Bath AUA

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Reflections of a recent graduate

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📥  Members

Author: Zoe Jeffery, PA to the Vice President (Implementation) 

At this time of year, I usually look back over what I have achieved (or not), things that have happened (good and bad), and try to make sense of how I can move forward in all aspects of my personal and work development.  This year, however, is slightly different and I would like to share with you why.

My journey began last September (2016) when I decided that I would like to study a masters in design. I knew I couldn’t take time out from my job to do this so I enrolled on a distance learning programme through Northumbria University.  The course was full-time for 1 year and although some thought it was impossible to work and study full time at the same time, I went ahead and did it anyway (I really don’t like being told I can’t do something).

My undergraduate degree is in fashion and textile design, and for the past ten years since graduating the opportunities for me to work in that industry have not (by my choice) been there. I have, however, always held such a deep passion for my creative fashion practice and have made sure that I design and make clothes when I can.

When I first embarked on the master’s programme I thought that it would be a continuation of my fashion practice and that I would be designing and making a collection of clothing, like I had for the undergraduate programme, but as the course developed I found that this was not going to be the case.

The course is based upon philosophical and psychological design theory, which really makes you think about what you do as a designer.  It involves reflective practice and action research, along with learning about the ‘human’ element of design through the use of empathy. Throughout the masters I learnt to use reflective practice and capability mapping to find out exactly who I am and how to get the best out of what I do.

When someone asks you what do you do? We normally answer with a generic job title, for example ‘I am a PA and I do this’.  We build up an idea of who we are through this title and sometimes we never take time to truly understand that we are much more than this.  Capability mapping is something that I really suggest everyone should try to find time to do.

Here is how you do it:

I used  virtual post it note board, but you can do it manually too.

Create a new board with you at the centre (use a picture or image that represents you).

Now, think about you as a person. What skills do you have that you can do really well? Add these to the board.

Then think about your values and attributes, for example kindness, empathy etc. and add these to the board.

Finally, add your passions to the board, for example baking, sewing, music, family -- anything that you love.

Once the post-its are in place, start to group them in to capabilities. It is quite amazing how you can start to build a picture of capabilities you never knew you had.

You will then have a board that looks a little bit like this:

There are so many personal development skills that I learnt whilst on the master’s programme, and I would really like to use the skills I have gained to help others with their personal development and careers goals. If anyone is interested in finding out more about these, I would be very happy to sit down with you and go through how you can start to better know what you are capable of.

So as 2018 approaches and I look back over what has been a deeply profound experience, I am more optimistic and positive about who I am, and what I can do. The best thing about it is that there is no need to wait until the end of each year to reflect back, I now have the tools to do this each and every day.

I am pleased to say I passed the degree and obtained a commendation and graduated on 4th December 2017.

Zoe Jeffery

AUA Talks: SU Top 10 with Ben Davies

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📥  AUA Talks

Author: Jenny Medland, Executive Officer to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Learning and Teaching

This week’s AUA talk saw Ben Davies, SU President, attending to introduce and discuss the Students’ Union Top Ten Issues for 2017/18.

SU President Ben Davies

Each summer, the Students’ Union (SU) draws on student feedback received during the year –through surveys, discussions with groups and societies, academic representatives, and surveying on the Parade -- to identify the ten most important issues for Bath’s student population. These issues are discussed and agreed with colleagues from the central University, and shape the SU’s strategic focus for the next academic year. A full list can be found on the SU website, but the 2017/18 issues range from building a 3G Sports pitch to an increased focus on PGR supervision and supporting all students who teach.

The SU has been identifying and delivering on their Top Ten for the past 8 years: previous successes include an expansion of the University gym, a review of Personal Tutoring, and working with the Centre for Learning and Teaching to improve assessment and feedback.

Key to successful delivery of the Top Ten is delegation and collaboration. Ben’s team of six SU Officers take ownership of different issues, leading on implementation but working in close partnership with each other, SU staff and the central University. This collaboration with University staff is key to successful delivery on issues, and includes work with Estates, the Centre for Learning and Teaching, and the Library.

Audience questions ranged from how staff can support particular activities to how the SU ensures the issues chosen represent the priorities of Bath’s large and diverse student population. Ben’s thoughtful answer illustrated one of the most important challenges faced by the SU: how to strike a balance between representing the needs of the entire student body and specific groups or individuals within it. Certain issues might not affect the entire student population but can make a huge impact for students within it, for example the refurbishment of the Muslim prayer room.

