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Issue Number 83, Spring 2016

INSIDE THIS ISSUE 2015 AUA Netherlands and Belgium study tour AUA South West and South Wales regional conference Being an AUA branch advocate Reflections on 45 years in the HE sector Zen and the art of timetabling AUA Annual Lecture 2015

EDITOR’S INTRODUCTION Giles H Brown, FAUA, Editor, Newslink

Newslink is a great way to share good practice and successes, and to start to develop your writing-for-publication skills. Dr Giles H Brown


Editor’s introduction

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Being an AUA branch advocate

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Chair’s column The 2015 AUA John Smith Essay Prize

AUA Annual Lecture 2015

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Thanks to...

Perspectives special issue and essay prize

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The 2015 AUA Netherlands and Belgium study tour

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How to get the worst from your student evaluations

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Zen and the art of timetabling

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Efficiency Exchange

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Reflections on 45 years in the HE sector

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This is the fifth issue of Newslink since I was asked to oversee its relaunch in hard copy in 2014. Published three times a year, it is the newsletter of AUA, covering professional development articles, sector, colleague, national, branch and regional news, interviews, reports on events, development opportunities and more. Newslink aims to deliver content which appeals to every AUA member, and, like its allied publication Perspectives, aims to be of interest and use to practitioners, as well as encouraging engagement with AUA and informing professional practice and development. I hope you have enjoyed the previous four issues. The aim is to continue to evolve both the look and content of Newslink. To this end, an Editorial Advisory Board (EAB) has been established, whose members are central to both ensuring the regular delivery of content in their area of specialism, and also in crafting the future content and direction of the publication. The inaugural members of the EAB are as follows, along with the content area they have oversight of:

Rachel Birds

Kim Mellor


Communications Officer, AUA Office

Hunshelf Training and Consultancy

Editorial Assistance and First Point of Contact

Developments in HE/Issues in Brief

Kathy Murray

The AUA South West and South Wales regional conference

Upcoming AUA events

Giles Brown

Head of AUA Office AUA News, Events, Regional, Branch and Network News

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Editor Newslink

Network news AUA office updates


International issues

Steven Quigley

Tessa Harrison

Academic Registrar, Regent’s University London

Director of Students and Education, King’s College London

Feature Articles

Chair, AUA

Andrea Williams

David Law

Assistant School Manager, School of Business, Economics &

Principal Editor Perspectives

Informatics, Birkbeck, University of London


International News

I would like to invite you, our readers, to contact Kim, myself, or any member of the EAB to suggest future content for Newslink and, importantly, to discuss how you might contribute to the content of future issues. Newslink is a great way to share good practice and successes, and to start to develop your writing-for-publication skills. Both I and the EAB members are very happy to offer help and support in developing topics and early drafts in support of articles by first-time authors, and we look forward to hearing from you. Further, if you wish to join the EAB please get in touch.

Newslink Spring 2016 - 1

CHAIR’S COLUMN Tessa Harrison, FAUA, Chair of AUA and Director of Students and Education, Kings College London

Firstly, a week-long radio series on Radio 4 by David Willetts in

what is significant - for me that’s about listening to and acting

which he explored his thoughts about the state of education

on what’s important to our students.

in the UK from school to university. Whatever one’s political persuasion, David Willetts is clearly deeply committed

The second was the work we are doing to look at the AUA brand

to universities and to lifelong learning. As we submit our

and there are parallels here. AUA has been around for a long

institutional responses to the Teaching Excellence Framework

time now and we have a strong core of loyal and committed

(TEF) consultation, we are reflecting on the truths about

members. AUA does some amazing work via our networks and

university education, about the purpose of universities, about

events and we have exciting plans in the pipeline for investing in

the balance in the relationship between research and teaching,

and diversifying our activities. But we know there are colleagues

and about the nature of the student experience. None of this

who we are not reaching and who are not aware of the

is new of course, but the TEF will undoubtedly bring with it

opportunities provided by AUA. The brand review will help us to

a strengthened focus on putting students at the heart of the

identify those colleagues and understand what is getting in the

system. Like most of us working in HE administration I fell into

way of them joining us. As I enter the last few months of being

it - it wasn’t a deliberate career choice. I am now entering my

Chair of AUA I am going to try and ensure we all stay focused

27th year as an HE administrator (where did that time go?!) and

on listening to, and acting on, what’s important to our current and

reduces dramatically and pretty much everyone else in the university is on leave, so it really

was reminded, listening to David Willetts and his contributors,

future members.

can be a time to switch off for a bit and recharge. I am very much a subscriber to the new year/

that we must never lose sight of the transformational role our

Happy New Year and welcome to the first 2016 edition of Newslink. Tessa Harrison

I love the Christmas holiday period more than any other, mainly because the number of emails

new you approach and use the holiday period to look back, look forward and sketch out a small number of personal goals for the year to come. This year my thinking was prompted by two things.

universities play. Now the competing and conflicting demands,

I am delighted that we have such an incredible array of speakers

the mountain of emails, and the organisational politics have

and events planned for the Annual Conference in Leeds and look

started up again I am going to try and ensure I stay focused on

forward to seeing many of you there.

THE 2015 AUA JOHN SMITH ESSAY PRIZE David Law, MAUA, Principal Editor of Perspectives

The winner of the AUA John Smith Essay Prize for 2015 was Andrew Fisher for his article ‘Towards an orderly exit regime in English higher education’. This essay was published online on 27 October 2015 and will be included in a Perspectives special issue, Managers and Markets, early in 2016*. Andrew’s article considers the scope for an ‘exit regime’ in the English higher education sector. It considers how consumers (students) can be protected from the disorderly closure of their higher education providers, whilst retaining the principle of competitive neutrality, or the ‘level playing field’. The article also proposes actions which the sector could take in advance of Government regulation, in order to develop the form of exit regime which will give the greatest protection to students.

Programme (HEDIIP), and as Treasurer of the Student Records Officers’ Conference (SROC). Address for correspondence: Director, Dexter Claw Ltd, Registered Office Unit 11, Hove Business Centre, Fonthill Road, Hove, BN3 6HA. Email:

Andrew has worked in a number of different institutions, mainly in registry and planning roles, and is currently working in interim management in the HE sector. At the moment he is working as a contractor on the Higher Education Data and Information Improvement

Philippe Bouillard, ‘A multi-objective method to align human resource allocation with university strategy’.

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*The other articles in the special issue are: Nigel Thrift, ‘Universities 2035’. Wendy M. Purcell, Julian Beer and Rebekah Southern, ‘Differentiation of English universities: the impact of policy reforms in driving a more diverse higher education landscape’.

THE CHALLENGE OF QUALITY IN HIGHER EDUCATION: PERSPECTIVES SPECIAL ISSUE AND ESSAY PRIZE The Green Paper, on the future of higher education, was published in November last year. Fulfilling our potential: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice has certainly extended the debate on how to recognise and reward the quality of teaching. Now AUA members have a chance to join the discussion and to win a prize for the best essay on the subject. We invite submissions to a special issue of Perspectives to be published during 2017. Articles must examine ‘The Challenge of Quality in Higher Education’, but not necessarily focus on teaching and learning. Submissions that use practical experience are particularly welcomed. Essays, of up to 5,000 words, must be the original work of the author and must not be re-presentations of work that has already been published in any form.

Early submission of a 300 word ‘expression of interest’ is very helpful. These can be sent to the editor by e-mail: With the support of the John Smith Group we are able to offer a £1,500 prize for the essay that, in the judgement of the Editorial Board, best clarifies the challenges of Quality in UK higher education. The closing date for full submission is 18 July 2016.

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The HE system in both the Netherlands and Belgium is complex and there are institutions that can charge ‘non-standard’ fees David Law

Study Tours are regular events organised by the AUA’s

The student admissions system is very different, in most

International Higher Education network. They serve, formally,

subject areas, from that of the UK (although, like ours, it is not

to strengthen international links between AUA and similar

a ‘post-results’ system). Applicants to most undergraduate

overseas organisations and between UK HE institutions

courses, whether Dutch, British or other nationals, will only

and overseas HEIs. Crucially, they also provide learning

need to pass pre-HE qualifications (i.e. the offer for a UK

opportunities for the benefit of AUA members. This tour

student would be passes in A-levels and not a grade-based

included colleagues from London South Bank University, the

conditional offer). In effect, students are given an entitlement to

Universities of Aberdeen, Cardiff, and Surrey, UCL, and Edge

prove they can cope with a university education in their chosen

Hill University, and one colleague who is now a consultant. We

subject. The first year at a Dutch university is generally seen as

One of the reasons why the numbers of British recruits to

The Nuon Solar Team, wholly composed of TUD students,

were seven in all, a good size for this kind of activity.

a probationary period.

Dutch universities have increased is that fees are very low by

recently won the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge in its

comparison with UK tuition costs. The HE system in both the

Nuna8 solar car. This race across Australia was hotly contested

We visited Leiden University, the Free University (VU)

There are some courses, for example in Medicine, that have

Netherlands and Belgium is complex and there are institutions

by teams from many nations. Solar Team Twente, also from a

Amsterdam, the University of Amsterdam (UvA), Delft

quotas. Many universities will use a form of ‘lottery’ to allocate

that can charge ‘non-standard’ fees (much higher than the 1,951

technological university in the Netherlands, was second.

places in high demand subjects.

