The AUA CPD Framework

What is the framework?

The AUA CPD Framework is a versatile tool that supports the career development of higher education professionals. It works on an organisational and individual level, for professionals at all career stages, and can be applied across all roles in the sector.

The Framework adds a new behavioural perspective to career development which complements and enhances the more familiar information provided by job descriptions and personal specifications.

It provides:

  • – A model of professional behaviours
  • – A broad structure to help your institutions identify the CPD needs of professional services staff, and plan and deliver tailored development activities
  • – A broad structure for individuals (you) to help them identify their own CPD needs and plan personal professional development
  • Flexibility for local tailoring so your institution can substitute your own CPD processes and documentation, capability frameworks, organisational values and behaviours while still benefitting from the broader framework

The professional behaviours

This model of professional behaviours highlights behaviour patterns that distinguish effective performance in HE professional services roles. The professional behaviours were developed through desk research, consultation questionnaires, workshops and focus groups which first took place in 2008. A total of 96 professional services staff representing 48 HEIs were involved in generating the behaviours. The model forms part of the AUA CPD Framework originally published in 2009, and was revised and refreshed in 2016.

Each behavioural category has been considered at three levels.

behaviours that may be observed whatever the working situation

behaviours that may be observed when interacting with and influencing others, or when managing colleagues

behaviours that may be observed when influencing at organisational level or representing the organisation

The framework also identifies behaviours that may indicate a need for further development for each of the behavioural groups. These are offered as a positive tool for self-assessment and reflection.

The behaviours are not the tasks associated with a particular job. They identify how an individual does the job. The behaviours are universal across all roles, though some are very much more important in some jobs than others. The behavioural framework has been designed to clarify what individuals can do to develop in their jobs and beyond – and ultimately to deliver their organisation’s strategic plan. This framework provides a clear steer on key and valued behaviours. It does not assume that these are the only effective behaviours. No attempt has been made to define the behaviours required at different levels due to the diverse nature of the HE sector and of the needs of individual institutions within it. Institutions may wish to develop the framework in this way for local use, thereby tailoring the levels and requirements to their own specific organisational structure, culture, environment and objectives.

Using the framework

As an Individual

It works for you as an individual, by enabling you to analyse your behaviour in a range of situations and clearly identify areas for improvement.

• Identify the behaviours that are relevant to your job

• Identify your personal CPD needs

• Develop these behaviours and improve your performance

• Identify ways to build on and maximise your existing strengths

• Seek structured feedback from others

• Provide structured feedback to your colleagues

For your organisation and people

For organisations, the Framework gives you a roadmap to make sure the development opportunities you offer staff individually, as teams, departments or whole institutions, will allow them to realise their potential and progress their careers.

• Design specific learning and development activities to improve individual and organisational performance

• Focus on the behavioural requirements of a job in an objective and specific way when recruiting and selecting

• Support the development of staff to prepare them to compete for more senior roles

• Demonstrate to potential employees that they will be offered excellent personal and professional development opportunities, particularly if your organisation chooses to work towards the Mark of Excellence

Case studies

Workforce development

What was the framework used for?

It was embedded in the staff journey from recruitment through to ongoing feedback and for self-reflection before Annual Performance Reviews. Some examples of how this was done include using the behaviours in job descriptions and interview questions, as well as using the behaviour wheel as a self-reflective tool for staff to complete before their APRs.


• Attracting and retaining staff with university values
• Improving staff experience
• Clarification of role expectations
• Celebrating and recognising excellence in service
• Improving student experience and retention
• Improving service delivery and efficiency
• Improving communication/teamwork as an institution

Find out more

Appraisal and workforce development

What was the framework used for?

A key aim of the project was to map the nine AUA professional behaviours against current job descriptions and person specifications for all administrative staff in the pilot group. Participants and managers were given a set of tools to assist their thinking and preparation for appraisal.


• Helping to widen areas for discussion in appraisal and addressing skill and development areas more than previously
• Enabling staff to look at performance in terms of grading, so that they knew what was expected of them by the University at their current grade and what was expected at the next grade if they wanted to progress
• Helping staff to see CPD in a different way and not just in terms of training courses

Appraisal and workforce development

What was the framework used for?

There was previously no framework in place for professional services staff to reflect on their own development needs, so the project sought to address that. The project aimed to use the CPD framework to provide a formal toolkit for staff and managers, responsibility, recognition of strengths and identification of development needs. It aimed to open up the space for promoting personal conversation about employees’ behavioural attributes as well as skills, while also providing insights to feed into an expanded staff development activity provision.


• Identifying staff CPD needs and providing direction for the College’s staff development provision
• Improving career development opportunities
• Providing opportunities to reward staff based on behaviours and soft-skills
• Promoting job satisfaction through more clearly articulated objectives

Find out more

Curriculum and workforce development

What was the framework used for?

The framework was integrated into the proposed Career and Personal Development website. The website provides an internet-based tool to assist staff in making life and career decisions and plan, and draws together in one place a variety of existing and new support mechanisms.


• The positive approach of looking at strengths as well as where there is a need to develop, enabling people to feel positive about career options
• Increasing interest across the institution about career development
• Adopting and reinforcing the University statement about endorsing career development and acknowledging nature of career development
• Raising awareness of the AUA within the institution. The AUA is considered to be a positive and useful source of development which is now opened up to all colleagues

Creative Common License

The AUA CPD Framework documentation by the Association of University Administrators is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. You are permitted to copy this work or adapt this work for use within your organisation, provided it is not used for commercial purposes, permission is received from the AUA, and that the AUA is attributed at the original source of the work.

Please contact the AUA to obtain the permissions wording that must appear on adapted documentation, or for queries regarding the distribution or re-use of material.

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