Future HE Professionals

Dr Andrew West, FAUA

Managing Consultant | AUA Consulting

Dr Andrew West, FAUA has a career in HE professional services spanning thirty years. Formerly University Secretary at the University of Sheffield he is Managing Consultant for AUA Consulting.

What do future trends in the world of work mean for professionals working in higher education and how are professional roles changing in this context – not to mention the additional impacts arising from the Coronavirus pandemic? What are the likely development needs to support new ways of working into the future and what role should professional organisations have, alongside HE institutions and individual professionals, in anticipating and responding to these trends?

These are some questions addressed by a wide ranging project “Future HE Professionals” which has been led by AUA over the last six months. Sponsored by the AUA Board of Trustees, Future HE Professionals is designed to inform the next phase of AUA’s development as a professional organisation. Findings in the project also have wider applications in the sector – and a range of research and project reports are now freely available on the AUA website.

Three project phases incorporated a) background research, b) a largescale survey of those working in HE professional services in the UK, which attracted more than 2000 responses, and C) wide ranging stakeholder consultation. The project has revealed consistent messages about the broad trends impacting on the nature of professional work over the next decade, including rapid advances in technological innovation such as automation and artificial intelligence. We have reflected on the likely implications in higher education – and in particular within HE professional services and you can read more about the macro-level trends here.

At the level of individual roles, respondents to a wide-ranging Future HE Professionals survey were invited to comment on future work trends and the associated professional development implications, with some interesting feedback about the balance of institutional opportunity vs personal responsibility in professional development, and the concept of career pathways for HE professionals. Read more about what the survey revealed here.

The timing of the project in relation to the Coronavirus pandemic enabled us to incorporate some real-time reflection on the ways in which some of the future trends in professional work might be accelerated (or conversely might be less relevant) in the post-Covid ‘new normal’. Among the issues highlighted are the challenges around professional agility in a future of significantly increased cross-functional and/or multi skilled working and the management behaviours required to foster flexibility and adaptability into the future. Read more project findings here.

If you are connected to the HE professional services community you should find much to interest, challenge and provoke you in the outputs from Future HE Professionals, and we have set out a series of discussion prompts here to help institutions, organisations and individuals to engage with the material – including using findings in the project to inform institutional planning; to support managers; and to help individuals to reflect on their professional future. A complementary powerpoint slide deck is available here.

On Tuesday, 24 November 2020 AUA is hosting an online conference with opportunities to reflect further on the theme of Future HE Professionals. Further details regarding the programme and booking can be found here.

Future HE Professionals was delivered as a project by AUA Consulting. AUA Consulting is a consulting practice ‘of the sector for the sector’ – consultants are AUA members who are practitioners in higher education administration and management. For clients this means we combine the benefits of an external perspective with sector specific expertise. Any financial surplus derived from AUA Consulting is reinvested to support the AUA’s charitable objectives – connecting and developing HE professionals – in support of the HE sector. Find out more at www.aua.ac.uk/aua-consulting.


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