Euros currently set centrally by The Hague for first and second

University of Technology (TUD) and the University of Antwerp,

From left to right; Piet Van Hove (Head of International Relations Office, University of Antwerp), Els Braeken (Study Tour Leader, UCL), Beth Beasant (University of Surrey), Marion Malcolm (University of Aberdeen), Andrew Tuson (Independent Consultant), Ruth Coomber (University of Cardiff), David Law (Principal Editor, Perspectives). Photograph by John Baker, the seventh member of the Study Tour group.

in the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium. We explored three

degrees in Netherlands universities). Fees in Belgium are even

On the last day of the race, Nuna8 managed to keep ahead of

specific themes: the internationalisation of higher education,

lower than fees in the Netherlands.

Twente, reaching speeds of close to 100 km/h (62 mph) as it approached Adelaide’s Victoria Square. After 2,998 km only a few

research and research funding, and student employability. At the Dutch universities that we visited, undergraduate

minutes separated the pair. Nuon surged ahead to claim a second

Of the five institutions visited, UvA is the largest (31,000

programmes normally last three years (although many

successive World Solar Challenge, and its sixth in the event’s

students) and TUD is the smallest (21,000). By UK standards

programmes, particularly those that are vocational, last four

history, with a total time of 37 hours, 56 minutes and 12 seconds.

they are all substantial institutions, and they are all ‘research

years in Belgium and the Netherlands). All these universities

intensive’ in UK terminology.

taught degree programmes in English, especially at the Masters

During the tour we compiled a blog (http://auadutch2015.

level (where some programmes last for one year but others, which we hope AUA colleagues will read,

In a brief feedback report via Newslink we cannot say much. In

especially with a vocational dimension, are two years). The

particularly if they are interested in joining the next Study Tour.

2016, a full report will be published, and there will be an article

situation is different in Flanders where protection for the

AUA’s International Network has started to run shorter tours to

in Perspectives. Here we look briefly at the tour from the point

Dutch language in Belgium has inhibited the growth of degree

destinations that are more easily accessible for those with busy

of view of the student experience and note how UK students

programmes in English.

lives. The tour before ours was to Poland (and the colleague who led that one will be speaking about it at the Leeds

have become increasingly interested in crossing the Channel to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the kind of

British students who go the Delft University of Technology

universities we visited.

(TUD) for a Masters in Aerospace Engineering, or one of the

Conference in March).

other Engineering programmes, would have the chance to join

On the basis of my experience I would strongly encourage AUA

UK students on degree programmes in the Netherlands

the Nuon Solar Team which builds electric cars powered by

members to put themselves forward the next time a Study Tour

numbered approximately 2,600 in 2014-15. This was slightly

sunlight. We visited the ‘D:Dream’ building where it is based.

is advertised.

higher than the number of French students but about 10% below

Students get some support (and a building) from the university

the numbers from Italy and Spain. Germany provided the highest

but have to raise most of the finance from external sponsors.

number (c. 24,000), followed by China (c. 7,000) and Belgium (c. 3,000). There are many more UK students who go on Erasmus

Student teams in their own time build cars, bicycles and boats,

exchanges to universities in Belgium and the Netherlands.

even robots, and enter them in international competitions.

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Module evaluation is, at its heart, an instrument designed to provide the academic with useful feedback Eric Bohms

Eric has nearly 20 years experience of working in the software sector. Before setting up Electric Paper Ltd in the UK in 2009, he held a number of senior national and international roles across sales, marketing, operations and projects as well as setting up Cardiff Software Ltd in 1996. Eric holds a Masters of Science in Technology and Innovation Management from John H Sykes School of Business, University of Tampa and a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from the University of San Diego. He is passionate about the HE student experience and has specialist knowledge of HE policy and processes in this area. He also specialises in disruptive technologies, new product development, knowledge management, survey design and deployment, and testing and assessment.

of students? I can think of no better way to create happy

sense to use negative incentives to encourage participation,

academics than to escalate the vindictive comments of a few

disregard the protection of their personal data or be vague

disaffected students to the management team!

regarding anonymity.

6. For online surveys, don’t use precious inclass university time

2. Academic Staff

Just send the surveys out and hope the students complete

provision in the UK, and the variety of expertise that needs to

them. Whilst they are tech savvy and live on their smart

be harvested across disciplines, consultation is vital in winning

phones, the distractions of chatting with their friends and

the hearts and minds of academics. Equally important is to

checking social media will ensure the survey is always put off

choose the right survey questions, ensure sensitivity around

until later…and later…and later…result!

the use and visibility of textual comments, and be transparent

Due to the increasing diversity of cultures and identities of HE

regarding the implications of course evaluations on performance In this article, rather than discuss how to implement best practice around course evaluation, I have decided instead to write about how to get the absolute worst from your investment in technology. So, here are my seven recommendations to ensure useless results, leading to meaningless metrics, disengaged students, angry academics and management teams with no idea of what is happening in their teaching rooms!

1. Ensure you invoke survey fatigue In order to increase course evaluation survey fatigue amongst your students, don’t try to identify what surveys are being run across your institution. I have met several HE providers that have had very successful survey fatigue programmes, with students being asked to complete 60 different surveys throughout the year - well done - the more the better in fact to ensure the highest level of survey abuse. Just keep the surveys rolling - students love them, as do the vendors supplying commercial systems to deliver them!

2. Be very sneaky Don’t worry about data protection when running online surveys. Don’t inform students that there is a team of learning technologists with a live feed, monitoring and collecting the time, location, gender, pass rate and attendance of survey participants. Students don’t mind at all! It’s the age of social media, they don’t care about their personal data.

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3. Make sure your academics collect the surveys personally When using paper surveys, it always makes the student feel better about giving honest feedback when they experience the personal touch of an academic watching over them while they complete it and saying thank you when handing in an evaluation of their performance.

4. Make sure you never actually tell the students what measures or actions will be put in place as a result of their feedback

7. Lock students out of their Virtual Learning Environments (VLE) until they complete the survey This is one the best techniques if you want a 100% response rate with questionable integrity! There is no better way to ensure rubbish results than to blackmail students into providing thoughtful feedback. In all seriousness, all the examples I’ve mentioned are real and well-meaning attempts at enhancing the learner experience at university. You can imagine how successful they’ve been!

When running module evaluation, just keep sending out surveys – students will never tire of completing surveys with

So let’s address these challenges, focusing on three key areas:

no discernable outcome or change to teaching practices or resource provision.

1. Students When they arrive at university, students have very little

5. Academics are not too busy

experience of participating in market research and a trusted

Yes I know many of them have to produce research and are

advisory relationship has to be cultivated in order to convey

now being pushed to improve their teaching and there’s that

the importance and responsibility they have as stakeholders

pesky feedback and contact hours topic always popping up on

in their education. Further, efforts in gaining trust and buy-in

the NSS. Why not get them to run their own surveys as well?

must be sustained (after all students and student reps are only

Just give them a log-in and let them go at it; they will appreciate

there for three years) and the reasons for participating in course

it, and I’m sure they won’t mind at all a bit of clandestine

evaluation must be clear and mutually beneficial. This is why

snooping by the analytics team. In fact, while you are at it,

it is so important that students see tangible, timely outcomes

why not drive all your enhancement efforts off the comments

from their feedback efforts. Seen in this light, it makes no

monitoring. Tempting as it might be for the university managers to indulge in ‘sneakiness’, module evaluation is, at its heart, an instrument designed to provide the academic with useful feedback to improve the delivery and design of their courses. The academics need to believe and trust in course/module evaluation policy, or they may actively work against its success.

3. Management Management teams have a responsibility to support the academics as well as to ensure the overall quality of teaching and learning for their students. Therefore, it is right that they have access to timely and meaningful metrics which enable them to identify excellence as well as areas that need additional resources. The proliferation of surveys needs to be regulated to avoid ‘survey abuse’, and policies must be clear as to how or if the results will be used in performance monitoring of academic staff and resource allocation, and how the results are communicated with the students. To conclude, what these best and worst perspectives demonstrate (and it pains me as a vendor to say it!), is that acquiring the right software is simply not enough. However, if you disagree, my software is available in six easy interest free instalments...

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REFLECTIONS ON THE PANEL DISCUSSION PREDICTIONS FOR THE HIGHER EDUCATION LANDSCAPE IN 2020 Carole Negre, MAUA, Postgraduate Officer & Team Leader, Faculty of Science Graduate School, University of Bath

Carole Negre

The South Wales and South

In contrast with this ominous picture, Gwen van der Velden and

West Conference which

Mike Ratcliffe shared a more optimistic view of the next five

took place on 5 May 2015 in

years. Following the old adage that ‘change is the only constant

Bristol provided a welcome

in life’, both emphasised its inevitability and reminded us of the

platform for networking, self-

innumerable instances in the past when UK HE was faced with

development and reflective

uncertainty and profound transformation, from which it always

practice amongst peers. The

recovered. What, they asked, could be more threatening to the

panel discussion was the

survival of the sector than two World Wars and a Great Depression?

perfect ending to a perfect

Far from heralding the end of HE, the sector still stands firm and

event, encapsulating key aspects of what makes AUA such

has even expanded widely. Gwen van der Velden highlighted

a successful enterprise: genuine awareness of, and loyalty

with enthusiasm the public role that HE still plays and referred

to, the HE sector, commitment to professional development,

to recent positive changes, such as wider community access to

dedication to sharing best practice and to fostering self-reflection.

