Professional academic development at higher education in Mauritius

“The modern Gen Z student is critically insightful about what they expect from higher education study”

What exactly is meant by academic development? Perhaps you know it as ‘educational development’ or ‘teacher development’ in higher education? In a sentence, it is professional development that supports the improvement of quality in tertiary education; by enhancing all dimensions of learning, teaching, assessment and scholarship in higher education.

In Britain, Australasia and parts of Europe and Asia this falls under academic staff professional development; or instructional development in Canada, or faculty development in the USA. Such programmes and activities have been a feature of more mature tertiary education systems for more than 40 years.

Developing an academic’s professional practice is crucially important for meeting the expectations of today’s students who hold institutions accountable to increasingly high standards. Ambitious and armed with clear goals and objectives, the modern Gen Z student is critically insightful about what they expect from higher education study. The more advanced TEI’s worldwide have adapted their educational models to become increasingly learner-centric.

In Mauritius as well, this shift towards more learner-centred approaches and strategies has been happening for some time, although slowly. Technology has disrupted the way learners learn, and academics have had to develop newer understandings of pedagogy and andragogy in this digital age. The cultural diversity and mix of abilities in today’s classrooms have demanded novel skills and understanding from academic staff. While rethinking our interactions with this new generation, co-creation is key.

“The cultural diversity and mix of abilities in today’s classrooms have demanded novel skills and understanding”

With this backdrop, Higher Education teaching qualifications have gained significance. In the UK, the Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education (PGCHE), or the Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (PGCAP) are typical British Higher Education teaching qualifications that have come to prominence. The premise for such programmes is that the scholarship of teaching and learning in higher education has its own specialist knowledge base and is an academic subject just as valid and important as any other.

Since its launch in 2011, Middlesex University Mauritius has enrolled close to 80 participants on the PGCHE across six cohorts. It is leading a growing institutional commitment to facilitate professional academic development at higher education in Mauritius, to prioritise the learning needs of vastly diverse communities of students on the island. Each cohort of the PGCHE is inter-disciplinary and multi-cultural, representing the diverse ecosystem of higher education practitioners in Mauritius.

Professional development should lead to professional progress. The statistics from PGCHE graduates at Middlesex University Mauritius have been staggering, reinforcing the transformative power of Education Brand Britain. More than 75% have been promoted at work. A higher percentage were successful in their applications for new tertiary-level teaching opportunities in Mauritius.

“Professional development should lead to professional progress”

Above 25% of participants have drawn on the international recognition of the award and moved abroad to Nigeria, China, Malaysia, Canada, New Zealand or the UK, even receiving job offers from Russell Group universities. Academics and students alike have reported on the positive effects of improved teaching methods for promoting successful learning.

The reflective nature of professional practice to include understandings of the importance of peer learning, active learning and the constructive alignment of learning, assessment and feedback serve as important guidelines for innovative changes to teaching.

In the end, the stakeholders who benefit the most in this ecosystem are the students; they reap the rewards of a more informed and improved quality of teaching provision in higher education. If you are on twitter you can follow me @Sweta_PhD to discuss your thoughts to this blog post, or to make other related comments.

About the author: Dr Sweta Rout-Hoolash, SFHEA (UK) is a Senior Lecturer in International Education at Middlesex University’s campus in Mauritius. She is the Campus Programme Coordinator for MA Education (Leadership and Management) and the recently-launched Higher Education pathway. She is passionate about facilitating the professional development of the higher education community in Mauritius.