The Higher Education Academy (HEA) should become the professional body for university teaching in a shift that could lead to the introduction of individual subscription fees, its new chair has said.
Rama Thirunamachandran, vice-chancellor of Canterbury Christ Church University, told Times Higher Education that the role and financing of the HEA, which champions university teaching, needed to be rethought in the wake of the UK funding councils’ decision to reduce their support for the organisation to zero by 2016-17.
Professor Thirunamachandran said that although some academics were “reluctant” to view themselves as being part of a profession and preferred to lend their allegiance to their disciplines, it was “really important” for the sector to demonstrate “a broader commitment to higher education in its widest sense”.
This was particularly the case after the announcement of plans in England for the teaching excellence framework, and for universities to be allowed to increase their tuition fees in line with inflation if they can demonstrate high standards.
“My ambition would be for the HEA to be recognised as the professional body for the higher education sector and we are well on the way to that,” Professor Thirunamachandran said. “The more that higher education becomes a profession, the more it will need a strong professional body to support it.”
The HEA, who is a member of PARN, received £2.4 million in institutional subscription fees in 2013-14 and Professor Thirunamachandran said that this would remain a “strong part” of the organisation’s funding base, but he added that charging individual subscription fees was “part of being a professional body”.
“The key thing we need to have is dialogue,” Professor Thirunamachandran added. “We need to have a dialogue with institutions to understand how best we can support them, and how best they are able to fund us to support them.”