Skip to main content

Principal Fellowship for leaders in outreach

11 Jul 2022 | Louise Banahene Louise Banahene is Director of Educational Engagement at the University of Leeds and became a Principal Fellow in May 2022. In this blog, she explains how her work in outreach fits with Principal Fellowship.

I wouldn’t consider myself as an obvious candidate for a Principal Fellowship. I haven’t met someone in a similar role to me who has completed the process, however I would strongly recommend it.  

The prompt to apply for Principal Fellowship came from colleagues I have the privilege of working with. It wasn’t something that I had previously considered. My role as Director of Educational Engagement includes responsibility for access and student success across all levels of study. It involves leadership of areas including educational outreach, contextual admissions and work to ensure that background is not an indicator of whether a student continues their course or achieves a degree in line with their peers.   

My first thought, following suggestions to apply, was that I felt like a square peg in a round hole. This was despite the very clear intersection with teaching, learning and assessment. However, the Fellowship Category Tool was incredibly helpful. As I worked through it, I saw the way in which my role in leading support for learning in higher education through strategy and policy and my deep commitment to inclusivity and supporting colleagues to develop closely matched the criteria for Principal Fellowship. 

I found the writing retreat led by Professor Sally Bradley incredibly helpful. It helped to consolidate my understanding of the process, meet colleagues from across the sector who were also embarking on the journey and inject some realism on the timeframe to compile the application. Sally was a beacon of support embodying the positive culture of the Principal Fellowship application process.  

As I pulled together the examples, it was an invaluable reflective process. It provided space to consider my approaches, my role in leadership and the way in which they intersected with the Professional Standards Framework.  

I found that my leadership of areas of work such as improving continuation rates for undergraduate and postgraduate students were great examples of how inclusive approaches, making structural changes to learning environments or assessments were great examples. It also reinforced how important it is to work across the institution and the sector to bring about structural change to what can often be systemic issues. Professional and academic areas can sometimes be viewed in silos and yet the greatest benefit comes in collaborative working with a shared sense of purpose. 

As I worked on outlining how I support others, it led me to consider the way in which I enhance this further by amplifying opportunities for colleagues to identify opportunities beyond their areas of responsibility – from the use of learning technologies to using evidence informed approaches and more. It also allowed space to acknowledge and thank so many colleagues and students who I have worked with and learned from along the way. It also created sufficient space to draw on the advice and steer from our Organisational Development and Professional Learning Team. 

I mentioned earlier that the writing retreat brought a sense of realism about the timeframe to gather the materials and evidence. It still took longer than I thought it would do – in part because a combination of work commitments and the pandemic took up some of the space required. However, I feel that I benefited from the extended period as it allowed me to really consider my own practice, my strengths and gather the evidence. It’s not often that we have the opportunity to do this and I found it incredibly valuable.  


Louise Banahene is Director of Educational Engagement at the University of Leeds. Her role involves responsibility for widening access to higher education amongst minoritised groups and closing gaps in student success outcomes including continuation and degree awards. This is underpinned by her leadership of the implementation of the Access and Student Success strategy.  

Louise has worked in higher education for more than 20 years and her impact on social mobility was recognised in the New Year's Honours list in 2018 with an MBE.  

LinkedIn: Louise Banahene PFHE MBE  

Twitter: Asantewah_a 

Principal Fellow Record of Educational Impact 

Colleagues who are in the process of completing their direct Principal Fellow application and looking for more guidance on the Record of Educational Impact (REI) element of their submission can book Principal Fellow Record of Educational Impact Support Session at Advance HE. Participants will be asked to complete a template on which to collate their strategic interventions, and will receive constructive feedback in a convenient, virtual, one-to-one session with an experienced Advance HE reviewer. Find out more


Fellowship Application Builder: 12 September 2022

A short online, self-directed course of six units designed to enable participants to use their experience of their teaching and supporting learning practice in higher education to develop an application for Fellowship. Find out more


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.

Keep up to date - Sign up to Advance HE communications

Our monthly newsletter contains the latest news from Advance HE, updates from around the sector, links to articles sharing knowledge and best practice and information on our services and upcoming events. Don't miss out, sign up to our newsletter now.

Sign up to our enewsletter