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Promoting teaching excellence for all

08 Feb 2021 | Dr Hardeep Basra With increasing discussions across the sector in relation to the equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) agenda and learning and teaching recognition, Dr Hardeep Basra from De Montfort University shares her approach to enhancing the recognition of teaching excellence for all, but in particular, underrepresented groups.

Higher education institutions (HEIs) have long been reporting on the status of learning and teaching (L&T) recognition and regularly do so as part of their annual HESA return. These metrics help institutions to assess their current status and help set associated strategies and approaches to drive L&T recognition further.  I, myself, write annual reports examining the impact of our Advance HE accredited schemes and analyse data on L&T achievement. However, recently I have been critically reflecting on what data am I reporting on, and more importantly, what data I am not reporting on. Too often reporting requests focus on top level data, concentrating on headline figures without examining L&T recognition across the institution at a granular level. Reasons for this are twofold; one, the availability and accessibility of data and secondly, detailed analysis of L&T recognition amongst specific staff groups is not regularly requested let alone scrutinised. In my role as the institutional lead for Advance HE accredited schemes, and in my role as the Co-Chair of the BAME Staff Network, I became increasingly interested in understanding L&T recognition in relation to the EDI agenda and this blog shares my commitment to promoting and recognising teaching excellence for all.

Getting hold of the data

Getting hold of accurate data (or as accurate as possible) was really important in understanding the current state of play at De Montfort University (DMU) and helping inform what actions, underpinned by wider strategy and policy, were required. The data does exist. HEIs are required to return data, in order to meet statutory requirements to HESA on the L&T recognition of their teaching staff. A lot of work has been done at DMU to enhance the reporting quality, accessibility and reliability of data. For me this has been critical in shaping the approach taken at DMU to meet its strategic KPTs in L&T, with a focus on enhancing opportunities for underrepresented groups.

A key change in strategic direction was shifting future L&T recognition targets to the responsibility of Faculties away from the central Directorate, which supports staff gaining L&T recognition. A collaborative approach is the way forward. I have been working with senior management in Faculties in helping them formulate and operationalise plans to increase levels of L&T recognition. Faculties will now set their own targets, which they will report on and be accountable for. Having the granular data has really focused minds and has resulted in more targeted interventions.

What does the data show?

The data indicates at DMU L&T recognition is below sector average. It also shows significant differences across Faculties, and across Departments within Faculties. There are higher levels of L&T recognition across full-time permanent staff, compared to hourly paid lecturers or part-time staff. There is on average 15 percentage points difference between staff holding a HESA L&T recognised award and those holding a category of Advance HE Fellowship, and this is across all categories of staff examined. It also showed no real disparity amongst BAME and White staff in terms of overall L&T recognition, which was pleasing to see, though there was variation across Faculties. Moreover, data on gender showed marginally higher rates of L&T recognition amongst females compared to males.

After reviewing HESA data, I went on to also review other forms of L&T recognition at DMU, namely National Teaching Fellowship (NTFS), Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence (CATE), DMU’s internal Teacher Fellow Scheme and Associate Professors Learning & Teaching. The data across all schemes of L&T recognition showed there was a significant underrepresentation of BAME staff as well as gender disparity in favour of females. Further examination of who had applied over the last three years disclosed a lack of diversity in applications. BAME staff were not applying for such accolades, and with the exception of the DMU Teacher Fellow scheme, male staff were also not applying.

Also, Senior Fellowship data showed there was a lower proportion of BAME staff within this category when compared to the overall proportion of BAME staff. Although numbers of Principal Fellowship are very low at DMU, there are also no BAME staff within that category. Thus, data indicates higher accolades of L&T recognition were predominately occupied by white women and thus I wanted to encourage underrepresented groups to apply.

Effective action planning

To try and promote greater diversity and nurture the talent of BAME staff in L&T I have put together a range of interventions to support BAME staff to benefit equally from the opportunities DMU affords its staff. These include:

  • raising awareness with staff of these opportunities through the BAME Network, and other channels of communication 
  • arranged workshops to promote the variety pathways for teaching excellence, specifically targeting underrepresented groups
  • pairing BAME staff to work with a mentor
  • offering coaching to BAME staff
  • organised writing circles to support staff to write submissions.

Other wider Faculty/Institutional Approaches include:

  • involvement of the wider L&T community of practice to support staff
  • one Faculty is specifically focusing on staff development of BAME staff
  • encouraging Heads of Schools/Line Managers to put forward and encourage underrepresented groups to apply for such opportunities and to link this to the annual appraisal and objective setting process
  • identify institutional barriers identified by staff by creating listening sessions and then to action plan accordingly.

Having the support of this work at a strategic level really does help. My role as Academic Developer and BAME Staff Co-Chair assist in getting this work represented on the University EDI and Race Equality Committee. It also ties in with the values of DMU’s strategic project Decolonising DMU, which focuses on addressing structural inequalities. Consequently, this approach means addressing that these disparities sit part of wider institutional actions linked to the EDI agenda and are therefore the responsibility of all rather than a few.

We often focus inclusive practice in relation to L&T practice but this is equally applicable within our Advance HE CPD Schemes, so why not examine the diversity of your Fellowship community and commit to ensuring underrepresented groups are also being recognised for their teaching excellence?


Dr Hardeep Basra is an Academic Professional Developer, Co-Chair of the BAME Staff Network and part of the Decolonising DMU Community of Practice. She actively promotes equality, diversity and inclusion with a specific interest in learning and teaching. Find out more about Decolonising DMU

Leading Race Equality in HE workshops Explore the history, context and current race equality challenges that universities need to address, as well as approaches that have been employed to tackle racial inequalities in HE on one of our Leading Race Equality in HE workshops.


Fellowship demonstrates a personal and institutional commitment to professionalism in learning and teaching in higher education. Across four categories, from Associate to Principal, Fellowship provides individuals with recognition of their practice, impact and leadership of teaching and learning. Find out more about Fellowship

Find out more about Advance HE's work to support institutions to tackle inequalities and implement strategies to promote and enhance equality across all protected characteristics.

Find out more about our tackling structural race inequality in higher education initiative

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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