AUA Autumn Conference 2021

Enhancing HE: Innovating, adapting, improving

The Details

Location: Online via Zoom

Date: Thursday, 18 November 2021

Timings: 10:00 to 15:00

Fees: Member £80+VAT | Non-member £160+VAT

About this year’s conference

Join us this November in our Diamond Jubilee year as we host the Autumn Conference online, focusing on…

Enhancing HE: Innovating, adapting, improving

Out of necessity, we’ve all been doing things differently. We’ve been required to adapt what we do and how we do it to deliver our responsibilities and services during the height of the pandemic. As we emerge from restricted life and slowly return to campus, what learning can we take with us?

The Autumn Conference will provide a space to consider what’s next for higher education professional services and to share innovations, learning, solutions and the best practice that has progressed our approach to work to meet today’s needs and challenges.   

Our programme includes practical advice, case studies and ideas which can be taken and used in your own workplace. We have sessions focusing on a range of topics including; effective use of technology, career planning and development, equality, diversity and inclusion and leadership. Join us to learn from other’s knowledge and experience and to share examples of effective professional practice with colleagues across the sector. 

To help celebrate our Diamond Jubilee year, the first 10 people to book onto the Autumn Conference 2021 will receive an additional £20 discount on top of their booking.


The AUA exists to connect and develop higher education professionals and we therefore understand the importance and value of networking. Whilst the AUA Autumn Conference will now take place online as part of our commitment to inclusivity, we will be using a platform called Wonder straight after the final session to try to provide a space for the conversations that happen at a face-to-face conference. Further details about how to join to network with your colleagues will be released in due course.


Keynote speaker

Professor Kerstin Mey


University of Limerick

About Professor Kerstin May

Prof. Kerstin Mey PhD is the newly appointed President of University of Limerick, Ireland, where she also holds a Professorship in Visual Culture. With a background in the arts and humanities, she has developed her expertise in leadership, change management and innovation in higher education in university roles in Germany, the UK and now Ireland. Before moving to UL, she held responsibility as  Pro-Vice Chancellor and Dean of the Westminster School of Media, Arts and Design, University of Westminster. Amongst others, she served as Director of CREST (Consortium for Research Excellence, Support and Training, GuildHE), as Vice-Chair of CHEAD (Council for Higher Education in Art and Design), the Austrian Science Board and the Supervisory Board of the European Foundation for Press and Media Freedom. She is currently a member of the Board of the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning and the IUA Steering Group for Campus Engage, as well as serving on the Board of Directors of a number of Irish cultural organisations.

Squaring the circle?
Moving universities administrative model from a vertical to a matrix structure – a case study.

We live in times of radical and rapid societal transformation and face significant challenges, as institutions, at national levels and as inhabitants of a planet with finite resources. Universities must prepare their students to embrace complexity and live with ambiguity, to be resilient and adaptive as professional fields and the occupational landscape change. They have to enable their graduates to be agents of change and shape a thriveable future.  While there is growing awareness of the need for cross-disciplinary engagement to address complex societal challenges, the standard ‘vertical’ higher education business model struggles to effectively support research endeavours and education programmes that transcend the boundaries of discipline-based departments and faculties. The presentation will focus on a case study of structural change from the University of Westminster where a balanced matrix approach to faculty structuring was developed and temporarily implemented that supported cross-disciplinary exchange and collaboration while nurturing disciplinary strengths. It will share the learning from ‘brushing against the grain’ to highlight both the opportunities and pitfalls of creating a more permeable and collaborative higher education organisation.

Panel session

Our roles in enhancing HE

The focus of this year’s conference is Enhancing HE: Innovating, adapting, improving. Within this theme we will be considering the changes we made to our roles and ways of working during the pandemic, and what learning we can take with us as we emerge from restricted life and return to campus. To reflect on this, we invite you to join our panellists and pose your questions as we discuss: Our roles in enhancing HE.

Panel Chair

Amanda Oliver
Director of College Operations and AUA Chair
Brunel University London

Amanda’s career in education extends over 35 years in roles that span the breadth of professional services functions within a university; she is currently Director of College Operations at Brunel University London and prior to this was Head of Business Operations at Kingston University/St George’s, University of London. As an AUA Fellow and Chair of the Board of Trustees she brings extensive sector knowledge and experience. Amanda is Vice Chair of the AUA Board of Studies which has oversight for the quality and delivery of the PgCert and has been involved  with the  development of the programme since its inception.