HE and more instantaneous availability of information, allowing

But more than that, the discussion was an opportunity for the

for broader public awareness and understanding of the sector,

panel to speak with openness and honesty about their predictions

and providing universities with valuable insight into what the

for the Higher Education landscape in 2020, and for the audience

community expects of their ‘service’.

to explore and voice their own doubts, fears and, dare we say excitement (for some!), about the future of the sector.

Mike Ratcliffe’s delivery focused on the concerning collapse of part-time HE, as well as on the public perception of HE and the

The panel consisted of Gwen van der Velden (Director of

need to highlight, within the next Review, the personal return

Learning and Teaching Enhancement, University of Bath),

on the individual’s investment and the wider benefits to society

Shaun Curtis (Director of International Exeter, University of

which HE provides. This, he added, will help avoid the stigma

Exeter) and Mike Ratcliffe FAUA (former Director of Academic

of a ‘segregated sector’.

& Student Affairs, Oxford Brookes University), and was chaired by Lynn Robinson (Deputy Registrar, University of Bristol).

The floor was then opened for questions. In answer to Newslink Editor Giles Brown’s enquiry about how to encourage

5 MAY 2015

While all agreed that the outcome of the General Election,

HEIs to become more innovative and less reactive, it was

due to take place a mere two days after the conference, was

suggested that the sector, large and diverse as it is, would learn

undoubtedly going to impact the short-term future of HE, opinions

to become more proactive if the pressure in the sector were

differed amongst the panel as to where the sector was headed.

to become strong enough. It was also argued that the sector is

It was interesting to hear each panel member give their own take

becoming more creative as a response to market competition

on what they saw as they gazed into their personal crystal ball,

in certain recruitment initiatives. Discussions also took place

with views ranging from unrelenting optimism to deep concern.

around the complexity of maintaining the highest standards of quality while increasing (international) student intakes year on

Shaun Curtis highlighted some of the significant challenges

year, and the moral responsibility that each HEI has to support

HE will be facing, ranging from cuts to the Department for

students, both academically and socially.

Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) budget, a concern over the way the UK’s approach to immigration is being portrayed and

As evidenced by the wide range of topics covered, the Panel

the potential impact it could have on international recruitment,

Discussion provided much food for thought. Whether it allayed

and the future of EU Research Funding for UK HEIs. He

some common fears about what is in store for the HE sector,

also advocated the introduction of substantial changes to

or whether it invited more questions, I would wager that it

the student support system to guarantee sustainability, and

certainly did not leave anyone indifferent.

promoted the introduction of a set of regulations to underpin a stronger vetting process, including more rigorous quality checks, for private providers.

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This session gave delegates the opportunity to reflect on the current review of Quality Assessment (led by the Funding Councils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland). Drawing on her considerable knowledge and experience of quality assurance in higher education, Gwen van der Velden expertly broke the question down in to some key challenges for the workshop to consider, and while this probably raised more questions in turn than answers, we attempted to unpick them. Rachael Gee

of course, there are the funders: in common parlance this is

2. How can we measure quality, and what will these measures mean to students, funders, employers and society in general?

the tax payer, but in reality it is now the students themselves.

Quality is often discussed in terms of the ‘student experience’

A further interested party often now identified is employers

and the debate is usually informed by the ‘student voice’

of graduates. We are frequently told that employers want

(what students say about the quality of the teaching and their

graduates that are more ‘employable’.

academic experience). That leads inevitably to the question:

1. Who and what is quality assurance for? First and foremost, quality assurance is for students. Then

how much do students know about what they should be Defining ‘quality assurance’ is closely related to measuring

getting, or what true quality in teaching actually is? How

quality; different measures imply different concepts of

much does the ‘enjoy-ability’ scale weigh against the ‘learning

study. ‘Student achievement’ – how well students succeed in

quality. Van der Velden identified the following key concepts

absorbed and translated into life skills’ scale? Outcomes,

a course and how much have they actually learned – is often

for measuring quality: the academic standards that students

such as employability and rates of pay on graduation, are also

overlooked or avoided. This is largely due to the difficulty of

achieve, whether teaching enables students to learn effectively,

measures used in developments such as the Key Information

comparing degree classifications and of tracking ‘added value’

whether social expectations of graduates are met, and whether

Set (KIS) that HE providers are now required to publish on their

– how much learning a student has absorbed since their arrival

an institution meets its own key performance indicators.

websites to inform student choice about where and what to

on the course, and how much they have developed their critical thinking and analytical skills.

3. What different approaches could be considered to take forward quality assurance into the 21st century?

4. How can quality be evidenced to the public? This seems to be at the heart of the current Government’s thinking, with its emphasis on publicly-accessible and comparable data about courses and students’ experiences. Perhaps what is most lacking in the current debates around quality are the interests of society as a whole. Research has shown that there are many ‘wider’ benefits of higher education for society, such as better citizenship, more social and political engagement, better health and family planning (leading to a reduction of burden on health and social services), and for individuals, such as better job and life satisfaction; the ability

Accreditation, while popular elsewhere in Europe and the US,

to make more informed choices, consider the long view and

has come and gone (with the demise of the Council for National

impact of choices on quality of life.

Academic Awards [CNAA] in the 1990s) in the UK, and no one seems keen for it to make a come-back. Then there are ‘market

Van der Velden concluded with a few more questions for us all

forces’ – that quality will show itself and that institutions will

to consider. How can quality assurance be used as a driver for

thrive or fail on the basis of how many students subscribe

experimentation and innovation, rather than stifling change and

to them (for an in-depth evaluation of the effectiveness of

development? Can a ‘one-size’ quality process really fit all, given

market-forces in HE see Roger Brown’s excellent book on

the increasing diversity of providers and students? Diversity

the subject ). Then there is self-regulation – make institutions

is perhaps the key to the future of quality assurance. After all,

more transparently regulate themselves. But how many other

comparing the student experience at Oxford or Cambridge

industries has this been tried in and failed, and wasn’t that

to the student experience at a small and under-resourced

what was largely in place for universities before the emergence

alternative provider in the East End of London is surely like

of quality assurance (as we now know it) in the 1980’s? And

comparing apples and oranges.


finally ‘legal protection’ - a bond system that creates a consumer culture of refunds for unsatisfactory institutional quality or

This article represents the personal views of the author, and not

performance. This has been discussed recently in the context of

those of the QAA.

alternative providers and the lack of protection for international students in particular, when an alternative provider goes bust.

1 Brown,

R (2010), Higher Education and the Market (Routledge: London), 248pp.

However, it creates many challenges of its own and could be very expensive to implement.

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Mike Ratcliffe FAUA delivered an amusing potted history of Higher Education (HE) and the emergence of the modern university in the UK. What was revealed is the significance of HE as a cultural, social and economic force, how HE and universities were struggled and fought for, and ultimately what makes HE distinctive today. The concept of the ‘organisational saga’ as a central ingredient of the distinctive college (Clark, 1999) was used as the vehicle through which the modern academic community, and development of the twenty-first century university, can be told:

Jules Forrest

• The saga begins in Bologna, Italy, with the oldest extant

• One major distinction between the medieval and modern

• The Great Exhibition (1851) was the catalyst that

of the slightest value” (Sutherland, 1975) which seems a

and was the forerunner for the development of schools and

radical opinion to anyone who has worked in a present day

colleges of art and science across the country.

‘research-led’ institution.

• Women were deemed too weak to benefit from HE in the

expansion of technical colleges through the application

cope with the demands of HE. By the turn of the twentieth

of university status which led to the emergence of the

century women were being allowed to take examinations

vocationally-orientated universities that continue to thrive

but “they do not permit the University to actually confer

today, providing professional training and responding to social

upon women the time-honoured degree of BA or MA” (Fitch,

needs. The Dearing Report (1997) was perhaps the last UK-

1900). It was only after the First World War that women were

wide attempt to classify a common HE mission across the UK.

university was how science was practiced; outside

permitted to become full members of the university and thus

first use of the word universitas (a corporation of students

universities until 1807 when the new University of Berlin

be enabled to have a degree conferred upon them.

and masters) to describe a place of study. Bologna was

bought together learning, science and scholarship in the new

thoroughly student-centric: students wrote the regulations

research-led style of the nineteenth century.

not student behaviour. Thus, the first university was there for the student, and the emphasis was on delivering what the student wanted from the experience! • In the UK, the ‘Old is good in HE’ maxim is demonstrated by

• It was the Robbins Report in 1963 that recommended the

nineteenth century amongst fears that their bodies could not

university in the World, founded in 1088. It was here the

and the majority of rules were there to govern staff conduct,

it has never achieved, and will never achieve any results

determined the way in which education is thought about,

• The session ended with speculation about the future for HE in the UK – is there any reality in a move towards a federal model that could reduce the huge amounts of

• The late nineteenth and early twentieth century saw the establishment of the UK universities as we would recognise

duplication? Or a common exit exam to test what graduates

them today. Throughout the period there is evidence of the

have learnt along the lines of the American model Graduate

College London (UCL), was founded in 1826 for the ‘middling

strongly held views regarding the purpose of the university,

Record Examination (GRE) which measures what a student

rich’ to provide a higher education whilst not requiring students

it status and who it serves. For example Benjamin Jowett,

has studied, regardless of what university a student has

to move into halls; rather students could continue to live at

tutor and administrative reformer at University of Oxford, is

studied at. Given the English love of testing knowledge, it is

home and remain under ‘all the moral influence that results

quoted as declaring: “Research! A mere excuse for idleness;

concluded that such a move would not be likely.

