Building the status of teaching-focused positions as prestigious roles to improve teaching quality




Academic careers, academic workforce, teaching focus, teaching quality


Teaching-focused roles provide an ideal opportunity to improve the quality of teaching in higher education. However, such roles are commonly presented as pragmatic solutions for academics not fulfilling research expectations rather than quality improvement interventions. Workload allocations can be shifted to ensure that unproductive researchers are not counted as research-active in university ranking assessments and, at the same time, help balance salary budgets. These measures to address underperforming researchers have shifted focus from the potential to improve teaching quality that teaching-focused roles promised. We argue that a successful implementation of a supported approach for teaching-focused academics can help to foster a culture of excellence in teaching that should deliver career development and associated benefits for those in teaching-focused roles. This paper discusses a considered approach to improving teaching in higher education by supporting teaching-focused roles in an Australian university. Strategies to raise the profile of teaching-focused academics included a high-level champion, a merit-based application process, and a development program. These strategies aimed to address mis-focused perceptions and stigma related to teaching-focused positions and contribute to a culture of excellence in teaching. We put this approach forward as a model for institutions wanting to improve teaching quality, implement or enhance teaching-focused career paths or review existing models.


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Author Biographies

Birgit Loch, University of New England

Professor Birgit Loch commenced as Dean of Science, Agriculture, Business and Law at the University of New England in November 2021. She joined UNE from La Trobe University, where she was Chair Teaching and Learning, Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor Coursework and Deputy Provost Learning & Teaching in the College of Science, Health and Engineering. She has also held acting appointments as Pro Vice-Chancellor Learning Quality and Innovation and as College Provost.

Professor Loch has over 17 years of experience in the higher education sector. Prior to joining La Trobe, she was Academic Director Digital Learning and Technologies at Swinburne University of Technology and also Head of the Maths and Stats Help Centre between 2010 and 2016. Prior to that, she was Principal Advisor Learning and Teaching in the Division of ICT at the University of Southern Queensland.

Professor Loch is a Principal Fellow of AdvanceHE (PFHEA) and Fellow of the Australian Mathematical Society. Her academic qualifications include a PhD in computational mathematics from the University of Queensland, a Diploma in Mathematics (Dipl.-Math.) from the University of Essen and a Graduate Certificate in Tertiary Teaching & Learning from USQ. Professor Loch is an expert in educational technology including online learning, in mathematics support, and she has driven innovative approaches in learning and teaching including virtual reality and 360 video projects. She has widely published on open educational resources, blended and online learning and pen-enabled technologies. She is the recipient of several university teaching awards for her own teaching and for leadership in learning and teaching, an Australian Learning and Teaching Council Citation and the Australian Award for University Teaching.

Professor Loch is also a founding member of the WATTLE program, the Australian version of NZUWiL with currently 13 Australian university members, and has served on the In2Science Advisory Board.

Dell Horey, La Trobe University

Dr Dell Horey has qualifications in science and epidemiology and a strong background in consumer participation. Dell has undertaken a range of research projects using mixed methods and has advanced skills in conceptual thinking.

Brianna Julien, La Trobe University

Brianna is an Associate Professor of physiology education at La Trobe University in the School of Agriculture, Biomedicine and Environment, and has taught human physiology to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Year students for 17 years. Brianna has a PhD in neurophysiology and a Graduate Certificate in Higher Education. The quality and impact of Brianna’s work is recognised through multiple teaching awards up to national level and award of Senior Fellowship of the UK’s Higher Education Academy. Brianna conducts and publishes education research that investigates the impact of authentic scientific curricula and career development learning on student learning and experience.




How to Cite

Loch, B., Horey, D., Julien, B., Bridge, C., & Thompson, B. (2024). Building the status of teaching-focused positions as prestigious roles to improve teaching quality. Advancing Scholarship and Research in Higher Education, 5(1).



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