Newslink 87 | Summer 2017

Newslink 87: Editorial

Dr Giles Brown FAUA
Editor, Newslink

The 2017 Annual Conference and Exhibition
Transformation in response to change

The theme of this year’s Conference was Transformation in response to change. Over two days and across two plenary lectures, seven keynote addresses, 64 working sessions, a debate, and numerous networking opportunities, speakers and delegates engaged with this theme with enthusiasm, positivity and gusto!

Transformation may be defined as:

a complete change in the appearance or character of something or someone, especially so that that thing or person is improved

Such personal and professional changes are often driven and influenced by external factors, which affect us on a variety of timescales, both short- and longer-term (though it certainly feels like the short-term is dominant at the moment). Our Conference speakers addressed many of these issues (including TEF, the Higher Education and Research Bill, Brexit, changes to the structure of the Research Councils, the new Office for Students [which replaces HEFCE], splitting research and education through changes to the DfE and BEIS ). If that wasn’t enough, since Conference, further perturbations have been introduced, not least by having another General Election – it is actually getting difficult to keep up! However, change is certainly not new and we have successfully dealt with it before as HE and FE professionals. This is clearly illustrated in the Higher Education Timeline we published in a special AUA Golden Jubilee publication in 2011, and this has been updated and republished in this issue of Newslink to hopefully encourage you to face these new challenges.

Over that time our profession has transformed too. It is a measure of the success of the AUA and its predecessors that this transformation has been so effective, and we have come a long way as a profession over the past 40 years. Taking another definition of transformation as a starting point (OUP, 2017)2, this can be reflected as:

an on-going process by which we have become a key element in the organisational structure of higher education institutions, moving from being an underlying element to an influential facet of organisational structures 

In an interview in The Observer in 2016, Bruce Springsteen observed that “… you can change someone’s life in three minutes with the right song”. I also believe, based on my personal experience and the engagement, dedication and vision of other professional services staff, that you can both (a) change someone’s career with the right words and (b) change someone’s perception of professional services staff by

the right three-minute engagement. The AUA’s Annual Conference and Exhibition again highlighted how we, and our Association, influence the sector and the development and direction of individual careers, support the aspirations of our colleagues, and broaden possibilities for staff and students. I hope this issue of Newslink encourages regular attendees and newcomers alike to go to next year’s Conference or another AUA event – do come along and explore how you can develop and share your skills, identify where you want your career to go (and how to get there), and realise your ambitions.

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

At this time, just after our Annual Conference and Exhibition, it is a pleasure to share my memories of a wonderful few days in Manchester.

The only thing we couldn’t control was the weather and, on the Sunday when I arrived it was all set fair. Alas that didn’t last, but a little rain could not dent the AUA spirit! Thank you to everyone -speakers, delegates, exhibitors, Board members, venue staff, the fantastic, incredibly hardworking, Office team – for making it a stand out event.

The tone was set at the outset by our opening plenary. Nicola Dandridge, CEO of UUK, took this year’s theme of Transformation (which built on the previous year’s Creativity, Collaboration and Complexity) and reflected where the sector was positioned, the challenges and the opportunities we face. From there we were treated to a sparkling array of speakers and ideas, the only pity being one couldn’t attend them all! The debate (‘This house believes that a degree is a sound financial investment’) was an excellent example of passionate but balanced discussion, with new technology to the fore via real-time online voting in the hall, which was tighter than one might have expected. As ever, Conference gave us the best of the AUA – friends (new and old), generous sharing, networking, information and ideas! Want to read the full article?  log in or join to access the full content.

Also in this edition…

Developing your coaching skills
Tessa Harrison looks at how coaching can transform individuals and organisations

Living with uncertainty and making a success of it
Jon Renyard on a volatile higher education environment

Mark of Excellence
How the CPD Framework is benefiting staff at two universities

But wait, there’s so much more to read! Only AUA members can access the full version of Newslink #87, please log in or join to access the full content.