Photograph of the three authors when presenting this at the ANTF 2024 Symposium
Annual NTF Symposia, National Teaching Fellows

Raising the profile of professional service staff with teaching and learning responsibilities as potential NTFS applicants

Dr Steve Briggs, University of Bedfordshire; Professor Sally Everett, Kings College London; Karen Hustler, Advance HE; and, Professor Debbie Holley, Bournemouth University 

NTFS applicant underrepresentation  

Advance HE is committed to promoting equality, diversity and inclusion in the NTFS (National Teaching Fellowship Scheme) and CATE (Collaborative Award for Teaching Excellence) awards. As such equal opportunities monitoring (EOM) data is collected from nominees (and reviewers) via a voluntary online survey. Anonymised nominee data is then analysed in comparison to HESA staff data to establish if any groups are under-represented. Through this analysis several under-represented groups have been identified amongst NTFS applicants: 

  • Staff from a minority ethic background 
  • Disabled colleagues 
  • Part-time colleagues 
  • Colleagues working in college based HE providers 
  • Teaching and learning professionals working in professional services 

The ‘In it together’ project  

Over the last three years the Committee for the Association of National Teaching Fellows has been working in partnership with Advance HE to deliver the ‘In It Together’ project with the aim to increase the representation, progression and success of underrepresented groups with the NTFS. The project initially involved a small team undertaking research using online focus groups to generate data from a range of stakeholders on why there might be a disparity which has informed the development of an action plan.  

Professional service underrepresentation  

EOM data highlights that teaching and learning professionals working in professional services are a particularly underrepresented group amongst NTFS nominees. HESA data indicated that 45.3% of university employees are employed in professional services. However, EOM data indicates low representation of these staff amongst NTFS nominees:  

  • 7.3% nominees in 2024 (draft data) 
  • 5.8% in 2023  
  • 5.1% in 2022  
  • 10.6% between 2018-2022  

This is in stark contrast to CATE applications whereby in 2023, 44.1% of applications were led by professional service teams.  

Our session 

Our session at the ANTF 2024 symposium focused on seeking to understand how we can support and increase applications from within professional services. We challenged attendees to consider:  

  • How can the profile of professional service staff with teaching and learning responsibilities be showcased to the institutional Teaching Excellence Award Leads (TEALs) who support and submit NTFS nominations? 
  • What are the challenges and barriers facing professional service staff in securing an NTF nomination? 
  • How can teaching and learning evaluation be inclusive of professional services to support demonstration of impact?  

Key outcomes and next steps  

Several themes emerged. These included: 

  • Teaching and learning professionals based in professional services are often working in the ‘third space’ (see Whitchurch, 2013) which may not be well-understood by TEALs.  
  • Professional services impact is often reported at a team level so individual teaching and learning stars may not always be obvious to TEALs.  
  • There may be implicit or unconscious bias towards professional services amongst senior managers and/or TEALs which needs to be challenged.  
  • It is crucial for professional service line managers to understand schemes such as NTFS so that they can nurture aspiring applicants in their teams.  
  • A need to support professional service colleagues who are experiencing imposter syndrome. 

These themes will inform the design and delivery of TEAL training for NTFS in 2025. The In It Together team will also review and update our action plan.  


Whitchurch, C. (2013) Reconstructing Identities in Higher Education. London: Routledge. 

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