Being an Effective Programme Director

man juggling items on first

Why is considering leadership approaches helpful?  

I’ve been championing the important role of programme directors for almost 10 years, previously in my capacity as head of the Quality Office in Academic Services and recently resurrected in my role within SALT supporting professional recognition through Advance HE’s Fellowship scheme.  I see many colleagues struggle to articulate successful ‘leading’ when they make their claim for Senior Fellowship and see the value of providing the support BEFORE many indeed take on or inherit the programme director role.   

I also hear stories of the challenges of juggling and almost literally firefighting that are epitomised in both research literature and blogposts of everyday realities (see for example Emma Kennedy’s recent account 

I can see the value of reflecting on my own ‘small l’ leadership as I prepare my own claim for Senior Fellowship recognition. Many of the characteristics I can see myself demonstrating, yet I didn’t know that these were ‘recommended approaches’ of effective leadership.  Donald Rumsfeld (then Secretary of Defense of the United States) said in a February 12 2022 press briefing  

“[A]s we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”  

The literature about effective leadership falls into that unknown unknown category for me. 

What are effective leadership strategies for Programme Directors? 

Over the coming weeks, I’ll be summarising some of the key findings from chapters in the book Supporting Course and Programme Leaders in Higher Education: Practical Wisdom for Leaders, Educational Developers and Programme Leaders, (SEDA, Routledge) (2022) edited by Jenny Lawrence, Susan Moron-Garcia and Rowena Senior. 

This post reflects on what we can learn from Doug Parkin’s chapter 6, in Part 2 on “Programme leaders as educational and academic leaders”. 

Some questions about leadership…. 

As Programme Director, how do you lead your team? 

  • What are the qualities of effective Programme Directors?  How do you know what is effective? 
  • What ‘training’ or guidance did you receive in effective leadership approaches? 
  • How DO you keep juggling (even when the issues aren’t “on fire” as in the featured picture)? 

Dimensions of Programme Leadership 

In his chapter, Doug Parkin outlines four aspects of leadership that he feels enables programme directors [1] to develop credibility and demonstrate trust so 

“that colleagues are inspired and trusted to innovate their practice routinely, deliver teaching inclusively and provide feedback for learning conscientiously” (Parkin 2022, p 97) 

These are 

  • Relational Leadership 
  • Embodied Leadership
  • Enabling Leadership and
  • Administrative Leadership. 

model of programme leadership comprising relational, embodied, enabling and administrative leadership interpreted from Doug Parkin's description - administrative leadership is disproportionately represented

Figure 1 Four dimensions of programme leadership – interpreted from Parkin (2022)

It’s a useful chapter not just for programme directors, but for anyone who is ‘small l’ leading and is therefore considering how their practice of supporting others best demonstrates the tricky Senior Fellow criterion of ‘Successful coordination, support, supervision, management and/or mentoring of others (whether individuals and/or teams) in relation to learning and teaching’ UKPSF, 2011, D3 Vii.  While ‘leadership’ isn’t explicitly mentioned in this criterion, its often inherent as staff reflect and evidence how they effectively engage and support colleagues to achieve a shared objective that enhances student learning. 

The chapter gives examples of what each of the other leadership styles might look like in practical terms for programme leaders (e.g. having a network of fellow Programme Directors to support relational leadership; modelling examples and active listening in showing embodied leadership) and also how institutions can enable the leadership through, for example, appropriate recognition of the value of the role, ongoing development for programme leaders, setting and clearly sharing the key vision and supporting communication with others. 

Too often it’s the administrative side of the Programme Director role that takes up the most time as suggested in my adapted Figure 1 and role holders get increasingly disillusioned and frustrated that they can’t necessarily do the staff support and pedagogical enhancements they’d like to.  In providing administrative leadership, the relationship with professional services staff is critical to freeing the time of Programme Directors and ensuring that administrative matters can run smoothly.  

Therefore, in the bedding down of the revised Faculty structure, we have the opportunity now to share the values of the programme and the administrative burden and to support Programme Directors to lead in effective learning, teaching and assessment practices in a more balanced way where the leadership dimensions can be applied more equitably (see Figure 2). 

A more balanced model of leadership (relational. embodied, enabling and administrative) overlapped in Venn diagram. Interpreted from Doug Parkin's description

Figure 2 A more balanced model of the 4 dimensions of programme leadership

And if we know what makes for effective programme leadership, why aren’t these qualities built into person specifications to get the most effective person for the role and appropriate CPD offered to support staff to gain the transferable skills?

