Holly Porter, BCS Membership Director and Paul Martynenko FBCS, Chair of the BCS Registrations and Standards Committee, explain the new updates to BCS Fellowship.

Some exciting changes were introduced to BCS Fellowship on 11 May 2022. 'We wanted to reflect the expansion of the profession and the many new and different ways that individuals are making an impact as leaders,' says Holly Porter, BCS Membership Director, who initiated the major review.

Approved by BCS Trustees after several months of engaging different groups across BCS, the challenge was to ensure that the high standard for Fellowship was retained, while embracing the broader qualities we want to recognise and celebrate as a professional body. ‘It’s been a long time since we reviewed our Fellowship criteria,' continues Porter. 'It was important to check that it was still working for us and for the applicants. We found that the criteria were increasingly difficult to interpret in today’s world and presented a barrier to potential applications.’

As a professional body, we have a unique ability to convene and engage stakeholders from across the digital and technology landscape: IT professionals, educators, entrepreneurs, teachers, academics, students, learners, technical trainers, influencers and policy makers. Our royal charter states that our purpose is to promote and advance the profession for the benefit of society. This means that our membership community - especially at the leadership grade - needs to be broad and diverse, to ensure we fully reflect and meet society’s needs.

‘When we looked at the demographics of Fellows, we saw that applicants were coming from a relatively narrow section of the profession and were predominantly male.’ explains Porter.

‘And sadly, almost a third of new applicants were unsuccessful and the number of queries around borderline cases was increasing. It seemed to me that the criteria of ‘eminence, ‘authority and ‘seniority’ were struggling.’

How did we approach the change?

We enlisted members of the BCS Registration and Standards Committee (RSC) and the group operations team. Coordinated by Angelique Tavernier MBCS, BCS Regulation and Standards Manager, they embarked on a major investigation. They reviewed criteria from other institutes, academies and industry and they investigated different application processes. They wanted improvements made to the criteria and the assessment process, proposing draft criteria and a streamlined process. They validated these with stakeholders and Boards testing for completeness and balance.

Paul Martynenko FBCS, Chair of RSC, said: ‘We wanted Fellowship to be more inclusive, more accessible and broader in its appeal. While maintaining the standard: Fellowship is one of the highest honours that a professional may receive. And we found we were missing a hugely important and growing population of potential Fellows. People who use information technology to make IT good for society but don’t necessarily associate themselves with IT, or the IT function in their organisation.’

Rachel Steenson FBCS, Business Development Manager, Civica and BCS Council member said:

‘The new fellowship criteria showcases the desire for BCS to be a truly representative body, recognising people from all walks of life and backgrounds who have had an impact in the IT sector.'

Being one of the most influential people in tech, should not be related to how many academic papers you have written or how long you have worked in it, but about what you have done to improve society through the use of technology. This new criteria reflects that, and I am excited to meet the next generation of Fellows.’

Dr Sam De Silva FBCS, Trustee and Chair of the Law Specialist Group, agrees: ‘The new fellowship criteria embraces the dynamics of an evolving profession. The aspiration for the Institute to be more diverse and for it to actively encourage more people to be part of an exciting journey in the digital sphere is great to see. I hope that this will be the beginning of something really transformational both for the Institute and its members. ‘

So, what's changed?

We now focus on three areas of a candidate’s professional life and go into more depth to help candidates and assessors. We focus on: the impact of their leadership (their body of work), the impact of their contribution to the profession (professional impact) and their reputation as a role model (their standing in the community). Each area is broken down into sub-criteria and candidates must provide evidence for four of these: one from each of the three areas and one additional from either body of work or professional impact.’

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The application process has also been streamlined and we’ve switched the responsibility of the applicant and their supporters. The applicant is now responsible for submitting evidence of their experience, which BCS Fellow and work-related supporters verifying and validate. Applications will still undergo robust peer assessment by experienced BCS Fellowship assessors, but there is no longer an interview.

'My main concern was that there was no erosion of the standard required,' says Adrian Grace MBCS, Enterprise Architect, Vanguard Platform Services at Informa. 'I firmly believe that new criteria have maintained the high benchmark of Fellowship but have made the award more accessible.'

‘The key changes are the move from recognition of achievement in terms of a narrow definition, into a more realistic broadening to reflect our profession as a whole,’ adds Colin Smythe FBCS, Director of Dunelm Services.

‘More importantly, to enable the Institute to recognise and channel energy from people with more diverse expertise and experience, this broadening is essential.’

Fellowship now speaks to a wider pool of exceptional talent. As Kevin Chalmers FBCS, Deputy Dean School of Arts (Computing) explains, 'Whether you see yourself as a research, education, or practice-based academic... that diversity of role will breadthen our pool of Fellows and impact our efforts in making IT good for society.'

And there's more to come

‘Fellowship itself mustn’t be considered as a mere award or trophy,’ says Porter. ‘Every Fellow subscribes to an obligation to promote the charitable aim of BCS: Making IT good for Society. Our vision is for Fellows to engage in a vast variety of activities - with and on behalf of BCS, such as supporting research, policy formation, education, entrepreneurship, and public engagement. So, we’ve got some work to do to develop this programme of opportunities.’

We are actively seeking applications, so if you think BCS Fellowship is for you, or if you know someone who you think should be recognised, visit www.bcs.org/fellowship for the full criteria and details of how to apply.