Wits Director receives international award for higher education educators, recognition she has been fighting for since the beginning of her career.
A Wits University senior staff member has recently been awarded a prestigious fellowship by the UK based institute, Advance HE, for her decades-long work in higher education. The award was announced by the university on Friday, April 23, 2021.
Professor Diane Grayson, the senior director of academic affairs at Wits University, is one of a select few to receive the Principal Fellowship. Grayson has worked in higher education for 30 years. “It’s been a lifelong crusade for me to try to get recognition for people who teach at university,” Grayson told Wits Vuvuzela.
“University teachers have such an important role to play in helping young people in figuring out what is important to you, and what will benefit society and the earth,” she adds.
Advance HE’s Principal Fellowship, the highest level of fellowship provided by the Higher Education Academy in the UK, is awarded to individuals who have made significant contributions at a strategic level to promote higher education teaching and excellence in teaching.
Sally Bradley, a senior advisor at Advance HE, says that the process of applying for the principal fellowship is a rigorous one and being awarded is a privilege. “Principal Fellowship holders make up less than 1% of the global population of more than 143,000,” she told Wits Vuvuzela.
Grayson goes on to add that you need to have made a significant contribution to teaching to be eligible. “At least institutionally, possibly nationally, maybe even internationally,” Grayson explains.
Bradley tells Wits Vuvuzela that some of the criteria that applicants are required to show include enhancing student learning within their institution and possibly beyond. Along with this, establishing different policies that support and promote others to improve their quality of teaching.
As a principal fellow, Grayson is now a part of a worldwide network including other principal fellows, giving her access to a wide range of experiences in higher education across the globe.
Grayson is also the chair of the National Coordinating Committee (NCC), which she explains is tasked with implementing South Africa’s Department of Higher Education and Training’s National Framework for Enhancing Academics as University Teachers.
Over the next few years, Grayson hopes that this committee will create a similar awards scheme, recognising university teachers in South Africa. “We have been discussing it nationally since 2017”, she says. “If we can think of a way to have a national scheme to recognize and reward academics in their roles as university teachers, I think it would be very valuable”.
Another project that the NCC intends on introducing is the National Teaching Awards, something that she hopes will one day be as prestigious as the National Research Awards, hosted by the National Research Foundation.
FEATURED IMAGE: Professor Diane Grayson, a recipient of Advance HE’s Principal Fellowship for 2021. Photo: Provided.
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