The Royal Academy of Engineering has created a new template for evaluating teaching excellence to help universities better value and support the teaching work undertaken by their academic staff. The toolkit aims to ensure teaching achievements are properly recognised in career progression, and provides a structure that can be used in promotion criteria for academics.

The Academy’s interim report on the development of the template, Does teaching advance your academic career? A template for evaluating teaching achievement, responds to concerns that without adequate recognition for teaching and curriculum development duties, lecturers have little incentive to put time and effort into improving the experience of university students. Despite the significant role teaching plays in most academics’ schedules, only 12% of academic staff surveyed by the Academy reported that it was a ‘very important’ promotion criteria in their university. Research, on the other hand, was seen as a ‘very important’ promotion criteria by 97% of respondents.

Although the Academy focus is on engineering, the framework has been designed to be used across all academic disciplines, as promotions criteria within universities are often set at institution level rather than by faculty.

In his foreword welcoming the report, Minister for Universities and Science Jo Johnson MP said: “There is a perception – and one we need to tackle – that pursuing a teaching-focused career can hold you back in academia. It is reassuring to know this view is not predominant at the more senior levels, but the report clearly exposes a gap among some levels of the academic profession. This is a gap we need to bridge. 

“In many ways, this report complements our Higher Education Green Paper and our plans for a Teaching Excellence Framework and I welcome the Royal Academy of Engineering’s practical recommendations suggested for the engineering sector, which could equally be translated to other disciplines.”

Professor Helen Atkinson CBE FREng, Chair of the Academy’s Education and Skills committee, said: “The government is placing teaching excellence in universities centre stage. Does teaching advance your academic career? provides practical help to universities as they think hard about these issues. It is focused on engineering but its findings and guidance are applicable across the sector.’”

The approaches outlined in the template are being piloted in a number of universities around the world. Representatives from these partner universities will meet today to discuss its applicability and to share further ideas for reforming university promotion systems. Hosted by the Royal Academy of Engineering, the meeting brings together participants from eleven countries including the USA, Russia, the Netherlands and Malaysia, and aims to establish an international community of individuals and institutions striving to improve the recognition of university teaching.

The new framework follows the Academy’s first Does teaching advance your academic career? report, published last year, which identified an overwhelming emphasis on research reputation and income in university culture. It also recognised that the measures currently used to evaluate teaching contribution are seen as poor indicators of achievement, and that university resources are seen to be allocated to recognise research quality and student numbers rather than teaching quality.

The Royal Academy of Engineering has also used the findings of these reports to respond to the government’s recent green paper Fulfilling our potential: teaching excellence, social mobility and student choice, which consults on the planned Teaching Excellence Framework to help raise university teaching standards and provide a greater focus on graduate employability.

Does teaching advance your Academic career? Download the report

Notes for editors

  1. Royal Academy of Engineering. As the UK’s national academy for engineering, we bring together the most successful and talented engineers for a shared purpose: to advance and promote excellence in engineering. We provide analysis and policy support to promote the UK’s role as a great place to do business. We take a lead on engineering education and we invest in the UK’s world-class research base to underpin innovation. We work to improve public awareness and understanding of engineering. We are a national academy with a global outlook. 

    We have four strategic challenges:
    - Make the UK the leading nation for engineering innovation
    - Address the engineering skills crisis
    - Position engineering at the heart of society
    - Lead the profession

For more information please contact:

Aaron Boardley at the Royal Academy of Engineering

T:020 7766 0655
E: Aaron Boardley