Leadership Bulletin – July 2017

The regular report from the University Leadership Team (ULT) providing updates against the four pillars of the University Strategy

Introduction by Carol Stanfield, Director of Policy and Projects

‘Did you stay up for the exit poll?’ is the 2017 version of ‘Did you stay up for Portillo?’. When I was scheduled to write this introduction, the intention had been to consider the implications of the 2017 General Election for us as a university, and I, along with everyone else, expected to simply turn to the Conservative Manifesto. Not so. When you read this, it may already be out of date given the fragility of politics. However, I thought it might be interesting to explore some of the policies we are seeking to influence because they impact on our staff, students and wider community.

Justine Greening’s return as Secretary of State for Education implies some policy continuity. Greening has been concerned with social mobility and she is aware of our work on supporting students from low participation backgrounds in and through university. We will be looking toexpand on that outreach by also supporting school attainment through our Institute of Education. This work comes under the umbrella of South Yorkshire Futures and briefings are taking place at the University on this initiative on 10 and 13 July.

Jo Johnson’s return as Minister for Universities and Science also perhaps signals some stability in direct HE policy, particularly after the difficulties of getting the Higher Education and Research Act passed before the election.

Other government policies are in flux and impact on us. For example, university sponsorship of schools, touted in the Conservative manifesto as a condition for universities charging full fees, was not included in the Queen’s Speech, so the current assumption is that there will be no further action. Plans to expand selection in secondary schools also seem to have been dropped.

The Conservative Manifesto promised a review of tertiary education, but it is also unclear as to what will happen to this now. The government has committed to proceeding with reform of technical education, which may be a commitment to implementing Lord Sainsbury’ s review . This seems based on an assumption that Higher Education does not provide technical education, an assumption we would and will contest.

Labour’s pledge to abolish tuition fees has also brought the financing of Higher Education into the spotlight in a way which we perhaps may not have imagined a few weeks ago. It’s almost certain that government will wish to explore options here.

Over in BEIS, Greg Clark returns as Secretary of State. We responded to the formal government consultation on Industrial Strategy and have published the response Universities and the New Growth Economy: Sheffield Hallam University and the Industrial Strategy. This sets out ways in which we can build on our own expertise to help deliver benefits for our students and for the local and national economy, and has attracted widespread interest.

We will be closely watching the Immigration Bill and what this means for staff and students. At the time of writing, we simply do not know which direction the government – considerably weakened by the election – will take. We have seen government present its plans to offer non UK EU citizens who are resident in the UK some stability in the way of Brexit. We do not know how the negotiations will develop, but as a university we continue to use our best efforts to secure an outcome which guarantees the rights of our staff and their families

This is before consideration of the politics of the Sheffield City Region, but we’ll leave that for another time….

Shaping Futures – Christina Hughes

For this edition of the Bulletin, I’ve asked my colleagues Simon Bromley, Becca Khanna and Jacqueline Stevenson to write an update

The University Strategy is more than words and must ‘be lived’ for us to be a successful institution. As a key pillar of the Strategy, ‘Shaping Futures’ is in the business of shaping the futures of, and with, students. This intent started in earnest this month with each Shaping Futures theme having an identified partnership or set of co-sponsor colleagues leading it. With an institution wide remit, we are the co-sponsors for

  • Inclusive Student Experience (Jacqueline Stevenson with Graham Holden)
  • Employability (Simon Bromley with Conor Moss)
  • Retention (Becca Khanna with Neil McKay)

To develop plans in this area further, the Shaping Futures Board had a not-very-far-away day (Novotel Hotel!) to really get to grips with what we need to do to support our students in these areas. We discussed the challenges and dangers of metric driven environments and the opportunities that the strategy provides to give a concerted focus to core areas where we can make improvements. We cheered when we heard we had received Silver in the TEF, recognising though that there is more to be done to achieve the step-change we are seeking.

In terms of the specific areas of our responsibility, our thoughts are as follows:

A key priority for our student inclusivity activity will be to support staff from across the institution to develop projects which begin to address the BME-white attainment gap, that is the difference in degree outcome between white students and their Black and minority ethnic peers. There is a persistent and entrenched gap across the sector, including at SHU, and we are committed to reducing, minimising and then eradicating the gap. All staff will have a role to play here and we will draw on expertise and best practice from across the University and beyond.

In terms of employability, outside a few professional and allied subjects our performance  on professional  and managerial  employment for  our graduates  –  as measured by the DLHE – is not where we would like it to be. Over the last year, but particularly over the past several months, we have been reviewing our work to date and developing new plans which will be forthcoming very soon. These will include targeted support to recently graduated students over the next 6-7 months to help as many students as possible gain graduate jobs. The second phase is an enhanced employability and careers offer for all students, as well as plans for closer working between subjects/departments and the Directorate for Employer and Educational Partnerships (DEEP).

On the retention front we aim to adopt both focused interventions with specific course teams and projects that will benefit all our students. Key to the approach is a focus on learning from experience both in the sector and from within SHU itself, securing a clear understanding about the impact of different interventions. Building and maintaining student commitment to their course is also a fundamental concept to be explored and developed across the student lifecycle. What is apparent is the need to renew ownership by all staff in refocusing their attention on student retention, progression and success and the implications of us not doing so.

Energy is now being placed into working up extended plans with associated business cases to deliver. Over the next few months co-sponsors will, via the  Shaping Futures pillar information hub, communicate a range of activities which we all need to commit to through prioritisation and by getting involved. In the meantime, if you want to discuss any of this work further do contact us.

