Ben Walker – elected Vice-Chair of the UK Advising & Tutoring association (UKAT)

Ben Walker Photograph

I was was recently elected as Vice-Chair for the UK Advising and Tutoring association (UKAT) with responsibility for professional development. UKAT is the sectoral voice and leading association for personal tutors and academic advisors.  It seeks to support the advancement of effective personal tutoring and academic advising, a field which has historically been under-researched and under-developed across the sector.

Established four years ago, this is an exciting time for UKAT with a new governance structure in place (of which my role is a part) and several new initiatives underway. I believe that the organisation could be really useful for the UTA and, by extension, MMU’s personal tutors and coordinators of tutoring and advising.  So, I am taking this opportunity to tell you some more about it and how it could benefit us all…

 Who are UKAT?

UKAT is an association of multidisciplinary academic and support professionals dedicated to transforming tutorial and advisory practices with the aim that every higher education student is able to experience inclusiveness, well-being and personal growth, leading them to flourish and succeed. We support the development of staff and students throughout the learning journey by sharing resources, practicing scholarly inquiry, promoting partnership, fostering community, and espousing excellence in personal tutoring and academic advising practice.

What do we do?

Professional Development

UKAT’s professional development committee exists to create an accessible culture of shared professional experience and improve the training, development and everyday practice of tutors and advisors. Members engage in the identification and sharing of good practice aiming to ensure that tutoring and advising makes a valuable contribution to the student experience.


UKAT’s free monthly webinar series, Tutoring Matters, commenced in January 2019 and has been very well received and attended.  It is designed to support all those engaged with personal tutoring and advising, whether that be as a practitioner, leader or in a related support role and also acts as key professional development for those undertaking tutoring and advising roles.  Facilitated by various key professionals associated with UKAT and collaborative in nature, the webinars cover important issues for academic advising.

Professional Framework for Advising and Tutoring

UKAT has recently developed a Professional Competency Framework for Advising and Tutoring which defines competencies tutors and advisors should possess and is mapped against UKPSF and National Occupational Standards for Personal Tutoring.  The principles aim to provide a clearer set of guidance on the things that make a difference to making tutoring work, and a set of guidance that is easier for institutions and tutors to see whether or not they are following and achieving them. The framework also serves the purpose of being the basis for the professional recognition of tutors and advisors to raise importance and recognition of the role across the sector with an evidence-based, retrospective application with dialogic assessment.  It is being trialled at one or more HEIs over the next 6 to 12 months.  The planned awards are Recognised Practitioner of Advising (RPA), Recognised Senior Advisor (RSA) and Recognised Leader in Advising (RLA).

Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Advising and Tutoring

UKAT has created the UK’s first PGCert in Academic Advising and Tutoring as a collaboration between UKAT and a UK university. This will be offered across the sector as a blended online programme with modules on specific aspects of tutoring and advising including the Foundations of advising and tutoring; Advising theory; Interpersonal relationships; Legal & ethical issues in advising; technology & data in advising; Inclusive advising; Supporting employability; Quality enhancement of advising.  Delegates have early access to a GDPR module which forms part of the legal & ethical issues module.


UKAT’s research development committee exists to champion research and evidence-based scholarly enquiry into tutoring and advising in the UK. It promotes an accessible culture of intellectual curiosity where members engage in purposeful scholarship and research to recognise and explore the value of Personal Tutoring and Academic Advising for the student experience.

Research Mentoring Programme

UKAT offers an intensive 14-month peer mentoring programme designed to promote research into personal tutoring and student success in the context of UK Higher Education. Participants are fully supported in taking research projects all the way from the initial idea, through detailed planning, implementation and dissemination. The programme consists of residential retreats, writing workshops, peer mentoring, support for early-career researchers, webinars, face-to-face meetings to progress the work, and support with dissemination and writing for publication.

How does this relate to MMU?

Hopefully, through the aforementioned activities, you can see how UKAT may benefit the UTA and personal tutoring practice and management in the university in the areas of:

  • continuous professional development;
  • professional competencies;
  • professional recognition and accreditation;
  • continuous research and scholarship opportunities.

In addition, UKAT has established a successful annual conference and is developing further professional learning opportunities including podcasts, international travel grants/study trips and Special Interest Groups (SIGs) being formed in such areas as ‘Advisors But Not Academics’, ‘HE in FE’ and ‘Strategy and Policy’.

Individual membership of UKAT is offered for a small fee and we are currently developing an institutional membership scheme, more information to follow soon.

If you would like to discuss anything regarding UKAT.

Contact Ben on or by phone: 0161-247-1141

More information on UKAT’s work can be found on the UKAT website.






Pedagogies for Sustainability, Responsible Enterprise and Innovation: 11th July 2018

seeg event full

On the 11th July research group SEEG in partnership with Centre of Excellent in Learning and Teaching (CELT) are hosting a joint workshop: Pedagogies for Sustainability, Responsible Enterprise and Innovation.

