Development & Training, Discrimination, Good practices, HigherEd, Leadership

My contributions to the AdvanceHE PSF Review 2022

Recently, Advance HE invited ALT Assembly members for a UK Professional Standards Framework (2011) Review Consultation, I registered to attend, mainly because I have been quite critical of some sections of the PSF. This blog sums up some of my suggestions for improvement, these were made during the meeting and also on a Padlet (https://padlet.com/juliebc18/psfconsult), and some were simply missed, as I started to get unwell again.

Digital

  • In addition to everything that my peers mentioned around digital use, it is important to look at the effective use of technology for the problem at hand – the assessment should be on how a piece of technology is used, and for what purpose. For example, for neurodivergent students, simple technologies can be of more use to them, than complex ones, they may prefer emails rather than VLE messages.
  • It is equally important to re-evaluate, what works for 1 cohort of students does not necessarily work for another cohort. At the moment, we all stick to VLEs and plugins available to us, as a standard, and want students to adapt, so in fact, we are the focus and not the student. But we should be more student-focused in all our problem-solving and reflection.

Inclusion

  • The V2 wordings have been a persistent hindrance to equitable recognition of work done within the HE sector.

Promote participation in higher education and equality of opportunity for learners

Sadly, equality of opportunities does not bring about inclusion and nor does it acknowledge the gap that the marginalised have to overcome to attain the same results. I sincerely hope the steering committee for the PSF Review 2022 would consider the true meaning of inclusivity.

  • Any projects claiming to be “inclusive” should be assessed for intersectionality. For example, if you claim to be working for gender empowerment, you cannot but acknowledge that POC female students/staff are more disadvantaged, and any solution should be comprehensive enough to cater to the POC stakeholders as well. A general one-size-fits-all solution is not only inadequate but is non-inclusive, and should not be awarded recognition.
  • At the moment, everyone seems to be placed at the same level, not considering the fact that everyone started at a different level. Many staff are first-generation professionals, still living on the brink of poverty, facing microaggressions due to being different, and many are also international. Assessing everyone on the same level of expectation is inequitable and non-inclusive.

International

  • Recognition of work done outside the UK is still a vastly unrecognised strength. This is partly due to the high demands that we put on international students and staff.
  • What I am not fully aware of, is whether international referees are fully acceptable or not. Perhaps something for Advance HE to clarify in the PSF document.

D4 PF

D4 “Demonstrates a sustained record of effective strategic leadership in academic practice and academic development as a key contribution to high quality student learning.”

This is a rather disturbing assessment criterion, almost like something from the 19th century.

As a black Asian-African woman, one thing that I have seen a lot is POC staff doing reverse mentoring on senior leadership teams, so free training, because the SLT members are inadequately prepared to tackle diversity, inclusion and of course equity. However, as per the wordings of D4, reverse mentoring of SLTs is not recognised as high impact enough.

See the last section of this post on Challenges in the PSF Review Consultation for a simple example of how this can play out against POC staff and make D4 almost unreachable.

Additional

  • Academics v/s professional services v/s researchers – The PSF is written for an academic audience. Sadly staff for professional services or doing research gets put off from applying. When I did my D3, I was told that the text says students, but I can write for staff if that is what I do. Hopefully, appropriate changes will be made to provide assessment guidelines for all staff. Perhaps use more wordings such as supporting stakeholders, rather than just ‘students’. 
  • We do not all start at the same place – I have written about this already in the ‘inclusion’ section, but it is such an important factor and yet most of the time gets missed. Staff from a privileged background may have been supported since childhood. Whereas others have had to work harder to reach where they are. It is unfair to compare the priviledged and the marginalised and to recognise them with a set benchmark.
  • Check for others’ contributions to projects – Some staff may have PAs, etc doing their job, line managers and HODs often designate their tasks. On the other hand, there are staff who take on projects on their own. Perhaps check things like:
    • Did you do the project on your own?
    • What size is your team?
    • Is there anyone else who contributed to this project?
    • Is there someone who else should be also acknowledged or commended for the project?
  • Re-assessment after a certain period of time – The society is changing, HE is changing, there are new needs, new values, and new mission. Someone who gained a fellowship 20 years back may not be fulfilling the new vision and mission of HEA, their HEIs or the needs of the society anymore. There needs to be a re-assessment at some point in time. E.g. during the pandemic we know many senior staff have been adamant about students and staff having cameras on, is this inclusive? Is this appropriate for students living in a small box room to be forced to show a 3mx3m room?
  • Give proactive feedback – It will be nice if the feedback includes some directions for the next step and how the staff can achieve that. If someone applied for their D3 and got it, the feedback could also include:
    • URLs for D4
    • Tips on achieving D4
    • Dates for webinars/training for D4
    • Resources useful for D4

For strong D3 candidates who already do some bits and pieces of D4, these could also be done:

  • Based on the projects they have discussed, how they can take that further to be a D4 
  • Assign a mentor
  • Assessment only by Advance HE – Interview assessment within HEIs has more problems than it appears. Some staff gets granted their accreditation despite not fulfilling their descriptors, values, etc to the needed level. Sadly, many jobs nowadays favour candidates with Advance HE fellowship. If we want a fair recruitment process in the sector, then we should undoubtedly have a fair and transparent accreditation process.
  • Centralised training of assessors – This leads on from the above point, so that there is no subjective assessment, especially during the interview format.

Challenges in the PSF Review Consultation

I had noted that there was only one brown person on the steering committee and 1 brown and one black person on the project team. So, the question that immediately came to mind was, if I do not see myself represented in the steering committee, how can they represent my voice and how can they set up a framework to recognise my work. With my disruptive leader hat on, I got tempted to do a small experiment.

I registered to receive updates on the PSF Review, and also requested if my participation in the consultation meeting and Padlet contribution would be acknowledged and recognised. I have to quote here a rather unsatisfactory response: “it will not be our practice to credit or cite individual contributors.  In fact, a quotable but never attributable (to individuals, institutions or organisations) approach is being adopted by the project, so no single entity will be cited.  On balance, the project has decided that this is the most appropriate approach.” Needless to say, that was yet another proof of the toxicity which prevails in academia, that is, EDI is only a project we pay lip service to, and it will always be the already popular and senior staff who will get recognised when it is the staff at the bottom level who do most of the job. So D4? That will be beyond my reach as long as free work is normalised in the sector and recognition is biased.

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