Dear Vice-Chancellor or Principal
Teaching qualifications data for academic staff in higher education institutions 2014-15
1. This letter outlines our approach to the publication of the teaching qualifications held by academic staff in HEFCE-funded higher education institutions. The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) has collected this data since 2012 but it has not so far been published at a detailed level. This letter includes, for the first time, data at institutional level (from 2014-15).
2. This letter also outlines how we plan to work with the sector further to enhance the data and its use in the future.
3. Following the 2012-13 higher education reforms, HEFCE was asked by the Government to support the publication of anonymised information for prospective and existing students about the teaching qualifications, fellowships and expertise of their teaching staff at all levels (see Annex A paragraph 8). The Competition and Markets Authority has also advised that institutions should provide information about the general level of experience or status of the staff involved in course delivery to ensure compliance with consumer law (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/higher-education-consumer-law-advice-for-providers).
4. We have therefore been working with HESA and other sector bodies to improve the availability of this information in a low-burden way. HESA began collecting data on academic staff through its staff record from 2012-13, and in 2013 the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education issued guidance to institutions on publishing staff teaching qualifications (www.qaa.ac.uk/publications/information-and-guidance/publication?PubID=75#.WD_9z7KLSpo).
5. In 2015, having collected two years of data, we reviewed whether it was sufficiently robust for publication. Because there were gaps in the data we decided to publish it at sector level only and to commission research from HESA and the Higher Education Academy (HEA) to improve its quality with a view to enabling publication at a more granular level. Their report is published at www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/rereports/Year/2016/tquals/.
Improvement in data collection
6. The teaching qualification data collected as part of HESA’s staff record indicates whether or not individuals hold a credit-bearing higher education teaching qualification, or another relevant teaching qualification, or have been recognised in other ways for their teaching expertise, including accreditation against the UK Professional Standards Framework (https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/ukpsf).
7. Staff are only included in the population if their ‘Academic Employment Function’ is recorded as either ‘Teaching Only’ or ‘Teaching and Research’, and their ‘Terms of Employment’ are ‘Open-ended/Permanent’ or ‘Fixed-term’. Further information about the collection, including a link to the institutional-level data and sector-level data summaries, is attached at Annex A.
8. In the first two years of collection, high proportions of staff were returned as ‘not known’ (50 per cent in 2013, dropping to 40 per cent in 2014). We therefore agreed with HESA that the data should not be published at institutional level. The latest data from 2014-15 shows an improvement with less than 30 per cent of staff now returned as ‘not known’. In light of this, we are now publishing the 2014-15 data at sector and institutional level. Although there is scope for further reducing the proportion of staff with unknown qualification status, we believe that publishing the data may itself help drive this. We have given institutions a preview of their data in advance of publication and their feedback has informed its final presentation.
9. Within the data, there is wide variation across the sector in terms of both the overall number of staff with unknown qualification status and progress towards reducing this. This has been analysed by the HEA and HESA in their report, which seeks to explain these variations in the data quality and to recommend improvements, including changes to the HESA guidance and greater clarity on the purpose of collecting the data.
10. The HESA-HEA report provides information on the proportion of ‘unknowns’ broken down by a variety of factors including mode of employment, length of service, higher education provider type, nationality and discipline. The report uses ‘full person equivalent (FPE)’ to measure staff numbers as this is relevant for the report’s detailed analysis relating to staff contracts. The data presented by HEFCE is based on headcount as the analysis is only concerned with whether or not teaching qualifications are held.
11. We aim to ensure that data which is collected and published provides useful information for students and institutions. We will work with institutions and other bodies to build on the findings of the HESA-HEA report, which provides useful recommendations for improving the data collection. Beyond this, we intend to review the approach and consider the scope for making any necessary changes to the data collection and presentation. As a first step, we are convening a sector workshop in December 2016 to explore the definitions used in this data collection and the options for enhancing the data and its use. The workshop will also consider whether information on initial and continuing professional development, and information on reward and recognition for teaching, might be captured in other ways.
12. We look forward to continuing to work with you in this important area.
Professor Madeleine Atkins