Vikki Goddard | Policy and my role | AUA Blog

Vikki Goddard MAUA | Director of Faculty Operations, University of Manchester | Member of the AUA Board of Trustees

I recently delivered a session to a group of really engaged colleagues on our Humanities Future Leaders’ Programme, which covered the context in which we are operating and the implications for the Faculty.  It was a whistlestop tour of what’s happening in the HE policy and regulatory world, as well as the broader environment in which we work.  There were lots of interesting questions and general debate about the direction of travel and big issues that we need to consider.  Colleagues felt it was really helpful to have the overview.

We then moved on to a discussion about whether they felt this policy context had any implications for the roles they did.  The group included people working in communications, research administration, as executive officers, admissions specialists, student support and guidance, programme administration.  So quite a variety of roles.  As the title of the programme suggests, these are our rising stars, our future leaders.  What was interesting was the fact that they all had to stop, think and metaphorically scratch their heads before being able to map the big picture to something that is happening in their day jobs.  They were all aware of the challenges we face as a sector and to articulate those at a macro level, but in many cases what might that mean for my role, as opposed to our School/Directorate/University was not something they had really considered.

This is of course entirely reasonable.  We have busy jobs, with many competing priorities, and getting on with delivering what is in front of us tends to win out over the University magazine we really should read, the report from UUK or Office for Students.  However, having done both policy and planning, and operations roles, I am struck by the difference in our expectations of what colleagues feel that they need to know, and what we enable them to do, both for the roles they are in right now, and where they might want to move to in the future.

In roles which are broadly defined as having a ‘policy’ element we tend to circulate reports, give people access to resources such as WonkHE, *Research Professional and the THE.  Time is made available to ensure that colleagues are up-to-speed with what is going on in and around the sector.  There are many conferences, networking events and workshops to enable a broader perspective to be obtained.  By contrast, more operational roles tend to focus more on delivery of more specific tasks, with more people management and less time for reflection.  It’s hardly surprising that we tend to be pushed down one pathway.

So I leave you with this thought, why not try and get the best of both worlds: a consideration of what it looks like to have to deliver at the sharp end for ‘policy types’, or a more reflective look at the policy driving what you do, for those in operations.  You never know, you may find a different path or new interest as a result!

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