An Institutional response 

A Programme Directors Working Group was established in February 2022 to scope how to better support those who fulfil this vital role within Swansea University.  The Group reported its findings about appropriate induction and ongoing CPD for Programme Directors at the PD Community Forum on December 7th, 2022, and feedback is being reviewed and next steps developed. 

Part of the remit has been to explore continual professional learning opportunities regarding ‘leadership’ and members of the Group made specific recommendations on this.  Contributing to that will be my recommendation that exploring the types of leadership as suggested by Parkin should be a key aspect to support professional development of Programme Directors.  And not just upon appointment.   

To be effective and address what Ellis (2019, p31) identifies as critical transition period “the months either side of becoming a programme leader have emerged as of central importance”, CPD in effective leadership skills should be available to all, to prepare staff to effectively lead programmes to provide an excellent student learning experience. 

Watch out for other synopses of this useful book in supporting Programme Directors over the coming weeks and the seminar series by OCAED and SEDA to support the book. 

Recordings of the seminars are expected to be available from their website: 

Talking Teaching across the Globe – Oxford Brookes University 



Louise Rees 

Senior Academic Developer (HEA), SALT 

(1) Programme Directors at Swansea University = Programme Leaders in the SEDA book 

Gaining HEA Senior Fellowship recognition and the value of being an assessor

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. We’ve also asked for some suggestions when teaching/supporting learning online!

In this post, Desiree Cranfield, from the School of Management discusses her HEA Senior Fellowship recognition (SFHEA), with pointers to the impact on her practice that has arisen by her being an assessor on Swansea’s Experiential route:

Being an assessor has been an eye opener … inspiring me to think of other innovative approaches as I read and assess the submissions.

Continue reading “Gaining HEA Senior Fellowship recognition and the value of being an assessor”

HEA Senior Fellowship – Within a Team, make Sure you explain YOUR Impact

Words: We Hear You

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. We’ve also asked for some suggestions when teaching/supporting learning online!

In this post, Sophie Leslie, Student Partnership & Feedback Development Officer in Academic Quality Services shares her story of helping staff to engage with student feedback and the important role of mentoring others in gaining her HEA Senior Fellowship recognition (SFHEA).

“A large part of my role is to support staff engagement with student feedback and quality enhancement and therefore the mentoring and coaching part of this is vital

Continue reading “HEA Senior Fellowship – Within a Team, make Sure you explain YOUR Impact”

Leading in Teaching and Learning: A Professional Services Perspective

Photo of Gareth Hill

We’re continuing to measure the impact that HEA Fellowship has on teaching practices, on students and on the practices and approaches of peers. We’ve also asked for some suggestions when teaching/supporting learning online!

Fellowship isn’t however restricted to just academic staff who teach.  A range of professional services staff who also support learning have this recognition and we feature one of these in this month’s blogpost.

The Senior Fellowship to me was about leadership within teaching. It enables you to review what has worked well, but more importantly to look forward as a leader as to what your subject area needs and how you can implement this”

Continue reading “Leading in Teaching and Learning: A Professional Services Perspective”

HEA Fellowship – an opportunity for cross-cultural pedagogical reflection

Giselle Tur Porres photo

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. We’ve also asked for some suggestions when teaching/supporting learning online!

In this post, Gisselle Tur Porres from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Science shares her story of reflecting on both pedagogical and cultural differences in supporting learning helped frame her claim for HEA Fellowship (FHEA).

“As a reflective practitioner myself, the Fellowship recognition process has allowed me to reflect, rethink learning and teaching experiences and work towards further development of my teaching practices, with cultural pertinence

Continue reading “HEA Fellowship – an opportunity for cross-cultural pedagogical reflection”

Make 2022/23 your year to gain HEA Fellowship Recognition

sunflowers field
sunflowers field
Sunflowers – Image by Siggy Novak on Pixabay

What are you planting today to harvest tomorrow?  Lailah Gifty Akita

The last 2 to 3 years have been a real challenge, but also meant a lot of changes and innovations in teaching practice. If you do not currently hold a category of HEA Fellowship, then make 2022-23 the year to complete an application. Consider what you have done the last 3 academic years and what you will be doing this academic year and how that experience can be harvested to gain HEA Fellowship.

