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Producing the National Teaching Fellows of the future

04 Jun 2019 | Kevin Merry De Montfort University (DMU) has an exceptionally strong record of achievement in the National Teaching Fellowship Scheme (NTFS). DMU’s Senior Academic Development Consultant, Kevin Merry shares some inside information on how DMU has maintained a consistent pipeline of NTFS successes.

De Montfort University (DMU) has an exceptionally strong record of achievement in the National Teaching Fellowship Scheme (NTFS). DMU’s Senior Academic Development Consultant, Kevin Merry shares some inside information on how DMU has maintained a consistent pipeline of NTFS successes.

How to succeed

Since the scheme began in 2000, a total of 21 academics past and present have received a National Teaching Fellowship (NTF) whilst working at De Montfort University (DMU). Much of our success is of course down to having some truly wonderful teachers at DMU, but it is also because we have worked hard to provide a strong pipeline of talent to keep our chances of continued success high. Central to this pipeline is our DMU Teacher Fellowship Scheme.

DMU Teacher Fellowship Scheme (TFS)

The DMU Teacher Fellowship Scheme is designed for excellent teachers who want to develop further as leaders and innovators. The purpose of the scheme is to reward excellent teaching and support the dissemination of excellent teaching across the University. As such, DMU Teacher Fellows (DMU TFs) are seen as leaders in learning and teaching, demonstrating significant influence across the University. Consequently, they are affectionately referred to as our ‘Jedi Knights’ of learning and teaching!

Key duties of the DMU TF role include:

  • Leading/contributing to strategic learning and teaching projects or initiatives
  • Leading/contributing to the creation of institution-wide learning and teaching strategies and / or policies
  • Mentoring staff new to teaching, especially early career staff
  • Membership or chairing of relevant learning and teaching committees
  • Development and delivery of learning and teaching focussed staff development
  • Leading on bids for internally or externally funded learning and teaching projects.
  • Participation in regional and national learning and teaching networks
  • Showcasing innovative practice in learning and teaching through masterclasses, workshops and showcases
  • Supporting for and review of HEA Fellowship applications
  • Contribution to the Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in HE (PGCLTHE) as a mentor and/or tutor
  • Organisation of the annual University Learning and Teaching conference
  • Support for potential DMU TF applications

Transferring from DMU TF to NTF

Any member of staff involved in teaching and/or supporting student learning can apply to be a DMU TF. To apply, applicants must have attained Senior Fellowship of the HEA (SFHEA) and receive a statement of endorsement for their application from their line manager. Once these pre-requisites are obtained, the applicant must then provide a written application which demonstrates the following:

  • Evidence of transforming the student learning experience
  • Evidence of leading, influencing and inspiring colleagues
  • Evidence of commitment to and impact of continuing professional development

Each application is judged by a panel made up of the Pro Vice Chancellor (Academic), the Director of Learning and Teaching, the Senior Academic Development Consultant (Me!) and several of our community of NTFs. Successful applications are shortlisted by the panel and invited to interview. At interview, shortlisted applicants must provide a presentation during which they provide further elaboration on their engagement with the three criteria. Successful applicants are provided with a 0.1 FTE workload allocation to carry out DMU TF duties and are able to apply for funding from a ring-fenced pot of money, known as the Teacher Fellow Innovation Fund, to carry out further learning and teaching research and innovation projects.

Those with a keen eye for detail will have noticed that the above criteria reflect the criteria for National Teaching Fellowship. As such, at the earliest possible opportunity, those applying to be a DMU TF begin to construct a narrative that aligns with the criteria for NTF. We feel that this alignment between the two schemes provides potential NTF applicants with a head start when beginning to develop the narrative that underpins their application. Furthermore, successful recruitment to the scheme and engagement in various DMU TF duties allows for the development of an even stronger NTF application narrative. For these reasons, those recruited into the DMU TF community stand a very good chance of becoming an NTF if they choose to apply. Hence, the DMU TF scheme has been instrumental in providing a steady pipeline of strong NTF candidates. Indeed, all of DMU’s recent successes in the NTFS and CATE have come from the DMU TF community.

Identifying NTF nominees

At DMU we have an internal NTF application process which is used to select our three institutional nominations. The internal application window opens in early September and closes in December, with successful applicants notified before the Christmas break. There are no restrictions on who can apply to be a DMU NTF institutional nominee. Any member of staff involved in teaching and/or supporting student learning may submit an internal application. Each applicant must submit a written application along with a statement of support from their line manager. Each application must demonstrate how their learning and teaching practice aligns directly to the NTFS criteria:

NTFS Criterion 1: Individual excellence

NTFS Criterion 2: Raising the profile of excellence

NTFS Criterion 3: Developing excellence

Application process and success

All applications are judged by the same panel that judges applicants to the DMU TF scheme. The top three applications go forward as our institutional nominations. Successful applicants are then matched with a mentor (a current NTF) to support the development of their application, as well as participating in a scheduled programme of events and activities occurring between January and March designed to support the development of their application. These include coffee mornings with current members of the DMU NTF community who provide advice and guidance to the nominated applicants, internal writing retreats, peer review activities, and enrolment on various events run by the Association of National Teaching Fellows (ANTF). The mentoring and programme of supportive events and activities are intended to ensure that each institutional nominee has the best possible opportunity of being successful with their applications. Hence, as well as having a distinct community of excellent potential NTFS candidates with our DMU TF scheme, we also possess a clear, managed support pathway for those selected to be our institutional nominees, which affords them the time and expertise by which to make the strongest of applications. As such we have maintained consistent success in the NTFS over the last 19 years. Long may it continue! What is your institution doing to unearth its NTFs of the future?


Kevin L. Merry is the lead for academic development at De Montfort University. An award-winning teacher, Kevin has been instrumental in embedding Universal Design for Learning (UDL) as DMU’s principal approach to learning, teaching and assessment, developing new approaches to course design underpinned by the UDL principles.

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