AUA Annual Conference and Exhibition 2022

What now? Shaping our future

University of Manchester, 11 to 12 April 2022

What to expect from AUA 2022

We are delighted to share with you the theme for the 2022 AUA Annual Conference and Exhibition – 

‘What now? Shaping our future’ 

The events of last year disrupted everything we knew about the delivery of higher education. Professional services colleagues adapted their work by finding creative and innovative solutions to new problems and challenges, demonstrating remarkable flexibility and dedication to ensure the continuation of services throughout the chaos.

Under the 2022 theme we are working hard to develop a programme of expert presenters, lively debate and the latest learning from your colleagues across the AUA. We are excited to announce that you can now find the details of our inspiring plenary and keynote speakers below, and can confirm that the full programme will be released in the New Year. Following a prolonged period of uncertainty and change, join us as we ask, ‘What now? and reflect on recent learnings and experiences, share experiences and consider the challenging questions so we can look ahead and shape our future.

After a pause on face-to-face events, we can’t wait to welcome you back in person to connect and develop with colleagues from across the sector and as part of Diamond Jubilee celebrations, we will be returning to Manchester, the home of the AUA since our establishment in 1961. 

Included as part of your face-to-face full package or available as a stand alone option, we are pleased to be offering a condensed online version of the programme which covers the highlights. You can find more details about this below.

Here is what some of our delegates thought of past AUA Annual Conferences:

Hotel options

Our programme

As always, we are working hard to ensure that our members experience a varied and extensive programme with something for everyone. We are excited to announce our Opening Plenary speaker and our four keynotes. You can find details of their sessions below and a top level agenda using the link below.

Elena Rodriguez-Falcon



About Elena

Professor Elena Rodriguez-Falcon joined The University of Sheffield in 2001 where she was the founder of the University of Sheffield Enterprise (USE); Institutional Director of Learning Inclusive Learning and Teaching; Director of Enterprise Education and Director of Women in Engineering.  She went on to become Director of Communications and External Relations of Engineering, whilst holding a Chair in Enterprise and Engineering Education. 

In 2012 Elena was awarded the status of Principal Fellow at the Higher Education Academy (PFHEA) – one of the first ten in the UK. Elena is also Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology and of the Chartered Management Institute.  

Elena’s pursuit for diversity, inclusion and disruptive education in STEM took her, in 2018 , to the New Model Institute for Technology and Engineering. NMITE is a greenfield higher education institution, which she has been leading as its President and CEO for the past four years. Elena brought her vision to NMITE, which has been created to attract future engineers from all corners of society, and educate diverse change makers who will go on to challenge convention and reflect their diversity in their solutions. 

Elena has received numerous awards throughout her career but in 2020, she was named Executive Leader of the Year by Equal Engineers, Distinguished Mexican in the UK by the Mexican government, and Woman of the Year by FDM everywoman in Technology Awards.  

In 2021, Elena was appointed Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Engineering Development Trust (EDT), and elected as a member of Advance HE’s Strategic Advisory Group for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. 

Shaping the future of higher education: A reflection of the NMITE journey

Fifteen years ago, a group of entrepreneurs, citizens and politicians asked themselves the question, ‘Now what?’.  

Herefordshire was one of two counties without a higher education institution and as a result, there was an exodus of young people; the county’s age demographic was one of the highest in the country; and attracting talent was near to impossible. 

Together they set up to ‘Shape the Future’ of their community, the country, and possibly, of the HEI sector. They would create the first green field ‘university’ in the UK in decades. 

With a blank piece of paper, twenty-five million pounds of grant funding from government and a vision and mandate to disrupt higher education, the NMITE journey began early in 2018. 

Fast forward to 2022, the question to answer is, was creating a new HEI from scratch the way forward? What are the lessons learnt from this journey? And as this nascent organisation moves forward, should it be asking itself ‘now what’ and be already ‘reshaping its future’? 

Our keynote speakers

Aidan Grills


Leeds University Union

About Aidan

Aidan has worked at the University of Leeds for 20 years, firstly as the Director of Membership Services & Development and for the last 12 years as Chief Executive of Leeds University Union. Prior to Leeds he held roles in Further Education and the students’ union at York St. John University. Aidan has served on the National Union of Students Board during a period of turnaround and restructure where he chaired the Finance & Audit Committee. Aidan is in his final term as Governor of Leeds Trinity University where he also chairs the Academic Assurance and Student Experience Committee. Outside Education Aidan is also Chair of Trustees for the Huddersfield Town AFC Foundation and a member of the UK Territory Advisory Board for The Salvation Army. Amongst his voluntary commitments the most important is that he is a Coach/Helper with Norristhorpe Juniors FC Under-10s. 

Aidan will present a summary of the latest findings on student expectations and motivations from research undertaken with the student body at the University of Leeds. This includes both primary data gathered directly from the student body and secondary data from a range of literature and sources used to inform this work. This research is for the purposes of future planning for Leeds University Union and identifies the priority work required to address strategic impact. Aidan will propose how the role of the students’ union might be developing in response to these findings and discuss what this might mean for work alongside other University professional services. 

Amatey Doku


 Nous Group

About Amatey

Amatey is a consultant at Nous Group, an international consultancy with expertise in higher education. Prior to joining Nous, Amatey was Vice President Higher Education at the National Union of Students’ leading on the organisation’s international engagement as well as work to tackle the BAME attainment gap. The later portfolio culminated in the #ClosingTheGap report, a collaboration between NUS and Universities UK. Amatey continues to support organisations in health and higher education on equity, diversity and inclusion and recently chaired the “Do Black Lives Matter still matter in HE?”  webinar as part of the Wonkhe @ Home series.  

