‘Teaching is not as rewarded as it should be’

| Michaela Nesvarova

‘The framework is a response to the problem most universities face: that teaching is not being as rewarded as it should be,’ says Ruth Graham. As part of the Week of Inspiration, the education consultant is coming to the UT today to give a talk on ‘the future of engineering education’.


Ruth Graham from the UK is a Mechanical Engineer by training.  After helping to redesign undergraduate engineering programs at Imperial College, she became an independent consultant focused on improving education at many universities, including the University of Twente. She developed ‘The Career Framework for University Teaching’, designed to guide and support the career progression of academics on the basis of their contribution to teaching.

What will be the main message of your lecture?

‘I will be looking at where engineering education is going. For decades, the industry, as well as many educators, have been saying that we need the education to change dramatically, but very little has happened until recently. I will discuss the output of the survey I conducted for Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) which focused on the global state of engineering education. I’d like to highlight the universities that have taken an interesting educational approach.’

What do you think of the UT’s educational approach?

‘There is a lot of things I find interesting at the University of Twente. There is a lot happening at Dutch universities in general, but the UT has been especially thoughtful of the change education is undergoing. It has focused on where the sector is going and how to make sure the education is in line with it. I’m not very familiar with the individual study prorgammes in Twente, but I have noticed that the UT has a very collaborative community in regards to decision making. Decisions are made based on input from the faculty, from the academics, to ensure that everyone is on board.’

Can you tell us more about the ‘The Career Framework for University Teaching’ you developed?

‘It is a response to the problem most universities face: that teaching is not being as rewarded as it should be. Universities would like to change that, but how do they identify a teaching achievement and how do they measure it? The framework tries to create a structure to define teaching achievements and teaching impact. It’s been developed together with fifteen universities, including the UT. At the moment, there are more universities using it than I can keep track of. Now we are moving towards the second stage of development. Because the current framework only provides information on how the system could be; but implementing it comes together with a massive cultural and organizational change. I will look at universities that did successfully implement it and try to create a guide for others. Because you can’t just change policies and expect that everyone’s behavior will change.’

What can teachers themselves do to help change things?

‘Engage with the process, be clear about your priorities and concerns so they are reflected in the framework.’

I believe your framework can also be used so that teaching achievements help academics on their way to full professorship. Is that correct?

‘Yes, the framework can help change the current academic promotion systems, but it is up to every university to decide if this is suitable for them.’

Why is it important for you, personally, that universities give more recognition to teaching?

‘I’ve been a higher education consultant for over ten years and conducted dozens of studies on educational change in universities. Yet, I have never done a study where the issue of teaching recognition hasn’t come up. All universities face the issue.’

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