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Latest news

Governance Under Pressure: When Things Go Wrong

Jun 08, 2021

In the latest of our Governance Under Pressure series, Halpin CEO Susie Hills caught up with Consulting Fellow Will Spinks to discuss when things go wrong in university governance.

Susie: We have seen several high-profile stories relating to governance failures in the charity and education sectors. Are there any common themes emerging which governors should take note of?

Will: Yes - some of the reports recently have been very uncomfortable if, for some of us, fascinating reading. You do find yourself sometimes both thanking your lucky stars you haven’t been in the centre of the storm and wondering, if you were, how might your own decision making have weathered it.

At a high level, I think there are some general themes, some of them, well-proven over time in different contexts:

  • When there is a problem, you need to act consistently with both your own organisation’s values and in keeping with what rational stakeholders might subsequently expect.
  • Helpful in this, is imagining all that you are saying and doing will subsequently be open to public scrutiny. How will you feel if this is the case?
  • If struggling, seek wise counsel and act upon it.
  • Remember, dealing with a difficult issue well can enhance reputation.

In political circles, the phrase often quoted is, “it’s the cover-up that gets you”, with the example usually being linked to President Nixon who famously was recorded saying, “it’s going to be forgotten”, three days after the Watergate break-in. Whilst Nixon was clearly complicit, the more recent examples we have seen have been more about an unwillingness to contemplate that mistakes have been made and investigate issues thoroughly. They have been more cultural in nature but the subsequent impact when opened up to scrutiny has still been deeply uncomfortable for those involved.

Things go wrong in all institutions. How can governors be confident that they will see the warning lights in time?

I’m not sure that, in a governance role, you can always be entirely confident that things won’t go wrong. I’ve worked in very large organisations all my career – in both executive and governance capacities – in commercial, public sector and charitable settings – and stuff inevitably happens.

What you can do is ensure the culture is right in both diligently managing risk and seeking assurances about key processes before things happen and then, particularly, in ensuring there are good processes for dealing with issues once they, inevitably, arise.

Is there a danger that the fear of things going wrong stops an institution from seizing new opportunities?

This is I think, a slightly different theme from the most recent cases but I would hope not. My experience suggests that well-governed and managed institutions manage risk well by setting risk appetite and being prepared to manage different levels of risk in different settings. Earlier in my career, I found the concept of risk appetite somewhat theoretical but as I’ve had more experience, I’ve come to believe it is one of the most important areas for governors / NEDs/ Trustees to focus upon and specify. Done well, this allows institutions to knowingly establish, take on and manage risk.

How can you make sure the lines between non-exec and exec team are respected when things go wrong? Is it inevitable that boards end up taking on some executive powers when there is a crisis?

It is probably inevitable that there will be a tendency to do so but I’m not sure that it is inevitable that it has to happen. Context will also be important - in some cases it may be appropriate to do so in some cases it certainly won’t be. On the temptation to get more involved, I think the nature of the crisis and the nature of the relationship the governors have with the executive team - and their confidence in them - directly impacts upon this.

During the pandemic, I’ve observed first-hand a number of institutions consciously delegating more to their executive team than would normally be the case balancing this with more frequent, often informal, communication updates as to how things are going.

In other types of crises at other times, I can think of examples where a demonstrable independence from the executive team has been vital in managing an organisation’s response to a particular challenge. I’ve heard it said that whilst “stepping in” can be uncomfortable, “stepping aside” is rarely an option. Stepping in may be through a governor exercising leadership or it could be through appointing independent wise counsel. Wise counsel can sometimes be important in a more public setting as well as in a more personal capacity.

What is the role of a board in a crisis? What support can/should they seek?

I think the Board should focus on three areas:

  • Ensuring the organisation is proactive in managing interest in the issue externally. Seeking to both be open about the content of the issue and how it is being managed. Establishing confidence in the process is key.
  • Ensuring that it is recognised that the issue may impact upon internal stakeholders too. The confidence of colleagues in how the issue is being managed will shape future relationships. This too needs to be managed.
  • Being certain that any regulatory obligations associated with the issue are being properly addressed in a timely manner.

Whilst executive teams will often practice in dealing with issues during crisis management training, it is rarer, in my experience, for Boards/governing bodies to be actively involved (other than checking you have contact details and testing how quickly you can get hold of key players). Boards need to practice too.

Q: What is the role of a secretary in a crisis? Who are they reporting to?

In some organisations, the Secretary may have a single “hat” they are wearing and in others they may have more than one. Certainly, I’ve had roles where I was both the “Secretary” and the “Chief Operating Officer” with distinctive crisis management accountabilities for each role.

In my view, a Secretary has an obligation to ensure the Board, and Chair specifically, are well-sighted on key issues as soon as is appropriate and practical, supporting a culture of “no surprises”. The Secretary may not necessarily do this personally but would, I suggest, ensure it is done, for example, through the Chief Executive. Once done, the Secretary should ensure that the Board focuses on the three areas I outlined earlier; managing external interest, ensuring internal impacts are considered and being certain that regulatory obligations are honoured.

With the Secretary hat on, the reporting obligation is, very clearly in my view, to the governing body or Board, with a specific obligation to the Chair. With the COO hat on, it is very clearly to the Chief Executive.

