15 years of PgCert: Katie Akerman was one of the first graduates

Article overview

Katie Akerman shares her experience of being one of the very first PgCert graduates

The AUA would like to celebrate 15 years of the Postgraduate Certificate by focusing on how the programme has contributed to our students, graduates and mentors’ professional development and hear from those individuals who have made the programme possible through the years.

Katie Akerman

Director of Quality & Standards

University of Chichester

I started working in higher education in 1999 as a Business Manager for the Centre for Corporate Change at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. I then worked for the University of Southampton as the Academic Coordinator for the Learning and Teaching Support Network,  which is when I joined the AUA in 2001.

From Southampton I moved on to the University of Winchester (then King Alfred’s College) which was where I embarked upon my AUA PgCert journey, completing the award in 2003 as one of the first seven graduates. From Winchester I moved on to QAA, where I worked as Development Officer and then Assistant Director in the Reviews Group. In 2008, I joined Bath Spa University as Head of Quality Management and then moved to my current role, as Director of Quality and Standards at the University of Chichester in 2012.

Like most career administrators in higher education, it was all a bit of an accident. On completing my MA in Tourism and Social Responsibility in 1994 I ended up working for the finance department of a council housing department, sending out debt letters and bailiffs. After 18 months or so I went off to Sydney, where I lived for three years. I was lucky enough to land the role at UNSW and have continued to progress ever since!

I joined the AUA to balance out the learning and teaching aspects of my role with the administrative aspects of my role. I am a Fellow of the AUA and also a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA), which very much reflects the nature of working in quality and standards.

I remain as committed to the AUA PgCert now as I was when I started my award. Since 2003,  I have mentored a number of students to completion and have been thrilled to bits to see them gain their award. I was a member of the AUA training team for several years and very much enjoyed working with the AUA team on study days. I am also a long-standing assessor for the PgCert, another role I very much enjoy.

When I started the PgCert, it wasn’t a PgCert! It was the AUA CPD Award – there was something of a kerfuffle when AUA announced it had become a PgCert and participants had been transferred from a CPD Award to a full academic qualification!

I started the award because I wanted something that recognised my commitment to my chosen career from the recognised sector body and I wanted something that enabled me to demonstrate credibility (“I am qualified to do my job!”).

On completion of the award in 2003 (I had something of an incentive to get it done as my first baby was due in January 2003 and I was taking maternity leave!) I had to submit my portfolio personal reflection, the Code of Professional Standards Assignment, the SWOT analysis and commentary, the PDP and personal development record, the Skills Development Analysis, ten minor assignments (each of 500 words) and the Major Assignment.

Although the ten minor assignments were something of a challenge at 500 words each, it gave me an opportunity to explore areas of activity completely unrelated to my role. One assignment was on patterns of income and expenditure, another on international activities, others on environmental performance. I think the breadth of study was crucial to advancing my career, particularly in applying to QAA for a role.

My biggest challenge was completing the award in what was considered to be a relatively short timescale then (15 months) but, as explained, impending maternity leave gave me no choice! There were no study days then, rather students made the most of sessions offered at the AUA’s Annual Conference. I was extraordinarily fortunate in that our Registrar was enormously supportive of both AUA and my undertaking the award and was offered study leave to work on elements required for the qualification.

I very much enjoyed working with my mentor, who was based at the University of Sussex. I started off needing a fair bit of support, which lessened over the course of the programme. She was particularly helpful with my personal development plan.

This working relationship inspired me to become a mentor myself, a role I still gain much from, particularly in terms of managing teams of staff. It is good experience to draw from and the regular training opportunities to refresh on mentoring are very much valued.

I would, of course, recommend the programme to others. In 15 years, I have seen the programme go from strength to strength, through re-validations, changes of validating body, new external examiners and new programme coordinators at AUA itself. I’m enormously proud to be able to say I was one of the first seven to graduate and I believe that my successful achievement of the award has helped me successfully progress in my career. Thank you, AUA!