The University of Southern Queensland (UniSQ) has been working on their SAGE program since 2021. As the program grew, so did engagement from departments across the institution and opportunities for women in STEMM and other diversity cohorts.

Recently, the university’s SAGE and HEA@UniSQ programs partnered together to ring-fence a number of applications for women in STEMM to apply for Higher Education Academy Fellowships in 2023.

What is the HEA@UniSQ program?

The HEA@UniSQ program helps academic staff gain recognition for their role in teaching and supporting higher education learning. It was developed in partnership with Advance HE, which houses the Higher Education Academy (HEA) and runs a Fellowship scheme to develop teaching excellence and a quality student experience.

In partnering with Advance HE, UniSQ joins a community of nearly 30 institutions across Australia and 370 others globally who have successfully established Fellowship schemes within their institutions. These schemes are used to contextualise excellence within each university.

Fellowship demonstrates personal and institutional commitment to professionalism in learning and teaching in higher education. Fellows are recognised as experts in their field, who are part of a distributed academy. There are over 169,000 Fellows in more than 90 countries. Around 10,000 of them are based outside the UK, with over 4,700 located in Australasia.

International recognition and development opportunities

Depending on their length and level of teaching experience, participants can apply for different categories of Fellowship, from Associate Fellow up to Principal Fellow. Achieving Fellowship means that their practice, impact and leadership in learning and teaching has been judged by Advance HE as meeting a high global standard – a strong indicator of esteem across the sector.

Being a Fellow connects academics to other STEMM practitioners across the world. Through this community, they can leverage each other’s expertise by accessing formal and informal forums for mentoring and collaboration in areas such as practice, scholarship and policy development.

Ensuring gender-equitable access to the program

While Fellowships were open to all teaching academics, UniSQ promoted a cohort-specific application round to boost uptake amongst women in STEMM. This targeted approach aimed to:

  • support community and networking among women in STEMM from different areas of the university;
  • provide opportunities for early-career women to engage with a teaching and learning community of practice; and
  • help participants build their cases for academic promotion.

Although not listed in UniSQ’s Athena Swan Bronze Award action plan, the HEA@UniSQ program was still recognised as an opportunity to help women in STEMM hone their teaching practice and progress their careers. Attracting more women to the program would also grow the university’s pool of mentors for up-and-coming women in STEMM.

Outcomes and impact to date

This year, seven women in STEMM have been supported to apply for membership to the HEA community. This cohort was selected following a communications campaign seeking expressions of interest from women in STEMM.

A diverse panel of four determined participant eligibility based on criteria set by Advance HE. Each Fellowship reviewed by Advance HE has a specific cost attached, so budget was secured to support this specific cohort size.

While the full impact of this program is still being measured, participants have already highlighted the value that a global community of Fellows will bring to their teaching practice and career progression.

Aside from benefiting program participants, this initiative also aims to promote cultural change across the university by collaborating with other work areas on a diversity initiative, and to improve the learning experience for STEMM students – the next generation of STEMM academics.

The HEA@UniSQ scheme complements the university’s SAGE initiatives for growing the STEMM pipeline. These initiatives include:

  • granting two PhD scholarships and two 3-year fixed-term fellowships annually to women in STEMM fields with historically high gender discrepancies;
  • awarding a Research Excellence Award for Women in STEMM every year; and
  • delivering a grant reviewer scheme to fund a small cohort of women each year to have their category 1 grant applications externally reviewed.