Will Spinks is a Consulting Fellow for Halpin – the home of experts in higher education governance.

Governance Under Pressure: Boards and The Rich List

Jun 01, 2021

I must have read the Sunday Times Rich List every year for the past 15-20 years, and this year I noticed something quite different. The editorial tone has changed. The opening paragraph tells of an “unsettling” wealth boom for the super-rich: “Over the past year, tens of thousands of us have buried loved ones, and millions of us have feared for our livelihoods. But at the very same time, more people have become billionaires than at any point in British history.”

The Sunday Times reports that there are a record number of billionaires - the biggest jump in the 33 years it has been tracking the wealthiest in our country. They question both the ethics and the sustainability and reality of this wealth ‘boom’: “It is not just the timing of this guilded epoch for the super-rich that feels disturbing. This is also a boom that often appears detached from the laws of economic gravity. How can businesses set up less than two years ago, that have never turned a profit, be worth more than $1bn?”.

So, what lessons can governing bodies of institutions which fundraise take from this Rich List?

Firstly, there is an opportunity to seek big gifts from the names on the pages of the Rich List, and many have done so. For example, Sheffield University secured the largest gift in its history from Andrew Law, an alumnus who appears at number 10 on the Sunday Times Giving List. 182 Rich Listers have given £1m plus - more than ever before - and the total given by Rich Listers is up 34% to £4.3bn. If your institution is connected to one of the names on the list, you should be carefully considering how to build that relationship and seek a big gift.

Secondly, you also should be carefully considering the financial and reputational risks of big gifts – the ones you have already received, as well as the ones you may ask for.

Never before has there been the same scrutiny in terms of the ethics of donors. Whether it’s the ethical track record of the company/ies from which they get their wealth (think Sackler family) or their track record in paying (or not paying) their taxes, you can be sure that if you don’t do your due diligence and research fully the sources of their wealth, someone else will do it for you.

Being clear as to what types of money you will and will not accept is a governance decision that must be explored at board level. Is it ok to accept money from mining companies, tobacco companies, alcohol makers, gambling companies? Does the good the money do ‘wash it clean’, or is the ethical cost too high?

This ethical due diligence doesn’t stop when you accept the gift - it must continue thereafter. The reputation of your donor may change and you may need to reconsider their name on your building. You need to be clear that there is a process in place to regularly review and bring issues of concern to the Board.

And it’s not just the ethical and reputational risks that come with big gifts from the super-rich there are financial risks too. Most multimillion-pound gifts are not given in total upfront. Most are phased payments, sometimes over several years. How sustainable is the wealth of your donor? What if their bubble bursts and the donor does not fulfil their pledged payments? Do you have a plan B, or would your project be at risk?

Now is the time for boards to revisit their gift acceptance policy and due diligence process. Halpin can provide expert services to review policies, assess risks and facilitate Board discussions.

Halpin is the home of experts in higher education governance, fundraising and strategy.

Governance Under Pressure: Lessons from Further Education

May 20, 2021

Halpin CEO Susie Hills recently caught up with Halpin Consulting Fellow David Allen OBE on all things Covid, governance and further education. Here’s their conversation:

Susie: Covid has put governance under pressure – governing bodies in all sectors having to respond quickly to changes in government policy and to urgent needs. How well do you think FE governance has held up under this immense pressure? And what have FE colleges governors and leaders learnt?

David: I think FE governance has stood up pretty well under testing circumstances. There are fewer colleges in intervention than before the pandemic and colleges have had the advantage of continuing to be funded throughout the crisis. The zeitgeist has also shifted in favour of the 50% who don’t go to university with the publication of the Skills for Jobs White Paper and the report of the Colleges for the Future Commission. I have seen plenty of evidence of governors going above and beyond to support their staff and learners. One advantage of virtual meetings has been that they can be convened informally and flexibly in order to ensure governors are consulted and kept informed. I think governors and leaders have gained confidence from their ability to deal with everything that has been thrown at them over the past year. There has been a forensic focus on learners and their needs, with a real push to ensure as far as possible that disadvantaged students are not left behind.

In FE colleges staff have been under enormous strain and wellbeing has been affected. What do you think governing bodies should be doing now to look after their workforce?

It is important that staff feel their governors are listening to them and connecting with them. As a Chair of governors, I have written to all staff on occasion just to thank them for their efforts and let them know their governing body is acutely aware of the pressures on them. We have prioritised communication with staff even more than ever and listened carefully to staff concerns on a “you said we did” basis. We have carefully analysed and responded to the staff satisfaction survey and have ensured, notwithstanding financial pressures that staff have received a bonus and a significant pay increase. We have had occasional “flip weeks” with no teaching in order to give staff a break and take the opportunity to thoroughly check covid compliance. As we come out of the pandemic it will be important to pay attention to staff overstretch and exhaustion and to continue to provide support for mental health and wellness.

Do you think governance practice in the FE was well equipped to enable agile and effective responses?

