Why was the framework developed?
Recent decades have seen major transformations in higher education. The traditional focus on the quality of research – with motivating, measuring and rewarding research excellence – is being complemented by an increasing emphasis on teaching quality. Motivating, measuring and rewarding excellence is again a key concern. However, it is widely recognised that career advancement for academic staff rests primarily on their research profile, with teaching achievement playing only a marginal role.
The higher education community has taken steps to address this imbalance and improve the status and recognition of teaching at all stages of the academic career. For example, at an increasing number of universities across the world, promotion may be denied to academics whose teaching quality is below an acceptable threshold level (indicated by line A in the figure below) while, at the same time, advancement opportunities may be available to a relatively small number of individuals on the basis of exceptional contributions to teaching and learning (indicated by line C in the figure below).
However, these cases represent only a small proportion of academics engaged in university education and any progressive improvement in teaching achievement between these two extremes (indicated by line B) goes largely unrecognised and unrewarded by universities.
The major structural barrier to change appears to be the absence of a clear definition of teaching achievement at each stage of the career ladder and the inadequacy of the metrics used for evaluating the teaching contribution of academic staff. Without the tools to assess and compare the quality of an academic’s educational contribution, the research-dominant culture within higher education is unlikely to change. In other words, if the recognition of teaching in higher education is to be improved, so must the ways in which we assess it.
The Career Framework for University Teaching is being developed to provide universities with a robust and transparent tool for defining and evaluating teaching achievement at all stages of the career ladder and for all levels of individual contribution to teaching and learning. In particular, the framework is designed to offer a clear set of definitions and criteria of teaching achievement that are not bounded by disciplinary, institutional or national contexts, thus maximising the opportunities for achievements to be transferable between institutions.