Bath AUA

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AUA Talks University priorities: SU Top 10

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Author:  Tom Bond, Postgraduate Research Administrator, Faculty of Engineering & Design

The AUA was pleased to host Lucy Woodcock, SU President and Amy Young, Representation & Engagement Manager, who presented a whirlwind tour of this year’s Top 10 student issues to be dealt with.

This was a great opportunity for staff from across the university to be exposed to problems faced daily, monthly and yearly by our students, and gives us a great insight into the work going on behind the scenes conducted by the SU in to tackling them.

The top 10 issues for 2016/7 are:
• Campaign for sustainable student recruitment policies in relation to housing availability
This is a hot topic, with increasing student numbers and a shifting focus to postgraduates who notoriously struggle more than the undergraduate population to secure affordable accommodation.

Bath is a small town and simply can’t offer the same level of housing stock that larger cities do, but the SU and University are committed to battling the ongoing problem of available housing.

• Make it easier for students to locate available study space
Space is a premium on campus, and the SU are currently working on a plan to have an app in place by the start of 2017/8 academic year that will allow students to easily locate available working spaces/rooms across campus – improving on the current room booking system that is more staff-orientated.

• Improve University and Students’ Union provision for students outside of term time
Efforts are being made to improve provisions for students who remain on campus outside of term-time, including: shop/eatery opening hours, the development of a programme of events over summer/Christmas, and ensuring vital services such as Student Counselling remain at optimum performance during these periods.

• Secure a physical expansion of the gym
The SU has already scored a big win here, securing a £3.5m investment into a new gym facility that will improve provision of sports/exercise classes, as well as providing more equipment and exercise stations on top of the already impressive STV facilities currently available.

There will be an effort to give priority to student memberships over those of the general public to ensure satisfaction of the student body.

• Ensure that students receive constructive assessment feedback that helps them learn
We need to ensure that assessment feedback received by students is constructive, and allows them to build and improve on their work as a result.

The SU is working closely with the Centre for Learning & Teaching to ensure current best practice is spread across the university to make this happen.

• Campaign for the curricula to reflect the diversity of the student body
The student body on campus is hugely diverse, with over 100 nationalities represented. It’s paramount that this is reflected in the University’s curricula.

It is hoped that the University could use this work as part of a bid for the Race Equality Charter Mark .

• Reduce waste across campus
The University is making concerted efforts to improve on waste disposal across campus, an excellent example being the Leave No Trace campaign that encourages using re-usable cups at coffee/tea vendors across campus by offering discounts to those who do.

There is a growing issue of homelessness in Bath, and Lucy rightly presented this as an opportunity to put food waste on campus to good use – there is too much perfectly good, freshly made food that is simply thrown away at the end of each day.

• Ensure the personal tutoring system is effective for students and staff
The personal tutoring system needs to work for both staff and students, and in collaboration with the Senior Tutors Forum, the SU is focused on identifying best practice from across the institution, and also areas for improvement.

• Tackle postgraduate isolation
There is an evident lack of community among some postgraduates at the university, and the SU is working hard to identify the key problems and address then.

The expectations of postgraduates when they arrive are being reviewed, in relation to events, societies and other provisions that otherwise work well for the undergraduate population, with a view to improving/providing additional provisions for the postgraduate population.

For the first time this year there has been a dedicated Postgraduate Officer appointed (Adam Kearns), tasked with the responsibility of ensuring a great postgraduate student experience.

• Secure an extension of the Library
Like the gym, the SU are also working on a plan to extend the current space available in the library. An area of land to the North of the library has been identified for a possible expansion sight, which would offer perhaps a new lecture theatre as well as more working/computer space.

A suggestion has also been put forward to improve the e-journal facilities, and reduce the number of paper journals on level 1, freeing up space for more work stations.

Lucy would like plans for this provision secured by the end of her presidency.

 

AUA Talks Sector Issues: CMA and Immigration

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Author: Sally Lewis, Placements Officer, Faculty of Science

The first AUA talk of this year was given by Mark Humphriss, the University Secretary, who gave a very informative insight into the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and immigration - two of the significant issues facing universities today.