Ben’s talk gave attendees an insight into both the student experience at Bath and how the SU identifies and delivers on strategic priorities. It also highlighted the opportunities the SU’s top ten provides for personal and professional development for staff across the University.

Jenny Medland


How I became Dean with Professor Veronica Hope Hailey

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📥  AUA Talks

Veronica was asked by members of the University of Bath’s AUA to talk about her personal career path and how she came to be Dean of the School of Management and her role as Vice-President of corporate engagement.

From taking the wrong course, sampling various roles, saying no to a promotion and finding the time to have a family, Veronica reassured us that she had not set out a determined trajectory with an end goal of being a Dean.

Veronica described a feeling of slight disillusionment after leaving university, which she now attributes to having chosen a degree course which was not right for her.  Her subsequent aim to do something completely different led her to temporary roles of a varying nature and eventually to a commercial role with a firm of national commercial estate agents.  She realised through this that although the nature of the work was not quite right, she had developed a fascination for 'the workplace', the people within it and how it operated.

Her values steered her into the charitable sector where she first managed a team and was promoted to regional manager, so her career was on track.  When she fell pregnant she vowed to return to full-time work promptly.  As many new mothers find out, this plan took a change once the reality struck home.  Alongside motherhood, Veronica studied for a Masters and then a PhD which took her into academia and eventually to the University of Bath (twice!) and multiple children (five!).  She took the daring decision to turn down an opportunity for progression from the University of Cambridge as it would compromise her role as a mother.

Veronica describes how testing experiences in her personal life and family obligations allowed her to gain perspective and resilience.  She gave the AUA members some words of advice:

  • Expose yourself to excellence and make your own luck
  • Be prepared to take difficult decisions
  • Be aware of what is happening externally as well as internally
  • Make use of your support network
  • Be prepared to compromise (spending less on holidays)
  • Find someone who is confident in your skills who can be your spokesperson

Strong themes featured throughout including; appreciation of people/teams,  collaboration, honesty, integrity and trust.  These themes were emphasised in her responses to questions from the audience which drew our session to a close.


Engaging with the Bigger Picture – Professor David Galbreath

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📥  AUA Talks

Earlier this week, Bath AUA launched its 2017/18 Events Programme with a talk by Professor David Galbreath, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

David spoke to us about the Faculty, his role as Dean, and his own research --in international security, military and strategic theory, emergent warfare, science and technology advances, and arms control.

The theme of this year’s AUA programme is ‘engaging with the bigger picture’, and David’s talk provided plenty of food for thought for AUA members. His overview of the Faculty structure was helpful (particularly for those of us outside the Faculty). He also encouraged us to think beyond formal structures, about the Faculty’s broader global aims. He summarised these as:

  • A fairer society;
  • A secure society;
  • A healthy society;
  • Enabling society.

These bigger picture aims have drawn many people towards a career in University administration, and it was pleasing to hear David talk about them inclusively as shared goals. David outlined how the Faculty was working collaboratively towards these aims through research, public engagement, and teaching --focussed not only on employability, but also citizenship.

The Faculty is well placed in The Guardian League Tables. It has become increasingly innovative in its teaching, and has some exciting future programmes planned. David highlighted the Faculty’s diversity as one of its key strengths.

David’s presentation also touched on key challenges, reflecting wider challenges within the sector including political uncertainties around student fees and Brexit. The Faculty needs to remain competitive and ambitious in this environment, particularly in its efforts to grow PGT numbers.

Achieving a healthy work/life balance has also become a significant challenge for many people. The demands of KPI requirements (such as REF, TEF and NSS), and the need to secure research funding, place additional stress on academic staff – and impinge upon their capacity for creative thinking and innovation. David spoke personally about the challenges he has experienced as a Dean with a young family and ongoing research interests. Finding the time to read, and the headspace to think, is critical.

Although the challenges of work/life balance are experienced individually, David’s talk made it clear that this is also a shared challenge. He talked about working with HR to manage mental health, and finding ways to ease pressure on staff -- to give them space to be creative in a creative industry.

David’s parting words emphasised the importance of recognising the people who make University processes work, and of working collaboratively across the University and its micro-cultures.

