Celebrating 500 Fellows at Swansea University – the ‘accidental’ academic



Professional recognition is important in any industry, and HE is no exception.

About you

My name is Catherine Groves. I am an ‘accidental’ academic, who came to HE about 8 years ago, from a career in senior management in the third sector. I am a Chartered Occupational Psychologist and have been teaching at Swansea School of Management two years ago. I am Programme Director for undergraduate programmes in Business and Marketing.

Why did gaining Fellowship recognition matter to you? Why apply?

I achieved my Fellowship recognition about five years ago in my previous institution, and found it to be an empowering and thought-provoking process. It definitely helped me to understand more about what worked with my students and why. On coming to Swansea, my Fellowship of the HEA definitely made me more employable.
Since my appointment, I have taken up the Programme Director role, and this has required to me to provide some leadership within the school. The School of Management had very few Senior Fellows at that time, and so I felt that applying for Senior Fellowship would demonstrate how important professional recognition was.

What did you “glean” from the process of preparing an application with reference to the UK PSF?

The process made me explore my profession much more closely. In order to make my application, I needed to discipline myself to re-engage with reading and research, things which often fall off the agenda when you are busy teaching.

How it has impacted the way in which you think about educating learners in the Higher Education environment?

I feel that I am now a more ‘educated’ educator, and am better able to provide guidance and support to my colleagues within the department. I have a better strategic grasp of my profession.

What is the most important element of the UKPSF in your opinion?

They are all important and one supports the others.

What were good parts of the application process? What things were more challenging?

The good parts: Completing my application really made me notice what I was doing well, and think more deeply about the transferable skills that I brought to my profession and used every day.

The challenging parts: I have to say that the process felt quite torturous, and the platform we had to use for the internal application, PebblePad+ was not really fit for purpose. Only one out of the four people from SoM got through at first submission, and if that person had not been me, I am not sure that I would have reapplied.

How you have continued to apply the standards of the UK PSF in your work since gaining that recognition? i.e. maintaining good standing.

I apply those standards every day in my work, and supporting my colleagues.

For someone not sure about applying, what words of encouragement could you offer?

Professional recognition is important in any industry, and HE is no exception. Even though I was already professionally recognised in one discipline, having the HEA Fellowship at whatever level, sets a benchmark for your practice.

What top tips would you offer to someone preparing a Fellowship application – any category?

Give yourself enough time. Think broadly about your experience, not just as an HE practitioner. You will certainly be more skilled than you realise, and taking a ‘whole self’ approach to your reflection will help you to make a deeper connection with your profession.

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