I think this will vary across and between colleges. In general though I think the answer is yes. The Association of Colleges has been very supportive throughout and their regional meetings are very helpful (and good therapy!). We have all been keen to learn from and look after each other. The atmosphere has become less competitive and more collaborative. Colleges have been superb in supporting their learners and the amount of work that has gone into this is truly inspirational.

Most of our work is with universities. What lessons do you think University governing bodies can learn from how FE has been able to respond? And vice versa?

A key feature of the pandemic has been the way in which strong partnerships have been forged locally to support communities. Colleges are exceptionally good at this since they are rooted in their local communities in a way not all universities are. In some ways the pandemic has been more challenging for universities since they tend to recruit nationally and internationally and have many students in residence. Certainly in Exeter the university and college have worked cheek by jowl and shared each other’s facilities. I think the lesson for universities (if they are not doing so already) is to be embedded and enmeshed in their local communities and be willing to provide services pro bono to local people even if they are not funded to do so. The collateral benefits of so doing are huge.

Are there new opportunities for partnerships between universities and FE and what can governors do to facilitate this?

The combination of the pandemic and the shift in public policy towards the 50% who do not go to university is a powerful motivation for change. In Exeter, the university and the college have signed a MoU to work collaboratively together. For example, the College is contracted to provide nursery facilities for the University, we are part of the South West Institute of Technology, work together on the Ted Wragg Trust of local schools and have developed pathways to enable College learners to progress to the University. It is important that university and college governors get to know each other and have a presumption to work in partnerships together.

Halpin is the home of experts in higher education governance. For more information or an informal chat get in touch.

Governance Under Pressure: Academic Governance

May 17, 2021

Article originally published on AHUA's website on 14th May 2021.

University governance is under pressure. In this new series of posts, Susie Hills, Halpin Joint CEO, speaks with Professor Wyn Morgan, Halpin Consulting Fellow and Professor of Economics at the University of Sheffield. They discuss the pressure that COVID has put on academic governance.

Halpin recently hosted a well-attended discussion at the AHUA Spring Conference 2021. The session was titled ‘Governance under pressure – an exploration of how the pressures affecting HE institutions have impacted on governance.’

This discussion has inspired our new series of blog posts, ‘Governance Under Pressure,’ which will be published over the coming months.

In this first post, Susie Hills, Halpin Joint CEO, speaks with Professor Wyn Morgan, Halpin Consulting Fellow and Professor of Economics at the University of Sheffield.

Wyn shares his thoughts on the pressure that COVID has put on academic governance.

Susie: Covid-19 has put university governance under pressure. Universities have had to respond quickly. The impact on staff and students has been huge. Decisions have been made under pressure and faster than ever before. What are the governance risks in this?

Wyn: The change in the regulatory environment in UK higher education, as embodied in the shift from HEFCE to the Office for Students, had already precipitated a sector-wide reflection on the nature and operation of governance.

The evolution of a new model, though, has been interrupted by the short-term demands of pandemic response. The extent of the pandemic’s impact, and the speed at which the environment changed, did significantly affect the way universities operated on a day-to-day basis. This adds to the sense of disequilibrium in governance.

The forces shaping the response to COVID-19 were varied and many. This provided a challenge for governance, not in their breadth, but in the way they all struck at once. Government, university staff, students, local authorities, local communities, and society as a whole all had views and concerns, and they voiced these. Executive boards needed to listen and respond, often very quickly, but proportionately, and with safety paramount.

At the heart of the response was a focus on doing the best thing for staff and students. However, this was a highly contested area of debate. As rules changed, as understanding of the virus changed, and as Government measures changed, decision-making needed to be agile and responsive, with tight timescales to meet. That is not to say institutions were not fleet of foot before the pandemic, but the sheer scale of the problem, and the speed at which change was happening, engendered an entirely different operating environment.

Governing bodies and Executive boards are used to operating in a regulated and pressured environment. Yet, this last year has been extraordinarily difficult in nature. As such, it has put pressure on governance more broadly as a result.

Specifically, it has meant that the extent of consultation has often been limited, if indeed it can happen at all. Recent events put pressure on individuals where consensus had previously been the norm.

More importantly, though, is a clear acceptance of what the Executive can and should do in its role, and the extent to which this is accepted by the other arms of the governance processes. This includes the academic body (for which we will shorthand to Senate) and the governing body (either Council or Governors).

The potential for greater risk arising from this is significant. It challenges institutions both in the short term, when decisions have to be made, and in the longer term, when they reflect back on what happened and how.

The risks centre on several areas:

1. Poor Communication

The most important aspect of governance is clear, well-directed, and timely communication amongst the various stakeholders. This is quite a challenge in normal circumstances, but it is even more problematic in the pandemic world.

Consultation might be nearly impossible for many of the decisions taken. Yet, there still needs to be a clear articulation of what has been decided so all are aware – most importantly staff and students – and can act accordingly.

Given the public health nature of the crisis, it becomes even more important to extend this consultation to external agencies, such as local authorities, and communities in which the university sits. Messages can often be misconstrued, or never received, when sensitivities are heightened.

2. Reputation Damage

It is quite possible that decisions made in good faith can lead to outcomes that are potentially damaging to an institution’s reputation. In making speedy decisions, the subsequent steps are not always fully thought through. The impact on reputation that might follow can be substantial.