• The University of London, which later became University

the historical struggle between Cambridge and Oxford, each

from home’ (Campbell, 1825). The University of London was

vying to pre-date the other and claim the antecedent for a more

given the power to regulate examinations and thus could

ancient, and thus more superior, origin. With the University of

confer degrees on any person who took and passed the

Oxford claiming King Alfred as their founding father, Cambridge

examinations, and thus we begin to see the emergence of the

Clark RB (1999 [1970]), The Distinctive College New Brunswick, Transaction pp.234-35.

felt obliged to trace their lineage to another legendary king,

modern university as familiar to twenty first century audience.

Fitch, J (1900) Educational Aims and Methods Cambridge, Cambridge University Press p.400.

King Arthur, predating Alfred by over 265 years.

References Campbell, T (1825), extract of a letter to Mr Brougham, published in the Times, 9 February 1825, quoted in Allchin, W, 1905, An Account of the Reconstruction of the University of London, London HK Lewis, p.3.

Sutherland, J (1975) Oxford Book of Literary Anecdotes, London Oxford University Press p.273.

REFLECTIONS ON THE CHALLENGES OF INTERNATIONALISATION, DELIVERED BY DR SHAUN CURTIS, UNIVERSITY OF EXETER Laura Ottery, MAUA, Senior Policy Advisor (Doctoral Partnerships), University of Exeter Whilst the title of the middle

substantial growth in international student numbers at Exeter in

a report on the economic impact of international students to

activities, and that whilst it can take time to engage the

plenary was ‘Challenges

the past five years, and that the University’s Strategy was now

the city of Exeter, who it was estimated were contributing an

academic community, there are now a number of powerful

of Internationalisation’, Dr

focusing more upon diversification in terms of country, level

estimated £88.3 million to the city’s GDP and supporting nearly

testimonials from academics of their own experiences.

Curtis also highlighted the

and discipline of study, and academic research engagements.

2,880 jobs.

developments in this arena.

A variety of initiatives which had been implemented during Dr

Dr Curtis informed the audience that the key internationalisation

that success occurs through a top down and bottom up

The presentation followed

Curtis’ time at Exeter were presented, including: a mobility

challenges facing universities were the reduction in the number

approach, that we need to be honest that international student

on from his Perspectives

fund which individual academics can bid for to financial support

of International English Language Testing System (IELTS)

recruitment is a source of revenue generation, and that internal

article titled ‘Implementing

the development and expansion of relationships with partner

testing centres, changes in exchange rates, and frequent

administrative barriers need to be overcome in order to achieve

Internationalisation’ (Curtis,

universities, a travel tracker system (linked to insurance)

changes to the UK’s immigration policy and the confusing

internationalisation ambitions.

2013), and detailed the current phase of discussions at the

which collects data on outward mobility activities of academic

messaging that result from this. He explained that it was

University of Exeter regarding the development of their

staff, funding for an International Student Support Officer, the

important to get academics enthusiastic about the benefits

International Strategy 2015-2020. Dr Curtis highlighted the

creation of International Sport Month, and the publication of

they could personally receive from engaging with international

The key lessons which he imparted for administrators was

opportunities and exciting

Laura Ottery

12 - Newslink Spring 2016

Curtis, S (2013), Implementing internationalisation, Perspectives – Policy and Practice in Higher Education, 17(2), 42-47

Newslink Spring 2016 - 13

INTERNATIONAL ISSUES AW: Do you think that the studies will help you in your career?


EH: Absolutely. I have already considered what my options may

Andrea Williams, MAUA, Assistant School Manager, School of Business, Economics and Informatics, Birkbeck, University of London

be, but am sure that my personal development and growth will aid me in my professional career. I hope by combining my UK work experience and my US education and work experience I will have a bit of an edge.

AW: Where do you live?

I would recommend studying abroad to anyone! It takes you out of your comfort zone, but that is when you learn the most.

EH: I live in an apartment on site in the halls of residence. We have 15,000 students living on campus… so it is busy. I chose to live on campus because of my work, but also because of the learning lab the campus has.

Andrea Williams

Andrea Williams, the Network Coordinator for AUA’s International Network, caught up with Emelie Helsen, a former AUA advocate at City University and 2011 Japan Study Tour participant. Prior to moving to the USA in 2014 to study for a Masters Degree, Emelie worked at Kingston University as the Engagement Manager, and prior to that worked in the Students’ Unions at City University London and Staffordshire University. She was an active participant in the AUA International Network. Andrea and Emelie talk about making this big commitment and about Emelie’s experiences and tips for others who might be interested to take the plunge and move abroad.

AW: What extracurricular things did you do aside from your studies? Emelie (on the left) and two fellow students presenting research on ‘mature students’

Me and my friends try to find time to get off campus and visit My experience there is, of course, very different to someone studying in a small college in Florida.

AW: What was the hardest thing you had to do? EH: The amount of personal reflection on myself and on society.

Andrea Williams: Hi Emelie! It is great to catch up! Why did you decide to study in the USA?

AW: What does a typical study day look like? EH: It is pretty much groundhog day to be honest. I try to get

away from family and friends was not an alien feeling to me but

Emelie Helsen: Because at that time I could not pursue a

up early as I have learned that I read best in the morning and

the intensity of the programme and the whole experience of

Masters in Student Affairs in the UK*. After a few visits to the

write best in the afternoon/evening. My day consists of a lot

my first year really pushed me to think and reflect, which, at the

US and to a range of institutions I became familiar with the

of reading (my favourite place to do this is the Broad Museum

time was extremely hard.

types of degrees and focus you could choose. Also, the field of

on-campus or a coffee shop off-campus), attending a three hour

student affairs is highly professionalised in the US so I figured I

class with my cohort of 23 students, eating in the dining halls,

AW: What was your biggest achievement?

would learn so much from my two years exposure there. I really

meeting with resident assistants or team members, writing

EH: There are quite a few! The amount of continuous learning

wanted to focus on students, student-centred learning, research

papers, and reflecting on what I have learned, because there is

I get to do for a start. The fact that I was asked to be on the

on student development etc. instead of higher education policy,

just so much to take in that it is important to mull it over. Usually

Programme Committee for the international conference of

leadership and so on, which is on offer. I decided to choose

there will be a group project meeting in there at some point too.

the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) and my

Michigan State University (MSU) because of the faculty who teaches and researches in our college, the type of institution it is, and the opportunities for assistantships (to carry on my practice).

AW: What was it like to be an international student? What were your first impressions?

I have travelled extensively and lived in a few countries so being

involvement in ACPA’s Commission for Global Dimensions of

AW: Can you give any tips to other AUA members who think of going abroad to work or study? EH: DO IT! Working abroad is of course harder to navigate, particularly if you have family commitments or have to deal

EH: Very little! I chose to be on a few university-wide committees.

Student Development. I am also proud of my marks - as much as they do not determine my academic abilities, I am happy that my return to full time education as an adult has made a positive impact on them.

EH: This is not my first time as an international student. I came

with securing a visa/sponsorship. I would recommend studying

AW: Do you work?

to the UK to study in 2000 from Belgium. MSU has quite a few

abroad to anyone! It takes you out of your comfort zone, but

EH: Yes, I work 20 hours per week in the Department of

international students so they are pretty savvy at supporting

that is when you learn the most. There is so much I have

Residence Housing and Education Services as an Assistant

them. My first impressions were more around my experience

learned about the field, my past practice, my future career

Community Director. I supervise eight Resident Assistants, and

of living in the US, which at times has been very challenging. I

and myself that I just would not have done studying in the

have responsibility for the safety and security of around 2,000

experienced cultures shock far more than I had anticipated, and

UK. I would also recommend doing proper research: what is

students when on duty and I provide support to create and

familiarising myself with all the acronyms (for example GPA,

the purpose of you studying abroad? Where do you want it

enhance communities that contribute to academic success.

APA, REHS) took some time!

to lead you to? Where is a good place and institutional fit for

cities close by. I try to cycle and walk as much as possible to keep active, which works fine in autumn and spring but the winter is very harsh. I enjoy photography and the TV series Scandal will not be missed by us grad students on a Thursday night.

AW: What are your future plans? EH: I am really taking this step by step. I have one more academic year to complete and towards the end of that, I will see what jobs are available in the UK. Ultimately, it is my goal to be a Director of Student Services and/or to teach and facilitate student support/ student development modules in the UK… and who knows, once things have calmed down I may consider doing my PhD….

AW: What is your ‘top 5’ list for the USA? EH: 1) They make a mean mac’ n’ cheese; 2) People are generally very positive which can be infectious; 3) My academic adviser: she is top notch and has made my time in the States absolutely worthwhile; 4) Autumn in Michigan is stunning! The colours of the leaves change daily and finally; 5) The access to the great research and literature on higher education is phenomenal. It is invaluable to gain international experience and AUA members are encouraged to join an annual Study Tour. The 2016 Study Tour is in preparation and the destination will be announced soon. If you want to get involved with the International Network, please contact Andrea Williams ( * There is a course on offer as of September 2015 at Anglia Ruskin University.

you? Michigan winters are very cold, MSU is a large institution.

