The Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences (HELS) at Birmingham City University (BCU) celebrated in 2018 with a Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence (CATE) for its fantastic High Achiever Recognition Scheme (HARS).
CATE recognises and rewards collaborative work that has had a demonstrable impact on teaching and learning, highlighting the key role of teamwork in higher education.
HARS is a highly distinctive scheme to advance and celebrate high achieving students’ professional and academic aspirations and capabilities amongst a diverse, largely ‘commuter’ student population at BCU. The scheme exemplifies collaborative endeavour with students as key partners and draws heavily on outstanding internal and external collaborations.
Here, we share the perspectives of members from the HARS team who discuss how winning the award has impacted them, their students, and their institution.
Juliette Gaunt, Academic Lead
Even before winning a CATE, Juliette Gaunt considered it a real privilege to lead BCU’s innovative HARS. Discovering a paucity of evidence around supporting high achieving students, Juliette set out to establish the network to support, celebrate and develop this group at BCU. HARS offers several tracks of support to these students - including personal, professional, community and academic skills - all designed to encourage them to recognise and be their best selves.
Juliette’s team was recognised with a CATE Award in 2018, and the accolade soon attracted the attention of Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Claire Mackie. Prof. Mackie is now interested in seeing HARS rolled out across the institution so that even more high achieving students can benefit. As a direct result of CATE, Juliette has been asked to convene a University-wide group to begin plans for this expansion and present a proposal for how it might be achieved.
To support the growth of HARS since winning CATE, Juliette has applied for substantial funding for a five-year period and secured institutional commitment for the foreseeable future.
In testament to the positive impact of CATE, Juliette is committed to the future development of the CATE community as a means of celebrating success, sharing best practice and facilitating further collaboration. Most recently, Juliette has convened an online network on the ‘Advance HE Connect’ platform for working with high achieving students. The impact of CATE looks set to continue for the HARS team, which has since established an ongoing collaboration with RAISE (Researching, Advancing and Inspiring Student Engagement), being invited to meet with the network annually and present at their inclusive practice conference.
Mark O’Hara, Associate Dean and HARS Deputy
For Mark O’Hara, the positive impact of CATE began with the application process. He describes a boost to the team’s morale as they reflected on the impact of HARS and gathered evidence for their claim. The award ceremony was another highlight, which not only confirmed external esteem for HARS, but also helped to build the team further and provided a fantastic opportunity to the student members who attended.
Like Juliette, Mark confirms that the CATE success prompted interest in greatly expanding HARS at an institutional level, and adds that the HARS also attracted substantial interest from other institutions after receiving the award. Mark and Juliette have subsequently been invited to present to staff at other HEIs interested in setting up similar schemes.
Winning CATE has raised the profile of the team’s work at a sector-wide level, with Mark and Juliette taking the opportunity to present at the 2019 ANTF Symposium to catalyse and stimulate both theirs’ and others’ work. As a direct result of CATE, Mark has been asked to convene a University-wide group to draw up a proposal for expanding high achievers’ offer across BCU. If accepted, the rollout would open up the possibility of an institutional effort to attain recognition through a Global Teaching Excellence Award (GTEA) to create international impact.
Kevin Faulkner, Practitioner
Kevin Faulkner is an external practitioner with a background in human behaviour and interpersonal skills training. A chance meeting brought him into contact with Juliette in early 2018. Kevin soon recognised the potential of HARS as an opportunity to find out more about the core drivers of student behaviour. As an external practitioner, the scheme represented a fantastic chance for Kevin to get under the skin of students and follow his passion for helping students find an understanding of themselves and generate the best version of themselves in a variety of contexts.
Winning CATE instigated a wide range of external interest in the work of HARS. In addition to the numerous HEI’s that have made contact to find out more, Insights Psychometrics - suppliers of one of the profiling tools used in HARS - are now creating a case study to be published in summer 2019. Insights’ case study will be used to promote and celebrate the work the team is doing with students to support them to become more self-aware and position them to think about becoming their best selves in their future careers, be this in leadership roles or not. Internally, Kevin elucidates the significant impact that membership of HARS has had on the students involved: students have been published, convened workshops and secured their dream jobs. What is palpable, Kevin says, is how HARS has raised the confidence of the students involved.
Lisa Smith, HARS Scholar (Student)
Lisa is from a non-traditional student background and was in her 40s before she started her degree in Speech and Language, motivated by the fact that she has an eight-year-old with speech difficulties.
She confesses to be a perfectionist by nature and took some time to adjust to the fact that she did not need to aim for 100% in her degree exams, as 40% actually constitutes a ‘pass’.
Lisa’s academic performance was satisfactory in the first year, but she felt herself struggling to some extent. Her university experience was transformed when she joined the HARS programme mid-way through her second year.
HARS has helped Lisa productively focus on her own development - identifying personal strengths and future goals - and helped to maintain her confidence. She now feeds back into the scheme by supporting new scholars coming through the programme. Lisa has also successfully developed a HARS proposal for a Healthcare Leadership conference, which started as a one-day internal workshop, but has now evolved into a two-day international conference. When the team was recognised with a CATE in 2018, Lisa felt a great sense of pride at the achievement and enjoyed attending the award ceremony in person.
Lisa also recognises the role of CATE in raising the profile of HARS internally with students, as evidenced by the increasing numbers who apply, and legitimising the project in the eyes of staff members who were at first cautious of a scheme that advantaged high achieving students. She sees real longevity in the impact of HARS as more and more students benefit from opportunities to ‘find their best selves’ with the scheme.
Birmingham City University; Academic Lead: Juliette Gaunt; HARS Colleagues (as of 2018): Charlie Banister, Marsha de-Souza Williams, Karamjit Narewal and Lisa Smith are HARS Nursing and Midwifery, and Allied Health Professional students, scholars and/or members of the Student Steering Group. Professor Mark O’Hara is Associate Dean in the Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences and doubles as the HARS Deputy. Kevin Faulkner is an Accredited Practitioner with a background in human behaviour and interpersonal skills training. Katie Whitehouse, Lindsay Southall and Alex Carroll are Careers Advisors working in the Careers+ central team at BCU Jezz Freeth is Graduate Student Success Advisor for HARS managing the social media feed and the website. Andrew Sayer is a Librarian with the University’s Library and Learning Resources Team and Nicola Clarke and Gay Johnson are Health academics based in the Faculty’s Professional.