Lack of Trust – normal governance channels might need to be bypassed for reasons of agility. However, there needs to be a strong sense of trust in the institution that those making the decisions will be transparent in what they do – or have done – and will be operating in the best interests of stakeholders. The problem here is conflicting interests. For instance, a government agency might call for a change that runs counter to staff or student interests.

3. Poor Memory

In the debrief after the pandemic passes, there will need to be clear and accurate records of what happened, how decisions were made, and an understanding of the consequences. If decision-making processes and discussions have not been well documented and noted, then defences against challenge from those affected negatively by the decisions taken will be weakened.

4. Limited Challenge

In the midst of the pandemic, the focus was on “getting through” and stabilising where possible to minimise the very worst of the disruptive elements. As such, the normal critical friend aspects of Council work could be viewed or perceived by members as being unhelpful.

However, that should not mean decisions go unchallenged or untested. John Rushforth (CUC Executive Secretary) talks of stripped-down agendas for Council meetings. This could have diminished the challenge aspects of governance, or lead to a point where routine but mandatory items could be missed.

5. Confusion of Roles

It is possible to imagine the remits of the two major governance bodies – Council and Senate – becoming blurred during the crisis. The major bone of contention could be the student experience.

For instance, Council has oversight of what it is like for the students. However, Senate makes the academic decision of shifting to online delivery, and how it is done. Where does Council’s concern bleed into direction for the Executive to override Senate?

It is possible to imagine lines being overstepped in a febrile environment. This might undermine longer-term relationships between the different arms of the university and leave the Executive exposed.

Ultimately, these outcomes can create tensions between the Executive, the Council, and the staff and student body. This is a major risk to the ongoing health of governance in the institution. It could take a long time to unwind, especially if “fingers are pointed” in the post-pandemic review of what happened, and the impact that decisions had on the institution.

Mitigation against this can be sought through clear communication and explanation to the university, even when consultation might not be possible, and crucially a good link to the governing body’s key officers.

There needs to be clear documentation of the ways in which decisions were taken, and the extent to which challenge has been appropriately sought and dealt with, especially from the governing body.

How well do you think university governance has held up under these pressures?

It has to be recognised that the sector responded very well to many of the challenges it faced, most notably the threat to operations and core activities. The shift to online delivery was very rapid and at scale. Despite incorrect media reports of universities being “closed,” they never actually stopped offering teaching and support for research.

The physical estate was subject to closures as lockdowns bit. However, much of the normal business of universities continued, albeit in different ways: teaching was delivered, assessments undertaken and graded, graduations were held, research bids were submitted, and so forth.

This is testament to the ways that statutes, rules, policies, and procedures were already designed. They maximised permissiveness to allow for such flexibility. It also implies good decision-making outside the regular channels of governance too.

In terms of governance, many institutions established groups that lay outside the normal governance structures. These were often inclusive groups, sometimes including students, and were led by key individuals reporting to the Executive. The ordinary calendar of meetings was continued, but in many cases special meetings of Council were held.

Central to all the work was the quality of the communication.

Unsurprisingly, in the early months of the pandemic, lots of people sought answers, and a degree of certainty that it simply was not possible to provide.

A tension then arose as to what was the best strategy: frequent communication to keep people aware of what was happening, against a fear that the essence of the messages would be lost as people didn’t get the certainty they sought.

Another challenge lay around the layers of communication, and who was saying what and when. There were University-wide messages, Faculty or Department messages, and external agency messages too. Making sure there was consistency was a significant challenge.

As the pandemic eased after the first lockdown, there was significant discussion about how best to open up campuses. On this occasion, there was more time for decision-making. There was far wider consultation and discussion about what should open up, and how, particularly in research laboratories.

The interesting aspect here was the between-institution discussions. Members of Executives drew on wider networks for support to help ensure the wider research and teaching communities were best served by decisions taken. This external input proved invaluable to Executive teams and often gave governing bodies confidence too.

However, it should be noted that it is not a uniform story of success. There have been notable exceptions whereby the reputation of some institutions has been damaged as a result of decisions made at key points.

Often, these decisions have centred on students and their life beyond learning, and had impacts on local communities, police involvement, demonstrations, and so forth. The reporting of such incidents in the media helped to amplify the pressure.

The legal challenges from students around refunds, fee reductions, and the diminution in the student experience more broadly will continue. They will test the extent to which individual institutional decision-making and governance has been appropriate.

What do you see as being the impacts on the relationship between Council, the Executive team, and Senate?

Clearly, there will need to be a great deal of reflection on what the pandemic has meant for institutions, and in particular a review of how things were done.

Central to this will be the manner in which decisions were taken and how they were communicated. The crisis has sharpened the focus on who can do what, the delegation of authority from Council to the Executive, and the way in which the Executive can work on behalf of Senate.

The relationship between Council and the Executive has almost certainly become closer in this period with more regular and focussed communication.

The difficulty might lie in unpicking some of the more Executive and operational aspects. As Councils continue to forge their new role in the OfS world, there might be an overstepping of the line into more operational activities. This will need to be negotiated carefully between the Executive and the Council.

