Higher Education (HE) in the UK is currently undergoing significant changes influenced not least by the introduction of student fees and the attendant implications for institutional accountability (Laycock, 2010). Professionalism and professional recognition for teaching and learning has long been identified as important, and the introduction of the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF) (HEA 2006, 2011) has done much to promote this agenda and influence HE practice (Turner et al, 2013). However an over-emphasis on compliance with “performativity” (Olssen & Peters, 2005) may stifle freer engagement with the scholarship of teaching and learning (Kreber, 2010) and reduce opportunities for meaningful dialogue and “significant conversations” (Roxå & Mårtensson, 2009). The desire by institutions for professional recognition of staff is tempered by a need for an institutional flavour, and many in the UK now offer recognition through HEA-accredited but institutionally-administered schemes: an HEA-accredited Professional Development Scheme (PDS) at Ulster began in January 2013.
This paper will provide an overview of the constraints and opportunities afforded by the design and implementation of the PDS at Ulster, and present initial research findings conducted to gauge participants’ attitudes to the PDS and its wider influence on institutional engagement with SoTL. Finally the paper will examine the influence that the PDS has had on the role of the author as an educational developer - acting in parallel as the facilitator of development and the conferrer of professional recognition – and the implications this has for academic development in Higher Education.