Higher Education Technical Taxonomy (HETT) Framework 

22 March 2024


In a recent NTDC poll (March 2024), only 8% of respondents(n=62) believed their university to have a published career pathway for technical staff.  Having partnered over 25 organisations on their career pathway development journey to date, the National Technician Development Centre (NTDC) is home to the Higher Education Technical Taxonomy (HETT) Framework.  The HETT Framework comprises a clear and incremental technician role architecture, capability framework and roles outlines underpinning career pathway development. 


The NTDC’s Career Pathway initiative commenced in 2014 when the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) funded the Technical Development and Modernisation (TDM) Project.

In 2014, the role of a technician was often not part of a clear career pathway on which one could aspire to progress via development and recognition.  This was considered a significant barrier to the attraction and retention of technical talent, and a major contributor to the technical skills shortage facing the UK at that time.

The TDM project established a group of 40 university partners (Russell & Post ‘92) and HEaTED (Higher Education and Technician Educational Development).  The group built on the best practice contained within the Competency Assessment Tool for Technical Staff (CATTS), drew out and embedded current sector best practice and also included emerging sector trends.  The group co-created the Higher Education Technical Taxonomy Framework (HETT Framework).  Once the HETT Framework was complete, the CATTS was retired and the HETT Framework became the standard.

When the project completed Office for Students (OfS) recognised that without continuous updating and a team to facilitate implementation, the TDM assets would not be utilised by the sector.  OfS endorsed the NTDC as the formal National Body for the Higher Education sector and it became custodian of HETT Framework and other TDM assets (e.g. NTDC Technician Survey).  The NTDC is currently supporting 70 organisations (including HEaTED partners).  HEaTED is the training division of the NTDC, specialising in technician focused training, CPD and networking events.

HETT Framework

The HETT Framework supports universities and research organisations to develop clear career pathways for their technician workforce.  

The HETT Framework has 3 components:

This is the architecture of incremental roles and their names or role titles.  Role numbers are presented across the top, however, these are not aligned to pay.  At role level 3, roles diverge into 3 pathways, (from top to bottom):

Over 4,500 technicians have been surveyed by the NTDC Technician Survey.  Role focus is reported in Table 1:

The total of Research and Teaching equates to 100% to reflect respondents could indicate a primary focus of either Research or Teaching.  The Leadership & Management percentage is across all respondents data; respondents may respond independently of their Research or Teaching primary focus.

In this update of the HETT the dual focused research & teaching Specialist roles have been omitted (Figure 1), however, these are available for organisations where this route delivers benefit.

Figure 1: Higher Education Technical Taxonomy

2. Capability Framework

This describes the abilities individuals would require to successfully complete each role.  Most organisations will already have an agreed capability framework in place.  Our capability framework is useful for identifying specific technical abilities.

3. Role Outlines

The role outlines define the tasks and objectives of each role in the family.

Continuous Improvement 

To ensure that the HETT Framework continues to serve the Sector the NTDC applies the following principles:

Sector Outlook

To date, the NTDC has supported 25 organisations to adopt the HETT Framework.  However, there are still many more organisations seeking to improve their technician career pathways which is very promising for the sector.  A poll (n=62) taken during the NTDC TechMeet (March 2024) revealed:

Working with New Partners

The NTDC will support you to achieve the optimum technician career pathway for your organisation.  Services range from supporting implementation of aligned role families to smaller projects seeking to implement enhancements to existing structures.  Many of our partners find the NTDC Technician Survey to be a convenient start point as this provides a full audit of technical staff and skills.  To date, we have run the Survey with 30 partners.

Given we are external to your organisation we act as an impartial and critical friend; we are a fresh pair of eyes.  We treat all interactions and all data shared in strict confidence.

Please contact us if you wish to discuss how we can partner with you.