The talk was an excellent introduction to Bath AUA’s ‘Engaging with the Bigger Picture’ series. As an administrator working outside the Faculty, I walked away feeling both engaged and included in the Faculty’s aims for the future.

Jen Scheppers

AUA Member



Getting out there

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📥  AUA Conference

Author: Rosie Hart, Programmes Officer - Faculty of Engineering and Design

So, next week I’m off to Manchester for my third AUA annual conference. Whilst this makes me feel slightly apprehensive, I have learned that forcing myself out of my comfort zone is good for me as a functioning human.

I attended my first regional conference at Cardiff in February which was one fairly intensive day, but with each session both interesting and relevant (a somewhat rare treat), it was a really positive experience.

I originally intended this blog post to be a review of my day at the regional conference but as it’s taken a while to get around to writing this (whoops!) I feel it is not quite as pertinent anymore and probably not as valid to others anyhow. Instead I want to focus on what I gain from going to talks, presentations or conferences in general.

Sharing and feeling part of something bigger

This is a big one for me. It’s good to share your knowledge; good for you and good for others. By sharing you learn and you contribute.
It can be reassuring to find out that others beyond your direct circle are working on the same issues and trying to overcome similar frustrations, sometimes even with success! We don’t all need to work independently trying to crack the same issues, we can share out knowledge and learn from others experience.

It also helps you to have time away from your role to think about what it is you want to achieve. In some instances you may even meet positive role models who inspire. I like to feel part of a team. I also like to feel part of a Faculty, a University, an education system/ network. To me this is comforting and positive.

Surprise learning

I consider myself to be healthily sceptical; whilst slightly dubious about how valuable a talk or event is going to be I anticipate that I will take away at least one piece of useful information. I have been to talks or workshops where I had high expectations and left feeling underwhelmed. I have also been surprised by talks which I have thought would be really dry or a reiteration of something I already know but have turned out to be witty or enlightening. Presentations are given by humans, these humans may be natural or highly trained speakers or they may be presenting for the first time, they are a mixed bag. What is clear to me is that if you don’t attend anything, you miss the opportunity to find out something new.

Making contacts

When I see ‘Networking session’ on an agenda, a shudder goes down my spine and I start to think about how I might be able to get out of that bit. For an awkward British person networking is an entirely unnatural process. However I do find that the more I go, the less alien it feels.

Ant network_02It does help to meet people outside your team to gain fresh perspective and support. You may find at some point, when you are struggling to think of a way to solve a problem, that you call on your contacts to bounce ideas off one another.

Don’t feel you have to go it alone, if it makes you feel better to walk in with someone you know, then why not? It can be a lot less intimidating.

Gaining confidence naturally

When you're feeling shy it’s hard to put yourself out there and to do something outside of your comfort zone. But gaining knowledge and achieving new things makes you feel stronger in your decisions and spurs you on to give things a go. With each success you become more confident. It takes time- more for some than others and you have to do it in your own style but keep at it, it’s good for you.


Mental Health First Aid Course

📥  CPD & Training

Author: Ruth Burdett, Graduate School Manager - Faculty of Engineering and Design

This week I did the Mental Health First Aid course that the university runs from time to time. The course was attended by colleagues from all areas of work from security staff, student support, placements and administrators.

The course covers a range of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety and psychosis. The aim is to leave attendees feeling confident about their ability to deliver mental health first aid should the situation arise and this is what it delivered. I would have more confidence now dealing with an individual in a distressed state than previously, and more so than if I had to deal with a physical injury.

It was hard at times to think about issues, particularly where they might relate to one’s own experiences, family, friends or colleagues, but the course was run in an extremely supportive manner, and we all knew we could step outside if needed (no-one did). As someone affected by the Doctoral College developments it has made me think about my own mental health and that of my team, and the importance of really listening and acknowledging how people are feeling.

If you haven’t done this course then I recommend you book on the next one, whatever your role. You will gain a wider understanding of mental health and also a wider perspective on the university community as a whole.


Seeing the big picture: attending an AUA conference

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📥  AUA Conference

Author: Alison Ryan, Faculty Coordinator - Faculty of Engineering and Design

On Friday 3 February I attended the AUA South Wales and South West Conference 2017 in Cardiff. Having never attended an AUA conference before, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I was really looking forward to finding out.

