Managing Change in Higher Education Annual Open Forum 2021

Online via Zoom

Fees: Free to AUA Members as part of our Diamond Jubilee year | Non-member £80+ VAT

Date: Monday 5 July – Friday 16 July

This year, the AUA turns 60 and celebrates its Diamond Jubilee. As part of the celebrations, we are pleased to announce that we are offering our popular Managing Change in Higher Education Open Forum free of charge for AUA members.

About this Event

The Managing Change in Higher Education themed network is hosting its Annual Open Forum for those AUA members (and non-members) interested in improving practice on managing change in higher education. There will be an opportunity to share good and bad practice, network, and consider how to work more collaboratively.

Who is it for?

For professionals who manage, or aspire to manage projects and change as part of your role, or for managers and leaders who are managing teams/departments currently going through change, and professionals experiencing change in the workplace.

Learning outcomes

  • Understand the importance of change management in project management
  • Practical ideas and techniques for supporting people through significant cultural change
  • Managing expectations
  • New strategies for managing change

Details in brief

Location: Online via Zoom

Date: Monday 5 July – Friday 16 July

Fees: Free to AUA Members as part of our Diamond Jubilee year | Non-member £80+VAT


As with previous Open Forums the programme has been designed to improve professional practice in the sector and provide an opportunity for colleagues to learn from practice.

Attendees will pay a single fee to gain access to all of the sessions taking place as part of this event. You will then be able to attend whichever sessions you would like.

To view the full programme, please use this link.

Closing plenary

Dr Nalayini Thambar

University of Nottingham

“A change is as good as a rest. Discuss…”

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” (Lao Tzu), “There is nothing permanent except change” (Heraclitus). We know the quotes, we know the drill but what happens when change becomes the norm and a status quo a novelty?

Reflecting on the experience of establishing a lean team and continuous improvement programme during the pandemic, this session will consider ways to foster appetite, commitment and enthusiasm for organisational change amidst burning platforms and the role of change makers in a post-Covid landscape, while trying not to overuse the terms ‘unprecedented’ and ‘pivot’.

About Dr Nalayani Thambar

Nalayini is the Programme Director for ‘Getting in Shape’, the University of Nottingham’s continuous improvement lean team. She is an experienced change leader at service, institutional and national level in her concurrent roles as Director of Careers and Employability at Nottingham, for the UK, China and Malaysia, and Quality Director for the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS).

A Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and a qualified careers adviser, her work has also involved teaching, professional practice and leadership across all areas of student employability. Her research interest is the professional identity of professional services staff in HE.

Monday 5 July

Details TBC

Rapid Improvement Events are a key Lean technique that can be used to implement change rapidly, bringing together the key stakeholders to work together collaboratively, over the course of a week (or less)

This session will focus on how the University of Nottingham has used Rapid Improvement Events, focussing on two case studies that have taken place during the last 12 months, that have seen:

• An academic school fundamentally change how they operate over the course of three days
• The University redesign their Enquiries and Admissions processes for PGRs

Insight will be shared as to how this methodology has created innovative breakthroughs for problems that were deeply ingrained and how disparate stakeholders were able to work together for the benefit of the University as a whole.

Luke Phillimore, Senior Lean Practitioner, University of Nottingham

Luke is currently a Senior Lean Practitioner at the University of Nottingham, sitting within the Getting in Shape Team – a dedicated Lean Team within the University. He has been in this role for just over 12 months and took on the role of Network Lead for the Managing Change Network at a similar time.

Prior to this role Luke had been working in Student Services following the creation of the department as a result of restructuring the student administration functions within the University. During this time, he was been responsible for implementing change across the department as new processes have needed to be created and old processes reviewed.

Luke has also worked as a Student Administration Manager within the Academic Services Department taking a lead on PGR matters including operational management of PGR administration and offering regulatory advice and guidance.

Before joining the University of Nottingham in 2012, Luke worked as a systems trainer at Nottingham Trent University, running training courses on their student database, CRM system and timetabling system.

Luke’s professional interests are promoting continuous improvement thinking throughout the institution, challenging the status quo whilst also managing ongoing change.

Luke is actively involved in the AUA as a local advocate as well as his duties as a Network Lead.

