Chair’s column – Winter 2016/17

photo-kathy-fowler-largeChair’s Column – Winter 2016/17

This is daunting! – my first opportunity to speak to you as your Chair. I am deeply honoured, somewhat nervous and very excited to be writing this, my first Newslink column for you.

First of all, I want to pay a heartfelt tribute to Tessa Harrison, who has been such a wonderful exemplar of the qualities an AUA Chair should have – she has led by example, always taken a strategic view, been a warm and empathetic colleague, and passionately espoused the full gamut of AUA values. For me, personally, she has been a constant and an inspiration on the Board since I joined it in 2011. I have worked with outstanding
Board members, many of whom have become friends as well as colleagues and with three chairs (Chris Hallas, Matthew Andrews and Tessa) since 2011 learning from them all. I promise to do my best not to let you, or them, down.

As well as Tessa, the June 2016 Board of Trustees meeting marked the departure of Kenton Lewis, Nigel Phillips, and John Ryan, all of whom have contributed to the AUA Board in so many ways. We were however delighted to welcome our new Trustees: Mark Crittenden (University of Greenwich), Sue MacGregor (University of Gloucestershire), and Andrew West (University of Sheffield), and Nicola Owen (University of Lancaster) who will serve a second term. Amanda Oliver will join the Board in an ex officio capacity as Chair of the Board of Studies. I would like to thank the selection panel who gave up their time to select the new Board members. This is one way in which we try to involve members in the governance of the AUA.

For personal reasons, Tessa decided not to take up the Vice Chair role at the end of her time as Chair. The Board approved my recommendation that Chris Ince (SOAS) take up the role of Vice Chair for the coming year. I am grateful to him for his support and look forward to working with him over the next twelve months. The normal process to identify candidates for the Vice Chair/Chair Elect will be undertaken over the next few months, so expect more news in due course.

“I have always found that the AUA offers a breadth of experience, a wealth of perspectives, and a safe place to develop understanding and approaches – at this time we need that more than ever.”

It was, notwithstanding the welcomes and farewells, a busy Board meeting. We are looking at our own governance processes, especially in the light of the Kids Company review, planning for the next Annual Conference (10-11 April 2017, get the dates in your diaries – bookings are open now), continuing with the refresh of the CPD Framework and the innovation of the Mark of Excellence (both of which are covered in more detail in this issue of Newslink), and we are looking to improve your experience of the AUA through the networks and the web presence; we are expecting to be busy over the coming months. The Board will review the strategy laid out by Tessa at the 2015 Conference with a view to ensuring we are on track to deliver against our plans.

I take up the Chair at a time of great change and uncertainty. The outcome of the EU Referendum was announced on the same day as the June Board meeting, and we, like the sector in general, are still working to understand the implications. We know that this will impact on members in many ways, and I can assure you that your AUA will engage in discussions, and will seek the best way to support you as the position becomes clearer. I have always found that the AUA offers a breadth of experience, a wealth of perspectives, and a safe place to develop understanding and approaches – at this time we need that more than ever.

However, Brexit is only one of the changes we face. Our Annual Lecture was on 1 December 2016, with Professor Madeleine Atkins, Chief Executive of HEFCE, as the speaker. This flagship event offered members the opportunity to hear a sector leader talking about current issues such as the White Paper, the transformation of knowledge exchange, globalisation and our place in the world. The lecture followed our Annual Development Conference, which took place during the day. Those who attended both events benefitted from many perspectives on the sector and the challenges and changes it faces. This is one example of how the AUA offers the opportunity to ‘step away from the day job’ for a while to contemplate the bigger, contextual picture together as a professional sector.

The AUA is yours and I am delighted and privileged to be able to serve you for the next two years. I extend an open offer to you to get in touch and let me know your thoughts.

Finally, and returning to Tessa’s farewell, at the end of the Board meeting, we shared a tradition I brought from Scotland, which I have called home for 30 years… a dram of malt and the traditional Aberdeen Bon Accord Toast, which sums up how I feel about the AUA, as well as my friends, Tessa, Kenton, Nigel and John…

Happy to Greet, Sorry to Part, Happy to Meet Again: Bon Accord

Kathy Fowler FAUA
AUA Chair and Deputy Executive Director, Aberdeen Institute of Energy, University of Aberdeen

Originally published in Newslink 95 – January 2017

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