Creating equitable staff and student experiences in a post-Covid world 

Covid-19 has transformed perspectives and expectations of how universities as employers and learning environments. In this keynote Amatey will explore how universities will need to pay close attention to both the Employee Experience (EX) and Student Experience (SX) as they transition to a post-Covid world and make the case for how the principles of equity, diversity and inclusion should be key to that transformation.   

Sarah Smith

University Secretary

University of Edinburgh

About Sarah

Sarah Smith is Vice-Principal, Strategic Change and Governance; and University Secretary at the University of Edinburgh.  Sarah leads the professional services group within the University that is responsible for a range of staff, student and external services, including human resources, student services, communications, recruitment and admissions, international, legal and development and alumni.  Sarah also has a cross-University responsibility for strategic thinking; and for governance.  Sarah is a qualified Advanced Executive Coach and has recently completed the Executive Masters in Change at Insead.  Before joining the University of Edinburgh, Sarah was a senior policy official in both Scottish and UK Governments, working in areas as diverse as international negotiations, international development, children and young people’s services and strategy.  She was also Head of Policy Profession for Scottish Government. 

Taking it to Heart: The power of emotions in the leadership of change

More than ever, it is important for leaders to grapple with the impact of their emotions, for themselves and for the people that they lead.  In particular, to understand what keeps them afloat and what threatens their buoyancy; and how they impact (intentionally or otherwise) on the emotional energy of others around them. These questions were important ones before the onset of the covid-19 pandemic; since then they have had even greater salience.  This session will explore how greater awareness of the impact of emotions can be powerful in leading change in difficult, uncertain times.  It draws from my personal experience as a senior leader in the University of Edinburgh; and my recent research on the impact of emotions and emotional energy on senior leaders in Universities and Government. 

Heidi Fraser Krauss



About Heidi

Heidi’s current role is the CEO of Jisc. Jisc is a not-for-profit membership organisation that provides the UK universities, colleges and skills sectors with a shared digital infrastructure.  

Heidi studied psychology and management studies at the University of Glasgow, and started her career as a researcher studying how communication in the workplace supports innovation.  

She has since held a variety of Board level leadership roles in higher education, most recently as executive director of corporate services at the University of Sheffield. In Sheffield she had strategic responsibility for all the core corporate services including IT, HR, Communications and Estates and Facilities. Prior to Sheffield, Heidi spent eight years at the University of York, where she held a variety of roles including deputy registrar and director of corporate and information services. 

Over the years Heidi’s work has covered high performance computing for research, library and archives, planning and strategic change, and leading the technology change team at the University of St Andrews. 

She was a member of UCAS council for 8 years, chair of Universities and College Information Systems Association (UCISA), and chair of the Russell Universities Group IT Directors (RUGIT). 

In 2017 she was delighted to be named as female CIO of the year by Computing Magazine. 

Heidi has recently become a governor of York College, her local FE provider. 

Session details TBC

Conference prices

Standard bookings

All prices include VAT and we are pleased to include 12 months AUA membership for anyone who purchases the non-member full package.

Full package
Member £504 | Non-member £672
All full packages include the online offering and complimentary attendance at the gala dinner*

Monday only delegate
Member £342 | Non-member £456

Tuesday only delegate
Member £342 | Non-member £456

Gala dinner
Member £112.50 | Non-member £150

If you are an international delegate that requires a UK visa to attend you can request a confirmation letter for your Annual Conference booking, by completing this form. We can not provide letters of invitation and we will only issue confirmation letters for fully paid bookings.

*AUA and Sustainability

Following a recent survey, we are pleased to announce that the Gala Dinner will again take place on the evening of Monday, 11 April and that we will be returning to the stunning Kimpton Clocktower Hotel, formerly known as the Principal Hotel. So let your hair down, dress to impress and we cannot wait to welcome you back.

Although for many, the Gala Dinner is a highlight of the AUA Conference, we understand that it may not be for everyone. For anyone who purchases the full package and does not plan to attend the Gala Dinner, we would be grateful if you could please let us know in advance to help us reduce the amount of potential food waste at the event.

Online offering

One of the biggest positives to come from last year is the ability to now be able to offer effective professional development online. Whilst we cannot replicate the full in-person experience, we are pleased to be able to offer a package for those who want to participate in the event but cannot or do not want to attend in-person.

Purchasing our online package will give you access to the following live sessions:
– Opening plenary
– Two of the keynote sessions (TBC)
– Panel debate
– Closing plenary

If you are unable to join live or would like to revisit them at any point, you will be sent the recordings of the sessions after the event has finished. Your online package will also give you access to our exciting and interactive conference app where you can engage with people attending both virtually and in-person.

Prices (including VAT):
Member £180 | Non-member £240


As part of our Diamond Jubilee celebrations and our ongoing commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion, we are pleased to introduce a brand new bursary scheme for AUA members who would not ordinarily be able to attend the AUA Annual Conference due to lack of funding.

To find out more and apply, please visit this page.

Delivering a working session at the AUA Annual Conference

Thinking of delivering a working session at the AUA Annual Conference in April? Laura Roper (Bournemouth University Business School), Helen Matthews (University College London) and Hugh Jones (Hugh Jones Consulting) talk about their experiences of delivering a working session, and offer advice to those considering proposing a session.

Click here to submit a working session proposal.

Sponsorship and exhibition

The AUA Annual Conference and Exhibition is the largest conference of its kind. Its history, size and reputation for offering a varied programme, which includes a large exhibition, attracts c650 HE professionals each year.

There are a number of exhibitor and sponsorship options available to suit your budget and business aim. Whether your organisation is currently working in HE or looking to enter the HE sector, the Conference can help you to:

  • Develop client relationships
  • Increase sector presence
  • Encourage brand awareness
  • Showcase your services to HE professionals

Interested in becoming a sponsor or exhibitor?

AUA2022 Sponsors

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