Keeping Perspective
Future HE Professionals Project Update

Chris Ince | AUA Chair | Secretary and Registrar | London Metropolitan University

Back in February this year I wrote to members about AUA’s ‘Future HE Professionals’ project – a collaborative research project to help us understand the needs of HE professional services into the future and to inform the next phase in AUA’s development as we approach our diamond jubilee year in 2021.  

The current agenda for HE has changed beyond recognition in a few short weeks as the sector, alongside wider society, has responded to the pressing challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic. 

In the context of such an emergency, I hope it is helpful to members to know that your Association is also continuing to keep a longer-view perspective on the future of our profession, in support of the UK HE sector. 

As you might remember from my earlier blog, some of the questions I hope Future HE Professionals will address include:

How professional services roles are developing in the context of a rapidly changing higher education sector

What development, in skills and attributes, will be needed to equip professional services for the future of higher education

How can the AUA continue to support the success of UK higher education in the next phase of its work as a professional association

What new services and activities might we need to develop and how might we best work with other higher education organisations in the future

How can the AUA best serve its members in support of the higher education sector

Alongside background research, the project includes a major Future HE Professionals Survey, and I’d like to express my thanks to the hundreds of members who participated in this survey during February. In total we received more than 2,000 responses, creating a rich data source ti inform our future thinking.

Looking at some of the key perspectives revealed in the survey, while 77% of respondents report being actively encouraged in development by their employer, responses also reveal some concern around institutional commitment to (and investment in) professional development for professional services staff, including a perceived absence of defined professional career structures/pathways.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, nearly all respondents (90%) expect moderate or significant change in their role over the next five years.  In line with this, support in relation to change management is identified as a development priority, alongside management/leadership skills and project management competence.

Other development needs highlighted include improved skills in the area of finance / budgeting / business planning, and targeted opportunities for networking / sharing practice / job shadowing.

The project has now entered a stakeholder consultation phase, and thanks again to those members who will be part of a focus group discussion in the coming weeks. 

As I’ve already mentioned, Future HE Professionals is part of AUA’s planning for the next phase of its work. The project is being overseen by a small group of Trustees, chaired by AUA Vice-Chair Amanda Oliver (Brunel University) who will become the new Chair of AUA on 1 September 2020.  Further reports on the project, and on our future plans as an association, will follow later in the year.  Specifically in the early Autumn there will be an opportunity for all members to give their views on our planning preparations, before these are endorsed by the Board of Trustees and set out in Strategy format.

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