. 

We published our staff and student Equality in higher education: statistical reports 2021 and Ethnicity awarding gaps in UK HE in 2019-20.

We collaborated with the Inter-American Organization for Higher Education (OUI-IOHE) and a number of other organisations working with the HE sector in Mexico to publish Managerial Competencies as a key factor for the success of HEIs in October. 

The Anti-Racist Curriculum project culminated in resources designed to understand and support the development of an anti-racist curriculum for universities and colleges in Scotland, funded by SFC and in collaboration with QAA Scotland.

Our event with Wonkhe Living the Dream: building strategic coalitions for practising equality, diversity and inclusion in HE, focused on how to work across different groups and priorities to build a strategy and a plan for change, and ultimately a more inclusive university and sector.  

Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University in Saudi Arabia concluded a second iteration of the Certificate of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education (CLTHE)


The 2021 Governance conference addressed the theme of Evolving governance fit for our futures with keynotes from Shefaly Yogendra, Vice Chair and Chair of the Audit Committee, London Metropolitan University, Chris Millward, Director for Fair Access and Participation, Office for Students and Sir John Tusa

We also launched a Board Diversity and Inclusion Toolkit, developed in collaboration with the University of Gloucestershire and Perrett Laver.

We published our Postgraduate Research Experience Survey 2021UK Engagement Survey 2021and Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey 2021.

The 2021-22 Advance HE Collaborative Development Fund: New Challenges, New Solutions call opened with funding available of between £2,500 and £50,000 (dependent on the project) to generate solutions to support truly inclusive institutions, provide radical thinking for the future student experience, develop the culture and practice with our College-based HE network, scope the potential for an integrated framework of equality charters, create powerful institutional examples of how Fellowship and use of the Professional Standards Framework has achieved strategic transformation and impact. 

Walailak University in Thailand celebrated 90% of its academic staff achieving Fellowship, and shared how the recognition has changed its teaching culture.

We welcomed our long-established DVC/PVC Network back to a two-day in person event and dinner to facilitate valuable discussions with peers.

We published the CATE Collection: Together in Collaborative Educational Leadership – practical guide packed with case studies, lessons learnt and tips for success. 

From November 2021 to January 2022 our Connect Benefit Series project is Leading change through teams and networks

We were proud to sponsor two categories at the Times Higher Awards: ‘Most Innovative Teacher of the Year’ won by Liam Jarvis, University of Essex; and ‘Outstanding Contribution to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion’ won by Edinburgh Napier University. We were delighted to celebrate with the sector the achievements of all the winners and those shortlisted in every category.


Working in partnership with GuildHE and Universities UK we launched a project about promoting free speech and good campus relations in HE. The project aims to promote and reinforce university environments that encourage debate, the free exchange of ideas and protect academic freedom, while also preventing harassment and creating environments of mutual respect and inclusion.

We welcomed our 400th member institution - the University of Fort Hare in South Africa.

We published our first collaborative project report Assessment and Feedback in Law: Case Studies from the Sector

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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