Watch our for regular encouragement from SALT’s Recognition Team to plant the first seeds of your Fellowship claim.

More information about gaining HEA Fellowship recognition at Swansea University can be found here.


Associate Fellowship recognition – supporting student learning as a demonstrator

photo of Xiaorong Li

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. We’ve also asked for some suggestions when teaching/supporting learning online!

In this post, Xiaorong Li from the Faculty of Science and Engineering shares her experiences of supporting learners as a demonstrator and how, in reflecting on that, gained Associate Fellowship recognition (AFHEA).

Continue reading “Associate Fellowship recognition – supporting student learning as a demonstrator”

Preparing to teach (again) – Top Tips to get you back in the swing

We hope that you were able to recharge your batteries over the summer and so may be starting to think about your teaching for this coming semester.

Here’s some easy, concise tips and suggestions of how you might review what and how you teach or provide support to your learners.

Some Fundamentals

  • Review your syllabus – check out the learning outcomes, content and assessment. In particular make sure that Week 1 is planned really well and that materials are engaging, inclusive and accessible.
  • You might record the assignment task and criteria in a video – click this link to self-enrol on a course to explore using Studio in Canvas. You’ll probably cover the assignment expectations in class, but this will be an easy ‘go to’ resource to signpost to students.

The TEL Team within SALT is offering a range of sessions to help get your content ready on Canvas.  Visit: Get Ready for 2022/23 – Swansea University

  • Find out about your students – how many might be enrolled, their backgrounds (e.g. mature/international/visual or learning impairments). This information will help to inform you of any adaptations necessary to have relevant examples/case studies and suitable approaches and materials.
  • What learning spaces have you been allocated and/or what are possible other spaces you can use? We’d recommend you visit and familiarise yourself with the teaching spaces, and the equipment, if possible before you teach. Check out the centrally bookable room images on Flickr: Learning Environments’s albums | Flickr
  • Refamiliarise yourself with your teaching methods (SALT can help with e.g. using podcasts or Flipped Learning approaches – see our webpage: Pedagogy – Swansea University).
  • Look (again) at past module evaluations for practices to improve – but take a long perspective and don’t respond necessarily to possible ‘fads’.
  • Try not to leave things to the last minute! Your tone of voice and presentation for audio/video resources can be negatively impacted when you are under time pressures. (For other tips, review this excellent resource: Top 10 Tips for accessible, engaging video microlectures (

Delving a bit deeper:

  • Get peer feedback – as a one-off or as an ongoing activity.
  • Investigate what professional development courses are available that would help hone your skills? SALT’s programme can be booked via our Forthcoming events: but there may be other sessions available organised through the University’s Department for Training Services, at School/Faculty level or via your subject or professional body.
  • Review resources you have previously highlighted. Remember all those ‘likes’, bookmarked web pages or articles you emailed to yourself to look at? Time to read priority ones.
  • Keep reflecting on your teaching – as you teach, make notes on your slides/handouts/ keep a ‘teacher’s diary’. This activity will be particularly helpful for HEA fellowship claims/remaining in good standing and for PDR/promotion.

Engaging with your learners

  • Think about how you can engage your students and harness enthusiasm for your course. If you’re still teaching online, we have various Tips or you can use a range of active learning approaches or engagement activities in person or online.
  • Share your teaching philosophy – explain why the course is designed as it is and why certain aspects reflect professional requirements.
  • Ask students about what their goals are and find out their prior knowledge on your subject – you can then tailor activities and build connections.
  • Set clear expectations of both self and students and you might want to consider jointly developed rules or assignment tasks (co-created activities)
  • Think about how you might build community among your learners, introduce ice breakers and make it fun e.g. a PADLET to collect photos/favourite music

Connecting with your team

  • Get to know colleagues who teach or support learning on your course – including those in professional services such as student experience advisers, subject librarians, technology enhanced learning staff to support one another and provide a great programme level experience for your students.

SALT can help!

If you need help with any of the above, please get in touch with us in SALT: or via our website: Swansea Academy of Learning and Teaching (SALT) – Swansea University


The above suggestions reflect a combination of ‘crowd sourced’ suggestions via Twitter in August 2022 combined with the 2021 blogpost by Alexandra Mihai: Time to reboot and start the new semester ( – her blogpost has some suggestions specific to teaching again in the pandemic and includes more links to further resources.

