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Academic development from Floor to Ceiling: mission impossible?
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Centre for Teaching and Learning (UPC).
2010 (English)In: ICED Conference 2010: Enhancing Strategies for Global Quality Learning in HIgher Education, Barcelona, 2010Conference paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Filtering our joint experience of more than 20 years of academic development (AD) in HE through recent quality assurance processes, we will discuss how academic developers, hired in an era of individual perspective on AD, can tackle the demands raised in today’s context of organisational and strategic AD. What does “the quality discourse” mean in regard to work with academic development, who is to be involved in these processes and what is its importance for achieving sustainable educational change?


Our presentation is aimed at people who are responsible for initiating, running and supporting teaching and learning in higher education at their own institutions or within higher education in general. The purpose of the contribution is to:

  • raise questions concerning prerequisites for strategic academic development,
  • to discuss the views of higher education institutions on how this can be carried out and
  • the role of academic development units (or their equivalent) in this.

Together we represent more than twenty years of experience in working with academic development in higher education, Magnus with experience from both a large university (Stockholm) and a small college of arts (Stockholm Academy of Dramatic Arts), Mona with experience from Umeå University. Together and independently we have also been involved in different national development contexts and have experience from international development projects.

We were both employed in the past century (!) because we were considered to be “good” teachers with the primary task of being “wise colleagues”. We worked at the level of the individual and in small groups. That picture of academic development units still lives on despite the fact that reality is drastically different today. Now teaching and learning for higher education is a requirement for teachers and doctoral students who teach, the Bologna Process has stirred up the pedagogical workday at the same time as quality assurance and assessments have become catchwords of the day. Today we are involved in activities such as: building up a system for the recognition of pedagogical qualifications that encompasses all of the institutions of higher learning, courses that give pedagogical qualifications, tailor-made consultancy work, production of teaching material, research, development of learning platforms, development of educational action plans etc. These tasks demand that we are more than just “wise colleagues” (Fjellström, Mårtensson & Roxå, 2008). The future we see before us with increased competition, increased demands on performativity and a stringent financial reality will probably also increase the demands on those working with (strategic) academic development (Blackmore, 2009; Di Challis m fl, 2009; Gosling, 2009). The question is how are the institutions of higher learning going to tackle this continuing challenge?

We want to problematise a situation where academic development units, often placed peripherally in the university organisation and with an imbalance between responsibility  and authority, are more and more involved in processes that are labelled quality assurance or quality development (see Havnes & Stensaker, 2006). What does “the quality discourse” mean in regard to work with academic development, who is to be involved in these processes and what is its importance for achieving sustainable educational development? During the presentation we will raise a number of questions that can be commented on directly by people responsible for development to take back to their own institutions of higher learning for continued work.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Barcelona, 2010.
Keyword [en]
Academic development, Enhancing strategies, Quality discourse, Educational change
National Category
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-34403OAI: diva2:321342
International Conference for Educational Development
Available from: 2010-05-31 Created: 2010-05-31 Last updated: 2010-06-01Bibliographically approved

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