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Principal Fellowship and #ImmodestWomen

08 Jan 2019 | Dr Harriet Dunbar-Morris Dr Harriet Dunbar-Morris is responsible for providing leadership in the enhancement and evaluation of the student experience at the University of Portsmouth. She champions the student voice, and facilitates partnership working, ensuring that student engagement is central to the University's activities. In 2017/18 she led the revision of the Curriculum Framework which included embedding the Hallmarks of the Portsmouth Graduate within the curriculum. Here she discusses the twitter hashtag #immodestwomen in relation to the recognition offered by Advance HE’s Principal Fellowship.

I’m an immodest woman. Not really, actually like many people I tend to downplay my achievements. But in solidarity with Dr Fern Riddell and the #immodestwomen my Twitter account proudly bears ‘Dr’ and 5 letters after my name: ‘PFHEA’. The #immodestwomen trend started on Twitter when historian Dr Fern Riddell defended her use of her academic title by tweeting

“My title is Dr Fern Riddell, not Ms or Miss Riddell. I have it because I am an expert … I worked hard to earn my authority, and I will not give it up to anyone.” 

The responses included many that suggested she was being immodest and thus the hashtag was born. I gained my PhD in France, where they don’t use the title, but they do have a great gown and hat (as you can see in the picture). I wrote and defended (in public) my thesis in French which is not my native language, so in true #immodestwomen style I feel I have earned the right to use ‘Dr’ when and where I see fit. It is a marker of my expertise, and I do use it on my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts as well as in my professional life; it's not an honorary title, I'm a real doctor.

I have recently been awarded my Principal Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy which is also a marker of my expertise. It provides evidence of my strategic influence in my higher education career and increasingly across the HE sector it is seen as one of the criteria for strategic management and leadership positions.

In my own institution, it is also one of the criteria for promotion via the teaching route. Again, in true #immodestwomen style, I have added those 5 letters after my name across my social media and in my professional life.

Not only do the post-nominals reflect my expertise, but the exercise to develop the submission to achieve the Fellowship was very valuable. Reflecting on my strategic leadership and recounting that was a useful exercise which is also beneficial for other exercises, such as Personal Development Reviews (aka appraisals) and internal promotion processes, where one has to describe one’s achievements. I’ve never been particularly good at blowing my own trumpet, despite the apparent chutzpah of starting this post with the words ‘I’m an immodest woman’. Having three advocates describe my achievements in their own words was invigorating. 

Advance HE provides writing retreats for those considering applying for Principal Fellowship. I wasn’t able to attend one, but I did attend a writing retreat at Portsmouth, which allowed me a full day with no other interruptions, to focus on the refining of my draft submission, after several evenings and weekends work on it.

In the HE sector nowadays the talk is all about impact. My submission for Principal Fellowship had to tell a clear story about the impact I have had on student learning. My story is about ‘making a difference to students’ experience of higher education’, which I evidenced across my recent learning and teaching-related roles at the universities of Portsmouth, Bradford and Bath, and roles at the University of Oxford, UCAS and the 1994 Group. It is a complicated story, which I can now summarise and proclaim as ‘PFHEA’ on Twitter, my CV and in our internal promotion and appraisal procedures.

For those out there in the HE sector who, like me, are making a difference to students’ experience of higher education I recommend the exercise of developing a submission for fellowship and telling your story. As well as a marker of expertise you will have a case study to draw on for appraisals, promotions and recruitment exercises and three really good referees. For the men or women, modest or immodest, when you achieve the Principal Fellowship add it to your Twitter account and celebrate your expertise along with me - and Dr Fern Riddell and the #immodestwomen.

Principal Fellow Writing Retreats:

Bristol, 21/05/2019
London, 04/06/2019
Birmingham, 25/06/2019
Advance HE, York, 16/07/2019

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