The workshop draws together in-house MMU expertise, recent CELT-funded research , and good practice from external and international case studies to look at how new and innovative pedagogical approaches, including Problem and Enquiry Based Learning (PEBL) short training courses (Carbon Literacy) and online-technology facilitated learning can help us stay at the forefront of enhanced student experience and pedagogical innovation. We will hear about case examples from Nottingham Trent University, and internationally from colleagues from Arizona State (USA) and Aalborg (DK) Universities.

The whole schedule for the workshop is now fully confirmed, please click the Eventbrite link to book your place:

If you have any questions about the event, please direct them to Valeria Vargas ( or Sally Randles (


CELT colleague’s thesis now live in full and open to read ;)

Chrissi completed her PhD studies in October 2017 and is sharing in this post some details about this phenomenographic study together with the link to the full thesis as it is now available online for all to read. This study is based on research linked to her practice in CELT. If you read her work, please feel free to get in touch with her directly if there is anything you would like to discuss.

thesis (2)

Over the last 4.5 years I have been working on an exciting phenomenographic study through which I explored the collaborative open learning experience of learners participating in open cross-institutional academic development courses. This study brought new insights relating among others to the power of cross-boundary professional communities and the opportunities these bring for academics and other professionals who teach or support learning in higher education when learning collaboratively in the open.

The following is an commentary by Prof. Linda Drew about my study included in her pre-viva report shared with me on the 8th of September 2017, the day of my viva:

“The candidate has made an original and satisfactory contribution to the field of study. I enjoyed reading it. The candidate’s obvious enthusiasm for the topic area – and her commitment to collaborative open learning – is clear, leaving me in no doubt that this is an independent, authoritative and substantial piece of work.

The conceptual framework is clearly explained and the candidate’s personal standpoint in relation to the study is outlined in considerable depth. The choice of methodology seemed appropriate and linked well to the conceptual framework that had been established. The choice of methodology and research methods were well articulated and well defended. Limitations were acknowledged appropriately.

The work reads well overall, and is extremely systematic. The candidate is well able to explain and critique her field of research. The thesis presents a sustained argument throughout, which is well-developed in a persuasive way.

The study takes a novel, arguably radical, stance in relation to the field of academic development. I consider this to be a particular strength of the thesis. It’s novelty lies in the ways in which it evidences and illuminates participants’ experiences of ‘alternative’ continuing professional development opportunities for academics.”

My thesis has in the last few days been made available in full through the Edinburgh Napier University repository. To access it click on the link below.

Nerantzi, C. (2017) Towards a framework for cross-boundary collaborative open learning for cross-institutional academic development. PhD thesis, Edinburgh: Edinburgh Napier University, available at 

Thank you everybody who helped me get there! See who they are in the thesis. A big thank you also to my examiners Prof. Linda Drew and Prof. Kay Sambell. I will never forget viva day and what a valuable experience this was 😉

This phenomenographic study, explores the collaborative open learning experience of academic staff and open learners in cross-institutional academic development settings, and adds to what is known in these settings. It provides new insights for academic developers and course designers about the benefits of crossing boundaries (i.e. open learning) in an academic development context and proposes an alternative model to traditional academic Continuing Professional Development (CPD). It engages academic staff in experiencing novel approaches to learning and teaching and developing as practitioners through engagement in academic CPD that stretches beyond institutional boundaries, characterised by diversity and based on collaboration and openness. Data collection was conducted using a collective case study approach to gain insights into the collective lived collaborative open learning experience in two authentic cross-institutional academic development settings with collaborative learning features designed in. At least one of the institutions involved in each course was based in the United Kingdom. Twenty two individual phenomenographic interviews were conducted and coded. The findings illustrate that collaborative open learning was experienced as two dynamic immersive and selective patterns. Boundary crossing as captured in  the categories of description and their qualitatively different variations, shaped that experience and related to modes of participation; time, place and space; culture and language as well as diverse professional contexts. Facilitator support and the elasticity of the design also positively shaped this experience. The community aspect influenced study participants’ experience at individual and course level and illuminated new opportunities for academic development practice based on cross-boundary community-led approaches. The findings synthesised in the phenomenographic  outcome space, depicting the logical relationships of the eleven categories of description in this study, organised in structural factors, illustrate how these contributed and shaped the lived experience, together with a critical discussion of these with the literature, aided the creation of the openly licensed cross-boundary collaborative open learning framework for cross-institutional academic development, the final output of this study. A design tool developed from the results is included  that aims to inform academic developers and other course designers who may be considering and planning to model and implement such approaches in their own practice.

Keywords: Academic development, collaborative open learning, boundary crossing, cross-institutional professional development, open education, social media, framework for cross-boundary collaborative open learning