The relationship between the academic body through Senate, and both the Executive and Council, is perhaps more difficult to predict.

Senates are still in many ways bruised from the increased role of Councils. They might feel even more by-passed as a result of the work in the pandemic. The response will depend on the feeling of how well communication and engagement happened between the Executive and the Senate.

This might be viewed differently from the two parties. Often, meetings with large groups, such as heads of department or school, could embrace a major proportion of the Senate. They could be argued to act as a reasonable proxy. However, this is not strictly how Senate is constituted. As such, it could be challenged.

Does the traditional role of Senate still work? How might Senates need to adapt?

Senates are the ultimate academic decision-making bodies. They are representative of the voice of the wider academic body.

The recent changes in the regulatory landscape have in some respects put Senates onto the back foot, as the role of Councils in ultimately having oversight of quality and outcomes is strengthened. Thus, there is a great deal of upheaval in the framing of the work of Senate already, let alone how it views its role post-pandemic.

The big lesson for most institutions is that they have found that they can operate in a more rapid and agile way. They can deal with matters that potentially could have taken several months, if not years, to go through existing governance channels.

However, the key is to ensure that the benefits of this approach are not lost in a rush to return to the “normal” academic governance processes, or indeed are viewed as somehow steam-rolling through policies and approaches to go around Senate. This is a balance that needs to be sought whilst Senate and the Executive reflect on the new world order.

Many institutions were in the process of reviewing the role and operation of their Senate. It will be interesting to see how the pandemic has shaped that thinking.

It could be that the size of Senates are reduced, with more frequent but more tightly-focussed meetings happening too. This could bring the Executive and Senate more closely together. Alongside the new role for Councils, this could lead to a more robust, yet agile, governance process for institutions. It could meet the ongoing needs in a rapidly evolving regulatory and market environment.

The outlook is that through upheaval will come a better model for future governance.

Halpin is the home of experts in higher education governance. For more information or an informal chat, get in touch.

Living Black at University

May 13, 2021

Project Background and Information

The killing of George Floyd in May 2020 had a profound effect on the understanding of institutional racism in the global north. Within Unite Students it empowered Black employees to speak about their experiences, which in turn challenged Unite Students to accelerate their diversity and inclusion work and improve their understanding of how to lead such change at a senior level.

Both the purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) sector and university accommodation teams are predominantly led by white people, as evidenced by the lack of diversity in senior leadership teams and in professional bodies. This has led Unite Students to question how well this sector, serves the needs of Black students.

Ultimately this report will generate practical recommendations for private PBSA providers and universities to help them to understand the experiences of Black students in accommodation, address any areas of institutional racism and equip them to provide an equitable and inclusive experience.

Why is the research taking place?

Unite Students commissioned this research to draw together the data that they have already collected about the experiences of ethnic minority students, and to make sense of it through in-depth qualitative work that will highlight the experiences of Black students within student accommodation (university halls and private PBSA). The research aims to allow Black student voices to be heard, and to capture the experiences and reflections of Black employees.

What is the definition of ‘Black’ in this research?

The experiences of students are not homogenous. An example of homogenisation would be the term BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) or BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) which groups together those who are non-white. Further, in much research, such as that by the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU, which has now merged with other organisations to make up AdvanceHE), the terms BME or BAME are used exclusively to refer to Home/EU students and exclude international students. The experiences of Black students differ from those of Asian students, mixed-race students and others not racialised as white. Further, the experiences of international students are important to this research.

Self-identification is not particularly helpful when dealing with social constructs as we are asking individuals to use classifications they had no part in developing and may not ascribe to. Further, self-identification imposes a responsibility on those from already marginalised groups to work out where they fit within a social construct. It is society, rather than the individual that racialises people, and for those defined as ‘Black’ it is a term that identifies a group of people who have been racialised as Black, not those who self-identify as such. The rapper Akala, for example, discusses his mixed Scottish and Jamaican ancestry but holds that from an early age it was his blackness that meant he was also racialised by others - be they school teachers, peers, or the police - as ‘Black’. This is reminiscent of the ‘one drop’ rule in Jim Crow legislation. In this report the term Black is therefore used to include all those who are racialised as Black, and the participants were asked to identify their racial identity not as a marker of self-identification but as a reporting of how they are identified by others.

Why are other people from different ethnicities being consulted in this research?

For the survey, it is important that we have something to compare Black students’ experiences against and a baseline of all student experiences. Therefore the survey needs to go to as many students from as many backgrounds as possible and then the Black student voice will be isolated in the analysis, whilst being able to compare it with the full data set. Comparing the data from all students with the data from the Black students will highlight the differences in student experience more clearly.

Who will be undertaking the review?

Halpin Partnership (Halpin) is a specialist higher education consultancy, drawing on a team of Consulting Fellows who have a breadth of experience and expertise across diverse fields in the education, public and corporate sectors. For this project we have a skilled Black-led research team.

Halpin was appointed by Unite Students in March 2021 to conduct an independent review of Black students' experience of accommodation, following an open and competitive tendering process. Biographies of the review team are available below.

Following a period of open consultation, the review team will present its findings and recommendations to Unite Students later in the year.

