Navigating the uncertainty | AUA can help

Dr Andrew West | FAUA

Dr Andrew West, FAUA has worked in HE administration/management for thirty years. Formerly University Secretary at the University of Sheffield he is Strategic Adviser to the AUA and Managing Consultant for AUA Consulting. Andrew is a member of the Board of Governors of Leeds Beckett University, an Associate of Advance HE and a Fellow of the Halpin Partnership.

The agenda for HE has changed beyond recognition in a few short weeks as the sector, alongside wider society, has responded to the pressing demands of the Coronavirus pandemic. It is probably safe to say that those working in higher education have never experienced times like this and I want to reflect in this blog on three ways in which AUA Consulting can offer support to the sector in navigating the challenging and uncertain period ahead.

First, as the sector looks forward to the point of emerging from the Coronavirus emergency phase over the coming months, universities and governing bodies will be considering longer-term impacts alongside their critical focus on short-term challenges. Some institutions might be planning a ‘lessons learned’ review to see how they might work better and be even more resilient in future. Scenario planning, business contingency and disaster recovery work might need revisiting. Boards and executive teams will want to look again at strategic plans and at institutional approaches to risk management, with new vulnerabilities in mind.

It may be helpful to reflect on clarity of responsibilities – who does what at a time of crisis. The experience of the last few weeks and that of the weeks to come will

inform the way universities work in the future – there is much to learn to shape our working practices and to inform institutional culture: might the experience of home working enable greater diversity and flexibility in the workforce, for example?

How might the many examples of creativity, innovation and responsiveness be celebrated and harnessed across the university community?

What can we learn from the accelerated development of online teaching to inform future arrangements supporting student education? How might the many examples of creativity, innovation and responsiveness be celebrated and harnessed across the university community? What does the sector’s civic/societal mission look like beyond the Corona crisis – as a defining feature of higher education? AUA Consulting can help you with this process of reflection, evaluation and forward planning.

Consultants within AUA Consulting are HE practitioners, meaning we offer the latest expertise based on a foundation of experience from across the sector. In our team we have consultants who have been working at the heart of HE during the Coronavirus crisis in roles such as University Secretary, Academic Registrar, Director of Academic/Student Services, Faculty Operations Director, as well as consultants who have been contributing in leadership as members of university governing boards.

Because our consultants are practitioners in higher education governance, leadership and management, we are able to combine for clients the benefits of an external perspective with sector specific expertise.

Find out more about AUA Consulting or contact us to discuss how we can support you and your team to move forward beyond the pandemic emergency.


Second, we know you may need additional short-to-medium term support in your team to review priorities which have been on hold over recent weeks and/or to accelerate programmes of change. Service areas which have experienced particularly significant impact (or relatively less impact) might now need reappraisal and review. Questions around optimal service design might now be in sharp relief, with the need to look again at traditional operating models. AUA Consulting is ‘of the sector for the sector’ and we can offer a depth of professional expertise covering the full spectrum of HE administration, management and services.

Finally you might also be planning for development in your professional service teams – moving beyond the significant recent disruptions in working practices to build on new priorities for the future and to support transition into a ‘new normal’ (or the ‘next normal’). AUA can help you with bespoke CPD for your professional services – function specific and/or based around professional skills and behaviours.

The AUA celebrates its diamond jubilee in 2021, with a heritage of 60 years of contribution to the higher education sector. Our business model means that any financial surplus derived from AUA Consulting is reinvested to support the AUA’s charitable objectives – connecting and developing HE professionals – for the benefit of professional services staff in support of the continued success of UK higher education.

Contact AUA Consulting to discuss how our expert consulting services can support the needs of you and your team in the challenging months ahead.


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