Helen Curtis
School Manager
The University of Bristol

Helen has worked for the University of Bristol for nine years and is currently the School Manager for Translational Health Sciences (THS) in the Medical School. During her career she has worked at Bristol, Northumbria and Sunderland University, in a series of more complex roles including, PGR admin, Planning and Projects, before moving into the Medical School in business and operational management of THS. Helen is a member of the School EDI Committee and the Medical Anti-Racism Taskforce and co-leads the Professional Services Special Interest Group (SIG). Helen is interested in creating an inclusive environment for all, and current projects include developing an inclusive career framework to support all staff succeed in their careers. 

Susanne Clarke
Head of Service Excellence
Bournemouth University

Following a varied career in corporate finance – Susanne knows that successful organisations are all about the people and culture. Susanne has worked in a variety of senior positions in Higher Education and in her current role has led major change management programmes and has developed innovative approaches to embedding excellence in teams and organisations. This interest and passion for enabling high performing teams is a focus of her PhD studies and research interests. 
With a keen interest in continuous improvements methodologies, Susanne sits on both the Global and European Lean in HE Steering groups and has spoken at conference in eight countries and regularly presents her ideas to varied audiences. She has collaborated with others to write a book chapter and conference papers on kindness in organisations, and is passionate about embedding ideas, actions and values based approaches to leadership and cultures. An experienced coach focused on strength based approaches to support others in reaching their full potential. Her research interests include appreciative approaches and action research. 

Kenton Lewis
Director & Principal Consultant
Kenton Lewis Associates Limited

Kenton is an experienced trainer, facilitator and executive coach. Prior to becoming an independent consultant, he worked for 18 years in higher education administration, management, leadership and governance, with a specific focus on student support and transition. In his facilitation, Kenton incorporates his research as an educational sociologist with his experience in organisational development and organisational psychology. He has been a Trustee at the AUA, is a founding member and Trustee of The Bride Group (an independent, charitable social mobility policy association), and has worked as a Lay Observer for the Ministry of Justice (PECS). Kenton has been awarded Fellowship of the AUA, CMI and RSA, and Principal Fellowship of the HEA. He has won multiple national and international awards for educational innovation, including the Lord Mayor of London Dragon Award, two e-Learning Age Awards, and the Guardian Public Service Award. He was recognised in the 2014 New Year Honours with an MBE for services to Higher Education. 

Working sessions

Working session 1

101 | Innovation requires a holistic approach:
How UCL implements innovative change through policy, stakeholder consultation and technology 

Helen Matthews, Director of Academic Services, University College London (UCL) 
Lynn Burke, Senior Project Manager, University College London (UCL) 

Over the past few years UCL has undertaken an ambitious programme of enhancement and innovation in student lifecycle processes such as exam boards; module registration and interruptions of study. UCL is a very large, complex university with 50,000 students studying in almost 100 academic departments. Decision making and administration is devolved across these departments making standardising and automating processes very complicated. How can you convince hundreds of colleagues to change their practices? This presentation will explain various elements that needed to come together to implement these changes: 
• Policy changes to standardise practices across the University 
• Stakeholder consultation ideas to capture the right input and buy-in across hundreds of users 
• Technology innovations to automate and simply processes for students and staff 
• Embedding data quality into normal practice to assure the inputs to automations are accurate. 

By the end of the session delegates will be able to:

– Understand how policy, process and systems can be considered holistically to implement improvements 

– Understand the benefits of a holistic approach to problem-solving in order to identify effective solutions 

– Understand techniques for engaging users in the implementation of large-scale process change

102 | O brave new world, that has such people in it!:
How has the pandemic experience changed career aspirations, expectations, opportunities and development plans within university professional services?