Halpin’s response to frequently asked questions about the review can be found below.

External support from partners

If you are an organisation or institution and would like to express your interest in supporting this research by promoting this website to students and staff so they can fill out the survey and take part in focus groups and interviews, please contact [email protected]

For more information about this project please read this document.

Review Timeline

April

  • Introductory Meeting with Steering Group
  • Information Request
  • Literature Review

May

  • Surveys Disseminated

June

  • Surveys Close
  • Discussion Groups with Students
  • Interviews with Students and Staff
  • Analysis of Findings and Development of Recommendations

July

  • Research Peer-Reviewed
  • Findings and recommendations to be presented to Steering Group

August onwards

  • Final Report Dissemination
  • Implementation of recommendations

Review Consultation

The review consultation period will remain open from May to June.

Virtual Discussion Group sessions for students will be held in June via Microsoft Teams. Dates are to be confirmed and we will update this page in due course.

Should you wish to attend a session, please send your name and preferred session to [email protected] Spaces will be limited so we please ask that you only book a space on a session if you intend to attend. We also request that you only attend one session.

Share your comments

A survey has been set up for staff and students to complete, which anyone is welcome to take part in.

  • STUDENTS: Please fill in the survey here.
  • STAFF: Please fill in the survey here.

Students who fill in the survey can enter a prize draw to win a £500 gift voucher.

For the student focus groups we are offering £25 gift cards to participants.

Halpin is keen to gather as much information as possible. If you are unable to attend a virtual focus group session or you would prefer to send comments regarding this topic with the Halpin Review team via email, please do so via [email protected] or use the comment box below.

Please note, all comments are confidential to the Halpin Review team. We will record the names of interviewees and focus group attendees for the purposes of scheduling. Any comments included in our final reports will not be attributed to any individuals.

Review Team

There are several members of the Halpin team working on the research project. Each team member will have a specific focus or area that they will be covering and more details on their remit and biographies are below.

‘Teleola Cartwright, Consulting Fellow (Lead)

Olorunteleola (‘Teleola) Cartwright has worked in race equality since graduating with her LLB in law in 2013. In 2015, she began focusing on race and education, working first supporting those affected by school exclusions before moving into the higher education sector. ‘Teleola has experience auditing public sector and educational institutions, leading multi-agency projects on inclusive education and designing and delivering CPD on inclusive teaching, learning and assessment practice. She is respected as an expert on race inclusion in higher education and this has led to her giving conference presentations, including as an invited keynote; providing evidence to the Parliamentary Education Sub-committee; and co-authoring a journal article on decolonising the curriculum. ‘Teleola was BAME Attainment Project Lead at the Faculty of Business and Law, University of Northampton, and prior to that a Project Coordinator at Wellingborough Black Consortium.

Osaro Otobo, Consulting Fellow (Project Manager)

Experienced in leading changes in student democracy and governance and also in student equality, diversity and inclusion. Osaro studied at the University of Hull for her undergraduate degree in Biomedical Science and a master’s degree in Cancer Imaging. She was elected for 3 successive years to work in the best interest of students at Hull; she was a postgraduate student trustee and a two-term President at Hull University Students’ Union. From lived experiences, she created the Make Diversity Count campaign which is calling for all UK organisations to have a robust discrimination policy which sets out how they deal with complaints of discrimination more effectively and transparently. She believes in ensuring all students, especially those from liberation and widening participation groups, are supported effectively throughout their education journey. She also believes that student voices should be at the heart of an evidence-based approach to implementing change and getting meaningful long-lasting results in the higher education sector. Osaro recently conducted a research project for Halpin on the impact of Black Lives Matter on universities in the UK with a report released and a webinar on the findings taking place earlier in November 2020.

Shakira Martin, Consulting Fellow (Advisory)

Head of Student Experience at Rose Bruford College, and founder of Founder of The Class of 2020 #DigiProm. Outgoing National President of the National Union of Students UK, representing 7 million students across Further and Higher Education, most recently successful leading on an organisational turnaround strategy. Shakira pioneered NUS's Poverty Commission, shining a light on the barriers still facing working-class people accessing FE and HE. She is one of only a handful of people to hold the post from an FE background, and the first black woman to have held the role in NUS's 96-year history. Shakira was undertaking a teaching qualification when she began her career in student politics. She was elected the Vice President Further Education at NUS in 2015 and represented FE students in this role for two years prior to Heflin President. Shakira's campaigning credentials are well established with major wins under her belt on student representation, funding, and access. She makes regular local and national media appearances and is passionate about equality in education in terms of access and outcomes.

Susie Hills, Joint CEO & Co-Project Director

Susie supports HEI leaders and teams, often during times of significant change. Susie has worked with a number of clients on customised and high-profile reviews with HE clients and sector bodies including UCL, the University of Bath, UUK and QAA. With a background in senior-level fundraising, she has since worked with universities, schools and educational institutes on assessments that have led to transformational campaigns. She is a champion of best practice governance and is responsible for developing Halpin’s cross-sector governance expertise. She has led high-profile, complex reviews of governance processes which have informed strategy and led to operational change. Known for her thought-leadership, Susie is in demand as a conference speaker and writes regular commentary for the higher education sector. Susie is a champion of best practice in governance and is responsible for developing Halpin’s cross-sector governance expertise. She has also worked with dozens of clients in the charity and education sectors in the UK, Ireland, Middle East and USA to achieve fundraising goals, develop fundraising operations and deliver leadership training. Susie was listed in 2019 as one of ‘50 Leading Lights’ by the FT in recognition of her work on kindness in leadership, and shortlisted as one of ‘40 Women to Watch’ in the 2021 Digital Women Awards.