Chance to network

After an early start and a train journey followed by a bracing walk from Cardiff Central Station, we arrived at the Park Plaza hotel in good time for a much needed coffee and a pastry, or two! There was a good turn out from Bath as well as attendees from the Universities of Cardiff, Bristol, Exeter, Plymouth and Gloucestershire to name a few. This was a great opportunity to meet people from other universities.

The big picture

Our very own Angela Pater, also the AUA Regional Network Coordinator, opened the conference with a warm welcome and introduced the first speakers, Victoria Holbrook from Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and Lisa Newberry from Universities Wales.

Victoria and Lisa discussed the future HE landscape, providing external perspectives of upcoming major changes and opportunities. Victoria explained that HEFCE would be replaced by the Office for Students (OfS) in 2018 and the OfS would also have a new focus as the single market regulator for HE. The opening talks were really informative and I particularly enjoyed learning more about the big picture of HE.

Doing the privilege walk

There were a range of workshops to choose from and for the morning session, I picked ‘Ensuring Inclusive Education’ run by Fflur Elin, the NUS Wales President. This thought-provoking workshop gave us a different perspective of how social situations and conventions could affect students in a variety of ways.

Fflur was a brilliant facilitator and had us up on our feet participating in the ‘privilege walk’, which was an activity designed to visually show how students could either benefit from, or be held back by, certain characteristics or situations (such as their gender or needing to work part time). We were each given a list of different characteristics and stood next to each other in a long line. We then took steps forwards or backwards, depending on the persona we had been given.


Fflur Elin, NUS Wales President.

Inspirational speakers

There were many inspiring speakers and although I can’t talk about them all here, I will briefly mention one. In the afternoon, Steve Egan did Bath proud and delivered a very engaging talk about his journey to his current role at Bath, Vice-President (Implementation). Steve’s talk was very well received and included many amusing but also inspiring anecdotes about his career so far.

So when’s the next one?

I really enjoyed the day; it was an interesting and valuable experience and I would definitely like to attend future conferences. It was a great opportunity to gain a broader understanding of HE, listen to a variety of talks and to meet other people working in the sector. If you get the chance to attend an AUA conference or event, sign up now!


AUA Talks University priorities: Workforce Strategy – Richard Brooks

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📥  AUA Talks

Author: Sarah Stead, Student Experience Officer - Faculty of Engineering and Design

A Workforce for the Future is how Richard Brooks summed up his fascinating talk about the current Workforce Strategy, agreed by Council at the end of 2016.

Richard started his talk on a slightly worrying note stating that when you google jokes about Workforce Strategy you get very few search results! But we didn’t need to worry – Richard kept the audience interested and engaged with information and insights that gave everyone food for thought.

Richard described the strategy as a bridge between the University led drivers for change to making things happen and explained the importance of developing strategic leaders, actively managing talent, developing performance, building resilience and ensuring the university has lean, responsive, self-service procedures moving forward.

Personally I will take away his comment about performance targets “What is the point of setting targets when you don’t know how you are going to meet them” I think we could all benefit from remembering that from time to time!

Richard Brooks (1)

Richard Brooks

Director of Human Resources - University of Bath


See one, do one, teach one… apparently the same rule applies to training!

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📥  AUA Talks

Author: Jenny Medland, Student Experience Officer & Suzanne Jacobs, Assistant Registrar - Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

See one, do one, teach one… apparently the same rule applies to training! Having attended useful externally delivered training sessions on how to have productive Difficult Conversations and Emotional Intelligence and Mindfulness in the Workplace our line manager suggested that we develop a joint presentation for other Faculty colleagues on what we had learned. There was such a natural overlap between the topics we agreed that this would be a good idea. This meant, amidst all the excitement of the run up to Christmas, we ended up sitting in front of a computer screen trying to work out the best way to consolidate two days of wide-ranging training into an hour session.

In our planning meeting, we started by sharing our key takeaways from our respective sessions. This was done in order to identify a shared message: the importance of being empathetic and ‘mindful’ both in discussion with others and in reflecting on our own behaviour. We didn’t want to overload attendees with information and ideas, so identifying this message helped keep the session focused and succinct. We were also keen to emphasise why the session and concepts discussed would be useful to attendees – they help in managing stress and improving working relationships and communication – to show the value of the techniques discussed. Finally, we wanted to make sure the training had lots of practical exercises to avoid it feeling like a dry lecture to our peers and to instead give an opportunity for discussion and the sharing of ideas and advice.