Mark began his talk with a brief career history, explaining how his move into higher education at Bath 10 years ago followed 17 years working in a number of roles for the Church of England, including leading a major review of the structures of the Church and working for a national charity and a secondment in the North East. It was through his role managing relationships with the 11 universities of Church of England foundation that he began to have contact with universities and recognised the similarities between the two sectors – both having similar policy issues and working cultures.

Commenting on his move into a new sector, he noted how helpful he found his professional association (the AHUA – the Association of Heads of University Administration) in connecting him with others in HE and enabling him to gain an understanding of the working culture.

In his current role, Mark is part of the senior management of the University - part of the Vice- Chancellor’s Group (VCG) - and has a number of University-wide roles, including chairing the Equality and Diversity Committee and the Emergency Management Team – which has to deal with anything from heavy snow falls on Claverton Down to a field trip stuck in Honduras. On a departmental level, his responsibilities include the Secretariat, the Legal Office and student immigration. Reputation management is a big part of his role and responding to a question about Freedom of Information (FoI), he described the tension between the desire of universities to be open in how they respond to FoI requests and the way in which information once in the public domain, can be used to cause less favourable impressions of those organisations.

Responsibility for events such as degree ceremonies and the operational side of the recent 50th Anniversary celebration also fall under Mark’s remit as does managing the relationship with the Chancellor, which with our current Chancellor, means working within royal protocols as well. The Government’s counter-terrorism Prevent strategy has involved Mark in some interesting and robust discussions with the UCU and the Students’ Union when negotiating policies for external speakers.
Externally, Mark is part of the National Executive of the AHUA and has previously chaired its southern region. He is a Governor of the RUH, a Director of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator and a Trustee of the Holburne Museum.

Moving on to discuss the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), Mark explained that in the last few years the CMA (formerly the Office of Fair Trading) has begun to focus on the practices of higher education institutions and concluded that the university sector was perceived to have too much freedom from consumer regulations, with some institutions levying academic sanctions (such as withholding degree confirmation) for non-academic matters (such as the non-payment of rent) for example.

The CMA has concluded that students (paying £9,000 a year in tuition fees) should be regarded as consumers for the purpose of consumer legislation. This has had a number of far reaching consequences for universities – a number of whom have been publicly named as falling short of CMA legislation. Here at Bath, Mark chairs the Consumer Regulation Steering Group and much work has been done - with Terms and Conditions now being sent to every offer holder and trying to ensure that all information provided on (our over 100,000) web pages and at Open Days, will remain valid throughout the duration of a course. This may involve more generic and less detailed information being in the public domain with students receiving more detailed information about courses once here. He noted that there can be a tension between the desire for transparency and the desire to innovate and progress with course development. Failure to comply with CMA legislation can have financial penalties although the reputational damage of such failure would potentially be more detrimental.

Mark concluded his talk by discussing the significant consequences for universities of the current political agenda around immigration. Attendance monitoring of students holding Tier 4 visas is a mandatory requirement for universities. Failure to meet requirements can lead to a university losing its license to sponsor visas – resulting in the institution not being able to recruit international students and its current students having to leave the country, a huge impact for any institution. At Bath the increase in processes and resource needed to fulfil this requirement has led to the recent establishment of the Student Immigration Service of 13 staff. Universities also have to operate in an environment where rule changes have been brought into force with little or no notice or consultation with the sector. This was illustrated in April this year, where changes resulted in those students extending their course - to undertake a placement, for example - having to return to their home countries at short notice to extend their visas. As well as concerns for students, Mark also noted concerns for the implications of changes on international staff.

… and with that our time was up. Many thanks to Mark for his time and for this glimpse into the working life of our University Secretary.

 

Reflections on the AUA PG Certificate – year 1

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Author: Sally Lewis, Placements Officer, Faculty of Science

I began studying for the AUA’s PG Certificate in Higher Education Administration, Management and Leadership in October last year. This is a two year, distance learning course supported by three study days – mine have been in London – and is validated by Nottingham Trent University.
Although I have worked at the University for a fair few years, my previous roles were within an externally funded research unit (UKOLN) and it was only when I moved into my current role, within the Faculty of Science Placements Team, that I fully appreciated the range of professional service roles operating within HE and I was keen to increase my knowledge of the sector. My move coincided with the relaunch of the AUA Bath branch and I started going along to their events - including some informal coffee meets - where I got to know people from across the university and to hear about other development opportunities.