Shaun Horan, Joint CEO & Co-Project Director

Shaun Horan has over 20 years of senior-level university management, reputation, income generation and external relations. He draws on a strong legal background, advising some of the leading names in higher education and nonprofits and overseeing complex projects and assessments at critical periods spanning fundraising, strategy, and governance. He has a wealth of leadership experience. Shaun has a deep knowledge of the UK higher education sector and in particular an understanding of the politics and sensitivities in the Irish HE sector. He is valued by his clients for his ability to listen, analyse, and find ways through multifaceted problems. Shaun has delivered governance and strategic projects with universities including Bath, Nottingham, Sussex, Manchester, Maynooth, Queen’s University Belfast and Dublin City University.

Dr Nick Cartwright, Consulting Fellow (Peer Review)

Dr Nick Cartwright (PhD, MPhil, PGCert, LLB, SFHEA) started lecturing in 2000 and is currently a Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Northampton. Nick is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and researches education and inclusion from a critical race theory standpoint. Nick’s research argues that racism and patriarchy are endemic within HE and his recommendations on how to decolonise academia have led to articles in academic and policy-focused publications, as well as by-lines in WonkHE, HuffPost, The Guardian and The Independent. Outside of academia, Nick has worked with the United Nations in Panama, Austria and Croatia developing and promoting their Education 4 Justice (E4J) initiative which promotes a culture of lawfulness and justice through education. Nick advocates that whilst education does create and perpetuate oppression and inequality it can, and should, promote justice and equality.

Useful Information

As part of the review, Halpin will be drawing on some useful higher education sector specific resources and journal articles relating to the experiences of Black students:

Mental Health Support Information

If you are a student or member of staff in need of mental health support please reach out to your university and students’ union for guidance and resources.

Here is some information and resources you can access for free:

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How was Halpin Partnership selected?

A public tender process was undertaken.

2. What experience does Halpin have of research projects?

Information on the review team and their experience can be found above.

3. What should I do if I have questions about the review and/or would like to share my views?

The review consultation period will remain open until June. Consultations will include interviews and discussion groups. To ensure confidentiality throughout the process, a dedicated email address has been set up where you can send your comments and questions directly to Halpin: [email protected]

Virtual discussion groups with be held via Microsoft Teams. We will update the times and dates in due course. To attend a session please send your name and your preferred session time and date to [email protected]

4. Is the review independent?

The Halpin review team is entirely independent of Unite Students as well as other providers and universities that may take part in this research. The review team has no conflicts of interest in undertaking this work and the majority of the senior management team at Unite Students is not involved in the review in any capacity, other than as potential interviewees.

The review team’s points of contact at Unite Students are the Steering Group – [email protected] The review team has complete access to relevant documentation and information will be provided as requested.

The Halpin review team will provide our findings to the Steering Group in June 2021 and will undertake a process of fact-checking. This will be to ensure that we have not included factually incorrect information or missed any key points of information or evidence. Any changes that are made after that point will be made at the discretion of the Halpin review team, based on the information and evidence provided and after full and careful consideration.

5. Will the findings be published, and if so when?

Halpin’s findings and recommendations will be presented by Unite Students later in the year. Unite Students is anticipating publishing the report in full, as well as disseminating it in various forms for different audiences,

6. Will the review consider best practice from outside the sector?

The review team includes experts with experience both in and outside of the higher education sector. This wider experience and knowledge will help to inform the recommendations.

7. What is the process for the review?

The review process includes a wide variety of activity to ensure engagement with staff and students across the UK. The review activity started in April with the consultation phase starting in May and ending in June.

8. Will you share data and consultation findings with Unite Students during the review process?

Sharing consultation findings is not part of the review methodology. Halpin will provide analysis of findings and recommendations, but our notes will not be provided to the Unite Students.

All data will be destroyed at the end of the contract between Halpin and Unite Students, in line with our Data Protection policy as detailed here.

9. How will you ensure anonymity and confidentiality?

We will record the names of interviewees and discussion group attendees for the purposes of scheduling. All comments made are strictly in confidence and our reports will not attribute any comments to any names.

10. How can the Halpin review team be contacted?

The Halpin team can be contacted via [email protected]

Halpin Partnership has a trusted relationship with its clients and operates with sensitivity, discretion and confidentiality. We do not comment on client projects to third parties and will not be making any comments on the research undertaken for Unite Students.

