Role Modelling and Strategically Leading – the value of Recognition as a Principal Fellow – Part 2

In the HEA Fellowship blog, we’re continuing to measure the impact that HEA Fellowship has on teaching practices, on students and on the practices and approaches of peers.

Dr. Jo Berry, PFHEA
Dr. Jo Berry, PFHEA

Jo Berry gained her PFHEA in November 2021 and is an Associate Professor in the School of Culture and Communications, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.  She’s held a range of College, School and institutional roles, including Dean of Assessment and Feedback. She is currently the School Education Lead.  Her passion is supporting student learning through effective assessment and feedback and inclusive learning practices.

She shares with us why she applied for Principal Fellow recognition and what this means to her.

In terms of applying, Swansea University doesn’t have an internal route which is accredited, so all applications are submitted direct to Advance HE for scrutiny.

For Jo, she noted that

“I’m on the teaching pathway and it just seemed like the next logical step for me to get professional recognition for the impact of the different activities that I’ve doing and leading on at the university.”

I had assumed it was the next step up from senior fellowship but for a lot of people it won’t be because in order to get the Principal Fellowship you need to demonstrate institutional and/or national strategic impact. I was surprised to discover too that many people who apply don’t actually teach, but they have strategic learning and teaching roles instead.”

In reflecting on why gaining the recognition was important, Jo comments that

“It’s nice to know that your activities and impact are recognised and appreciated. Hopefully this recognition will lead to further opportunities to work with colleagues in other institutions.”


Jo was able to get support to attend one of the PFHEA workshops delivered by Advance HE and enthuses on the guidance she got:

“It (the workshop) was unbelievably helpful. There was preparatory work to do beforehand, including a self-assessment exercise so they could assess whether I was suitable for Principal Fellowship or not. The workshop itself was split into two sections with the morning reviewing the structure of the application and what a successful application might look like and what specific examples you might include in each section. This made it really clear what the difference was between the four different sections covering individual and strategic/policy implications.

The second part in the afternoon was 1-2-1 individual support exploring my own experience and discussing what I did and whether it was actually appropriate for Principal Fellowship. My ‘external mentor’ questioned me, drilling down deeply to ‘What’s the impact of that activity?, ‘Where’s the leadership?’ and what I needed to highlight more. I came out of that workshop greatly encouraged and later I was able to get feedback from the same person on a draft of my application – provided I submitted it within the next 4 weeks! The workshop gave me a real incentive to actually write my application as up until that point I hadn’t written anything.

The feedback I received on my initial draft was again really helpful since it identified things I needed to include in my Record of Educational Impact (1) (instead of just mentioning them briefly in the application itself) and also pointed out the areas where I needed to stress my own personal impact more, or bring the leadership to the fore.”

Evidencing Impact

Evidencing impact is often a very difficult thing for prospective Senior Fellow applicants to demonstrate so what was that aspect like for your PFHEA claim?

“Yes it can be difficult to prove impact. Sometimes you think something’s impactful but doesn’t actually come across. You can’t assume that the reader will see or understand the impact of what you have done; you need to articulate it fully. In some cases, I had to go find ‘metrics’ like National Student Survey results and other statistics to demonstrate impact. But some of it was also getting testimonials from people, or giving examples of where I’ve presented or shared effective practice with other institutions and seen how they have acted upon what I’ve shared. There are different types of evidence that can be used to prove impact and you have to think quite flexibly about it.”

The most difficult criterion (2) to adequately demonstrate through Jo’s application was the fourth one D4:IV , “Championing, within institutional and/or wider settings, an integrated approach to academic practice”. She noted that for her application, she discussed how she integrated aspects of health and well being into the strategic and policy work that she’s involved in and also staff mentoring and quality reviews,

“you have to think about how different parts of your practice intersect and influence each other”.

And a valuable piece of advice from her Advance HE ‘mentor’ was that she could make it explicit how the activities discussed in sections 1 and 2 (addressing criterion 2 and 3) also applied here in the third section of the form.

What makes a successful application?

So what does Jo think was a key aspect to Jo’s successful application?

“I had a university-wide role as Dean of Assessment and Feedback which gave me the body of evidence to demonstrate that I was working on strategy and policy”.

Consequently, Principal Fellowship may not be appropriate to many people.

Jo was one of the first to gain Fellowship recognition through Swansea’s accredited route, later gaining SFHEA recognition and has gone on to support the internal review process as an assessor and mentor. So what’s the difference between SFHEA and PFHEA?

“Fundamentally I think that Principal Fellowship is not about your own personal teaching. While both Senior Fellowship and Principal Fellowship are about leadership, for PF, it’s a different type and scale of leadership…you need to demonstrate the impact of your strategic leadership at least at institutional level (or large Faculty-level), but preferably also at national or international levels.”

Impact on her Professional Identity

How does having Principal Fellowship recognition influence your professional identity as an educator in HE?

“It’s too soon to tell ! Its nice to have that recognition but whether that means anybody takes me more seriously or not, who knows? I’m hoping that it will give me the opportunity to get involved in a lot of Advance HE activities – I’m going to be involved in assessing CATE awards, and I’m now in the Principal Fellow network there will hopefully be lots of opportunities to get involved in work outside the institution.”

Helping others to get their Fellowship recognised is something that Jo has and continues to do through her involvement as an assessor/mentor on SALT’s internal route to HEA Fellowship recognition. How did that experience help with your Principal Fellowship claim?

“Being an assessor and mentor, and being able to talk about how I have supported and developed colleagues, was an important part of the section of the PFHEA application form on academic practice. I have found that assessing Senior Fellowship applications has been really interesting. Seeing what a good application looks like has helped me to mentor others on how they can demonstrate leadership more clearly in their applications, which often involves being less modest about achievements and leadership!”

How might others be encouraged to gain recognition?

“Holding Fellowship or Senior Fellowship is really important in terms of personal development, because it gives you an opportunity to reflect on their practice. This can be a challenging thing for colleagues to do, especially the writing of the application, but it’s a really positive and healthy thing to do.”

For more Information about HEA Fellowship

For more details about gaining recognition for your teaching through HEA Fellowship, please see the SALT webpage: Recognition: HEA Fellowship – Swansea University  and/or contact for information about joining the PFHEA MS Teams site.


1 The Record of Educational Impact is a table of activities that applicants complete that forms the start and basis of the PFHEA application at the time of publishing this blogpost.
2 There are 5 criteria for a PFHEA. The first one, D4.1: Active commitment to and championing of all Dimensions of the Framework, through work with students and staff, and in institutional developments functions as an overarching descriptor and should be demonstrated through the examples and reflections incorporated into the other four sections of the form.

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