Tuesday 6 July

The Centre for Commercial Law Studies, at Queen Mary University of London, prides itself on its innovative and flexible approach to providing postgraduate Law education, including a suite of transnational education LLMs delivered at our sister institution in Paris. Like everything, these programmes have had to adapt to the changes effected by the global pandemic over the past year – but what happens in this situation when the programmes we manage take place in a different country? How do we navigate a crisis from far away? What role do theories of change management play in that? This session, along with some distance from the initial lockdowns in France and the UK, has provided an opportunity to reflect on these questions and to consider what, and how, we managed.

Set against the backdrop of a change management theoretical framework, we intend to take the Paris programmes as a case study. We will examine the complicated and carefully-balanced set of interdependencies which makes delivery of these programmes possible – but which made it equally complicated to steer through the initial and ongoing Covid disruption. We will then offer some specific examples of the challenges we faced, some of the solutions and changes we implemented in response, and some of the lessons learned along the way.

Samantha Heffernan, Teaching & Learning Service Co-ordinator (Paris), Queen Mary University of London

Samantha is currently engaged in the provision of a suite of postgraduate Law programmes delivered in Paris by the Centre for Commercial Law Studies at Queen Mary University of London, in partnership with the University of London Institute in Paris, and with Université de Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. Her professional interests include partnership programmes and collaborative opportunities, transnational education (TNE), and the student experience within the TNE context. Samantha has nearly 14 years’ experience in Higher Education and is an Associate Fellow HEA.

Michelle Henderson, School Manager, Queen Mary University of London

Michelle Henderson (MA, MBA) has strategic and operational responsibility for the administration of a leading law school The Centre for Commercial Law Studies, QMUL including all aspects of teaching and learning. Prior to this, she developed extensive experience in the development and management of international collaborative teaching partnerships in over twenty countries with The Open University. Partnerships included a range of TNE models in areas such as the Russian Federation, Middle East and South Africa. She is a mentor for the AUAs Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education.

Wednesday 7 July

Bringing in new members of staff means change within an organisation. This can be positive or negative change, depending on the success of the hiring process. Building a successful team starts with recruiting well, and sometimes this requires re-thinking our approach to the process.
(*Mentimeter icebreaker)

Participants will have the opportunity to reflect on research around building successful teams (Belbin 1981, 1993) and engage in two hands-on activities to jumpstart their thinking: the AUA CPD planner and a Skills Gap Analysis (or Audit) for their team, using their own institution’s (or an example institution’s) strategy as the starting point.

Participants will be asked to reflect individually on the AUA CPD framework as a starting point and will move onto sketching their team’s skills gaps. These two ideas will then come together in a final activity to draw the two frameworks together. Breakout rooms will be utilised for discussion and identifying any themes or lessons learned using Padlet to encourage interactivity and sharing of insights. The session will conclude back in the main room with highlight of themes identified in the group work and individual reflection.

This workshop aims to develop participants’ confidence by helping them to identify common traps and misconceptions in the hiring process, and challenge themselves to “change their thinking” and build stronger organisations.

Kelli Wolfe, Academic Services Manager, University of Roehampton

Kelli Wolfe graduated from Santa Clara University in Northern California with a B.A. in German and a B.Sc. in Anthropology, including a year abroad at Albert-Ludwigs-Universitaet in Freiburg-im-Breisgau. She spent her early career in the US – doing everything from LGBTQ+ community outreach to being a recording artist and processing mortgages – and has spent the last 12+ years working across student services, admissions, registry, quality and management roles in the UK higher education sector. She recently completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education Administration, Management and Leadership through the AUA and is working towards her MSc in Higher Education Management and Leadership with Nottingham Trent University.

Marnie Davis Wood, Governance Delivery Lead – Agency and Relationships, Scottish Public Pensions Agency

Marnie Davis Wood graduated from the University of Melbourne, Australia with a Bachelor of Education and a Diploma of Modern Languages, and also holds a PGCE from Birmingham City University. She began her career in the Victorian Public Service in Australia, completing a graduate programme and working in policy and project management roles. She worked as a quality manager and teacher in an international boarding school in Switzerland before returning to a focus on governance and policy, this time in the UK Higher Education sector. She has recently moved back into the civil service, embracing change and putting her polymath tendencies to good use in a new regulatory environment.

Thursday 8 July

The session will cover how embedding a continuous improvement plan as part of “business as usual” enables the ability to respond to an ever-changing environment. There has never been a time when it has been more important to know what our internal landscape looks like. It is impossible to respond to changes to the external environment if we don’t systematically review the status quo.

