Higher education in Oman is in transition, with an increased focus on the outcomes of graduates and, in particular, the development of the workforce to support the economy. There is a clear drive to upskill the population through degree programmes that support the direction and infrastructure of the national economy. There’s also a push to support HE teaching staff through professional development programmes.
So I was delighted to be part of an HEA team invited to deliver workshops earlier this month to support higher education staff development and to share our learning in strategic approaches to Assessment & Feedback and Employability. These are two of the HEA’s FrameWorks series designed to address key themes and challenges in higher education. (Other themes are internationalisation; access retention & success, flexible learning, student engagement.)
This invitation had been a long-time in the planning with support from the British Council in Oman together with the Caledonian College of Engineering – our hosts – and, significantly, the Ministry of Education in Oman.
Delegates from nearly all higher education institutions across Oman were invited to participate in a day of interactive workshops and discussions around the work of the HEA, including an overview of the HEA Fellowship scheme, the purpose of the Professional Standard Framework (PSF) alongside the FrameWorks, Assessment & Feedback and Employability.
Each of the workshops encouraged discussions around the issues and challenges in higher education, particularly for those delivering degree and postgraduate programmes in Oman. For me, it was really interesting to note that many of the challenges faced by institutions and individual academics in Oman are almost identical to those teaching in the UK: engagement, academic integrity, plagiarism, student achievement, assessment and feedback and, of course, employability. While the systems of academic administration, registry and validation processes support the standards required at degree level, there is a clear desire to develop and professionalise teaching and enhance the student experience. The Caledonian College of Engineering, for example, has a clear strategy to encourage staff towards gaining relevant academic and professional qualifications to support their teaching programmes, with awards each year aimed at supporting teaching in the classroom.
Our experience of visiting Oman and delivering the programme left us with strong positive impressions, not least in terms of their commitment towards investing in staff development through engaging in the PSF and the HEA Fellowship, and that colleagues’ teaching practice and experience was closely aligned to the values and standards set out in the PSF.
We would like to extend our thanks to all the colleagues at the Caledonian College of Engineering who made us feel very welcome and we look forward to a continued partnership to support teaching excellence in Oman.
Staff on the trip:
Dr Julie Baldry Currens – HEA Associate and UKPSF assessor.
Hugh Mannerings – Academic Lead of Retention and Success
Nick Fletcher – International Office
The HEA’s mission is: ‘Improving learning outcomes by raising the status and quality of teaching in higher education’. Based in the UK, the HEA works in more than 25 countries including in the Middle East, China (including Hong Kong), Australia and New Zealand, Europe, and in North and South America.