14 - Newslink Spring 2016

Newslink Spring 2016 - 15

FEATURE ARTICLE BEING AN AUA BRANCH ADVOCATE Jayne Langlands, MAUA, Quality and Enhancement Manager, Quality and Enhancement Office, University of Salford

I am one of two Branch Advocates at the University of Salford and I have been an AUA member for nearly 10 years. Being an Advocate of AUA is extremely rewarding and I believe helps to professionalise the HE administration and management environment in which we work. It allows me to both contribute to development at the University and to get involved locally, regionally and nationally. Jayne Langlands

AUA has had a strong presence at Salford for many years,

proactive, look out for new opportunities to network, and

including winning an AUA Good Practice Award in 2009.

enhance our own personal development. She was keen to

Following a significant period of change at the University, a

revitalise AUA at Salford and as current members of AUA,

professional services development day was held in January

wanted us to consider the possibility of becoming an AUA

2016. The success of this event prompted our Registrar to

Advocate for Salford. Some of the benefits of being an

send a call out to all AUA members, encouraging us to be

advocate were highlighted, which include:

AUA Social

• enhancing your professional profile;

The plan is to grow the AUA Salford Branch and help people

• developing your skills;

develop new skills, meet new people, progress in their career

• gaining substantial networking opportunities;

and feel empowered as university administrators. We had five

• developing your knowledge of the sector; and

new members following the launch event, which was great.

• pursuing your own interests in specific areas of HE policy and practice.

In addition to internal events, we have also been working on a sub-regional level with the University of Manchester and

I was appointed in March 2015, alongside Diane Lloyd, as AUA

Manchester Metropolitan University, and agreed on three

Branch Advocates for Salford. Thankfully we were not alone

social events to be hosted by each university throughout the

in our challenge and there was a group of eight or nine other

academic year. The first event was held at Salford, where

interested parties that we have formed into an AUA Branch

25 members from Salford, Manchester and MMU came to

Advocate Team. We met and formed ideas about what we

hear Alison Blackburn’s inspirational talk and about the history

could do and what we expected from our branch. We set up

of AUA. Attendees then participated in a speed-networking

a Salford AUA Twitter account and looked into planning our

session, which was a great way to meet new colleagues from

first event which we held in July 2015. We also ran a local

other institutions or find out more about existing colleagues.

AUA Conference session, which shared experiences from the 2015 AUA Annual Conference and Exhibition and also looked

At a regional level, we hosted a North West and North Wales

forward to the 2016 Conference, including session proposal

Regional Mini Conference event on Wednesday 9 December.

submissions. This was a lunchtime session, where we shared

This was a fantastic event hosted at MMU Business School,

tips and tricks about submitting a conference proposal and

attended by AUA members from all across the region. Three

aspired to increase our number of conference proposals,

parallel sessions from Salford, MMU and Manchester were

which we did. We were really pleased to hear that we had two

scheduled, followed by a keynote from Lesley Munro.

proposals accepted and are looking forward to presenting at the 2016 AUA Conference.

In summary we’ve had a busy year since taking on the Branch Advocate role, and I’ve enjoyed it immensely – we’ve increased

Following the initial event, we focussed on a branch relaunch

our membership to nearly 50 and we hope to keep growing. 

which we held in September. We advertised via internal

From left: Lesley Munroe, Joanne Caldwell and Diane Lloyd

16 - Newslink Spring 2016

comms, and it was fantastic to see existing AUA members and

If you want to find out even more about being a Branch Advocate

new faces looking to find out about AUA and how it can help

please come along to the AUA conference in March – we are

them.  There was a real buzz around room and we hope to keep

presenting about revitalising our branch on Monday afternoon.

the momentum going with a planned schedule of events.

Newslink Spring 2016 - 17

BEING AN AUA BRANCH ADVOCATE Katrina Swanton, FAUA, Academic Quality, Student & Academic Services, Edinburgh Napier University Michelle Terrell, MAUA, Student Recruitment Officer & School Support Administrator, School of Computing, Edinburgh Napier University

AUA ANNUAL LECTURE DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH: BUSTING HIGHER EDUCATION MYTHS Naomi Popple, MAUA, Ambitious Futures Graduate Trainee, Student and Academic Services, University of York

Naomi Popple

Having doffed my cap as

perceived antagonisms broadly characterised the lecture. Sir Ian

a Masters student in late

passionately championed institutional collaboration and partnership

September, my understanding

over competition, challenged the notion that Universities are

of professional services within

“awash with cash” and, despite the inherent difficulties posed

Higher Education was, until

by Brexit and the student finance system, for example, Sir

recently, limited to robotic

Ian evidenced a number of tangible and positive innovations

reminders of the draconian

taking place across the sector in pedagogy, accountability and

scale of penalties applied by

environmental, financial and systemic sustainability. Some

my department to those foolish

information, however, was more ambiguously reassuring. I learnt

enough to miss a deadline. Beyond academia and their macro-

that as well as graduating with a degree, I have also attained

political scuffles, universities appeared to me as if they ran

the statistical improbability of being murdered!

themselves. After joining the Student and Academic Services

Katrina and Michelle

When Edinburgh Napier’s Branch Advocate position became

directorate at the University of York as a Graduate Trainee

Given the seniority of the many present, the seriousness and

and member of AUA in the same September, I realised – very

complexity of the subject matter, and my newness to the

swiftly – how naïve my student’s-eye-view of HE was.

sector, I hadn’t expected the warm, relaxed, collegial lightheartedness (not to mention the coffee, wine and canapés) I

informal activities including lunchtime development workshops, monthly coffee mornings on each of our three campuses, and a

My inaugural attendance at AUA’s 18th Annual Lecture

was met with that evening. Neither did I expect to discover

as we knew it would provide a great opportunity to make

University-wide book group. We have hosted an AUA Scotland

complemented this steep learning curve, with guest speaker

common ground between myself and AUA chair Tessa Harrison,

a positive contribution to AUA and our branch, allow us to

Network event and have been working hard to raise the profile

Professor Sir Ian Diamond (Vice-Chancellor of the University of

who did a sterling job of making all in attendance feel welcome.

develop new skills, and gain more experience. However, we

of the organisation on campus by, for example, promoting

Aberdeen and Chair of the UUK Efficiency Task Group) calcifying

Summarily, the lecture, the people, and the hospitality of the

AUA on plasma screens across the University, and holding

the reality that academia and its administration are, despite

University of York left me feeling optimistic and confident about

the role justice would require a significant time commitment. At

meetings with senior staff to encourage AUA engagement and

appearances, wholly complementarily and interdependent.

embarking on a career in the sector at such an exciting time.

the time, we were midway through a challenging secondment

support. While our priority was to strengthen the branch for our

Refreshingly myth busting HE’s, both internally and externally,

and managing full-time work along with study for AUA’s PG Cert

existing members, our activities have also resulted in the branch

respectively and we did not want to put ourselves up for the

attracting many new members which gives us the confidence to

role if we were not able to do it to the best of our ability. For us,

believe that we are doing the right things as advocates.

vacant we were both interested in putting our names forward

were also hesitant to do so as we both recognised that doing


the solution was to share the position. Although at the time we didn’t know each other very well, it was clear that we shared a

To share the role successfully it is important that we meet up

vision for the branch and a commitment to AUA. It made sense

regularly to plan activities and bounce ideas off each other. Sharing

to put in a joint application, which was submitted in writing to

the role also means that we have someone with whom we

the Scotland Network Co-ordinator, and in February 2015 we

can share our frustrations – which is not to be underestimated.

were successfully appointed.

Sometimes being a branch advocate can be demoralising,

Wendy Cairney, MAUA, Finance Coordinator, Edinburgh Napier University & AUA Scotland Network Coordinator

particularly when events which have taken time and effort to Our branch has developed considerably since our appointment.

organise are poorly attended, or when it feels as if you keep

From the outset we were keen to ensure that AUA offered

on hitting a brick wall. Being able to share the good with the bad,

added value to our existing members and have actively sought

and having each other’s support is what keeps us going. Sharing

feedback on all branch activities to make sure that we are

the role also enables us to adjust how we manage the workload in

putting our efforts into organising activities and events which

order to balance it with the demands of our day jobs.

are welcomed by our branch. As well as continuing to organise In summary, we would both agree that being a Branch

LinkedIn page to encourage ongoing discussions and debates

Advocate is a challenging but rewarding role. However, being a

between meetings. We have planned a range of formal and

joint Branch Advocate is even more fulfilling.

18 - Newslink Spring 2016

Professor Sir Ian Diamond was an amazing speaker, who made

first AUA Annual Lecture was

the subject of university funding and efficiency inspirational. I

both exciting and, if I am being

work with finance research as the day job so know this subject

honest, a little daunting too.

can sometimes be a little dry. This lecture wasn’t and it is

I hadn’t had an opportunity

testament to AUA (again) that they provide fascinating speakers

to attend an AUA Annual

who inspire our membership.