Susannah Marsden, Senior Consultant, Susannah Marsden Consulting 
Hugh Jones, Senior Consultant, Hugh Jones Consulting

This interactive workshop will build upon the successful sessions Susannah and Hugh have delivered at previous AUA conferences. In it, they will present the findings of a survey they are working on, which aims to identify how the pandemic has impacted upon the career aspirations, opportunities, development plans and priorities of professional services staff within higher education. The survey will be used as a starting point for an interactive discussion amongst participants, which will enable you to: 
• Reflect upon your own ambitions and plans; 
• Share and validate your experiences with other delegates; 
• Contribute towards the development of new thinking on professional service development opportunities

By the end of the session delegates will be able to:

– Reflect upon the changes in the professional context during and since the pandemic

– Understand better how the pandemic has influenced possibilities for professional development within university professional services

– Relate your own experiences of the pandemic to the wider context

103 | An engineering approach to higher education delivery:
Applying engineering project management approaches to higher education delivery, including the set up of a new institution. 

Hazel Clifton, Senior Programme Manager, The Dyson Institute 

The Dyson Institute is a new provider, and the first to receive New Degree Awarding Powers, join us for an interactive workshop that demonstrates how we use Dyson’s engineering project management expertise in the setting up and development of a higher education institution. We’ll break down how our cross-functional project management approach supports us in being agile and flexible while still maintaining high standards. 

The interactive portion includes a session on thinking like a project manager and developing a ‘stepped back’ mindset when tackling problems, including project governance, stakeholder management and continuous improvement. 

By the end of the sessions delegate will be able to:

– Apply aspects of engineering project management processes, and use tips and techniques in their day-to-day role

– Embrace change by planning upcoming changes/challenges in a project management setting and framework

– Understand the challenges and opportunities that a new provider has

104 | When Gemba met coaching:
How do we make it a relationship made in heaven that endures the test of time, rather than simpy a one-night stand?

Lorna Prince, Head of Organisational Development, University of Stirling 
Christine Stewart, Managing Director, Macresco Ltd 

Leaders know that to get the most out of people they need to tap into their creativity and capability to problem solve. They know that the way to do this is through coaching and mentoring to help people to develop their own skills, to encourage ownership and responsibility for what they do.  

In this workshop Lorna and Christine will consider the Japanese concept of the ‘Gemba’, the place where value is created and work gets done, and what happens when we combine this concept with coaching. They will demonstrate that when leaders take coaching ‘to the Gemba’, they ensure that coaching is happening at the right time, in the right place and to the right person. 
So, this session explores the “When Harry Met Sally” relationship between coaching and Gemba. It will look at the difficulties that face this relationship and explore how it can become more than a one-night stand. You will be given the opportunity to work through scenarios, to explore the conversations and approaches that could be taken to unlock people’s potential to maximise their own performance and to create a culture of continuous improvement. 

By the end of the sessions delegate will be able to:

– Appreciate the importance of coaching and mentoring in the right place, at the right time and in the right way

– Develop approaches to engaging in a coaching conversation that encourages daily improvements

– Devise methods for overcoming barriers to coaching for unlocking people’s potential including working in a virtual world

Working session 2, kindly sponsored by Worktribe

201 | Creating an inclusive environment:
Taking a holistic approach to creating an inclusive environment within professional services settings

Helen Curtis, School Manager, The University of Bristol 
Imogen Debbonaire, Executive Assistant, University of Bristol

In this interactive session, Helen and Imogen will present the findings from a case study they conducted, aiming to understand what factors contribute to creating an inclusive working environment for Professional Services staff and how a manager can work with staff to create an inclusive environment. This will be followed by a facilitated discussion with participants, to share best practice and explore the opportunities and challenges involved in creating an inclusive environment. 

By the end of the session delegates will be able to:

– Reflect on own understanding of inclusion, building greater understanding of what inclusion means to others

– Identify barriers that prevent (or make more difficult) the creation of an inclusive environment

– Be able to share good practice with other organisations

202 | Putting the heart back into Higher Education:
Developing and sharing practice for enabling and sustaining communities of practice in Higher Education

Laura Roper, Accreditations Manager, Bournemouth University 
Susanne Clarke, Head of Service Excellence, Bournemouth University 

This session will discuss the development and sharing of practice for the benefit of staff in HE, focused on enabling and sustaining communities of practice in HE. The session will consider the impact for learning and application within the context of ‘hybrid working’ notably how the conditions created enable opportunities for stakeholder led, continuous improvement (lean), strategic alignment and cultural change in the sector. Delegates will use the information and artefacts provided to create and/or develop their own communities of practice via interactive group based activities. 

