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Applying for Senior Fellowship when not an academic

16 Mar 2021 | Tom Lowe As part of Senior Fellow Month in March, Tom Lowe from the University of Winchester shares his top tips for student engagement and employability professionals when applying for Senior Fellowship.

The activities of Advance HE have a wide audience, from academics to professional service staff, directors and managers, and staff who run student facing opportunities or advice, such as student engagement or employability staff. At the University of Winchester, I occupy almost all of the above areas where I work as Head of Student Engagement and Employability. Yet the activities at our institutions relating to attaining Fellowship and Senior Fellowship are naturally targeted at academics, to rightly work towards greater reflection and pedagogical development following national pressure on learning and teaching, satisfaction and more recently, value for money. Therefore, taking part in the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF) accreditation scheme can seem to exclude professional service staff – but this is not the case. Ask your Learning and Teaching lead, the staff at Advance HE or search out those in roles like yours in the sector with the accreditation and ask them, how do I apply and what have others drawn on for their application? Our work as professional services impacts the student learning community just as much as academics and this blog offers my top tips for preparing your application for Advance HE Senior Fellowship.

Top tips for your application

  • Leadership of enhancement: As professional service managers and service deliverers, we are always enhancing our areas of work. To identify solid examples of leadership of enhancement, look back over your years of work for initiatives you have led on to develop an element of provision, especially ones where you have worked across your department or even better, across your institution.
  • Influencing others to change: Similar to the above, look for particular occasions where you have influenced others to make change, perhaps through presenting, conducting evaluation and submitting written reports to committees.
  • Sector and scholarly engagements: Attending and presenting at conferences is easier than ever before due to Covid-19, with so many conferences held online and fees reduced. Don’t just attend conferences but be brave and share your innovative practice developing your services or the student experience, and then, write about it in your application.
  • Being scholarly in your applications: Referencing throughout your application is crucial and although there are dozens of journals which focus on learning and teaching, there are now several journals focusing on student engagement, development and employability which will support and offer reflection opportunities. See the Journal of Educational Innovation Partnership and Change; Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education; Student Engagement in Higher Education Journal and International Journal of Students as Partners to get started.
  • Delivering on programmes: Although many professional service staff tend to not lead on academic programmes, there are other forms of programme of study. For example, student leadership programmes, welcome week, widening participation initiatives, student voice activities and staff development series. All of these examples could be used as alternatives to programme leadership for your applications.

Making the time to apply

In 2016, I made a Fellow application as part of a development programme where I was part of a cohort, yet I was the only one writing for my application based on training Student Academic Representatives in my Student Union role, rather than as a lecturer. When applying for Senior Fellow, the same community may not be present which can make the application process less motivating and lonely. Here is some advice for getting your application done this year:

  • Apply with a colleague – seek out someone at the University / College similar to you and write your applications at the same time. You can discuss the challenges, reflect on your writing style and share best practice. Also you can pester one another to get writing!
  • Have conversations with your referees – your references are not just there to supply a supporting statement. Have a meeting with them, ask them about their application and they will tell you how brilliant you are and what to draw on which will build your confidence.
  • Tell your line manager you are applying – you may get some work time to apply and they may wish to help.
  • Use the lockdown to your advantage – our roles in higher education during Covid-19 make us busier than ever before, so writing at work may not be possible. Therefore, use the lockdown to your advantage and set yourself the challenge of writing your application across a month on some evenings and weekends. The task is not too hard as you are talking about your own work experiences so not as much research is needed as you would expect.
  • Lay out your impact in bullet points – the best advice I received was to first bullet point every time you have held a leadership position over a project, where you have had impact, and what you have done in your time in education. This list will make you spoilt for choice and possibly provide a structure for your application.

The award of Senior Fellow is not just letters after your name. It is a recognition of a reflection process which will strengthen your practice and strengthen your work. Engagement with the framework is empowering, thought provoking and sometimes challenging, but since applying for both Fellow and Senior Fellow, I do nothing but recommend the process to my staff, colleagues and networks. The hard work is worth it and our work as professional service staff can be recognised to the same standard in the development of higher education.


Tom Lowe is a Senior Fellow and Head of Student Engagement & Employability at The University of Winchester

In celebration of Senior Fellow Month, we will be sharing stories from Senior Fellows and applicants over the course of March. 

Are you an individual able to provide evidence of a sustained record of effectiveness in relation to teaching and learning, incorporating for example, the organisation, leadership and/or management of specific aspects of teaching and learning provision? Then Senior Fellowship may be for you.

For further information, resources and and guidance on applying, visit our dedicated Senior Fellowship page.


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