HEFi Annual Report 2018-19

This first HEFi annual report presents highlights from the 2018-19 academic year.  HEFi was established in 2017 to offer high-quality career-long support to all staff who want to enhance their teaching, and to ensure high-quality teaching is recognized and good practice is shared.


This first HEFi annual report presents highlights from the 2018-19 academic year.  HEFi was established in 2017 to offer high-quality career-long support to all staff who want to enhance their teaching, and to ensure high-quality teaching is recognized and good practice is shared.

HEFi’s ambition is to ensure that our teaching is optimally effective in order to meet the needs of our increasingly diverse student body, and to take advantage of rapid technological advances in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.  In this dynamic context, career-long learning is an imperative for all staff.

HEFi has been set up as an open-access community of learners, and we regularly welcome external visitors to our working space in the Old Gym on the University of Birmingham’s Edgbaston campus.  We are keen to share and learn with and from experts in and beyond our University, so please get in touch if you would like to work with us. 

Professor Kathy Armour
Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education)

"…..supporting staff to deliver innovative and inclusive research-intensive teaching…to optimize student learning and prepare students for their futures".

HEFi Conference #HEFi19

In June 2019, Birmingham once again hosted a very successful national learning and teaching conference.  Over 500 delegates attended over two days to focus on the Next Generation University and its implications.  We discussed the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, lifelong learning, tackling inequality, digitised futures, and employer-led learning.  We engaged with thought leaders, practitioners, students and employers to better understand multiple visions for the university of the future.  Inspired by the success of HEFi19, we are going to continue the conversation next year with an international HEFi20 Conference on the theme of the ‘Next Generation University Educator’.  Look out for further announcements about #HEFi20, and save the dates:  23 and 24 June 2020.

HEFi19 had:

  • Over 500 delegates
  • 60 speakers (35 UoB, 25 external)
  • Over 80% of delegates (who responded to our survey) would recommend the conference to colleagues
  • 1200 tweets using the hashtag #HEFi19

Twitter quote:  "In the next generation university we need to disrupt programme design, the linear curriculum, degree structures and learning methods! Changing the discourse of Higher Education! Good stuff!  #HEFi2019".


At HEFi, we aim to make professional development for teaching and learning as accessible as possible.  Most staff can find 90 seconds in their working week to check out whether our latest MicroCPD is relevant for them.  MicroCPDs combine 90-second introductory videos with links to further information and research for those who want to find out more. The HEFi MicroCPD library on our website provides a searchable repository of all topics to date and you can access the latest videos via Twitter under the hashtag #MicroCPD.

Look out for the MicroCPD series in 2019-20, with topics ranging from:

  • New Academic Teaching Year (NATY) projects  
  • Digital literacy / futures, and
  • Inclusive teaching

The top five MicroCPD topics by page views from 5 October 2017 to 15 June 2019 are:

  1. Introducing PebblePad
  2. What can we do about unconscious bias in students’ module evaluations?
  3. Personal academic tutoring – eight ideas that can make a difference
  4. The use of teaching films in distance learning – what works?
  5. Making the most of digital education tools to support your academic practice

MicroCPDs: "…act as a trigger for further exploration and as a reminder to step back and reflect on what I’m doing"

"…a useful “way in” to new ideas or topics".

  • 59 MicroCPDs published between October 2017 and July 2019
  • Over 17,000 hits on the MicroCPD website

Supporting Professional Development

There was significant growth in staff attending HEFi’s professional development opportunities in 2018-19.  Staff feedback suggests the programmes are having positive impact, for example:

"The Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education has revealed the importance of both critical reflection and current pedagogical theory in proactively developing my teaching practice."
"The Beacon scheme has proven invaluable in getting me to think about my teaching approach and the reflective element…something that I have passed along to my students."
"The Core Digital Tools workshop was a great introduction to the University’s five digital tools and introduced innovative ways for me to enhance student interaction and learning.  A very highly recommended workshop for all new starters!"

Quote: "HEFi has been a fantastic innovation at the University of Birmingham. It has provided a real focus for staff who are interesting in teaching, giving them the forum to discuss ideas and providing support for teaching innovation.  More importantly though, it has really improved the status of teaching, making staff feel more valued and supporting career progression.  The HEFi staff are incredibly supportive and positive in their outlook and have made a huge difference to me in terms of a sense of belonging."

  • Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education – 104 enrolled
  • Introduction to Learning and Teaching in HE for postgraduate – 468 participants
  • HEFi Showcase Series – 14 sessions, 170 attendees
  • Canvas Learning and Teaching Gateway – 68,000+ page views
  • Beacon scheme – 100 successful completers

Personal Academic Tutoring

Personal Academic Tutors offer students accessible and timely academic and personal support.  This important academic tutoring role can play a major part in enhancing inclusion and belonging, and improving student engagement and achievement.  In September 2018, HEFi launched a new digital e-portfolio tool:  PebblePad.  This is an effective and efficient interactive portfolio to ensure students and staff can keep track of tutorial meetings, actions and outcomes. 
PebblePad has been a game changer.  In its first year of operation, around 80% of first-year undergraduates and 62% of all students used it to engage with their Personal Academic Tutors.  Students and staff have welcomed PebblePad because it brings structure and clarity to tutorials.  Look out for new ways to use PebblePad to support the student experience more broadly, for example, during placements, encouraging reflection as part of assessment, dissertation support and CV-building. 

PebblePad say:
"The fastest, and probably widest reaching, implementation of PebblePad in any university we work with."

Student feedback:
"…like an extension of social media – more interesting than just going through a form and asking closed questions."

The Education Enhancement Fund

The University invests in education enhancement and innovation through the Education Enhancement Fund (EEF), managed by HEFi.  In 2018-19, HEFi supported eight EEF projects focusing on the New Academic Teaching Year (NATY), funded with over £100,000.  These are some of the projects which have been carried out during 2018-19, involving HEFi staff:

  • Research-Intensive Learning has created a suite of resources that will enable NATY to embed Research-Intensive Learning and Teaching (RILT) principles further in the curriculum.  The aim of the project was to identify and showcase discipline-specific examples of research-intensive learning in action, and produce a toolkit to support wider implementation. 
  • Curriculum Futures Retreat has developed a unique institutional Curriculum Design Framework that provides rapid, targeted and responsive support to module and programme teams who are reviewing their curricula. 
  • Birmingham Digital Exchange (BDx) is an online and face-to-face conversation about the ways in which digital technologies are changing our work, professions, disciplines and learning and teaching across the University of Birmingham.
  • Digital Innovation Boot Camp has developed a week-long boot camp for the UoBe Festival within NATY.  The aim is to train students in cutting-edge digital technologies used as part of University research activities and in industry. 

In 2019, EEF is making available £150,000 for projects related to the themes of the #HEFi19 conference.

HEFi Awards

HEFi is committed to showcasing our talented teaching staff at Birmingham.

Launched in 2018-19, the HEFi ‘Awards and Recognition Framework’ celebrates teaching excellence and offers a range of opportunities to share good practice and demonstrate impact.  The HEFi Awards dinner brings together over 100 staff each year to celebrate a range of outstanding achievements in teaching.  In February 2019, we celebrated: 

  • 7 HEFi Awards for Education Enhancement and Innovation
  • 1 National Teaching Fellowship
  • 82 HEA Fellowship awards through the Beacon scheme
  • 77 completers of the Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education

Quote: "I thought the Award and Recognition Framework looked really effective and impactful and could see clearly how it would help people plan for and reflect on their contributions to learning and teaching at the University of Birmingham."


In 2018-19, there was a significant increase in the number of events offered by HEFi and the number of individual staff attending them.  HEFi launched its new Showcase Series, offering a programme of CPD workshops led by staff from across the University who shared their evidence-based approaches to teaching and learning. 

Quote: "Spaces like this are really valuable to meet and learn from like-minded practitioners from across the University who are striving to improve their teaching practice."

The HEFi Festival was even bigger and better in 2019, offering a week-long programme of CPD sessions designed to develop teaching practice and support applications for the HEA Fellowship. 

Following attendance at the Festival, staff have identified a number of new actions, such as:

  • "I am going to look into how to design activities for feedforward and easy to manage formative assessments."
  • "Start a portfolio to keep evidence of impact."
  • "Evaluate the impact of my teaching approach on students."

HEFi has also hosted several external events including a Staff and Educational Development Association (SEDA) workshop for Programme Leads, an Advance HE Standardisation Event for Fellowship judgements, and a symposium for the Heads of eLearning Forum (HeLF).

Further Info

Join us at next year’s #HEFi20 conference on the theme of ‘The Next Generation University Educator’, 23 and 24 June 2020

For more information on HEFI, see the HEFi website 

Where to find us:  Top floor of the Old Gym (Y1 on the campus map)

Contact us:  hefi@contacts.bham.ac.uk

Twitter @UoB_HEFi

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/compmany/hefi