Launch of the Higher Education Academy

The Higher Education Academy has been set up to begin the monitoring and accreditation of teaching standards in higher education institutions. NPC supports this move and is keen to help it develop further not only for teaching quality in postgraduate education but also to support postgraduates who teach. On Monday October 18th, NPC Chairperson Tim Roll-Pickering had the pleasure of attending the London launch of the Higher Education Academy.

The launch began with an introduction by the Chair, Professor Leslie Wagner, who outlined the task of the Academy, namely "to refocus Higher Education to focus on the student experience" and explained how this would be achieved.

Next the Chancellor of the University of Sunderland, Lord Puttnam of Queensgate, spoke. His long CV includes a period serving as Chairman of BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) so he surmised that he had been chosen to speak as he knows "a thing about academies!". He is also the founder and Chair of Trustees of the National Teaching Awards, and the first Chair of the General Teaching Councils amongst his many other achievements. Welcoming the creation of the Academy, which he believed was "way overdue", he commented on how the student experience differs widely from one campus to another and the importance of widening participation, noting the "astounding regenerative effects" that education can have on wider society.

The meeting then heard from Professor Paul Ramsden, the Chief Executive of the Academy. A leading international writer in the field of university lecturing and teaching as well as a former Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Learning and Teaching) at the University of Sydney, he talked about how the Academy will achieve its "high moral purpose" to "provide an exceptional environment to help educational establishments". As with other speakers he displayed full awareness of the importance of the student experience in everything that the Academy will do, and stressed the need to look beyond the "traditional image of a student sitting in a classroom or behind a computer screen". He also promised that the Academy will not seek to duplicate existing provision, whilst explaining that he does not support compulsion for every academic to be accredited. In addition he emphasised that the Academy will substantially increase its commitment to research.

All of these speakers stressed the UK wide nature of the Academy, explaining that it will adapt its activities to suit the needs of each of the four nations in the United Kingdom. As part of this, launches were held in Belfast, London, Edinburgh and Cardiff.

The final speaker was Dr Kim Howells MP, the newly appointed Minister for Higher Education. In a highly positive speech he focused on both the importance of widening participation and the implications of professional standards, as well as on the importance of always keeping the student experience at the forefront of the activities. NPC has previously met with both of Dr Howells' immediate predecessors and it is hoped that we will be able to secure a meeting with him in the near future.

With the Academy now launched, attention shifts to the way in which it achieves its aims. NPC will be following and acting on all key developments so watch this space.