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Progressing the PSF Review

26 May 2022 | The Project Team conducting the review of the UK Professional Standards Framework (PSF) provides an update on progress ahead of the launch of an online consultation on the draft revised PSF in mid-June.

The review of the UK Professional Standards Framework (PSF, 2011) is being carried out by a small Project Team of colleagues from across the sector, led by Dr Julie Baldry Currens. This work is overseen by the sector-led PSF Review Steering Group, chaired by Professor Helen O’Sullivan. Respecting both the global nature of higher education and the range of contexts the PSF is now recognised, the Steering Group and the project group have proportional international representation.

Work undertaken thus far has included analysis of a wide range of existing evidence and data sets and initial consultation feedback. These have informed the draft revised PSF currently being worked on and due to be issued to the global HE sector for further consideration in June.

Analysis of all existing data sets

A clear message emerged from the qualitative thematic analysis of the evidence gathered from various sources since 2015 - that there is no sector appetite for dismantling the current structure of the framework. Evidence suggests that the framework’s unique capacity, its ‘elasticity’ to support the diversity of higher education teaching and learning, should be maintained. 

The evidence also points to aspects that would benefit from revisions to enhance the Framework in both national and international settings and ensure it remains fit for the future. Examples of emergent themes include a need to:

  • address repetition and overlap
  • enhance clarity of language, terminology and presentation
  • introduce areas of practice such as education for sustainable development and collaboration
  • clarify the relationship between Descriptors and Dimensions

The existing evidence base also clearly identified a small number of more challenging, conceptual issues that required further exploration. These topics formed the basis of the initial key stakeholder consultation sessions.

Initial key stakeholder consultations

More than 300 national and international stakeholders took part across 24 consultation sessions.

Participants were asked to consider how the revised framework might most effectively represent these five challenging issues:

  1. Digital

Digital approaches have become both ubiquitous and widely embedded into most aspects of our practice in design and delivery of learning, teaching and assessment. Consideration was given to whether digital practice should be appropriately captured in one or more Dimensions and how best to maintain the wide diversity of digital approaches.

Key emerging views include:

  • use of appropriate terminology eg digital / learning technologies / resources
  • emphasis on appropriate use of technology, rather than the use of appropriate technology
  • significance of context, from disciplinary considerations through to issues of access to resources for both staff and students
  • retention of a reworded K4 vs embedding technology in practice.


  1. Inclusion

At its broadest, inclusion is a critical aspect of our practice in HE. It is currently represented as a Professional Value in V1 and V2, though feedback indicates there is some confusion and overlap. Consideration was given to whether the framework should be more specific about what is meant by inclusive practice; whether it is necessary to distinguish between knowledge and values when describing inclusive practice and whether inclusion should remain as a single Dimension in Professional Values.

Key emerging views include:

  • strong, consistent views for inclusion to be seen as central to all practice
  • differing views on how to effectively emphasise the criticality of inclusion across the framework. Suggestions that inclusion:
    • be explicitly stated within several dimensions and across descriptors
    • remains solely as a value, with values taking more of a central position across the framework
    • be represented as a ‘golden thread’ or ‘vertical strand’ throughout the framework.


  1. International perspectives

These are fundamental to relationships with our students, collaborative partners and practice. At present this is not currently represented in the PSF, although may be referenced as part of V4 ‘the wider context in which HE operates’. Consideration was given to how to retain and enhance the framework’s portability and value within different global contexts, and how and where the revised framework can be enhanced to be inclusive of different international perspectives.

Key emerging views include:

  • clear links with inclusion
  • preference for use of ‘global’ perspectives, rather than ‘international’
  • diversity in values - recognising and valuing variations within and between the diverse cultures using the PSF
  • foregrounding the criticality of context (in relation to discipline, nation/region, environment, accessibility).


  1. Impact and effectiveness

These are critical considerations in evidencing the outcomes of practice. Currently, words such as ‘effective’, ‘successful’ and ‘impact’ are reported to be ambiguous and difficult to apply. Consideration was given to whether impact/effectiveness would be best represented as enhanced dimension(s), a concept in the descriptors or other ways.

Key emerging views include:

  • use of the most appropriate terminology - on balance, effectiveness was favoured over impact
  • a continuum of appropriate effectiveness, from Associate through to Principal Fellow, clearly expressed within the descriptors, was a repeated suggestion
  • although the value of reflective practice is recognised, explicit reference to ‘reflection’ remains contentious
  • appropriate evidence of practice outcomes in relation to student learning alongside critical evaluation of one’s own practice is valued.


  1. Descriptor 4 and Principal Fellowship

With its focus on strategic leadership this does not always resonate with individuals with such responsibilities. Through existing evidence, several reasons are reported to have relevance here, including a lack of clarity in relation to the nature of ‘strategic leadership’ and the scope and scale of practice, given the variety of ways this might be enacted. Consideration was given to how a revised PSF might enhance the relevance of Principal Fellowship to appropriate individuals and how the Principal Fellowship appeal can be enhanced.

Key emerging views include:

  • a clear gap between Senior and Principal Fellow was referenced
  • barriers are perceived to prevent achievement of Principal Fellowship (related to establishment of effective organisational policies and/or strategies, scope of impact, time required for application).
  • whether a further category of Fellowship, situated between Senior and Principal Fellow might be feasible
  • considerable support emerged for a comprehensive redesign of the Principal Fellow descriptor to address the difficulties.

Take part

Following the analysis of an extensive evidence base and the first phase of the consultation, a draft revised PSF is now available and the broad sector-wide consultation on the draft remained open until 17 July 2022.

The Project Team will then evaluate feedback on the draft revised to inform the creation of the revised PSF. This will be followed by one final phase of consultation running until November 2022 with the final version of the revised PSF ready to publish in January 2023.

Draft revised PSF

Your views on the draft revised PSF are really valued, thank you for taking the time to complete the online survey and contributing to the PSF Review.

  • The draft revised PSF can be found here.
  • If you would like to refer back to the PSF 2011 you can find it here.

The online consultation on the draft revised PSF closed on 17 July. Thank you to everyone who took part in this phase of the consultation, and previous consultation sessions. Further updates will be communicated as the review progresses. 

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