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Tagged: #AUA2017

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.