Teaching Qualifications For HE: What Are Your Options?

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There are at least three options for gaining a professional teaching qualification for staff who are already working in UK higher education. These include formal postgraduate courses, third-party Lifelong Learning Sector certification, and Fellowship of the HEA. What is the difference between them, and which is right for you?

Postgraduate certificate: the traditional route.

When universities tell academics that they want them to pursue a teaching credential for HE, usually what they have in mind is a Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education (PGCHE, sometimes also called the Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching in Higher Education, Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, or Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice.) A PGCHE may be earned through part-time study on your own campus, or you may need to attend elsewhere. Some UK universities offer a blended-learning option. 

The PGCHE has several advantages, and one major drawback. If taught by your own university, the cost is almost always covered—and there is the convenience factor. Some universities that don't offer their own PGCHE have agreements that cover the cost of doing such a course elsewhere.

The PGCHE is also recognised as equivalent to similar postgraduate qualifications abroad, an important factor for academics who may be thinking of working elsewhere in future.

The work load is significant, but most universities offer time as well as funding to encourage staff to pursue a PCTHE. The certificate is comprised of 60 credits, which can later be combined with further study to earn a postgraduate diploma or Masters in Education.

Lifelong Learning Sector qualifications.

For academics who work primarily in Further Education, on access courses, or with non-traditional adult learning programmes, the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) framework offers alternative qualifications that may be a better fit.

Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector (PTLLS) is a Level 3 qualification for new entrants to the field, and can be followed by the Certificate and Diploma in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector (CTLLS and DTLLS).  These courses are offered by many FE colleges and some private providers, such as community organisations. They are geared to the needs of educators working with older adults, people with disabilities and other non-traditional learners. These qualifications can be combined with further study to earn a Postgraduate Certificate in Education.

The QCF framework also includes options from Level 3 to Level 8 for academics who specialise in working in disability support and workplace assessment.

Important notes: as of 2015, the QCF is in the process of replacing the PTLLS, CTLLS and DTLLS with a new set of qualifications, the Award, Certificate and Diploma in Education and Training, at Levels 3,4 and 5. And although QCF qualifications are recognised within the European Qualifications Framework, and therefore portable, Scottish academics should look instead to the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework, within which a number if similar courses can be found.

Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy.

If you can’t find funding or time to pursue a formal qualification, the HEA offers an alternative route based on your experience as an academic and peer observation (most PGCHE courses automatically qualify you for Fellowship of the HEA [FHEA] status).

The HEA places FHEA status as equivalent to a PGCHE, but not all universities see it that way—and few overseas universities would accept it as equivalent to their own required courses. However, for academics who have already worked in HE for many years and are concerned mainly with satisfying a requirement from management, achieving FHEA status can be a lifeline.


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