We will consider how to encourage people to move out of their comfort zone to embrace change and embed learning and growth as part of the natural cycle of working life, how to embrace failure and learn that the freedom to fail – and fail fast can lead to greater successes next time. We will examine how implementing feedback loops and creating a culture that values the individual and the skills they bring to a role over the tasks that they complete can provide the opportunities to challenge ourselves and grow both personally and professionally.

Finally, we will look at the benefits of implementing “Lessons Learned” at key points in the academic year in addition to annual reviews to underpinning the continuous improvement plan by strengthening problem-solving abilities and building the teams planning and strategy skills.

Lucie Allott, Process Improvement Officer, University of Bath

I have worked in Higher Education for the past 20 years. I currently work in the School of Management at University of Bath in a Project Management Office, working with stakeholders to identify opportunities to streamline and remove waste from current processes. The PMO work on discrete projects within the School; sharing best practice and solutions arising from these projects and collaborating with the wider university on joint venture projects where the scope and solution is identified to be best delivered at University level. I have extensive experience managing programme recruitment, programme delivery and student engagement, and sound knowledge of governance which underpins the quality assurance and continuous improvement activities of the university. I have worked collaboratively with academic colleagues to deliver university-wide projects such as Curriculum Transformation, Athena SWAN and REF2021.

I project managed the School’s recent EQUIS accreditation process, working with a small project management team chaired by the Dean. EQUIS is a comprehensive, international accreditation system for Business Schools which quality benchmarks the School against international standards in terms of governance, programmes, students, faculty, research, internationalisation, ethics, responsibility and sustainability, as well as engagement with the world of practice. The project team worked with senior faculty and professional services staff both within the School and across the wider university to write the School’s Self-Assessment report and host a virtual Peer Review visit. We successfully secured accreditation for the maximum period of five years.

I have recently been working to implement the following framework agreements for the university; Hellios: JOSCAR Supplier Accreditation, a collaborative tool used by aerospace, defence and security industry which acts as a single repository for pre-qualification and compliance information. I am currently working on the implementation of the NHS Data Security Protection Toolkit to enable collaborative research with two other universities and the local Clinical Commissoning Group (CCG).

Friday 9 July

As we move into and explore our new future ways of working, individuals within teams as well as whole teams, can use the Colleague Conversation Compass to explore further nuanced and hybrid ways of working whilst supporting psychological safety as we continue to work very differently.

In this session we will explore the Colleague Conversation Compass; reviewing and explaining each of the eight points around the Colleague Conversation Compass.
Strategy, Wellbeing, Check-in, Development, Reward, Review, Challenge and Objectives.

Central to these eight conversation points and the Colleague Conversation framework is the concept of Respect. ‘Respect’ is key to ensure a culture that is inclusive and enables the university community to thrive.
We will provide the opportunity to use the Colleague Conversation Compass as a start, to select the focus of the interaction and to enable a tailored co-created personal approach.

Finally we will provide coaching conversation prompts for use by Leaders/Managers and Colleagues, to set the scene, encourage engagement and provide a framework for constructive discussions.

This approach not only helps set the environment to engender psychological safety, but also through collaboration, facilitates the coming together and the re-imagining of our future ways of working.

Deborah Beel, Senior Organisation Development Manager, Durham University

Deborah joined Durham University in August 2019, as a Senior Organisation Development Manager. Previously Deborah has gained a wealth of experience in Higher Education, Local Authority, Housing Sector and Commercial Banking.

Her portfolio includes responsibility for Wellbeing, Engagement and the design and delivery of transformational change initiatives. Deborah led on the launch of the Wellbeing Hub providing a one stop shop for colleagues across Durham to help and support colleagues to improve their wellbeing. In additions Deborah works exclusively with teams on a tailored approach to specifically support any change programs or initiatives they face.

Deborah is a Chartered Member of the CIPD and holds a Masters in Human Resource Management, is an MBTI practitioner, and TMSDI Accredited.

Sophie Sowerby, Head of Organisation Development, Durham University

Sophie has worked at the University since 2008 within the staff development team and now Heads up the Organisation Development team. She has had over 30 years’ experience working within HR, OD and staff development roles within a variety of blue chip private and public sector organisations within the UK, Australia and North America.

Since joining the University she has developed a portfolio of management and leadership development programmes; established various cross institution coaching and mentoring schemes; and led on the development, roll out and embedding of the Realising Your Potential approach and the Job Families and DU leadership attributes framework.