Lecture before so I wasn’t Wendy Cairney

regular branch meetings, we have set up a members-only

The thought of attending my

sure whether I would find it

I would thoroughly recommend that all members attend

beneficial. As a member and

an Annual Lecture; it is a way to improve your professional

a Network Coordinator I felt some responsibility to attend, to

development and a superb networking opportunity. As the

consider feedback to members on its usefulness.

Scotland Network Coordinator I know I will be recommending branch advocates to attend in the future.

Newslink Spring 2016 - 19

AUA ANNUAL LECTURE AND AWARDS CEREMONY 2015; PERSPECTIVES FROM A NEW TRUSTEE Stephen McAuliffe, MAUA, AUA Trustee and Academic Registrar, University of Essex

Stephen McAuliffe

The evening of 15 October

whereas, of course, the surpluses generated are to cover capital

saw the AUA Annual Lecture

investment to develop the university and maintain a competitive

and Awards Ceremony for

position internationally for the sector. Sir Ian’s lecture suggested

2015 hosted by the University

that drive for surplus to create funds to invest has been at the

of York. The lecture, given by

heart of the emphasis on efficiency. Sir Ian posited that UUK

Professor Sir Ian Diamond

was central here and that as a sector we haven’t been as good

(Vice-Chancellor, University

as we should have been in ‘telling the world’ (and importantly

of Aberdeen) examined

demonstrating this to our political leaders).

THANKS TO... Dr Giles H Brown, FAUA, Editor Newslink (2014-present) and Editor-in-Chief Perspectives-Policy and Practice in Higher Education (2005-2012)

‘Efficiency in Education’. This

interesting and stimulating lecture was structured around three

Professor Diamond turned to the question of how effective were

concepts – Partnership, Efficiency and Effectiveness - which

our efforts. Starting with the comprehensive spending reviews

Professor Diamond dealt with in turn.

of 2004 and 2007, the audience heard of the £1.23bn in savings that were agreed to (and achieved) by the sector. We also heard

Sue Amesbury, Editorial Assistant, Perspectives - Policy and Practice in Higher Education When I took over

The room heard initially of the economic value of higher

how the £428m target of the Wakeham Review for savings in the

education. His challenge against the concept of a binary

research base was not only met but exceeded. Such an overview

Perspectives from Celia

choice between HE or FE education was well received by

of our success in this area was perhaps a helpful reminder to the

Whitchurch in 2005, I soon

the audience. He argued that the value to social inclusion,

audience that in the context of likely further budget, and with BIS

realised that i) the Editor

advancing culture and transforming lives contradicts the

amongst the largest unprotected departments, our track record is

required professional

concepts of ‘too many graduates’, citing research by Professor

strong and thus our ability to seek to meet new savings targets in

editorial support and ii) the

Rick Rylance that graduates were more likely to get a job, be

a manageable and appropriate way was similarly strong.

manuscript submission and tracking processes needed

engaged in society and overall be more active citizens. In building on this argument, Professor Sir Ian reviewed the

to be moved from my unique

Sir Ian outlined his view that partnerships focused on collaboration

outcomes of the UUK group on efficiency (of which he is the chair).

(read incomprehensible) and

and not competition – with research collaboration being a strong

Firstly, examining the 2011 report that made recommendations

example of the sector’s efficient way of working. Every member

regarding procurement, IT, shared services and streamlining, and

spreadsheet to a modern on-line system. Sue, who had been

of AUA would recognize his view that partnerships operate

exploring examples across the sector where facilities are shared

providing editorial assistance to the Wiley journal Hydrological

within institutions between academics and administrators, and

with community, he showed how the increasing use of the cloud

Processes for many years in the School of Geographical

leaner more efficient institutions are those where academics and

has driven down costs and how collaborative procurement has the

Sciences at the University of Bristol, was clearly the right

administrators work towards a common goal.

potential to save £9bn in the sector.

person to provide the editorial support I needed. Moreover,

often slightly-out-of-date

since her office was next door to mine, she couldn’t easily The lecture identified how the partnership with students is

2015 saw the most recent report which demonstrates further

escape when I approached her to help with Perspectives.

central to the learning process; the co-creation of knowledge

successes with savings in estate costs (£885m and a 1.2bn kg

and understanding between students and staff. We heard that

Sue brought the expertise needed to move Perspectives to

reduction in CO2), £1.38bn savings in research, and that HE sector

this of course was not new, citing mediaeval universities where

pay growth has been in line with public and private sectors. The

ScholarOne, the industry standard for manuscript submission,

(in Aberdeen for example) students only paid if they thought the

report also outlined possibilities for further partnerships around

experience was satisfactory!

open data and using data to improve the learner journey as well as the importance of demonstrating our efficiencies.

The audience was challenged to see the changes in HE not as a succession of problems but genuine opportunities to reshape

In concluding, Professor Diamond recognised the challenges

how we work and what we do. In looking at the data we heard

across all the areas of the sector, and suggested that the driver

that in England the £9,000 fee hasn’t led to a decline in full time

needs to be seeking efficiency and effectiveness. Without

undergraduate students from any social group but the change

both, the sector (and the country) stands to loose a world-class

had been a reduction in funding body contribution as a total to

industry. As an audience member listening to the lecture, one

institutional operating budgets (from 34.8% in 2008/9 to 19.8% in

is led to ask that perhaps the price of transparency, efficiency,

2013/14). The shift in funding from government to the individual

and, effectiveness isn’t as high as we thought.

(albeit via government) has driven institutions to consider what the

reviewing and tracking on-line software provided by Taylor & Francis, our publishers. She was integral to this transition, providing an invaluable interface between the Editor, AUA, and publishers, and incorporating ideas and suggestions from her time with Hydrological Processes. During this period, submissions to Perspectives increased significantly, due, in no small measure, to Sue’s ability to both manage the editorial processes and, very importantly, to extract papers from vague promises from potential authors, alongside chasing tardy authors into submission (quite literally!). This culminated in the series of papers commissioned during

tuition fee buys a student – what is value for money of different

Professor Diamond’s lecture will be appearing as a paper in

a marathon, ‘no-one-leaves-until-Sue-has-both-names-and-

types of expenditure when the source is student fees?

Perspectives-Policy and Practice in Higher Education in 2016

topics-for-all-the-papers-bolted-down’, Perspectives Editorial

and is available to watch on AUA’s website.

Advisory Board (EAB) meeting in London for the excellent

In considering income and expenditure we heard of the

series of Perspectives papers for the AUA’s Jubilee (which are

Government’s perception that HE is awash with money,

all available in the member’s section of the AUA website). She

then dedicated herself to the series and extracted some 27 of the 28 promised papers, if memory serves. Sue continued to support the journal at the end of my tenure and since then has been working with David Law, my successor, to provide essential, often unseen, behind-thescenes support to Perspectives. Sue’s support has been a big factor in the continued success of the journal. I, David, successive Chairs of the EAB, and AUA are all very grateful for Sue’s support and valuable contribution during her more than a decade as Assistant Editor. Thanks also to ….

Richard Carr, Events Officer, AUA Office I was asked by AUA to relaunch Newslink in hard copy in 2014, after a period when the publication had been online only. Ric has now been appointed to the role of Events Officer in the AUA Office, and I am taking this opportunity to formally thank him for his excellent support to me as Editor during this (re)start-up period. His dedication to managing the flow of material for Newslink was exemplary, and without his eye for detail my task would have been much more difficult. Further, he has been integral in interfacing and developing effective and efficient working relationships between myself as Editor, the AUA Office and our designers copper media. I am very grateful – thanks Ric! Good luck in your new role. The AUA’s new Communications Officer, Kim Mellor, is now in post and will be taking over and developing support for the AUA’s suite of publications. I look forward to working with them both, building links between AUA events and Newslink.

Newslink Spring 2016 - 21

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT ZEN AND THE ART OF TIMETABLING Mark O’Donnell, Timetable Development Officer, Keele University

Scheduling poses the question: ‘should the timetable be at the heart of a university’?


9.00am — 10am

10am — 11am

11am — 12pm


English Room 0.21

Geography Room 1.11

Physics Room 2.21

Miss A.Comma

Mr C.A.Rock



French Room 0.11

Physical Edu Gym

Physical Edu Gym

Mrs A.Paris

Mr B.Tough

Mr B.Tough


Maths Room 0.23

History Room 2.22

Art Room A0.01

Mr R.U.Adding

Mr P.Ast

Mr D.Brush


Chemistry Room 3.01

French Room 0.11

Swimming Pool

Miss C.Molecules

Mrs A.Paris

Mr B.Tough


RE Room 1.01

English Room 0.21

Physics Room 2.21

Mr B.Nice

Miss A.Comma


Mark O’Donnell

To many people, the creation of a timetable is a mystical art, something that just seems to appear. This is clearly not the case! Five years ago, I accepted the role of Timetable Development Officer, a job I had some clues about, but not the world I was entering. I would be very surprised to find anyone these days who is not influenced by a timetable of some description. They are everywhere. Indeed they could be the very secret of life itself. The subject has become so fascinating, that I have written a book entitled ‘Zen and The Art of Timetabling’. In education, for me, timetables should be considered the centre of the universe. After all, what else tells a student who, what, where and when are their activities. It has an impact on what room the academic should have gone to or importantly when is that last exam. They are multidimensional living objects with rules and constraints which few people explore or understand. I decided to write my own set rules to help not just timetablers but everyone. What appears a simple change to some can have a significant impact on the timetable. Everything has a cause and effect. Here are my top three rules and constraints:



1. You really can’t bend the laws of physics

There are two types of constraints in the world of timetabling:

You are not Scotty from the Starship Enterprise in Star Trek.

hard and soft. Naturally the hard ones are immovable fixed

You can’t fit twenty people into a room that has ten desks and

points whereas the soft clearly can change. What are the top

chairs. Likewise, you can’t move time. The problem is that

three constraints and how do they affect a timetable? They are:

everyone else thinks you will break the laws of physics.