The PG Cert appealed because it offered me the opportunity to increase my knowledge and understanding of the HE sector and explore current issues. Fundamental to the course is the integration of knowledge into your own working practices – you gain very practical rather than theoretical and abstract knowledge. The self-directed nature of the course and the variety of options means that you can choose topics to study to suit your own interests and development needs. The first year consists of three assignments – each assessed by a 3,000 word essay. Having not had any experience of essay writing at postgraduate level before, this was the first skill that I had to develop, which I did with support provided through the programme’s online learning resources (and a visit to the drop-in writing centre on campus, highly recommended!). I chose to focus on: 1. Developments in the student voice; 2. The purpose and role of student support and guidance and 3. Current trends in the corporate governance of HEIs in the UK. Each of the assignments required me to look at the topic from my own institution’s perspective which gave me the opportunity to meet with colleagues from across the University - and I am grateful to all colleague who shared their insights and expertise with me. I was able to relate the knowledge I was acquiring in my first two assignments to my work supporting students and the third assignment gave me the opportunity to learn about an area of which I had very little previous knowledge.

I am now starting on the second year of the programme – which is quite different in structure and focusses on developing reflective working practices …more of which later!

If you are interested in finding out more about the course, please do get in touch.

 

 

Difficult Conversations

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Author: Jenny Medland, Student Experience Officer - Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

It’s not often you’ll take time on a Wednesday morning to discuss whether you’re an elephant or a dolphin but that’s the position I found myself in when I attend the ‘Difficult Conversations’ training delivered by Mediation at Work.

The day-long workshop offered a mix of theory, group discussion and extremely helpful roleplaying exercises. I attended the training as I’m new to line management, but have found the content and advice really useful in all aspects of my role, including some of the trickier meetings!

We looked at the three kinds of difficult conversations you’re most likely to have in the workplace, and below I’ve summarised my key takeaways on how to manage them constructively.

1)      Giving Bad News: Own it! It can be tempting to evade responsibility, but people will respect honesty and straight forwardness. Be honest, direct, and allow the other person time to process and the opportunity to come back with questions.

2)      Addressing Conflict: Validate rather than justify. If someone is criticising or commenting on your behaviour, rather than jump to being defensive take the time to listen to what they’re saying, validate their perspective through active listening, and move the conversation on by focusing on a potential compromise or shared goal.

3)      Giving Difficult Feedback: Start off by asking for permission to offer feedback e.g. “I’d like to talk to you about your behaviour in that meeting – is this OK”? Giving permission immediately makes people more responsive to hearing feedback and makes the conversation a two-sided discussion.

The best bit of advice I was given was probably the simplest – prepare yourself! Whilst you can’t ‘script’ a difficult conversation, identifying your own ‘default conflict behaviour’ (Kilmann’s conflict mode instrument is a helpful starting point); picking an appropriate setting/time and planning a rough structure for the conversation (we discussed the DESC model as a good one to use) can help keep the situation calm and you confident.

Find out more about the courses offered by Mediation at Work through their website.

 

'Mark of Excellence' Success!

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Our Faculty/School Professional Academic Services have been awarded the AUA Mark of Excellence!  We are the second institution in the country (but the first in the South) to receive the award, which demonstrates our commitment to the education, training, development and support of our staff.  More information about the Mark of Excellence is here:

http://www.aua.ac.uk/cpd-12-About-the-AUA-Mark-of-Excellence.html

As noted in our award letter: The panel was very impressed with the work that staff had done to build upon the Framework to develop the University’s Effective Behaviours Framework approach, noting the drive and ambition to develop this further.  The assessor highlighted as an area of exceptional practice, the high levels of staff engagement through the use of the SPDR+ and the high quality developmental conversations that this has brought about.

Thanks to everyone who has helped us to get to this stage, including our committed teams; Amanda Wylie, Staff Development Manager; our HR Business Partners and of course our project sponsors, Richard Brooks (Director of HR) and Diane Aderyn (Director of Finance and Commercial Services), who said of the award:

The University of Bath ‘Effective Behaviours Framework’ is based on the on the AUA CPD framework and 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.