Sophie chaired, and is an active member of the HE Staff Development Network, working collaboratively with institutions across the sector, developing the Women in Academia Mentoring programme with Newcastle University whilst also introducing the Inspiring Women’s network at Durham. Sophie provides supervision for ‘in-house’ coaches and 1:1 support through the ‘in-house’ ‘Coaching and Mentoring Network’ which she set up in 2010. She has spoken at national conferences on a range of OD interventions developed at Durham including the Arts and Humanities Research Council Leadership Fellows Forum, The SDF, AUA, Advance HE and HEOD conferences in the UK and in Australia. She has initiated developed and hosted conferences for colleagues across the sector eg Women in Academia conference 2014 and Professional Services Career Pathways Conference 2018I. Sophie is one of the University’s ‘Aurora’ Champions’ supporting leadership development for academic women.

Sophie is the strategic lead on the OD interventions within the institution responding to the Respect Commission recommendations, Wellbeing Strategy and People Strategy. She holds a Masters’ degree in Leading Innovation and Change, CIPD membership, ILM 5 in Leadership and Coaching and Mentoring, PGCE post 16, is a Fellow of the AUA, a member of the Association for Coaching and is an MBTI practitioner.

Monday 12 July

In November 2020, the University of Kent underwent a significant organisational restructure in the midst of a global pandemic. Over the last six months we have encountered many challenges, some magnified by the global situation, and have sought a way to manage this institutional change in a way that supports staff, create innovative ways of working, develops problem solving and resilience and continues to offer our students a fantastic experience at Kent. In this session we will discuss the challenges of bringing brand new teams together virtually and establishing new relationships; how we are navigating our way through the joining of different subject areas and ways of working and how we are seeking to embed good practice in everything we do.

Siobhan Dumphy, Education and Student Experience Manager, University of Kent

Siobhan has worked for the University of Kent for 12 years in roles covering IT and library support, events, student recruitment, and marketing. In November 2020 Siobhan joined the newly established Division of Natural Sciences as the Education and Student Experience Manager with a portfolio covering Programme Administration; Quality Assurance and Accreditation; Employability; Student Attainment and Engagement, and Student Support. Siobhan is fascinated by the student journey and what it means to have a great student experience, and is constantly seeking ways to streamline and innovate in student processes.

Since December 2020 Siobhan has been the Deputy Network Co-ordinator for the AUA’s Student Experience and Engagement Network, working with the network to develop a place for best practice sharing, community discussion and development.

Emma Spiller, Education and Student Experience Manager, University of Kent

Emma’s background and passion is people management. Her core belief is that investing time in people creates an environment for individuals and teams to thrive. Emma has held management roles across Primary, Secondary and Adult Education sectors before entering HE in 2011, where she currently holds the role of Education and Student Experience Manager for Law, Society and Social Justice, at the University of Kent. Since completing the Advance HE Aurora Leadership programme in 2019 Emma has developed a keen interest in Professional Development coaching.

Emma is proficient in implementing change management, leading teams through restructures and procedural change. In 2019 the University of Kent announced an institution wide restructure, and throughout this period Emma has provided strong leadership to large teams, successfully establishing new teams and governance.

Tuesday 13 July

UWS Registry is on a journey transforming from a traditional office and paper based student service into an advanced digital service model. The department has introduced a digital helpdesk to triage enquiries and is redeveloping to all-digital Change of Decision, Examination Board and Enrolment forms and interactions. The presentation outlines how these concepts were designed and then implemented both from a Project Manager and Registry Staff perspectives. It will also cover how the transformation benefited from COVID-19 Lockdown and took even bolder approaches to staff training and embedding key concepts.

Gregory Sheridan, Registry Systems Integration Manager, University of the West of Scotland

Greg is a Project and Change Manager with 20 years experience working in HE between the USA and UK. He has led on projects of many sizes including introduction of University leisure management systems and new gym facilities, student centric HUB services, centralised timetabling and student enrolment. He focusses on the development of staff empowerment and ensuring new services are fit for purpose and fit with the abilities and composition of teams to receive them. He holds a BA, MLitt and is PRINCE2, PRINCE2AGILE and Lean6Sigma certified with special interests in strategic development through projects. In 2020 he became a Fellow of the AUA having joined in 2016.

