Tutors Awarded Associate Fellowships of the AdvanceHE as Part of New Initiative

We’re delighted to announce that 7 of our tutors have applied for an Associate Fellowship of the AdvanceHE (formerly the Higher Education Academy), with the assistance of the University of South Wales. 

The tutors had to complete an application providing evidence and understanding of their teaching, which the university provided guidance on. This is part of a scheme we are piloting as a method of giving recognition to our tutors and their outstanding teaching abilities.

So far, 3 of the 7 tutors who have applied have passed. We would like to congratulate Jacques Van Blerk (Sports and Exercise Medicine); Bijjo Raju (Dermatology); and Leela Barham (Applied Health Economics). This award recognizes their ability to demonstrate an understanding of effective teaching, a supportive attitude and excellent subject knowledge, and we are extremely proud of them for achieving this.

We spoke to our tutors about their backgrounds, teaching journeys and experiences with the Associate Fellowship of the AdvanceHE scheme. 


Jacques Van Blerk is a Biokineticist practicing in Cape Town South Africa. “Biokineticists are allied health care practitioners working with final phase rehabilitation and chronic diseases with the main form of therapy being exercise,” he tells us.

After completing his Diploma and Masters in Sport and Exercise Medicine through the University of South Wales Jacques immediately began working as an online tutor with Learna | Diploma MSc.

Can you tell us about your teaching journey prior to becoming a tutor with us?

JVB:I had no real prior experience in tutoring and, honestly, was surprised when asked to join the Learna team as a potential tutor. They gave me the initial opportunity to shadow an experienced tutor before turning me over to my first module as a fully recognized tutor.” 

“I enjoyed the experience and interaction with fellow healthcare providers around the world but had to forge my own identity as an educator as I had no real teaching skills to fall back on.”

As time passed I grew in confidence – it became clear that I had a passion for teaching and empowering others. Though I lacked formal education in teaching, I had real success with the diploma and master’s students. It was immensely satisfying to know that I made a positive contribution in their professional lives.”

And how did you find the process of writing your application?

JVB:The Learna team came up with the initiative of an online associate fellowship and asked if I’d be interested. I saw this as a natural progression in upskilling myself as an online educator and accepted the invitation.”

“This would be a three-month project and we met with our supervisor every couple of weeks where we covered material related to criteria of Descriptor 1 (D1) of the UK Professional Standards Framework (UKPSF) for teaching and supporting learning in higher education.”

“We would complete various assignments that would form part of our final application. This sounded daunting, but taking things step-by-step and having assistance and access to our instructor helped me.”

What impact has taking part in the associate fellowship application process had on your teaching?

JVB:The process exposed me to new teaching methods and ways of successfully engaging with students in an online community. I was fortunate to do this associate fellowship in a group – our online video discussions and interactions made me feel a lot more at ease.

“After tutoring for three years I started to feel that I’d reached a ceiling with my progress in online education, but the associate fellowship has allowed me to take the next step in my teaching career.”


Bijjo Raju, is a Consultant Dermatologist with a vast clinical experience in primary care dermatology. He currently practices at a large charitable medical centre in Coimbatore, India.

He tells us that his training at the premier Madras Medical College was the key driving force behind applying: “My fellowship in HIV medicine from the prestigious Christian Medical College, Vellore enabled me to deliver the entire subject modules in simple lecture series to postgraduate trainees of the diplomate in national board in internal medicine, family medicine, and other interested junior doctors over a period of one year in 2012.”

Bijjo Raju also discusses the impact that taking part in the associate fellowship application process had on his teaching: “It’s become more personalised – every student has become my priority, not just the cohort as a whole, with additional emphasis on their satisfaction. Also, my strides towards excellence in teaching have become more palpable than ever.

How did you find the process of writing your application?

BR: “Although the requirements initially appeared tough to comprehend, the excellent support system from the university mentor and the Learna line manager helped everything fall into place on time.”

“Tutoring has helped me strengthen my own understanding of dermatology as I have to present up-to-date modules in a way that is clear and clear to my students.

Do you have any advice for other tutors who may be interested in applying for an associate fellowship?

BR: “Although, as yet, I do not fully understand the entire scope of the fellowship achievement, it has certainly opened a pathway to explore further avenues in online education, like technology-enhanced learning, which is one of my core interests.” 

“I’d encourage all tutors in medical education to apply and gain the fellowship so that we can set the new benchmark for the meaning of “excellence.


Leela Barham, is an independent Health Economist with a BSc in Economics and MSc in Health Economics with 20 years of experience. She works for clients on the economics of health care and also writes for a variety of online magazines on the pharmaceutical industry.

Leela tells us about her teaching journey prior to joining Learna | Diploma MSc as a tutor: I regularly provided training as part of my independent work before joining Learna Ltd, delivering face to face training on the economics of the pharmaceutical industry as well as webinars.

What impact has taking part in the associate fellowship application process had on your teaching?

LB: “I found that the application process was a great way to reflect on my teaching practice and gain further insights into how to deliver effective tutoring on an online platform. The process also allowed me to build up a wider network of practitioners working in higher education and feel supported as I went through the process.”

How did you find the process of writing your application?

LB: “I found the application writing to be a useful exercise in terms of reflecting on my teaching style and with step-by-step advice and constructive feedback it was an enjoyable process. It didn’t take long either!”

How has tutoring and gaining associate fellowship benefitted you?

LB: “The Associate Fellowship has provided me with professional recognition as well as being a great learning opportunity in and of itself.”

Do you have any advice for other tutors who may be interested in applying for an associate fellowship?

LB: “Just go for it! There is support every step of the way. Don’t put off drafting the application; it makes sense just to get started and then improve it with the help of the team.”


We are incredibly fortunate to be able to work with world-leading tutors who provide our students with the best possible value from our online courses. Our new Associate Fellowship of the AdvanceHE scheme helps elevate our tutors to even greater heights. 

Are you interested in becoming a tutor with us? Please get in touch!