Most of today was spent at St Mary’s where there was a Partnership conference.

The conference is an annual event, though it is the 1st time I’ve attended. The event brings senior managers and Trade Union colleagues together to talk about various strategic issues facing the University. The event is part of the approach the University takes in terms of working in partnership, involving and engaging Trade Unions in discussions on the decisions facing the institution.

The event was opened by Phillip Dixon and Philip Jones, who spoke in some detail about the financial position of the University. As Philip’s said clearly before, we are in a good position and decisions made a year ago, along with some good fortune (such as cheaper energy costs) have left us in a stronger position in relation to the overall bottom line than had been predicted. Even so, we know that we have a higher than average ratio of staff pay to non-pay costs and the sector as a whole has an uncertain environment to work in with regards to public funding.

One of the main things I took from Philip’s comments was the need to not have a knee-jerk reaction to potential financial changes but that we do need to make sure we prepare for the future so we can weather it safely.

Philip specifically mentioned a number of reviews happening in the University at the moment – the service reviews in corporate departments, the portfolio reviews in faculties, the Professional Services Review, and the Corporate Review of IT – as elements of that preparation for the future.

Then we were working in groups looking at some specific areas that we might recommend the University took forward as part of that preparing for the future. It was a really interesting discussion in the group I was in certainly, a mixed group from three Trade Unions and managers from different parts of the University.

It felt very open and people were willing to share their experience, thoughts, opinions freely. It was probably one of the best open discussions I’ve ever been involved in here at the University – we need more discussions like that.

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