Creating Knowledge – Paul Harrison

In my last two articles in this Bulletin I’ve talked about how we `transform lives’ of individuals and society through our research and the impact it makes as we transfer that knowledge to business, industry, the public sector and government. I’ve talked about the greater prominence of this work in our new strategy as it’s what makes us a university. For our applied mission, that translation of our efforts is as important as our creativity in the first place.

We are now able to make a step-change after raising £25m of external investment over the last 2-3 years to build two new research centres for Advanced Wellbeing and Food Engineering that will form the nucleus of our new Health Innovation Campus (HIC). We are due to break ground this autumn on the first of these and expect to have around 60 researchers working at the Olympic Legacy Park as both centres open in early 2019.

The HIC will be a centre of research and knowledge transfer and will attract third parties to site their facilities in close proximity in order to feed off the intellectual capital being created by us. Our vision is that, in time the HIC will be a beehive of inter-disciplinary innovation that springs from the co-location of university, start-ups, high growth companies, and eventually R&D wings of established large enterprises.

The road ahead will not be straightforward, we are setting ourselves a great challenge but the rewards will make it worthwhile: we envisage a strong mix of private sector funding, inward investment and university-business collaborative projects with opportunities for student internships, industrial secondments for staff, spin-in of expertise from the private sector, graduate enterprises and graduate employment opportunities. The HIC will be our first contribution to the wider Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District; our aim is for it to be grounded in the community and attract inward investment and hence support economic growth for the region.

This helps define what success will look like for us: an applied university that focuses on providing practical solutions to real-world problems. More of our activity will be from contract research and consultancy; commercialisation through start-ups, spin outs and International Property (IP) licensing. We will derive greater income from enterprise activity which will generate additional resources to support our core mission. Academics will be delivering research-informed curricula and will be active as scholars, researchers, practitioners or involved in enterprise: this will create the scholarly atmosphere to inspire our staff and students to fulfil their own goals.

For further updates on the Creating Knowledge pillar, visit the  pillar information hub.

Leading Locally and Engaging Globally – Professor Chris Husbands

The Leading Locally and Engaging Globally strand of the University’s Transforming Lives strategy is intended to do two things: to embed the University in the economic and social life of the region and to produce a step-change in our global engagement as a university with impacts on our ability to drive success for our students. It’s overseen by the LLEG Board, which I am chairing.

There are two broad types of work under the aegis of the Board. The first involves work which is genuinely new for the University; the second involves looking hard at our internal workings and making the internal changes which are needed to drive success. Characteristic of the first is a major strand of work under the title South Yorkshire Futures. We were challenged by the Permanent Secretary for the Department for Education to think harder about how we can exercise a leadership role in improving routes through and beyond compulsory education in the region. This matters for the region – there is a gap of seven percentage points between the likelihood of an eighteen year old in South Yorkshire going to university and the national average – but it also matters for us as a  strong regional recruiter. We have begun a major programme of work across the Institute of Education and Student Recruitment to support improved attainment across the region and are delighted that the DfE have seconded Greg Burke, a senior civil servant to lead the work.

The second strand involves reviewing and reframing our internal systems and structures to enhance our strong regional position, looking, for example at improving our services to business and our relationships with further education. An early priority involves reshaping our infrastructure for the development of degree apprenticeships, where we envisage growth over the next few years. In one sense, degree apprenticeships simply constitute a new route to qualification, but they are also a fundamentally different way for the University to undertake its work – through partner businesses rather than through direct recruitment.

At the same time, a revamp of our thinking about our international positioning, including a clearer focus on strong institutional partnerships with like-minded universities is being set in place. An early success has been the publication for the first time of a global engagement plan with clear activity strands.

For further updates on the Leading Locally and Engaging Globally pillar, visit the  pillar information hub.

Building a Great University – Deborah Harry

June marked the end of the annual planning round, and many colleagues across the University have contributed to the Planning Review Groups, and budget and forecast preparation – for which we thank you. The outcome is that the University is forecasting a small operating surplus for the 17/18 financial year, growing slightly in the following two years. The HE market is challenging and there are both risks and opportunities which will affect our financial result and as we know setting a budget is always easier than achieving it. Because the overall projected surplus is relatively small, it’s really important that each Faculty and Directorate remains focused on at least achieving, and if possible, improving on their planned budget for 17/18.

In addition to the normal operating budget, there are a number of initiatives which we are pursuing to deliver our Strategy implementation plan. To do this, we need to allocate some short term budgets to those programmes as well as looking for opportunities to redirect existing budgets to these activities. This will mean that the small operating surpluses that we have forecast for the next 2 years will become accounting deficits, where our overall expenditure for the year will exceed our income. We are confident that we can do this because we know that spending now on these initiatives will deliver financial savings and other measurable benefits that will increase our future success and financial sustainability. We are also fortunate that we are in a strong financial position, with strong cash balances and many years of consistent surpluses behind us, which means that we can afford to plan a couple of years with accounting deficits.

We are also thinking about our long term financial position, and we have developed a financial model which allows us to look at different options and outcomes. As Mark Swales talked about in his introduction to the previous Bulletin, the estates masterplan is being developed, and once we have identified the projects and plans that are needed, the financial model will help us to understand how much we can afford from our savings and how much we might need to borrow.

These are challenging and exciting times and we are a financially strong university which is confident to make bold choices to ensure our future success.

For further updates on the Building a Great University pillar, visit the  pillar information hub.

The Vice-Chancellor is hosting three events open to all staff over the coming weeks, where he’ll update on progress made to date, as well as giving an idea of our focus over the coming months, through and beyond the summer. For more information and to book, click here

If you have any queries concerning the Leadership Bulletin, you can contact either  Sara Kouchakji-Allen or Michael Clark.

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