Dr Kathleen Menzies, Registry Administration Assistant, University of the West of Scotland

Kathleen has a wide range of experience in UK universities, having held positions at the University of Strathclyde (Research Assistant at the Centre for Digital Library Research), the University of Manchester (Data and Research Assistant, Library Marketing), Manchester Metropolitan University (as a PhD student and project assistant), and now, in the intriguing world of administration within the University of the West of Scotland’s dynamic Registry team. Her knowledge then is diverse and she has witnessed many changes to UK HE since her days as an undergraduate at the University of Glasgow. Of particular interest are the intersections between organisational cultures and new technologies, society and the politics of change.

Wednesday 14 July

COVID has had a deep impact on International HE (IHE), both on individual institutions and on the way that universities network in an international system. There are many dimensions to IHE. This session will focus on three: inbound student recruitment, F2F TNE, and distance learning. The boundaries between these three have been significantly blurred by the pandemic and it is unclear how quickly they will be unbundled. The aim behind this session is to discuss how, in the current context, universities will be able to clarify their objectives for TNE and to evaluate opportunities.

David Law, Academic Director: Global Partnerships, Keele University

David has studied and worked at several UK universities for five decades. From 2012 to 2020, he was the Principal Editor for Perspectives, the AUA’s quarterly journal. He is the Chair of the AUA’s International HE Network (IHEN). Currently David has an honorary Professorship at Keele where he worked for the first half of his career and he is also, currently, Academic Director: Global Partnerships in the Vice-Chancellor’s Office. He gives lectures on higher education, China and the British passion for tea.

He is also an AUA Consultant and specialises in advising universities on their international strategies and the management of their international activities. He has worked as International Director for University of Warwick and as a PVC at Edge Hill University.

Thursday 15 July

In this session we will share the journey that Lancaster University has been on to engage and stay connected with our students during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The session will explore how we initially responded to the crisis and then utilised the shifting landscape for innovation, developing and delivering a new digital service – ‘Connect Lancaster’ – that helps connect our students with the network of University support available to them, linking them directly to their department, college and university services to ask for support through an app/webpage which does not require them to understand our structures. Development of ‘Connect Lancaster’ was a collaborative effort between Student Wellbeing Services and Information Support Systems, co-designed with students. The app was developed and rolled out to students within 3 months, using an agile project methodology, and is an example of collaborative working at speed to improve services to students.

Sarah Sweeney, Head of Student Support and Wellbeing, Lancaster University

Sarah leads the delivery of student support and wellbeing services, including counselling and mental health, disability and inclusion support and student advice and engagement across the University. Sarah has driven forward the use of digital innovation to improve the services offered to students, in particular moving all services to online delivery during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Brian Green, Head of Innovation and Mobile Development, Lancaster University

Brian leads a multi-disciplined team of developers, creatives, marketers and dreamers which comprises of a core of full-time staff as well as a team of students. Using a true co-production approach, he oversees the delivery of innovative solutions including attendance, digital wayfinding, mobile phone applications, a campus voice skill.

Friday 16 July

This session will introduce the concept of humanistic leadership in Higher Education and discuss tools and methodologies that can be implemented by leaders and managers to encourage increased openness and buy-in to change management projects and improve both collegiality and the working environment. This will include a focus on demonstrating and building upon respect, kindness and compassion within a Higher Education Institution setting.

The session will use a number of artefacts and case studies in order to demonstrate the impact of a humanistic leadership approach in change management. The output of the session will be to provide attendees with a toolkit of approaches that can be used within their own change management projects and ensure that staff continue to be open to future change projects.

Laura Roper, Accreditations Manager & Postgraduate Researcher, Bournemouth University

Laura has a passion for encouraging people to embrace continuous improvement and best practice. Laura’s background is in accreditation management, and she has held a number of roles within Bournemouth University, giving her a wide range of experience and insights into HE processes. As part of the accreditation process Laura strives to ensure that a high-quality student and staff experience is supported by a culture of service excellence and continuous improvement which is encouraged throughout the University.

Working with a variety of academic and professional colleagues in HE has prompted Laura to think differently about how to achieve improvements in service. To support this learning, she is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and the Association of University Administrators. Laura is the AUA Advocate for Bournemouth University and has established a BU-AUA Branch. She has also been involved in the development of a Service Improvement Community of Practice as well as a programme of ‘kindness’ workshops and activities presented both nationally and internationally. Laura uses these activities to promote the benefits of work-based kindness and further embed service excellence across all service areas. She is keen to share her learning from this experience and continue to learn more from the experiences of others and was recently published in the book ‘Global Lean for Higher Education’ in a chapter entitled ‘Identity and values to drive respect for people: A case study based on embedding kindness as an organisational value’.

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