The session will be presented by a team of sector experts who lead a collaboration of universities funded by ODHE to promote communities of practice including Bournemouth University, UCL and Glasgow University. 

By the end of the sessions delegates will:

– Demonstrate a clear understanding of the value of developing creative and innovative communities of practice

– Developed a series of methods and approaches for creating and/or growing communities of practice

– Access an online toolkit of activities, research and methodologies to assist in their own communities of practice 

203 | Building personal development cultures:
Developing yourself and others 

Kenton Lewis, Director & Principal Consultant, Kenton Lewis Associates Limited 

This webinar will explore effective ways to embed a culture of personal development in the workplace. It will examine approaches individual staff can take to support the development of others, whether as a line manager, as a peer, as a direct report, or simply as a colleague. By extension, participants will get to examine their own personal development in relation to modelling effective behaviours, and living the values of a developmental organisation. A key focus of the webinar will be on the development of psychological safety – creating an environment where staff feel comfortable speaking up, and calling out others’ behaviours, without fear. Developmental cultures go beyond simply providing learning opportunities; they embed the value and importance of development, at all scales, into the fabric of the working environment, making personal and professional development an assumed norm rather than an ‘add on’ or an ‘after thought’. 

By the end of the session delegates will be able to:

– Understand and apply approaches that can change working cultures

– Apply their learning to support and encourage your colleagues’ development

– Understand and promote the importance of psychological safety 

204 | Modernising Professional Services through ‘Stories’ of Automation:
From Obstacle to Opportunity: utilising automation tools to modernise a department, cut administrative load, and increase impact

Jordan Kirkwood, Head of Operations, King’s College London

In this session Jordan Kirkwood will introduce delegates to a series of ‘stories’, drawn from different case studies he has been involved in, exploring the key stages of administration, how we approach the task of automation, the outcomes and the evaluation and impact. In the second half of the session, delegates will be invited to share their own examples of tackling administrative load through automation, of how they identify with the ‘stories’ and how they could adapt these approaches in their own contexts. The aim of the session is to highlight that engaging in the process of automation can have wide-reaching benefits and that it is also something that anyone in professional services can explore.

By the end of the session delegates will be able to:

– Understand the basic elements of using automation tools, and their value in modernising processes

– Map your own operations and processes to identify opportunities to reduce administrative load

– Begin your own review and take the initial steps to automating processes in your work/departmental contexts


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 an AUA Conference due to lack of funding. Applications will close on Tuesday, 2 November.

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

This event is kindly sponsored by:

With over 180,000 users at leading universities across the UK, Worktribe is the ultimate platform for research and curriculum management.

Worktribe’s evolving, cloud-based software transforms higher education administration through better collaboration, more efficiency and more transparency. It’s intuitive, secure and easy to integrate.

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

  • Increase your presence within the HE sector
  • Promote brand awareness to different institutions across the UK


Keynote session

Reaching the full delegation of up to 150 HE professionals, prices for this session are as follows:

– Slide advertisement | £200+VAT
– Logo on presentation slides* | £100+VAT
– Both packages combined | £250+VAT

*Subject to speaker approval. Invoices will be adjusted accordingly.

Panel session

Reaching the full delegation of up to 150 HE professionals, prices for this session are as follows:

– Slide advertisement | £200+VAT
– Logo on presentation slides* | £100+VAT
– Both packages combined | £250+VAT

*Subject to speaker approval. Invoices will be adjusted accordingly.

Working session one or two

101 Innovation requires a holistic approach
102 O brave new world, that has such people in it!
103 An engineering approach to higher education delivery
104 When Gemba met coaching

201 Creating an inclusive environment
202 Putting the heart back into Higher Education
203 Building personal development cultures
204 Modernising Professional Services through ‘Stories’ of Automation

To sponsor a single working session, the following prices will apply:

– Slide advertisement | £100+VAT
– Logo on the presentation slides | £75+VAT
– Both packages combined | £150+VAT

To sponsor all sessions in working session one or two reaching the full delegation of up to 150 HE professionals, the following prices will apply:

– Slide advertisement | £200+VAT
– Logo on all presentation slides* | £100+VAT
– Both packages combined | £250+VAT

*Subject to speaker approval. Invoices will be adjusted accordingly.

Interested in becoming a sponsor?

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