Meeting the challenges of change

Since I arrived in January, I have been setting out my ideas on the future of Hallam, and have written here about refreshing the University’s strategy. From today, you can find out more about how we will approach this work and keep up to date with developments here.

Alongside that, I have been looking hard at the way the University operates. This is a very large and complex organisation. Administration is robust, and the financial position remains strong. There are excellent people throughout the University and strong commitment to its success.

The Owen building by night.

The Owen building by night.

Nonetheless, the University faces challenges. The admissions market is highly competitive, and likely to become more so, demanding rapid responses from us. The financial position is tightening as the tension between a fixed-fee income base and rising costs becomes acute. Research income is not increasing. The regulatory environment is changing.

Taken together, these challenges raise questions about current administrative and managerial arrangements. Lines of accountability are long and often appear to be somewhat vague. In academic matters, there is some perceived lack of clarity about where responsibility for improvement rests. In professional matters, there is overlap between areas of responsibility and too often a lack of clarity about accountability. As a result, in too many areas, the University’s performance is not as strong as it might be.

In March, I brought in external advice to examine proposals for changes to the University’s structure, not least as a result of current and impending changes to senior staffing that create opportunities as well as posing challenges.   I’ve now been able to work through that advice with senior colleagues and am outlining some significant changes to the way the University’s leadership operates. More detail on these proposals is published here today; however I will summarise the main points here.

I plan to appoint a Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Student Experience to succeed the Deputy-Vice-Chancellor and to lead a co-ordinated focus on developing and enhancing the quality of the University’s academic offer. The PVC Student Experience will manage three of the services which formerly reported to the DVC: Learning Enhancement and Academic Development (LEAD); Student Engagement, Evaluation and Research (STEER); and Library and Student Support Services (LSSS). Advertisement for this post will be placed within the next couple of weeks.

The University’s faculty structure is well-established. There is now a need to focus on key strategic challenges facing the University in a more cohesive way.   Each PVC Dean will therefore assume an over-arching strategic responsibility. The intention is to ensure that the University’s major strategic priorities providing academic leadership to our international engagement, marketing and partnership approach and a global curriculum perspective; a PVC for Academic Development and Equalities, to lead the university’s equality strategy and to ensure a coherent approach to academic staff development; and a PVC for Regional Engagement, to develop a coherent approach to regional strategy in the context of devolution, the changing health agenda and the university’s regional role. The incoming Dean of SBS has already been appointed as PVC for Enterprise charged with transforming the way we work so that experience-based learning is an integral part of education for all of our students.

A new post will be created as Chief Operating Officer who will head the majority of the University’s professional services and be responsible for setting standards, expectations, tone and culture across all professional service teams. The COO will have five direct reports: the Director of External Affairs and Student Recruitment, Director of Estates and Facilities, the Chief Information Officer, Registry Services and the University Secretary

The University Secretary will focus on regulation and governance. This is a critical role for the University which reflects the increased emphasis on governance as a regulatory mechanism. The University Secretary will be the Clerk to the Board of Governors and a member of the University Leadership Team.

The University’s Director of Finance role will be refocused as a Chief Finance and Planning Officer. This is not because planning is a finance function but it is intended to sharpen the connections between finance and planning. Two discrete directorates will be retained – Planning and Finance – reporting to a single Chief Finance and Planning Officer in order to further develop an integrated approach to planning and budgeting.

The role of Director of Corporate Affairs will be replaced with a Director of External Affairs and Student Recruitment to continue leadership of the University’s communications, marketing, recruitment and fund-raising functions and formalise links with international recruitment and employer engagement. The re-titling of the role is intended to reflect its broader sweep of responsibilities, and make its purpose clearer.

Finally, I propose to strengthen the Vice-Chancellor’s Office by making an appointment to enable the Vice-Chancellor’s Office to be more effective in leading change and improvement across the University.

I don’t under-estimate the challenges we are facing; neither do I underestimate the challenges that change brings. These are far-reaching changes for the University, and obviously impact in different ways on teams and individuals; I recognise that structural change is always challenging and poses questions.

So I would like to reassure you on two points. First, structural change is not anticipated to happen until the new appointments have been made, and therefore current line management arrangements will remain in place until then. Secondly, the principal intentions of these changes are to increase organisational effectiveness and enhance cohesion.

Over the next few weeks, supported by a team from HR and Corporate Affairs, I will be working to ensure that the changes are implemented in accordance with established change principles.

In that regard, I am happy, personally, to speak to anyone who would like to discuss their concerns. However, I am also sure that as we develop a refreshed strategy, these changes will enable us to enhance the University’s performance and impact.

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