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Come together: a national teaching focused network to recognise, strengthen and celebrate the diversity of roles in UK HE

15 May 2023 | Emmajane Milton, Kathryn Jones, Hannah Cobb, Earle Abrahamson, Julie Hulme, Ceri Morris, Nick Weise, James Brooks, Heather Pennington, Katy Burgess A collective of academics, including several National Teaching Fellows, have founded the National Teaching Focused Network. In this blog, they invite other 'teaching focused' colleagues to join them.

Are you a teaching focused academic? Have you ever felt like you’re different to research colleagues and wondered, ‘am I supposed to be here? Do I fit?’ We have too! 

At Advance HE’s 2022 EDI conference we ran a session called ‘Am I supposed to be here? Do I fit?: Developing inclusive ways of working to enable Teaching and Scholarship colleagues to flourish for the benefit of all’. Little did we know at the time that we would find a wonderful group of colleagues who felt similar and for whom many of the ideas we presented resonated. 

Finding a place to belong

Are you teaching focused and find this idea resonates too? Do you have an unconventional background, perhaps coming from industry or professional practice? Maybe you are an educational or academic developer or maybe you just feel like a lone voice of passion for the scholarship of teaching and learning in an otherwise research-oriented world?  

Our 2022 session aimed to explore the idea that teaching focused colleagues who feel like they are different and, in the minority, but can bring a richness to the academy and the institutions they work for. In addition, they can feel misunderstood and are underrepresented in senior roles. 

Recognition and reward of teaching needs to take into account this diversity and ensure an inclusivity of processes to recognise a full range of teaching practices and career roles within institutions and between institutions with very different missions.”

McHanwell and Robson, 2018

The findings of a survey conducted with teaching-focused academics working in the UK identified an urgent need for clarity from the sector and more structured development opportunities for those employed on teaching-focused career paths."

Smith and Walker, 2022

Come together

As a result of the 2022 session a group of ‘misfits’, bound by a sense of familiarity and reassured that perhaps ‘not fitting was ok’ and the uniqueness we represented, came together to develop a network. Over the last year, this wider group have come together to do exactly what that session proposed: to develop inclusive ways of working to help teaching focused colleagues to flourish. 

At the heart of this is a national network, or ‘collective’, of colleagues in teaching focused roles in HE which we launched at this year’s EDI conference, and now we invite you to join us too! We will hold our first National Teaching Focused Network event online on Friday 30 June from 10am-12pm, which you can sign up for here.   

What do we mean by ‘teaching focused’?

We use the term 'teaching focused' to cover all contract / role types that are not Teaching and Research, for example, Teaching and Scholarship, Education and Scholarship, Teaching Only, Teaching Focused etc. This is intended to be an inclusive space to give teaching focused colleagues voice and agency through conversation, support and network building between individuals and their institutions.

The network aims to have: 

Reach – we are inclusive of all colleagues in teaching focused roles (including facilitators of learning), whilst not excluding any colleagues who are interested in engaging with the network’s work. 

Value – we will raise the visibility of the diversity of colleagues on teaching focused contracts, valuing the expertise they bring to HE and the breadth of the nature of their roles. 

Impact – our network will enable the diversity of colleagues in teaching focused roles to be recognised, feel valued, have a sense of belonging, voice and agency to flourish in HE. 

(Diversity in this context means background, professional roles and expertise, career path, career levels and status as well as protected characteristics from the Equality Act.) 

Bring and share

The network will also enable colleagues to share good practice, helpful tips and information about promotion, publications, webinars, conferences and more. In launching the network, we will provide a space to:  

- highlight perspectives, experiences and understandings related to teaching focused pathways, 

- identify successes and barriers for teaching focused colleagues and 

- help inform the development of these roles across our sector. 

This will privilege the most important thing - the showcasing and celebration of the diversity of teaching and scholarship colleagues, drawing on the experiences of those in the network so far, and those who attend the session. 

Sign up

So, if you feel you’re a ‘misfit’, come and find your might find a place where you belong…and in not fitting in we might just fit together. Sign up for the first National Teaching Focused Network event on Friday 30 June here.   


We are a growing network of colleagues currently from nine UK HEIs (including Birmingham City University; Cardiff University; Leeds University; University of Manchester; Nottingham Trent University; University of East Anglia; University of Hertfordshire and the University of Kent). Blog authors include Emmajane Milton, Kathryn Jones, Hannah Cobb, Earle Abrahamson, Julie Hulme, Ceri Morris, Nick Weise, James Brooks, Heather Pennington and Katy Burgess. 

Teaching and Learning Conference 2023: Shaping the future of HE

For the latest developments and innovations for teaching focused roles join us at the Advance HE Teaching and Learning Conference 2023 to discuss how we can shape the future of teaching and learning in higher education. Find out more and book your place.


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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