AUA Awards Mark of Excellence to the Royal Veterinary College

The AUA is thrilled to announce that RVC is the latest institution to be awarded the Mark of Excellence with a successful application for full institutional recognition. This fantastic achievement is the result of hard work which began in 2011, when RVC first started to work with the AUA CPD Framework as part of a pilot project. Since then RVC has successfully embedded the framework into all aspects of the employee lifecycle for staff across the whole college, applying it not only to professional service staff but also academic colleagues too.

The Mark of Excellence is an award for Higher Education Institutions who have demonstrated their commitment to the AUA professional values and who have successfully embedded the AUA CPD Framework into their professional services staff development provision. Achieving the Mark clearly signals an institution’s commitment to the development of their professional services staff, both now and in the future.

We’re both delighted and honoured to be awarded the Mark of Excellence. It is something we have been working towards for some time and to receive this recognition for our efforts is all the more poignant coming at such a challenging time for the sector and the whole country.

I think I can honestly say that I have seen evidence almost every day since the crisis hit of the value of the Framework and the positive impact it can have on an institution. For that reason, I would also say just how proud and grateful we are to have been part of such a worthwhile initiative.

Ian Darker, Chief Operating Officer and Secretary to Council

There were several aspects of RVC’s application that the assessment panel found especially impressive. They commended the comprehensive and joined up approach to embedding the framework in all development processes, including appraisal. The panel also commended the inclusion of the Mark of Excellence in the strategic plan, demonstrating senior support and commitment to achieving the Mark. They found RVC’s aspirations to extend the use of the framework to also apply to students in the future very exciting and are looking forward to learning how this might be done and to sharing outcomes with the sector.

“The MoE panel were very impressed with the quality of the submission from RVC. The RVC has worked hard since 2011 to embed the AUA values and behaviours and this is evident from some of the good practice and exemplar initiatives that are now in place. The RVC are deserved recipients of the AUA Mark of Excellence – well done!”
Amanda Oliver, Chair of the AUA Assessment Panel

Using the behaviours at a senior management away day

We asked RVC a few questions about their achievement:

You have been working with the AUA CPD Framework since 2011, when it was first piloted. How has your use of it evolved over the years?

It’s probably fair to say that, in the early days, our work focused on using the Framework to find solutions to specific operational challenges. As we progressed and links were made between processes supporting individuals and delivery of institutional objectives, we realised how significantly the Framework could support first HR Strategy and then the wider strategic goals of the RVC. It was then that the different parts of the jigsaw really came together.

Why did you decide to apply for the Mark of Excellence?

We wanted to highlight the value of the CPD Framework and its potential to improve performance and provide a catalyst for cultural change. We also wanted to demonstrate the RVC’s commitment to developing everyone, whatever their role, using a tool that was congruent with our own established values. When we started work on the application it became evident that there was much to be proud of about the achievements and working practices of the team here – perhaps even more than we’d considered prior to the application – so, we have been very happy to illustrate what we have achieved to share our good practice.

What have been the main benefits of using the RVC Behaviours for your professional services colleagues and as an organisation? What impact has it had?

The Behaviours really have provided a common language and level of understanding about development of professional services staff, which people can readily engage with. This has been applicable for individuals and managers and also, just as importantly, for our people processes. Over time, this has allowed us to establish a degree of consistency in our approach to the foundation of good practice across all aspects of performance management. More recently, with their integration into our Strategic Plan, we have been able to use the Behaviours to drive positive cultural change, most notably in terms of advancing genuine parity of esteem across the RVC.

Have there been challenges in adopting the RVC behaviours? What were they and how have you overcome them?

Because they are so comprehensive, the Behaviours can take time to fully engage with. Inevitably there have been some who saw them as “bureaucratic” and “impractical”.  As our Staff Engagement Survey showed, coverage across RVC was varied initially. Our approach to overcoming this has always been to engage directly with staff to seek, and act upon, their views about how best to develop and implement the Behaviours and make them relevant. Also, the more the Behaviours have been integrated into our processes, the more people have engaged with them without necessarily realising they are doing so – simply developing good practice along the way. This has particularly been the case with our Management Development Programme and probationary arrangements. Of course, the endorsement and genuine support of our Principal and senior team has also been crucial.

The assessment panel was particularly impressed by the reach of the RVC Behaviours, particularly given that they are also being used by academic colleagues too. Was there any resistance to using them?

In short, no!  The Heads of our academic departments, actually approached HR to request that the Behaviours be incorporated into new academic probation and promotion processes. This was subsequently endorsed by other academic staff and managers, via focus groups, as the work progressed. Some had been using the Behaviours informally at an individual level and had discovered the benefits of a behavioural approach to people issues themselves. It was this engagement that eventually gave us a platform from which to advocate the benefits more widely, engage with our senior team and begin to use the Framework strategically.

What does achieving the Mark mean to you?

The Mark formally recognises our efforts at a sector level and, critically, provides validation from the AUA, as our professional body, and as the originators of the CPD Framework, for our efforts to support individual development and align it, where possible, with strategic goals. We want to use this as a platform to build on our success and take the Framework even further as catalyst for cultural development and as a strategic driver. As our Principal commented on hearing we had achieved the MoE “seeking and attaining appropriate endorsements of this kind is an important part of the way we have taken RVC forward in recent years. (The MoE) is every bit as central to saying who we are as the discipline or profession specific accreditations, standards and affiliations we proudly own.”

What advice would you give to other institutions who are thinking about using the AUA CPD Framework or applying for the AUA Mark of Excellence?

Be ambitious, but start where you know you can have an impact and seize opportunities as they arise. Early – and relevant – successes are crucial as they give you the mandate you need to take the Framework forward. Engage with the staff who will use it as you develop your approach and, of course, secure understanding and support from the senior team.
As for applying for the MoE, if you have confidence in what you’ve achieved and can demonstrate commitment to the AUA’s values, you should go for it. You’ll be well supported by the AUA at every step of the way.

Colleagues at the RVC share the benefits of using the AUA CPD Framework:

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