Newslink 86 | Spring 2017

Newslink 86: Editorial

Dr Giles Brown FAUA
Editor, Newslink

The 2016 Annual Lecture and your Editor’s Top Tip for 2017.

Welcome to the first issue of Newslink in 2017. In this issue we celebrate the Association’s Annual Lecture at The Royal Society in London last December. The evening encompassed a celebration of achievements by both AUA members and institutions with a thought-provoking lecture by Professor Madeleine Atkins CBE (Chief Executive, HEFCE), detailing both the current state of HE and the imminent (and still uncertain) changes to the sector. Our Chair, Kathryn Fowler, started by launching the new AUA brand, which underpins the Association’s values and ambitions, both collectively and for individual members. This was followed by the announcement of the first two AUA Mark of Excellence awards, a new and timely initiative launched in March 2016 which has been well received across the sector. Congratulations to the University of Durham and the University of Bath. The celebratory part of the evening continued with the announcement of 21 new Fellows (FAUA) and the recipients of the John Smith Perspectives Essay Prize. All in all, an excellent event in regal and spectacular surroundings which was very well attended.

I have been reading about and musing on technology over the past few weeks, and its challenges as well as its advantages, which are often in competition. So…, who likes meetings? Who likes spending an inordinate amount of time in meetings when the to-do list sits undone somewhere else? Who feels some meeting participants are unengaged, and matters have to be repeated while the collective intellect present remains untapped and decisions are left to a few people present?

Well, here is my top tip for the issue and for 2017 – give your next meeting your undivided attention and demand the same from everyone else present – no smartphones on desks, no checking of emails on tablets, no smartwatches vibrating. You are there for a reason – your skills and contributions are valued and valuable (if they aren’t, you shouldn’t have been invited!), and you will all be there for a much shorter period of time, and achieve a much richer and valuable outcome, if you keep the technology at bay. These devices are meant to save time but our slavish attachment to them too often wastes time, especially when we are actually doing something else and are contributing to collective activities. Jonathan Safran Foer, writing in the Guardian (2016), discusses the value of someone’s undivided attention, and that such attention is the “purest form of generosity”. So, be generous to your colleagues; if we all do it we will get more done, have more positive professional relationships, deliver better outcomes, and spend less time in meetings!


2016 John Smiths essay competition winners

AUA members attending the Annual Lecture on 1 December in London congratulated our prize winners in the 2016 John Smiths essay competition. All colleagues can now read the pieces from that competition that we have selected for publication.

Issue 21 (1) of Perspectives publishes five essays under the heading ‘The Challenge of Quality’. Namrata Rao and Anesa Hosein won first prize for their analysis of how professional staff view the provision of learning and teaching information on institutional websites. Michelle Henderson, Rebecca Barnett and Heather Barrett were highly commended for an essay on new developments in transnational education (TNE). Claire Hughes and Helen Thomas tell readers why ‘collaborative provision quality assurance isn’t just red tape’ and Tony Murphy explains how the plans to change the rules for REF2021 may, or may not, tell us more about the quality of research in our universities. Finally, four authors from the USA share their experience of how student evaluation of teaching can improve teaching quality in higher education.

‘Meet the Authors’ event 2017

Prospective authors will have an opportunity to find out more about publishing in Perspectives at an event in March. AUA members, and guests who may be considering membership, are invited to a ‘Meet the Authors’ roundtable discussion during the morning of Friday 17 March. This event is being organised by AUA’s International Network and will be held at the Centre for Commercial Law Studies, QMUL, 67-69 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2A 3JB, starting at 10am. Michelle Henderson and her collaborators will be providing examples of their findings and discussing the new opportunities that TNE offers British universities. No doubt, they will also be happy to advise about how they collectively produced their prize-winning essay. This will be a free event for AUA members but non-members will be asked for a small donation to cover catering costs. After lunch there will be the chance to discuss how to develop the International Network with the new coordinator and his two deputies. Further details are available on the AUA website

Also in this edition…

Lean and HE
Christine Stewart explains how Lean and help sustain improvement in HE

AUA Annual Lecture and Awards Ceremony 2016
Trustee Mark Crittenden celebrates the 2016 event

Efficiency Exchange
Rosie Niven shares examples of good practice in Higher Education

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