The UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF)

On this page:

  • What is the UKPSF?
  • What are the Standards in the UKPSF?
  • What is the UKPSF for?
  • Who does the UKPSF belong to?
  • How does the HEA use the UKPSF?
  • How do Aberystwyth and Bangor Universities use the UKPSF?
  • How else might you use the UKPSF?

What is the UKPSF?

The UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF) for Teaching and Supporting Learning in Higher Education was originally proposed in the White Paper The Future of Higher Education (2003), and was developed in consultation with UUK, SCOP, and the UK HE funding bodies. It underwent wider consultation and review in 2011.

The quality of teaching is an important indicator of student success and the framework encourages staff to engage in a scholarly and professional approach to their teaching and teaching-related activities. The UKPSF provides a structure and a benchmark against which staff can plan, record and reflect on their continuing professional development (CPD) activity. The UKPSF is of direct relevance to academic staff, but other staff supporting student learning will also be able to provide evidence of scholarship at least of Descriptor 1 (Associate Fellow).

With the addition of Descriptors 3 and 4 the UKPSF is also relevant to senior staff within the university, in their roles as programme leaders, mentors of other staff, and strategic managers.

The Aberystwyth-Bangor Strategic Plan outlines key objectives to provide a high quality and flexible student learning environment, and is committed to aligning the objectives and operation of the universities with the aims of the UKPSF. This includes a continued well-established approach to the professional development of all staff engaged in teaching and supporting learning and recognises the impact that this has on innovation and the student experience.

The UKPSF provides some parity across the HE sector and increasingly is embedded within HR structures in Aberystwyth and Bangor Universities and across the sector.

The Aberystwyth-Bangor Recognition Scheme, whilst meeting the UKPSF, has enough flexibility to encompass a wide range of developmental scholarly activity, including co-working opportunities, your role as

tutor, incorporating research into your teaching, cross-institution collegial learning, or accredited programmes such as the PGCTHE programmes. It encourages you to take the time to consider your recent career, your current scholarly activity, your ongoing professional development, and to open your practice to peer comment and review.

What are the standards in the UKPSF?

The UKPSF provides a structure and benchmark against which staff can plan, record and reflect on their CPD activities by provides a general description of the main dimensions of the roles of teaching and supporting learning within the HE environment. It is written from the perspective of the practitioner and outlines a common national framework for comprehensively recognising and benchmarking teaching and learning support roles within Higher Education.

The UKPSF has two components:

1)  Dimensions of Practice: These are a set of statements outlining the:

  • Areas of Activity undertaken by teachers and supporters of learning within HE
  • Core Knowledge that is needed to carry out those activities at the appropriate level
  • Professional Values that someone performing these activities should embrace and exemplify

UKPSF Dimensions

2)  The Descriptors:

These are a set of statements outlining the key characteristics of someone evidencing four broad categories of typical teaching and learning support roles within Higher Education (D1-D4).

More details on the UKPSF Descriptors

What is the UKPSF for?

The UKPSF’s central purpose is to help those seeking to enhance the learning experience of their students, by improving the quality of their teaching and learning support. It has a wide range of uses, but it could, for example, be used to:

  • Promote the professionalisation of teaching and learning support within the HE sector;
  • Foster creative and innovative approaches to teaching and learning;
  • Enable HE staff to gain recognition and reward for developing their capabilities as teachers and supporters of learning;
  • Facilitate and support the design and delivery of initial and continuing education development programmes and activities ;
  • Demonstrate to students and other stakeholders the professionalism that staff and institutions bring to teaching and support for student learning;
  • Support Senior Staff seeking to:
  • develop policies and systems for the recognition and reward of teaching and learning support staff
  • promote a strong culture of teaching and learning support.

The UKPSF has been designed to apply to all aspects of teaching and learning support. If you have a substantive role in the education of students or staff, it will be relevant to you.

Depending on your specific role you can use it to become an Associate Fellow, Fellow, Senior Fellow or Principal Fellow. This will give you national and, increasingly, international recognition as a higher education educator.  Review the descriptors (D1-D4) to see which one would be appropriate for you. Although, in principle, each category of fellowship encompasses the one before it, you don’t necessarily have to start as an Associate Fellow and work through to Fellow, Senior Fellow and Principal Fellow. You can gain recognition appropriate to your current role and recent experience.

 You can use the UKPSF to plan and guide your continuing professional development (CPD) in the area of teaching and supporting learning. There is a natural progression through the UKPSF as the scope of your teaching/learning support role widens and developes.

Who does the UKPSF belong to?

The UKPSF has been developed by the HEA on behalf of the HE sector as a whole and so it is the property of all of those with a direct interest in the HE sector.


How does the HEA use the UKPSF?

The HEA provides a recognition and accreditation service which enables staff providing teaching and/or learning support to be recognised, depending on their role and experience, as an Associate Fellow, Fellow, Senior Fellow or Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. This recognition may be by individuals making direct application to the HEA or by completion of a course of study that has been accredited by the HEA. More recently, the HEA uses the UKPSF to recognise each university’s own ‘Recognition Scheme and so allow universities to build their own progression routes in teaching development and to award fellowships of the HEA locally, removing the need for individuals to apply directly to the HEA.

How do Aberystwyth and Bangor Universities use the UKPSF? 

The purpose of the Recognition Scheme is to develop, reward and recognise the development of teaching by providing UK-wide approved accreditation against the UKPSF for all staff who teach and/or support learning across both institutions. It recognises the UKPSF as an important vehicle for enhancing the student experience of learning and teaching and links to a teaching route to academic promotion.

The Aberystwyth-Bangor Recognition Scheme represents an essential part of both institutions’ equal commitment to both the student experience and academic professional development.

The learning outcomes of the Postgraduate Certificates in Teaching in HE (PgCertHE) of both institutions (PGCTHE in Aberystwyth and PGCHE in Bangor) have been designed around the UKPSF, and accredited recognised by the HEA for over a decade, permitting those who complete the full certificate to become Fellows of the HEA (FHEA).

How else might you use the UKPSF?

If you are involved in the training and development of teaching and/or learning support staff, you can use the UKPSF to design and structure your development programmes, such that those provisions more clearly support the UKPSF.

If you have a senior management role, you can use the framework to help you to enhance the quality and prominence of the teaching and learning activities within your remit.