Twenty-four hours in a day, seven days in a week and 365

There is much more to this mathematical creation. Managing

diplomatic skills of a saint. I have been told by many people ‘I

days in a year (apart from a leap year which just messes

upwards of 10,000 activities, all requiring some sort of resource

do not envy your job’. Yet, if everyone understood what we do I

everyone about).

within those 39 slots (not counting Wednesday afternoon)

am sure they would not question the reasons why an activity has

needs the sleight of hand of a magician, along with the

to be placed at 5pm, not at 1pm when all the students are busy.

2. One hour means one hour Like rule one, you can’t change the laws of time. No matter what a person asks, you just won’t be able to do this one

Without rules and constraints a timetable has no real boundary

either. People often forget laws of time and space. There is an

or structure. There is one other element to all this which creates

exception to this rule and it works in your favour.

the foundation on which to build a strong timetable - a ‘policy’.

LEARNING A timetable enables people to learn. That may sound a bold

Scheduling poses the question: ‘should the timetable be at

statement but I believe it does. The timetable itself, the data it

the heart of a university’? For that statement to be true then

develops, can also help a university. There are measures which

you have to ask who relies on the timetable. It is not just a

show how efficient space is utilised and can model increases

student or lecturer. If the timetable has all the right information

before they become an issue. As higher education changes

then support staff know when they can maintain a room,

to meet differing expectations, so should the timetable;

administrators know where the classes should be, lecturers

There is an art to creating a timetable for 15,000 students. Although there are 24 hours in a day, most universities will only use

co-operation between many partners is key. Creating a new

know where to go, students know their activities and finally

nine hours (9 am to 7 pm) and will never use seven days of a week. So long as the policy backs up the constraints, that allows a

course offering bold ideas is fine, but if that idea needs a

timetablers unlock the secrets of the universe. Happy thought.

timetabler 45 one-hour slots each week. On the surface that appears a lot; however, each soft constraint adds further restrictions.

circular flat floored room, who addresses that problem? There

A student cannot sit for more than three hours at a time, they all need a lunch break of one hour or a lecturer needs a day for

are examples of co-operation, which frees the timetable,

research. If you also remove Wednesday afternoons, those 45 slots suddenly feel claustrophobic. In days gone by, a school

students, resources and academics, thus raising the spirit of the

timetable was a relatively simple affair, the structure very rigid. An example is shown opposite:

university. Learning will change.

The policy needs to lay down clear laws otherwise you have little

3. Someone will change their mind

more than an expensive room booking team. With these three in

This is going to happen. Just accept it.

place you can then delve into the art of timetabling.


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HEADER TBC EFFICIENCY EXCHANGE Rosie Niven, Content Editor, Efficiency Exchange

Restructuring can achieve benefits for universities but is never an easy option.

Rosie Niven

Set up after a review of efficiency in UK higher education, the Efficiency Exchange website ( allows users to discover and share smarter ways of working. In this issue of Newslink, Rosie Niven has picked the following topics of interest to professional services staff working in HE. Scottish efficiency strategy ‘on course’

Improving the student experience

Lego in, forms out

Campus of the future

In August, the Universities Scotland Efficiency Taskforce

There are lots of other projects going on in universities to lead

For Edinburgh Napier’s secretary Gerry Webber, Lego provides

The issue of where we work is often just as important as how

published its update for 2015. The great news is that the

change. Earlier this autumn, Rachel McAssey of the University

an excellent model for improving services to students “not

we work; staff at the University of Northampton are set for

Scottish efficiency taskforce is “on course” according to Chair,

of Sheffield’s Process Improvement Unit (PIU) explained how

because every bit of Lego is different, but because every bit of

big changes. In an interview with Efficiency Exchange, Chief

Professor Sir Ian Diamond. The report also outlines some of

the use of Lean Principles is having an impact on the student

Lego is designed to meet certain key standards and they all lock

Operating Officer Terry Neville describes how, in preparation for

the actions taken at a sector level, as well as by individual

experience. She describes a project the PIU carried out in the

together”. You can read more about this and his dislike of form-

new shared offices, he and Vice-Chancellor Nick Petford have

institutions, as it works towards the targets set for 2017.

University’s counselling service that improved waiting times and

abandoned their offices in favour of open plan workspaces. He

the process of referral to service providers:

filling on Efficiency Exchange.

Earlier this year, we revealed the nine successful bidders for

Simplify, collaborate, deliver

Restructuring a research office

funding via the Innovation and Transformation Fund to support

While many positive developments in universities have been

Restructuring can achieve benefits for universities but is never

projects designed to bring about transformational change. The

led by process improvement units, or their equivalents, in

an easy option. We asked managers at Bournemouth University

HEFCE and Leadership Foundation scheme required recipients

some cases staff are identifying problems and implementing

and the University of the West of England (UWE) to discuss

to share the outcomes of their work. With the projects now

solutions themselves. One of our most popular articles this

their experiences of restructuring a research office.

nearing completion, the teams from Strathclyde, Wales,

year has been Darren Wallis’s post on how the University of

Hertfordshire, Leicester and Brunel have showcased their work

Warwick used structured events, social media and a training

In a candid exchange, UWE’s Richard Bond and Bournemouth’s

development programme to empower staff to resolve some of

Julie Northam described how the period was disruptive and

their most thorny issues. The biggest success was improving

stressful for staff. By acknowledging this and involving staff, they

the admissions process, which led to better outputs and a 2015

overcame some of these challenges and in the end they managed

THELMA award.

to avoid compulsory redundancies to achieve savings.

Leading change in universities

on Efficiency Exchange.

24 - Newslink Spring 2016

has invited staff to come and see this unfamiliar way of working in practice.

Efficiency Exchange was launched by Universities UK and Jisc, in partnership with HEFCE and the Leadership Foundation

Newslink Spring 2016 - 25

FEATURE ARTICLE REFLECTIONS ON FORTY FIVE YEARS IN THE HE SECTOR Peter Reader, FAUA, Former Director of Marketing and Communications, University of Portsmouth

it is a fact that when I graduated the majority of students on

directed at any talk of visions and missions”. They continue,

my pass list got a Desmond (a 2ii).

“People know that visions do not matter and another will be along in a year on two”.

And, of course, we have different students, we work in different markets, students have different needs, we teach

Looking back, I am well aware that on some things I have

different subjects, and we have different modes of delivery.

said over the years were spot on – but there were also times

And, for so many, it is research, research, research.

when I was wrong. I did come up with the four R’s of higher education marketing: recruitment, reputation, relationships

My time in higher education has seen huge changes, not just more students and more competition, but also more universities Peter Reader

Peter Reader retired at the end of November 2015. After cutting his teeth on student newspapers and as a SU sabbatical at Leeds, he worked in six UK universities (Sheffield Hallam, Plymouth, Loughborough, Southampton, Bath and finally Portsmouth), in roles from public relations and marketing to communications and fundraising. He held the position of Director in each of his last three universities.

In particular, we see the student very differently, as a customer

and research. And, as a judge for a number of university

and a consumer and, I would argue, as an investor in their

awards, I coined the phrase “Answer the question!”,

own future – but no longer as a protester. The passion

despairing at some of the waffle that appears on entry

seems to have gone out of students and few are any longer

forms. Answer the question, in fact, is a useful piece of

interested in life beyond the campus. Indeed, I was somewhat

advice. As for words that were wrong, they include “I agree,

shocked to be told by a current Students’ Union sabbatical

Vice-Chancellor” – be honest, have you never used those

officer that their aim was to keep out of politics. But should

words when you didn’t mean it?

I have been? Once students wanted less teaching, now they complain if everything is not marked and back on time.

There is also much that I have observed – there is life after budget cuts, the sector is in love of jargon, and it is in love

Nor are universities the focus of youth culture that they

with acronyms too (my favourite was spotting that a new

once were, particularly for music. I recall how the listings

MA in Higher Education Management would have the

in the NME (the New Musical Express) and the rest of the

acronym of MAyHEM – I got that one into The Guardian);

music press were also listings of universities; now it’s all O2

and that for universities that re-structure, this so often

Academies and such like.

diverts the energy of the university from its goal of research

Forty five years after going to university, I have finally left.

tuition in mainly non-vocational subjects and typically having

I spent three years as a student, a year as a students’ union

the power to confer degrees”. Interestingly, there is no

sabbatical officer, and over forty years in twelve different

mention of research. But surely it is rather more? As Gaby

Wherever I go today, all I hear about is university ‘strategy’

posts in a total of six universities.

