Continuing Professional Development (CPD)


Professional development activities and programmes aimed at enhancing teaching have been a familiar component of UK higher education for many years. More than 80 per cent of UK universities require staff to engage in a Postgraduate Certificate or equivalent (Gosling, 2010). There are also growing expectations for both new and established lecturers to become qualified as a teacher, and to engage in teaching scholarships. In an era of high student fees, it is likely that the qualifications of teaching staff will become a factor influencing student choice.

In 2014, the Higher Education Statistics Agency began collecting institutional data regarding staff teaching qualifications. This data will be publicly available in 2015. Within this move there is an implicit assumption that being qualified and/or accredited leads to improvement in teacher performance, and therefore a better student experience of learning. That said, whether professional development activities have an impact on teaching, or on student learning remains difficult to determine.


For the purpose of this website, continuing professional development (CPD) is defined as any activity ‘targeted to strengthen and extend the knowledge, skills and conceptions of teachers in a way that will lead to changes in their way of thinking and their educational behaviour’ (Fenstermacher & Berliner, 1985: 49). This could include formal accredited provision such as the Postgraduate Certificate, or very informal activities such as peer dialogue and informal peer mentoring. A national survey conducted as part of this research project has shown that the following teaching-related CPD activities are most commonplace in UK higher education:

  • accredited courses such as the Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice
  • workshops aimed at specific teaching-related topics
  • teaching and learning conferences and seminars
  • in-house teaching accreditation schemes
  • peer review of teaching
  • small development grants.
Brief history of teacher accreditation in the UK

In the early 1990s the Staff and Educational Development Association (SEDA) introduced an accreditation scheme that provided a framework against which university teachers could accredit their skills, knowledge and values. This framework underpinned many of the early courses designed to introduce new lecturers to teaching.

Following the recommendations of the Booth Committee, which included representations from SEDA and the Association of University Teachers, a national framework for accrediting the teaching expertise of university lecturers was introduced and managed by the Institute of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.

The Higher Education Academy became the custodian of the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF) in 2006.

CPD and the UK Professional Standards Framework

The UKPSF (revised in 2011) supports the initial and continuing professional development of staff involved in teaching and in supporting learning. The Framework provides a description of the range of activities, knowledge and values expected to be demonstrated by someone teaching and supporting learning, and gives an external indication that a standard has been achieved.

There are four levels of accreditation, and from Fellow level upwards, staff are expected to demonstrate that they have successfully engaged in CPD activities relating to their teaching, learning, and assessment practices.

Remaining in good standing

The Higher Education Academy (HEA) has made clear its expectations of Fellows in publishing the ‘Fellowship of the HEA Code of Practice’ in 2014. In this document, the HEA defines remaining in good standing as ‘continuing to work in accordance with the standard indicated by the relevant Fellow Descriptor of the UKPSF’. Fellows at all levels are expected to engage in regular CPD activities and to keep records of this activity.