We began our talk by defining Emotional Intelligence (EQ) (an individual’s abilities of recognising, understanding and choosing how they think, feel and act) and Mindfulness (paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally), discussing how they are important in helping manage stress and improving relationships. We gave attendees a quiz to help them assess their own EQ to help contextualise these potentially abstract concepts, and provided a list of links and resources for those interested in finding out more.

For the second half of the talk, we used Mindfulness and EQ as tools to be applied in managing difficult conversations more productively, offering a practical application of what can be seen as an abstract concept. Using three key ‘types’ of Difficult Conversations, we spoke about how being self-reflective (identifying and developing your own stressors, strengths and weaknesses) and empathetic (sensitive and open to the other’s perspective) can help. We then ended by splitting the room into groups of three who roleplayed a scenario of a difficult conversation, where participants had to apply these skills.

We both found running this session really helpful in cementing our own understanding and processing of the training and ideas discussed. It was also interesting to be able to share ideas and perspectives with colleagues, both in the training session itself and in developing the session together beforehand. While there was a limit to the amount of detail or practice possible in such a short session, the feedback from the participants was really positive. A number of people indicated that they would endeavour to be more mindful and EQ aware in their subsequent conversations and working relationships. Many also indicated that they would be seeking further details after the meeting, following up on some of the additional sources of information provided.


AUA Talks University Priorities - Professor Bernie Morley, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost

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📥  AUA Talks

Author: Rachel Acres, Assistant Registrar, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Professor Morley began by outlining the breadth and diversity of his role as Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost, which included responsibility for education, research, staffing, and of course, that perennial issue - car parking. His main focus was on delivering the University Strategy, and challenging the Deans (who he line-managed) to ensure all Departments had their own strategies, including a clear plan for academic staff recruitment for the next five years.

Student number planning and target setting was a core part of Professor Morley’s job, ensuring that the number of offers and conversion to places was spot on, which always made the summer a nerve-racking time. Supporting teaching and research through ensuring appropriate infrastructure is the other main tenet of the role of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost.
Professor Morley reported that the University is facing a number of external pressures which mean that our previous working assumptions may not be true in the future.

Professor Morley highlighted the five key priorities for the University, as laid out in the University Strategy 2016-21:

• Growth of research – the University would prioritise areas of investment increasingly based on returns and the ability to support other areas, e.g. allowing us to continue to offer expensive subjects such as Chemistry. Four years of fixed student fee income with rising costs meant the Senior Management needs to focus on ensuring financial stability.

• Stabilise undergraduate numbers – there is increasing competition as other institutions are offering more places, and moreover the opportunity for placements (a previously unique selling point – USP – for Bath). Changes to GCSE and A Levels may necessitate revised entry requirements and could result in a dip in applications for those programmes requiring A Level Mathematics (which is supposed to be more difficult in its new form). A demographic dip in the number of young people means less people entering Higher Education, at least for the next few years – apparently, there is a boom in primary aged children but for example, the city of Bath has 600 unfilled sixth form spaces. Opportunities for involvement in Degree Apprenticeships would be explored. The University needs to ensure its programmes are as up to date and innovative as possible, supported by effective marketing (e.g. more Open Days, more mobile friendly platforms to showcase our programmes and maintain market advantage).

• Postgraduate Growth – compared to other research intensive institutions, the University had relatively small postgraduate taught student numbers. A number of new postgraduate taught programmes had been fast-tracked through University approval procedures to recruit students for 2017/18, and Professor Morley emphasised that the institution needed to view postgraduate provision differently. Masters programmes needed to attract higher numbers of students, delivering a package of skills and cross-disciplinary learning. Providing distance-learning programmes with partners (including internationally) was being considered. Professional Services would need to be involved in supporting this growth and ensuring the development of staff to meet the new challenges facing the institution.

• Infrastructure – Professor Morley highlighted recent successful developments such as 10 West, 4 East South, Manvers Street, and noted Polden Court would be developed to provide new postgraduate accommodation in the next year

• International focus – the University needed to affirm its international influence and become more visible.

In closing, Professor Morley highlighted that there were a number of external influences, including changes to secondary level education, the need to comply with consumer legislation and Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) guidance, the introduction of the Higher Education and Research Bill and the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), and the evolving Widening Participation agenda which would all impact on University business and were being closely monitored.