Patrick Hackett | The role of professional services

Vikki Goddard reports on Patrick Hackett’s Keynote | The role of professional services at the AUA Conference 2019

Patrick HackettPatrick Hackett
Registrar, Secretary and Chief Operating Officer | The University of Manchester

About Patrick

Patrick has been Registrar, Secretary and Chief Operating Officer at The University of Manchester since 1 October 2018 where he leads more than 5,700 Professional Services (PS) staff and is a member of the Senior Leadership Team. Previously Patrick was Deputy Vice-Chancellor at The University of Liverpool, where he contributed to the development of a new institutional strategy, ‘Towards 2026’; led the Strategic Change programme to deliver new strategic objectives; and developed a new vision of ‘one PS’. An architect by profession, Patrick has a BArch from University College Dublin and has previously held senior leadership positions at The University of Reading and Royal Holloway, University of London. He has also been a consultant, advising higher education institutions across the UK on facilities management organisation and development and the delivery of major capital projects.

Vikki Goddard Head of Faculty Operations University of Manchester AUA Trsutee

Vikki Goddard
Director of Operations | The University of Manchester
AUA Trustee

As Registrar, Secretary and Chief Operating Officer at Manchester Patrick leads one of the largest Professional Services teams in the sector, so it was no surprise to see a large audience assembled to hear him speak about the role of Professional Services. Reflecting on how Professional Services can contribute to the success of our Universities and ensure that HE is not just fit for the future but thrives in a world of uncertainty, he argued strongly for a bold view of what we contribute. Key to success is having clear vision and values across a ‘one PS’ operating model, and understanding that HE has to operate in a business-like and financially sustainable way.

We are all professionals, whether by qualification or experience, and not ‘non-academic’. We work in partnership with academic colleagues to achieve success, to the same objectives. Patrick challenged us to be more flexible and agile – we are all aware of the major challenges coming our way …. Is our current organisation, structure, and way of working going to hit the mark? Should we be thinking about identifying the skills we need to work on particular projects and tasks, and bringing a team together and disbanding it once the piece of work is complete? Is setting objectives for a year rather than three months really helping us to focus and prioritise?

Patrick made a strong case for a values-based approach to recruitment and development of staff. We should be looking at our people in the context of their development and future careers, not what they are doing right now. Empowering Professional Services staff to deliver, especially on change, and driving effectiveness to free up people to do more of what is adding value, is critical.

During questions, several people raised issues around PS staff referred to as ‘administrators’ and should we ban this term? And there were references to PS staff feeling like second-class citizens. Patrick had likened the relationship to a three-legged stool of education, research and impact, and professional services … if any one leg is taken away, the whole falls down. He left us with a fitting challenge, that in line with values and being bold, it was the duty of every one of us to call out poor behaviour, and to speak out for more junior colleagues. We all have to live our vision and values.

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