The Directors of Administration, Iain-Forster Smith, Ann-Marie Hartland, Amanda Harper and Amanda Spencer have been invited to an AUA ceremony in London on 1st December to collect the award, photos to follow thereafter!  Iain and Ann-Marie will also be delivering a working session at the AUA Conference earlier that day: http://www.aua.ac.uk/event_pages-211-2016-Development-Conference.html

 

Sign up to the AUA talks for 2016/17

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Colleagues across the University -AUA members AND non-members alike- are warmly invited to attend all AUA talks this year

AUA Bath members have identified three themes for this coming year, our sessions will cover:

• Sector issues
• University priorities
• Career progression

A list of sessions booked so far are below with sign up details to attend:

23 November 2016: CMA and Immigration – Mr Mark Humphriss (University Secretary)
http://www.bath.ac.uk/whats-on/getevent.php?currDay=23&currMonth=11&currYear=2016

29 November 2016: Students’ Union Top Ten – Miss Amy Young (Representation & Engagement Manager) & Miss Lucy Woodcock (SU President)
http://www.bath.ac.uk/whats-on/getevent.php?currDay=29&currMonth=11&currYear=2016

5 December 2016: The Centre for Learning and Teaching – Professor Andrew Heath (Academic Director)
http://www.bath.ac.uk/whats-on/getevent.php?currDay=5&currMonth=12&currYear=2016

11 January 2017: Strategy & planning - Professor Bernie Morley (Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost)
http://www.bath.ac.uk/whats-on/getevent.php?currDay=11&currMonth=1&currYear=2017

Please sign up, come along and engage with the future.

Further details on the AUA and local activity here at Bath (including our new membership deal) can be found by clicking on the following links:

http://blogs.bath.ac.uk/aua/

http://www.aua.ac.uk/

Or follow us on Twitter: @AUA_Bath OR #AUABath

 

Bath AUA Membership deal - why you should sign up

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The AUA is committed to helping you succeed in your career. Our Bath Membership Scheme supports your career by recognising that you are dedicated to improving yourself and others.

Top 5 reasons to join the AUA:

....through Branch activities at Bath - learn more about this University

....getting to know colleagues at Bath from other departments

....attending national events is great way to keep in touch with professionals like you

....supporting your development, providing you with a wealth of tools and resources

....solving problems, keeping informed and networking

What you get if you join the AUA and who is it for:

AUA exists for our members. We offer support to help you enhance your career, boost your job prospects and create valuable networking opportunities. AUA membership empowers you to take control of developing your career whatever stage it is at.

Bath Membership Scheme:

The University supports the AUA and has purchased the bulk membership opportunity from the AUA, allowing you to sign up through the Branch Advocate for a discounted membership paid for by salary deduction.

Through the Bath scheme all members of staff who wish to join the AUA are entitled to the membership at the discounted costs below:

Subscription type:
Monthly Salary Deduction -  £5.07
Single annual payment - £60.80

Membership not through this scheme costs up to £10.80 per month/£143 annual payment

If you wish to join email your local Branch Advocate for further details  -  aua@bath.ac.uk

 

 

Applying for the Mark of Excellence

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Author:  Ann-Marie Hartland, Director of Administration - Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

As we're working towards the Mark of Excellence, it has given us a great opportunity, not only to be accredited by the AUA for the support and value we place in the development of our staff but to reflect on how the framework has become embedded within our teams and the impact it has had.

Launched in March 2016 at the AUA's Annual Conference, the AUA Mark of Excellence is a new award for Higher Education Institutions which recognises that the organisation has demonstrated its commitment to working with the AUA Statement of Values and CPD Framework and has embedded them into its organisational development provision.

Only recently, one of our probationers commented on the comprehensive nature and clarity of her objectives, not only focussing on the tasks themselves but on the 'how' they should be carried out. It has taken time and commitment to get this far but for those who do fully engage, the framework is becoming increasingly helpful in identifying areas for development and training. It's also helping us as Faculty/School managers to ensure that we are tailoring our staff development programme to the needs of our teams. Building on our progress so far, we're hoping to embed the effective behaviours framework into our grading structure, so that career progression within the framework is more clear but for the moment, we will just be focussing on the assessment day and convincing our assessor that we truly are excellent!

We will update soon hopefully celebrating our success in achieving the award.