Plans announced to create new professional standards for technicians working in higher education

New standards for technicians working across higher education have been announced by the University of Sheffield who are working in partnership with The Institute of Science and Technology (IST) and the Science Council to help secure futures and create new career opportunities which will revolutionise the sector.

For the very first time, technicians – who are essential to both high quality teaching and world leading research carried out at the University of Sheffield and other universities across the UK – will be recognised with a professional membership, qualifications, and continuing professional development.

©iStockphoto.com/mediaphotosFollowing decades with no formal structures and declining numbers taking up roles in the technical community, the creation of new professional standards and a Technicians Register will help secure the future of the UK’s multi-billion pound research and development industry for years to come.

Workers will be able to become “Registered Science Technicians” (RSciTech) with the Science Council before progressing to “Registered Scientists” (RSci), awarded through a licensed professional body, while continuing their professional development and learning new skills.

Chairman of the IST and the University’s Director of Technical Development and Modernisation, Mr Terry Croft, MBE, said: “The Science Council’s new registers have given us the opportunity to formally recognise highly motivated, highly qualified and professional technical support staff in the HE sector which has been neglected for the last 20 years. It is about providing appropriate quality training and development for technical staff. I have been saying for years that we need this; the lack of professional recognition is stopping people from coming into the sector, particularly graduates. People aren’t aware careers like this are available. I have been working hard to ensure that the technician’s voice has been heard.”

Technicians can gain membership and work towards professional qualifications, have defined standards, codes of conduct and ongoing development. The University and IST is answering the calls of the Government and blazing the trail in the HE sector with assessment panels already in place.

Alongside the Register, a Professional Technicians Programme has been launched at the University incorporating three new schemes, starting with two year apprenticeships for young and jobless Sheffield residents which will include a BTEC in science as well as invaluable experience, a trainee technician course and ultimately a graduate technician programme.

Professor Keith Burnett, CBE, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, said: “The future vitality of higher education in the UK will depend on the creative abilities of our technical staff. They are the people at the cutting edge of the research and teaching that drive so much of the innovation we need. They are often the unsung heroes of the advances in science, engineering and medicine. There are few things more important to us than ensuring this talent is properly nurtured and sustained by our universities and colleges.”

Ali Orr, Registrar of the Science Council, added: “Recognition for the vital contribution made by technical staff in higher education to the quality of scientific teaching and research in the UK is long overdue. We are delighted that the Science Council’s new professional registers will provide that recognition as well as providing viable opportunities for career development and progression. As the registers help to make technical roles more attractive, it is essential that we also have in place appropriate routes into these careers and the University of Sheffield’s Professional Technician Programme represents a valuable development in this area.”

The scheme will be launched at the inaugural National Association of Professional and Technical Specialists in Education and IST Conference on the Future of Technical Support in Higher Education on the 4-5 July 2012 at the Richard Roberts Building, the University of Sheffield.

Additional information

The Science Council

The Science Council (www.sciencecouncil.org) is an umbrella organisation for learned societies and professional bodies across science and its applications which works to advance and support the professional practice of science at all levels. The Science Council already holds a register of Chartered Scientists (CSci) and has recently launched the Registered Science Technician (RSciTech) and Registered Scientist (RSci) registers to provide professional recognition across the scientific workforce. Eight professional bodies, providing coverage across employment sectors, have been awarded pilot licences which will run throughout 2012.

Details of the standards for - and benefits of - registration, together with information on how employers and individual technicians can sign up for professional recognition, can be found at www.professionalregisters.org.

The University of Sheffield

With nearly 25,000 students from 125 countries, the University of Sheffield is one of the UK’s leading and largest universities. A member of the Russell Group, it has a reputation for world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines. The University of Sheffield has been named University of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards for its exceptional performance in research, teaching, access and business performance. In addition, the University has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes (1998, 2000, 2002, and 2007).

These prestigious awards recognise outstanding contributions by universities and colleges to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life. Sheffield also boasts five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and many of its alumni have gone on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence around the world. The University’s research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls Royce, Unilever, Boots, AstraZeneca, GSK, ICI, Slazenger, and many more household names, as well as UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

The University has well-established partnerships with a number of universities and major corporations, both in the UK and abroad. Its partnership with Leeds and York Universities in the White Rose Consortium has a combined research power greater than that of either Oxford or Cambridge.

Contact

For further information please contact:

Paul Mannion
Media Relations Officer
The University of Sheffield
0114 222 9851
p.f.mannion@sheffield.ac.uk