Bath AUA

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Getting out there

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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

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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

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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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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.

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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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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!

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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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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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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.

 

My Fellowship of the AUA – a reflection

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Author: Iain Forster-Smith, Director of Administration, Faculty of Engineering & Design

As a member of the professional services team your main focus is always those you need to support.  Ensuring you do your upmost to provide everyone with what they need, from the staff you manage to colleagues and students both internal and external.

Finding time to reflect on your own professional development and achievements can sometimes be left on the back burner for another day. One day my boss, Gary Hawley (Dean, Faculty of Engineering & Design), told me to have a reflective day and spend a bit of time on things I needed to do.

So I did, I reopened the work I had started well over a year ago on the AUA Members site to finally submit my Fellowship application. The members site has a fantastic tool that enables you to easily capture all your personal development activity as well providing you with tools to support your own personal development plan.

For me applying for this Fellowship cements a number of key areas. My dedication to the Higher Education sector, there are many other types of fellowships I could have applied for, the AUA Fellowship signifies my work within the sector and has an amazing personal achievement for me. I believe firmly that your own and team development is vital to keeping ahead of the game and ensures we are all preparing for the future. Being a Fellow of the AUA, recognises that I have developed my own skills and knowledge, as well as showing that I have worked with others on their own personal development, and I have positively been able to influence others.

The process may seem an effort at first glance, but to be honest the effort is very little compared to the satisfaction you gain when successful in your application.

 

 

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My tips to anyone who is considering applying to become either an Accredited Member of Fellow of the AUA would be to, keep up to date your personal development record on the AUA, reflect positively on your achievements and use the AUA CPD Framework to help you focus on what is needed. Everyone should have a critical friend who can read through your statement and provide you useful insight on your achievements. Finally, think wisely about your references, the people chosen must know how you commit yourself to both your own development and supporting the development others (depending on your role). Don’t put it off, with the Christmas break ahead it’s a perfect time to begin reflecting – so get cracking.
If you are interested in knowing more I will be setting up an interactive workshop in early 2017 for members to come along and start working through advancing their membership – so watch this space!

 

It's Official! Academic Professional Services receive the Mark of Excellence!

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Congratulations to our Academic Professional Services (the Faculties of Engineering & Design, Humanities & Social Sciences, Science and the School of Management) who were successful in securing the AUA Mark of Excellence. Iain Forster-Smith, Ann-Marie Hartland and Amanda Harper were formally presented with the award by Professor Madeline Atkins, Chief Executive of HEFCE, at an awards ceremony held on 1st December 2016 at The Royal Society in London and represent the second institution nationally (the first in the south) to receive such recognition. Iain and Ann-Marie also delivered a working session at the AUA Development Conference which preceded the ceremony, outlining how the Faculties/School have embedded the framework and sharing good practice.

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Launched at the Association of University Administrators’ 2016 Annual Conference, the AUA Mark of Excellence is a new award for HE institutions that recognises a demonstrated commitment to working with and embedding the AUA CPD Framework https://aua.ac.uk/develop/cpd-framework/ and Statement of Values into the provision of organisational development. One area of exceptional practice highlighted by the assessor for the Academic Professional Services Mark of Excellence award was the high level of staff engagement through the use of the SPDR+ and the high quality developmental conversations that this has brought about, as well as the drive and ambition to embed the framework further.

Diane Aderyn, Director of Finance and Commercial Services at the University of Bath and one of the sponsors of the project commented: The University of Bath ‘Effective Behaviours Framework’ has been enthusiastically embraced in the Academic Professional Services. I am delighted that the impact of this work has been recognised in the award of the Mark of Excellence; really effective performance by professional services is vital to the success and development of the University and this award will provide additional impetus to our plans to relaunch the Framework across the wider University.

On receiving the award, Iain, Ann-Marie and Amanda said ‘In our roles we work extremely hard to support and develop our team members and are therefore extremely proud to have received this award. We feel that the Mark of Excellence not only recognises our commitment to the AUA Values and CPD Framework but cements how proud we are of the work achieved and the dedication and engagement of our staff, as well as enabling us to share our good practice with others.’

 

AUA Talks University priorities: The Centre for Learning and Teaching – Professor Andrew Heath (Academic Director)

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Author: Jenny Medland, Student Experience Office, Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences

What attributes should a graduate leave the University of Bath with? How can we respond to the challenges Brexit or changes to A-levels pose to student recruitment, or to the opportunities of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF)? How can we integrate effective and efficient technologies for learning? These are the type of questions the new Centre for Learning and Teaching (CLT) will be looking at, and at this AUA event its Academic Director Professor Andrew Heath outlined its remit and initial plans.

The session began by establishing the CLT’s role in securing the future success of the University of Bath: a strong learning experience supports student satisfaction, student satisfaction aids recruitment of strong students, robust recruitment protects the University’s income and elite reputation. The changing nature of the HE landscape – with Brexit, TEF, and general economic uncertainty to name but a few challenges – makes it particularly important that Bath can respond proactively and capitalise on potential opportunities. The CLT will help equip Bath to meet these changes by ensuring the highest levels of learning and teaching across the institution.

More practically, to achieve its aims the CLT will provide proactive support for key learning and teaching activities such as TEF, and work more widely on the development and improvement of learning experience provide by Bath. There are four main areas within the centre:

- Academic Staff Development
- Technology Enhanced Learning
- Student Engagement
- Curriculum Development

In a fifty minute session Andrew could only provide a brief overview of his priorities for each area, but it gave a useful insight into plans. Academic Staff Development will be focusing on increasing the number of staff across the institution with formal teaching qualifications, an area of increasing importance as this will be publically available and will most likely be reported in league tables in the future. Technology Enhanced Learning will be delivering on a University-wide strategy ensuring that development activities and technological investment are effective and aligned with strategic priorities. Student Engagement will be identifying opportunities for students to actively contribute to the development of their programmes. And, last but not least, CLT will support Curriculum Development through working with departments to review and develop their programmes through TraCA (Transforming Curricula and Assessment), largely replacing the current degree scheme reviews. This latter work with focus particularly on aligning our curricula for both technical content and academic skills with the desired attributes for graduates on particular programmes, reducing overassessment of students and work to develop and implement more creative ways of teaching and assessing student progress.

The CLT will aim to work in close partnership with academic departments and other services, providing coordinated central support and guidance whilst still ensuring departments have ownership of their programmes, curriculum, and academic priorities. You can find out more through their website: http://www.bath.ac.uk/learningandteaching/about/index.html

 

Congratulations to Iain Forster-Smith!

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Proud to announce that our AUA Advocate extraordinaire Iain Forster-Smith received his fellowship of the AUA on Thursday 1st December! You can now view his profile on the newly branded AUA website: https://aua.ac.uk/2016/12/05/member-profile-iain-forster-smith/  Congratulations Iain and thanks for all of your encouragement and enthusiasm for all things AUA.  Further information about achieving fellowship status can be found here: https://aua.ac.uk/develop/accreditation/fellowship/ but Iain will no doubt be blogging about his experience shortly.......