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Victoria Salmon: applying for Senior Fellowship (SFHEA)

Victoria is a Researcher/Practitioner for university-wide Academic Support and an Academic Support Lecturer. 

AdvanceHE Fellowship demonstrates a personal commitment to teaching, learning and the student experience. It provides formal recognition that can be used for career planning and progression. UAL’s Professional Recognition Programme provides staff with structured guidance to prepare an application for Associate, Fellow, or Senior Fellow. 

Whether you are starting out, want to move in a new direction or have significant experience managing teaching and learning activity, Fellowship recognises the professional status of your existing expertise.

The categories of Fellowship don’t necessarily coordinate with specific job titles, roles or seniority. Use this series of case studies to understand the variety of experiences that may allow you to gain Fellowship. 

Hi Victoria.  Thanks so much for joining us today. Could you start by giving us an an overview of your role(s) at UAL please?   

I’m a Researcher/Practitioner for university-wide Academic Support and an Academic Support Lecturer working with courses at Chelsea and CSM. I produce the content for UAL Student Voices and I also run listening workshops and discussion sessions on the power of listening and the importance it has in teaching and learning.  I work with colleagues from different departments across UAL  also present workshops at external conferences such as Advance HE.  

In my practice  I’m interested in exploring different ways of listening, for example using sound installations which have featured in Attainment conference (2018) and the Academic Support conference (2019). I am currently exploring how to develop better listening to staff voices at UAL.  

How did you come to apply for Senior Fellowship (SFHEA)? 

Prior to coming to UAL I worked in educational programme-making (e.g. BBC Schools and C4 Schools) and during this time developed a particular interest in audio. I’ve been an Associate Lecturer at UAL since 2007 and I applied for Fellowship (FHEA) in 2012 after completing my PgCert in 2011.  

I completed an MA Academic Practice in 2018 and Senior Fellowship (SFHEA) seemed like the logical next step.   

What was the spur to  your decision to apply for SFHEA at the time that you did?  

In lieu of a clear career progression for Associate Lecturers, this was an opportunity to gain formal recognition of the impact my work has had within the university.  

I also saw this opportunity as a challenge to myself to present the trajectory of my work and to show how this met the specific requirements of the UK Professional Standards Framework at the level of Senior Fellow.  

How long did it take you to write/make your application?     

From deciding to apply to hand-in was 4 months, but it was full-on in terms of thinking, planning, writing and submission.   

Who else was involved, or helped you put together your application?    

Many helped me along the way. Firstly, the two advocates who supported my application really helped to add another perspective on what I had achieved. I also had one official and one unofficial mentor who helped unpack what the application was about and advised on the structure and focus. And Neil Currant who responded quickly to my ‘urgent’ questions. Their input really informed my thinking. For example, I had been adamant I should write the application chronologically, but one mentor helped me to see that identifying and writing around themes instead was much more powerful.  

Then there were my colleagues who provided evidence of the impact of my work, which is a fundamental component of the application. And, finally, there were members of my family and friends who listened, encouraged, bamboozled and pushed me through.

How was the whole application process for you?   

Intense. I took it very seriously and really focused on what I had to do and to achieve. I find my writing demands reflection and I knew I needed to be organised to ensure I could produce something successful in the relatively short time available.   

Did your thinking about your teaching and learning practice change during the course of making the application?  

 It didn’t change per se, rather it confirmed and made ‘real’ the knowledge and skills I had accumulated and their impact. Writing the application re-affirmed my commitment to try to make the university an environment in which listening is actively encouraged – an ongoing project!  What did change was my understanding of my contribution to this aim. I came to realise that the work I was doing had greater significance and wider value than I had originally thought.  

Initially, when I first looked at the application, it seemed to me I would have to be a Course Leader or a Programme Director to evidence what was required in the Framework for SFHEA.  But actually, that’s not what AdvanceHE mean by seniority.  Seniority means responsibility for disseminating ideas, developing new ways of thinking with your peers and with students. Evidence of impact is also key, across different forums, levels and situations. And I came to realise that through my research and in my work on listening, through working with a broad range of people across the Colleges and departments, I could show this. After that point it became clear to me that I was able to apply at SFHEA level.  

What was the biggest challenge to overcome?  Did you have any setbacks?   

At the start I found the UK Professional Standards framework constraining and frustrating. Once I realised that there was more flexibility than I initially thought, my application became more of a piece of reflective writing, supported by evidence of impact and knowledge of my subject. This was both informative and enjoyable, a useful investigation rather than a stressful interrogation.

Did anything surprise you about going through the process of creating and making your application?

The willingness of so many people to support me through the application was a wonderful surprise. That, and realising how and why my work was at a level of SFHEA. 

Now you’ve achieved SFHEA, what impact has it had for you, if any?    

It has given me more confidence and self-validation and recognition of my level of knowledge and expertise. That is important because my job title of Associate Lecturer says little about what I do or what I have achieved. Having SFHEA after my name is a recognition that I have made an impact.  

What advice would you have for others looking to make an SFHEA application?   

I’d particularly like to speak to other Associate Lecturers who, like me, have been working within HE for some time. They’ll have added value and knowledge to teaching and learning, for sure, but they might not think that this would be sufficient to apply.  I would say to them they should consider applying if they are interested. It is important that we are accredited with the value we bring to teaching and learning and this is a good way to gain university recognition.   

To everyone thinking of applying I would suggest approaching it like any project requiring time and thought. Read what the application requires, ask if you don’t understand and give yourself the space to reflect on how you might approach your response.  

I chose to hand in a reflective account (essay) but you could also opt for the portfolio or dialogue routes.  The flexibility is there to work to your strengths. Use the mentors who are there to help. Plan the stages of the application too. For example, it’s important to show evidence of impact and this might involve contacting people, so task and timewise, this all needs to be factored in.   

And, finally, don’t feel you’re being tested. I review applications now and can say with confidence that we want to support the applications where possible.  

What’s next for you?   

Since obtaining the SFHEA I have gained new confidence in the value of my work. I’ve started to investigate new projects using my knowledge and expertise in different ways.  I can’t be more specific at this point except to say this is an exciting time for me. Becoming a Senior Fellow has certainly precipitated a new enthusiasm and direction.   

Read more Fellowship case studies

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