Hinsliff wrote recently in The Guardian “….there’s more to

and how different they are from their competitors. I once

Universities are very much about people – transforming lives

[higher] education than getting a job; intellectual pleasure,

played a game on colleagues who were arguing that all

is not an understatement. I am proud to have worked with so

I joined CUA, the Conference of University Administrators,

the freedom of living away from home, lifelong friendships

universities were known by their crest – so I put nine on a

many students and staff. I will remain a passionate advocate

in 1981, on moving to Loughborough from the polytechnics;

in the intense and messy process of growing up together are

slide and asked them to identify each of them. Let’s just say

for higher education. It is a privilege, as well as highly

APA, the Association of Polytechnic Administrators, was

hard to put a price on, but they matter” (Hinsliff, 2015).

the number who could was very small – and no-one spotted

motivating, to see so many people – both alumni and former

the crest that was not from a university.

colleagues – succeed in their careers, knowing I may, in some

not set up until the early 1980s. Since 1981, I have attended

and teaching excellence.

small way, have encouraged them on their route to success.

at least twelve AUA conferences, presenting sessions

There are other views too. Andrew Marr (2004) said they

at a number of them, written one Good Practice Guide,

are where “hundreds of dodgy academic departments put

Today, I am quite sure we could do the same with university

contributed to Perspectives-Policy and Practice in Higher

out bogus or trivial pieces of research purely designed to

strategies – are any really very different from the university

As ever, I will leave the final words to a Vice-Chancellor,

Education and, for six years, I was a member of AUA’s

impress busy newspaper people and win themselves some

just down the road? And we could all play the same game –

who in his speech closing each Graduation ceremony,

National Executive. I also chaired the local organising

cheap publicity which in turn can be used in their next

how many universities are ‘passionate about knowledge’ or

told the same joke. “What is the difference between a

committee for the 2002 AUA Conference in Southampton.

funding applications”.

pursue ‘international excellence’?

Vice-Chancellor and a supermarket trolley?” he asked. The

I have written two book chapters, at least 35 articles and

But my favourite dates from 1963, from Clark Kerr, the

So what is a strategy? The Oxford English Dictionary definition

given numerous ‘quotes’ and media interviews. I have made

first chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley:

is “A plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or

over a hundred conference presentations all over the world.

“…sometimes thought of as a series of individual faculty

overall aim”. But, as my last Vice-Chancellor put it in his

Hinsliff, G (2015), Don’t hand Britain’s universities back to

Uniquely, I was the founding chair of the Higher Education

entrepreneurs with a common grievance over parking.”

recent address to staff, “A strategy has no value if it just sits

the elite, The Guardian, 21 August (

on your desk”. Alastair Campbell, most famously Director of

commentisfree/2015/aug/21/dont-hand-back-university-to-elite) [accessed 7 December 2015].

answer: “You fill them both with booze and food, but at

External Relations Association (HEERA), a past President of the

least the supermarket trolley has a mind of its own”.

European Universities Public Relations and Information Officers

My time in higher education has seen huge changes,

Communications and Strategy for Tony Blair, is rather more

(EUPRIO) and founding Chair of Association of Commonwealth

not just more students and more competition but also

blunt, “Very few leaders have a sense of strategy. They’re

Universities PR, Marketing and Communications Network.

more universities. In the UK, numbers have grown from

all buffeted by tactics. To me, the response in this ever more

Marr, A (2004), A Short History of British Journalism (Macmillan,

around 50 in 1970 to about 132 today. (If these figures

tactical world should be to be more strategic.”

London). 416pp. ISBN 140500536X.

...and there was a day job too!

seem imprecise, I still don’t know how you should count the separate parts of the University of London). The

But my favourite is from two academics, Jonas Ridderstrale

Ridderstrale, J and Nordstrom, K (2007), Funky Business

So now there is time to reflect. Having worked in some

same period has seen not only a seven fold increase in

and Kjell Nordstrom, who in their book Funky Business

Forever: How to Enjoy Capitalism, Third Edition (Financial

very different universities and visited countless others,

the number of students gaining first degrees, but also a

(2007), write “Many managers need to over-inform because

Times/ Prentice Hall, London), 256pp. ISBN 0273714139.

what exactly is a university? The Oxford English Dictionary

staggering sixteen-fold increase in the number of students

they have made such a bad job of communicating in the

definition is “an institution of higher education offering

gaining higher degrees. I’ll not mention grade inflation, but

past that there is a huge reservoir of scepticism and cynicism

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Nick Allen, MAUA, Joint Midlands Regional Co-ordinator and Executive Officer, University of Northampton

INTRODUCTION TO HE – A TOOLKIT FOR NEW PROFESSIONALS The Midlands Region hosted a Christmas Lecture delivered by

16-17 June 2016 Innside, Manchester

Smita Jamdar, Client Relationship Manager for Shakespeare Martineau festively entitled ‘Twelve Days of HE Christmas what the law has in store for the sector in 2016’. Smita outlined

Day 1: 16 June Introduction to Higher Education

Day 2: 17 June A Toolkit for New Professionals

Day one provides an overview of the UK higher education

Day two is primarily aimed at early career professional HE

sector. This is relevant whether you’ve come into the

administrators. Developing yourself, and creating space to

sector at a more senior level, still in your early career, or

think, when your time and resources are already stretched

The audience were treated to Smita’s own ‘Two Turtle Doves’

moving role, if you are looking for a deeper understanding

to capacity can be challenging. This day introduces you to

(Sajid Javid and Jo Johnson for those interested) and ‘Four

of the sector context. More recent changes in the sector,

the AUA Continuing Professional Development Framework,

Calling Birds’ (the countries of the United Kingdom). The

and the space and place of administration in the sector, are

and offers tools and techniques to manage your future

Lecture provided much food for thought and was engaging,

covered as well as current hot topics.

personal and career development. During the day, sessions focus particularly on the professional behaviours which

There is a strong emphasis on understanding how political,

enable you to work effectively with others and in teams,

economic, social and academic considerations impact on

and the behaviours required to deliver quality service. During

the sector, and delegates will be encouraged to reflect on

the day, time is made to consider the steps to take, and

how their own role and institution contributes to and is

resources that are available, to maximise opportunities for

influenced by these factors.

career progression. This is a practical, hands-on workshop.

key issues which would impact on institutions including the Consumer Rights Act, the ‘Prevent’ duty and issues relating to disability discrimination.

entertaining and accessible.  



Matthew Maloney, Project Officer: Membership and Networks

Graham Holland, Web Development Officer

I am delighted to write and introduce

something of a sideways move for

myself as the new Membership and

me! I’m still working in the education

Networks Officer at the AUA Office,

sector, but, having spent the past

taking over from Amy Wright. 

nine years as a learning technologist

As a qualified teacher this job is

A ‘one day plus’ intensive workshop incorporating

The programme incorporates a full-day training workshop, a

practical & technical training, peer supported reflection,

follow up one-to-one online coaching session and individual

I have been working within higher education since 2007; I took

really looking forward to the new challenges that lie ahead. I’m

and group coaching to help you identify and build on your

access to email support. Participants’ pre-workshop

my first steps into the sector at the University of Nottingham

joining AUA at an exciting time as we start to make plans for a

presentation and public speaking style(s). Supplemented

thoughts, suggestions and ideas will be used to help shape

and most recently I have been managing the regional IELTS

new website (not before time, I hear you cry!) and a shiny new

with post-event one-to-one coaching, you will develop

and finalise the training workshop agenda.

centre based at the University of Manchester.  

backend CRM system that’ll make managing memberships and

and Apple Education Trainer, I’m

your skill set to create greater impact in your professional

events considerably easier. We will, of course, keep you up

practice. To maintain the potential for significant learning

I am already enjoying what looks to be a varied and busy role

to date with the progress, and members are always welcome

and development, the programme is strictly limited to a

and I am looking forward the challenges and opportunities the

to email me comments about our current website along with

maximum of 12 participants.

role will no doubt offer. 

suggestions for features to be added to the new one. Don’t

For further information and to make a booking visit

forget to follow @The_AUA on twitter, and if you’ve got I hope we get the opportunity to work together soon.

interesting articles, stories or news items relating to HE we’ll be happy to retweet if you include our twitter handle.

Correction Unfortunately Dawn Turpin’s institution was incorrect on page two of the previous issue of Newslink (Issue 82 - Autumn 2015). Dawn is actually at The Open University. Apologies.

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The AUA exists to advance and promote the professional recognition and development of all who work in professional services roles in higher education, and to be an authoritative advocate and champion for the sector. As an organisation, we exist for our members. We offer support to help you enhance careers, boost your job prospects and create valuable networking opportunities. In short, we empower our members to take control of their career development.

Feeling inspired? If you would like to submit an article for future issues of Newslink or recommend areas you would like to see covered, please get in touch with us at: Follow @The_AUA on Twitter and join our members group on LinkedIn for all our latest news. We appreciate your thoughts and feedback on Newslink and your comments help us to develop future issues. If you would like to provide any comments or feedback, please send to:

The views and opinions expressed in Newslink are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of their institutions, or of the Editor, nor should they be considered as expressions of opinion or official policy of the Association of the University Administrators (AUA). AUA Office University of Manchester, Sackville Street Building, Sackville Street, Manchester, M60 1QD +44

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Newslink 83 - Spring 2016  

Newslink 83 features articles on the 2015 AUA John Smith Essay Prize, student evaluations, international issues, the South West and South Wa...