Principal Fellow (Descriptor 4)

  • Typical Applicants
  • Pre-requisite
  • Differentiation of Descriptor 4
  • Descriptor Statements
  • Vignettes for Descriptor 4
  • Application Process for Principal Fellow

Typical Applicant

Individuals, as highly experienced staff, able to provide evidence of a sustained and effective record of impact at a strategic level in relation to teaching and learning, as a part of the wider commitment to academic practice. This may be within the University and/or wider (inter)national settings. Typically those likely to be at Descriptor 4 (D4) include:

  • Highly  experienced and/or senior staff with wide-ranging academic or academic- related strategic leadership responsibilities in connection with key aspects of teaching and supporting learning
  • Staff responsible for strategic leadership and policy-making in the area of teaching and learning
  • Staff who have strategic impact and influence in relation to teaching and learning that extends beyond Aberystwyth or Bangor University.


There is no pre-requisite, however, as Descriptor 4 is distinctly different to Descriptors 1, 2 and 3, it is expected that the applicant will already be recognised at Descriptor 2 and a Fellow of the Academy and may be recognised as Senior Fellow. Where this is not the case, evidence on the Claim Grid will provide evidence of experience aligned to all the dimensions of the UKPSF.

Differentiation of Descriptor 4

Descriptor 4 is distinctly different to Descriptors 1, 2 and 3. It is relevant to highly experienced staff who are or have been widely respected for their effective teaching and who have progressed into senior roles. The nature of their work may mean that they will not currently have any direct contact with students in teaching and supporting learning.

At the heart of this descriptor lies the demonstration of ‘strategic impact and influence’ in the context of one or more locations, institutions or organisations. Evidence of a sustained record of effective strategic leadership in academic practice and academic development as a key contribution to high quality student learning will be fundamental. The applicant’s substantial experience and knowledge of teaching and supporting learning will be drawn upon to support the development and implementation of high quality student learning experiences.  Evidence already provided for Descriptor 3 might be drawn on and used to provide background and context for the developments used to evidence Descriptor 4. However Descriptor 4 is distinctly different and therefore additional evidence would be needed to demonstrate how these have led to strategic leadership that makes a significant impact on student learning.

Statements at Descriptor 4

Individuals should be able to provide evidence of the following five statements:

  1. Active commitment to and championing of all the Dimension of the
  2. Framework, through work with students, staff and institutional developments
  3. Successful, strategic leadership to enhance student learning, with a particular but not necessarily exclusive focus on enhancing teaching quality in institutional and/or (inter)national settings
  4. Establishing effective organisational policies and/or strategies for supporting and promoting others (e.g. through mentoring, coaching) in delivering high quality teaching and supporting for learning
  5. Championing, within institutional and/or wider settings, an integrated approach to academic practice (incorporating, for example, teaching, learning, research, scholarship, administration etc.)
  6. A sustained and successful commitment to, and engagement in, continuing professional development related to academic, institutional and/or other professional practices

Application Process

Evidence at Descriptor 4

Evidence can be drawn from a broad range of experiences and activities and should be underpinned by an understanding and commitment to the Core Knowledge and Professional Values

The evidence will draw on the individual’s record of effective sustained strategic leadership in academic practice and academic development leading to the development and implementation of high quality student learning experiences, over the past five years. Evidence should include how the framework has been used to shape and develop policy, strategy and schemes within the organisation and the resulting impact. The focus need not primarily be on an individual’s teaching and learning practices but how these have contributed to impact, change and innovation at a strategic level. This may be within the institution, nationally or internationally. Evidence of significant and sustained leadership contributions might include: initiating or leading learning and teaching policy developments, embedding a culture of engagement with the UKPSF through institutional policies and promotional pathways, leading programme evaluations, discipline or subject reviews.

The championing of an integrated approach to academic practice both with and external to the institution could draw upon consultancy and ‘critical friend’ roles, contributions to professional and scholarly bodies/societies that promote the enhancement of discipline and pedagogy, institutional reviews or discipline evaluations.

Completing a managerial/leadership course (e.g. Leadership in Higher Education) will not be sufficient evidence but the impact and resulting change initiated by the learning could be used to evidence the contribution to high quality student learning. Achieving national and /or international recognition in areas related to learning and teaching through conference presentation, publication, applied research and scholarship, pedagogic innovation and policy development should be drawn upon , together with evidence of sustained contributions to national policy making  and strategic committees (e.g. UUK & HEW).

PFHEA Checklist





Application Form


Total word count 


7,000 words max

Personal details



Teaching Philosophy Statement/



Strategic Leadership Teaching Philosophy Statement



1,000 words

Claim Grid



500 words

Case Studies



4 x 1,000 words

Other information



500 words

CPD Plan



 Referee statements



✓ x 3

Institutional/Line Manager’s verification  statement