Word version of the above post: Preparing to teach blogpost Sep 2022

Supporting Staff in Assuring and Enhancing Quality of Learning and Teaching

James Bennett

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. We’ve also asked for some suggestions when teaching/supporting learning online!

In this post, James Bennett from Academic Quality Services (AQS) shares how he was able to draw on his work in supporting staff in developing new and revised programmes of study to gain HEA Associate Fellowship and the adjustments needed to support staff in changing delivery modes in the pandemic.

Continue reading “Supporting Staff in Assuring and Enhancing Quality of Learning and Teaching”

Being an Associate Fellow and adapting to online support – a view from the Archives staff

photo of the Archives Strong Room

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. We’ve also asked for some suggestions when teaching/supporting learning online!

In this post, Katrina Legg, Assistant Archivist in the Richard Burton Archives shares her story about the impact of Associate Fellowship recognition and how she (and the rest of the Archives staff) had to adapt to supporting learners and staff online.

About Katrina’s support for learners and researchers

I started at Swansea University in 2007, initially cataloguing the Co-operative Societies of South Wales Collection and the papers of Raymond Williams as well as transcribing the diaries of Richard Burton; but my role developed and included supporting existing teaching sessions and developing new opportunities.

The sessions delivered or resources created usually give an introduction to the Archives at Swansea University and to what archives can offer to students and researchers and can have a generic or specific approach. The Archives have worked with colleagues in History, English, Nursing, Geography, Linguistics and Social Policy and there’s scope to go to other disciplines too.

Why did gaining Associate Fellowship recognition matter to you?

It validated not only what I did but what the Archives offered to staff and students across the university. It showed that there was an appreciation of these sessions and helped to raise the profile of the service.

It opened up opportunities to do other things, including working with SALT such as CPD sessions and the co-authoring of ‘Applying the seven principles of good practice: archives in the 21st century university’ for Archives and Records (

It was interesting to analyse the pedagogical and theoretical aspects of learning and teaching as well as the practical, which tend to take precedence.

How have you continued to apply the standards of the UK PSF in your work during the move to online teaching/support for learning?

The Archives has been keen to continue supporting learning and teaching. As part of this sessions that were previously delivered in person in lecture theatres or in the Archives Reading Room have been reviewed and developed.

We have provided short videos for lecturers to include in sessions. Online in person teaching sessions via Zoom have been delivered and it has been interesting to add aspects that can only be done online to these, e.g. searching online catalogues and portals. This type of interactive element has also been included in a CANVAS Non-Accredited Course: Using Archives that has been developed for anyone at Swansea University.

We’ve also created a series of research guides to promote the collections and show some of the immense potential. Attending sessions at the online SALT conference 2021 was a really useful way of finding out what approaches colleagues are taking and we were pleased to deliver a live, interactive workshop – More than Documents and Digitisation! Archives for Learning and Teaching – now available online.

What top tips would you offer to someone delivering online teaching/learner support in HE?

Think about what you already offer and how this can be translated into an online world, as well as how an online version may give different opportunities. There’s lots of different ways to do things online.

Give yourself time to learn the technology, prepare and deliver/create. With other commitments it can be a fine balancing act so do take advice and get support from the outset.

Have support on hand for live sessions via Zoom. We’ve found that it’s good to have two members of staff so that one can deliver the session and another can keep an eye on chat / technical issues as well as providing a second voice.

Be prepared to speak to a lot of blank screens, which can be a bit disconcerting!

For someone not sure about applying for HEA Fellowship recognition what words of encouragement could you offer?

It’s a really useful way of exploring what you already do and thinking about why you do particular things, how they can be improved and what you might like to do in the future.

It gives you recognition and validation of the work that you’ve done and how it’s had a positive impact.

It highlights connections between colleagues and suggests other ways of working, to reach and support more staff and students across the university.

What top tips would you offer to someone preparing an HEA Associate Fellow/Fellowship application?

Start listing things that you’ve done – you’ll be surprised at how much you’ve achieved that is relevant to the process

Talk to colleagues in SALT – they’re really friendly and helpful

Look at the SALT and Advance HE websites – great for information and inspiration

Talk to colleagues in your department and elsewhere who have either gone through the HEA application process or are also considering it

For Further Details

Visit SALT’s webpages for details of the internally accredited programme leading to Associate, Fellow or Senior Fellow and for links to Principal Fellow resources