Rewarding excellent and highly effective teaching in academia is both feasible and desirable, according to a report published today by the Royal Academy of Engineering.

The report, Career Framework for University Teaching, builds on a set of principles published two years ago and shares the results of a follow-up study in which they were applied in nine universities across the world to inform the recognition and reward of teaching standards in all subjects.

Feedback from the global academic community suggests that universities are struggling to define the progressive levels of teaching achievement that underpin advancement based on teaching and learning. This applies particularly to academic career planning and to reward systems related to educational leadership. The new framework addresses these issues through a flexible and adaptable approach.

Universities, including University College London, National University of Singapore, EPFL in Switzerland and MIT, supported the project by evaluating the career framework and, in many cases, used it to inform and guide changes to how they support and recognise teaching.  The template has three main areas: the academic’s sphere of impact, setting promotion criteria, and identifying evidence to show achievement. It has been refined based on feedback from the universities road-testing it, and is freely available for all universities to use.

The framework was developed after research found that there was demand for a structure to recognise teaching excellence. 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 criterion in their university. Research, on the other hand, was seen as a ‘very important’ promotion criterion by 97% of respondents.

Sam Gyimah MP, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, said:

“University students deserve excellent teaching and the Government is committed to making this happen. The Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) has been created to recognise and reward institutions that provide high quality teaching in higher education in England. A crucial aspect of excellent teaching is creating the conditions to develop staff and recognise the contribution of academics to teaching.

Engineers are problem solvers and I am delighted that the Royal Academy of Engineering has turned its attention to this challenge to complement the existing work of others in the sector, such as AdvanceHE (formerly the Higher Education Academy).”

Professor Jonathan Seville FREng, Chair of the Education and Skills Committee at the Royal Academy of Engineering, said:

“All universities aspire to excellence in their teaching, but what exactly is ‘teaching excellence’ and how can we recognise and reward the individuals who deliver it? This work answers those questions, proposing a structure for recognition and development of university staff so that they are encouraged to deliver excellent teaching at whatever level they are at in the organisation. The approach has been trialled and tested in leading universities worldwide and gives staff a structure within which to progress and improve their skills, the ultimate beneficiaries being the students they teach.”

Professor Elena Rodriguez-Falcon, Provost and Chief Academic Officer, New Model in Technology & Engineering (NMiTE) being created in Hereford, said:

“NMiTE is a new provider of engineering education, which is being created from scratch. This has the enormous advantages of being able to develop and implement a bold and radical curriculum, which will allow learners from day one to become engineers in training instead of students of engineering. For this to happen successfully, we require as bold and radical educators as our provision will be.”

“For this reason, we have adapted and adopted the framework to help us identify and assess the most effective educators, as well as enable us to discern levels of experience, and indeed, educational interests such as pedagogy, hands-on learning developments or policy making. The framework has already proven to be a very helpful tool, not just for evaluation purposes but also in attracting the right talent, who fit with our educational and creative culture.”

Read the report: The Career Framework for University Teaching

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 three strategic challenges:
- Make the UK the leading nation for engineering innovation
- Address the engineering skills crisis
- Position engineering at the heart of society

2.    The final phase of the project involved road-testing the Framework to ensure that it had the greatest potential for application in different higher education contexts around the world. University partners were drawn from institutions worldwide that are already engaged in internal discussion about reshaping their reward and/or appraisal processes with respect to teaching. The university partners are listed below:

  • School of Engineering and Applied Sciences & Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University*
  • Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden
  • École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland*
  • School of Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), US*
  • National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore
  • NMiTE (New Model in Technology and Engineering), UK
  • Pontifical Catholic University of Chile (PUC), Chile
  • Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech), Russia
  • Technical University of Denmark (DTU), Denmark
  • Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Malaysia
  • University College London (UCL), UK
  • University of Edinburgh, UK*
  • University of New South Wales, Australia
  • University of Technology and Engineering, Peru
  • University of Twente, Netherlands

Universities marked with an asterisk (*) provided their feedback based only on a review of the written Framework and did not pilot or use the Framework in practice.

For more information please contact: Victoria Runcie at the Royal Academy of Engineering Tel. 020 7766 0620; email: