The University of Liverpool’s Postgraduate Certificate Academic Practice (PGCAP) provides a unique opportunity for those new to teaching in higher education to simultaneously gain professional recognition as a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA) and a Postgraduate Certificate qualification.
In this blog post, we will look at the various categories of Fellowship and the benefits that Fellowship can bring you. We will introduce Advance HE and its role in helping higher education teaching and research to excel globally. We will explain the UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and supporting learning in higher education (UKPSF) and how it benchmarks success in higher education teaching and learning support. Lastly, we will explain what a Postgraduate Certificate Academic Practice (PGCAP) is and how the University of Liverpool PGCAP programme enables you simultaneously attain Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy and an initial teaching qualification.
What does it mean to be a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA)?
Attaining Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy is a personal and institutional commitment to professionalism in learning and teaching in higher education. As a teaching professional, it demonstrates that your practice aligns with the UK (United Kingdom) Professional Standards Framework for teaching and supporting learning in higher education (UKPSF, 2011). Fellowship is increasingly sought by higher education institutions around the world as a condition for employment and advancement.
What are the various categories of Fellowship?
There are four categories of Fellowship that reflect the stage you are at in your career and your individual role. 
Associate Fellow (AFHEA) – is typically sought by those who are new to teaching (including those with part-time academic responsibilities). It is also often sought by early career researchers with some teaching responsibilities (e.g., PhD students), demonstrators or technicians with some teaching-related responsibilities, or those who support academic provision (e.g., learning technologists and library staff).
Fellow (FHEA) – is often aspired to by those in the initial stages of their academic career working in an academic-related role, or support role, holding substantive teaching and learning responsibilities. It is also sought by experienced academics who are new to higher education, or staff with teaching-only responsibilities in a workplace setting.
Senior Fellow (SFHEA) – may be sought by individuals who can provide evidence of a sustained record of effectiveness in relation to teaching and learning. Examples would include staff with leadership and management experience, subject mentors and those who support others who are new to teaching, and individuals with departmental or advisory responsibilities within an institution.
Principal Fellow (PFHEA) – is typically applied for by highly experienced and senior staff, in academic or academic-related positions, with strategic leadership responsibilities. These may be staff who hold responsibility for strategic leadership and policymaking in teaching and learning in their institution, or even beyond in wider national and international settings.
If you would like to check which category of Fellowship most closely reflects your current practice and your ongoing professional development and career aspirations, then Advance HE offer a Fellowship Category Tool (10-15 minutes of multiple-choice questions) to help you find out. This resource can be found here.
How do you gain Fellowship?
There are various application routes for Fellowship. Some higher education institutions are accredited by Advance HE. Once accredited, an institution can award Fellowships to their staff who meet the requirements of the UKPSF.
For individuals whose institution does not offer accredited provision, it is possible to make a direct application to Advance HE. There may be an application fee depending on the route you take and whether your organisation is a member or non-member institution.
More information on how Fellowship can be obtained, and about Fellowship itself, can be found on the Advance HE website here.
What are the benefits of Fellowship?
Fellowship can benefit you in several ways. It is a good means to invest in your personal development and demonstrate your commitment to teaching, learning and the student experience. Achieving Fellowships is also a practical process and that encourages research, reflection, and growth. Once attained, it allows you to show your expertise with the entitlement to use post-nominal letters (i.e., FHEA). Fellowship is increasingly recognised internationally and being sought by employers across the higher education sector as a condition of appointment and promotion. 
Who are Advance HE?
Advance HE is a UK-based member-led, sector-owned charity that promotes excellence in higher education across the world. Their stated purpose is to make higher education the best it can be.
The organisation was formed in 2018 with the merger of the Higher Education Academy (HEA), the Leadership Foundation and the Equality Challenge Unit. The HEA was responsible for the UKPSF for higher education practitioners. The other agencies for leadership and governance and equality and diversity in higher education. The merger created a single agency with a remit encompassing all these areas. 
What is the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF)?
The UKPSF is a set of professional standards and guidelines for everyone involved in teaching and supporting learning in higher education. It has been designed to apply to personal development programmes at an individual or institutional level to improve teaching quality.
The framework has three dimensions – Areas of Activity, Core Knowledge and Professional Values. These dimensions reflect and express the diverse range of teaching and support roles and environments. It also has four Descriptors aligned to the various categories of Fellowship. For example, Descriptor 2 aligns with Fellow (FHEA). Each Descriptor explains the knowledge, understanding and evidence aligned to each category of Fellowship. 
What is a Postgraduate Certificate Academic Practice (PGCAP)?
A Postgraduate Certificate Academic Practice (PGCAP) is a 60-credit master’s level programme aimed at early career lecturers and teaching staff and designed to support them in developing their teaching and learning academic practice.
The University of Liverpool has partnered with Advance HE to accredit and deliver the first accredited PGCAP programme to be delivered solely online. Graduates will receive a Postgraduate Certificate qualification awarded by the University of Liverpool and automatically attain professional recognition as a Fellow of Higher Education (FHEA) awarded by Advance HE. The University of Liverpool’s PGCAP consists of four 15 credit eight-week modules, which can be completed in under one year.
The programme is open to applicants from around the world and the part-time, online delivery method is designed to suit individuals with busy lives and other commitments. The emphases on career development and global perspectives of higher education will be particularly helpful for those with an interest in transnational education and in developing their careers and skills to work with international students and faculty. The programme has start dates throughout the year with the next intake on 12 October 2021.
To find out more about the online PGCAP, including modules fees and entry requirements, visit our programme page. For comprehensive information, including module learning outcomes, download a programme booklet here.
Want to ask a question in person? We’re hosting a live Q&A session for the online PGCAP on Tuesday 21 September as part of our Virtual Open Week. Learn more and register here.