For any media enquiries, please contact the Unite Students team via [email protected]

If you have questions regarding Halpin and the services we offer please visit our main website at www.halpinpartnership.com or contact [email protected]

Contacts

If you have any questions, please contact a member of the research team:

Susie Hills, CEO and Co-founder (Project Director) [email protected]

Shaun Horan, CEO and co-Founder (Project Director, cover until May 2021) [email protected]

Osaro Otobo, Consulting Fellow (Project Manager) [email protected]

‘Teleola Cartwright, Consulting Fellow [email protected]

Editorial Note

Throughout our work, we have chosen to capitalise ‘Black’ but not ‘white’. This decision was based on advice sought, and further reading supports this.

Rethinking university internationalisation strategies: the EDI angle

May 12, 2021

This article draws on a report – UK Universities’ Global Engagement Strategies: Time for a rethink? – published by Vicky Lewis Consulting in April 2021.

Having reviewed 134 UK university strategic plans (all current in late 2020), I’d like to share a number of observations about the profile of global engagement:

  • An international dimension is prominent in 76 per cent of institutional strategies.
  • Recently published strategic plans tend to be more values-led than older ones: many emphasise their institution’s commitment to sustainable development, addressing global challenges, climate action, social justice, and equality, diversity and inclusion.
  • Despite rhetoric about making a positive global contribution, international success still tends to be measured using traditional, profile-building metrics such as international student enrolments or position in global rankings.
  • A number of the strategic plans fall into classic strategy traps, such as not defining the precise challenges the university faces; trying to include all aspects of internationalisation without prioritising; and letting others (e.g., ranking organisations or peer institutions) define success, rather than pursuing what makes them distinctive.

The pandemic has caused us all to step back and consider our priorities. It has offered us a structural break to rethink institutional approaches to internationalisation. Interviews with senior sector stakeholders, supplemented by a review of recent conferences, webinars and publications, suggest a number of key themes that UK higher education institutions should consider as they review their strategies.

One of those themes is ‘Internationalisation for All’, which intersects in interesting ways with the equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) agenda.

Internationalisation should, by definition, be inclusive. At its heart is a recognition that all aspects of university mission benefit from the diverse perspectives of students and staff with different cultural backgrounds and experiences. However, synergies between the international office and EDI teams are often overlooked.

What happens when you overlay an institutional commitment to EDI onto your internationalisation strategy?

Equality (and Equity)

Few would dispute that international students and staff at UK universities should have access to the support they need in order to thrive. However, just as is the case with domestic students and staff from disadvantaged or minority backgrounds, that support may need to be tailored in order to have the desired impact. For example, specialist employability and careers support is needed to prepare international students for post-graduation employment either in the UK (taking advantage of the new Graduate Immigration Route) or back in their home country.

Similarly, when we look at offering an international or intercultural experience to all students, it is clear that thinking about this solely in terms of studying abroad (or other forms of outbound mobility) largely restricts the opportunity to those who are wealthy and do not have work or caring responsibilities. The pandemic has shown us different ways, often facilitated by digital technology, to make intercultural experiences (including virtual exchange or collaborative international online learning) accessible to all.

Global accessibility can also be enhanced via transnational education programmes delivered online or, with a partner, closer to a student’s home. Making a strategic decision to expand in-country provision in key locations can help the nation or region with capacity building and skills development as well as reducing brain drain. At an individual level, it can open up transformative new opportunities for an international education to less wealthy families.

Diversity

In the context of internationalisation, we are used to aiming for diversity within the student body. We know the benefits that diverse perspectives can bring to the classroom (and to the wider student experience). The need for diversification is reinforced by the desire to reduce risk. Bearing in mind all the factors beyond an institution’s control (from geopolitical tensions to global health crises), it is important not to be over-reliant on a relationship with any single country.

But how far are institutions prepared to go in order to diversify? One of my interviewees pointed out that you have to be deliberate to make this happen, suggesting that universities might ‘put their money where their mouth is’ and allocate a share of the income from international student fees to scholarships. The same person noted that ‘if diversification really is important, scholarships are such a crucial tool. It reinforces the EDI agenda and goals of widening understanding and making a safer world. It is about recognising the wider inequalities in the world and addressing these. It is not wholly altruistic: it would drive more students to the UK in the long run’.

Inclusion

Being genuinely inclusive in the development of global engagement strategy could potentially lead to a much more distinctive strategy, that truly reflects the values of the university and its wider communities.

In the UK, we need to be aware that our approach to internationalisation is informed and constrained by Anglocentric traditions and ‘Global North’ viewpoints. As one interviewee observed, ‘you need to include people from the Global South who can spot problematic notions’. Those leading the strategy should be reflective and actively challenge stereotypes.

The student voice must also be heard and reflected in the strategy (and provide feedback on its implementation) in order for it to be transformative, not just ‘more of the same’.

What next?

There are many other ways in which the EDI and internationalisation agendas can fruitfully intersect. Institutions for whom both are important need to challenge themselves to explore that intersection so that – rather than continuing along their separate tracks – they can be developed in tandem and provide mutual reinforcement.

Dr Vicky Lewis is a Consulting Fellow for Halpin, the home of experts in higher education strategy.

New Global Strategies Report

Apr 27, 2021

This article was originally published on Vicky Lewis Consulting's website here.

New Global Strategies Report... how it came to be.

It’s a while since I posted a blog. The research project that I mentioned in my November and December blogs grew into something much larger than I anticipated and I have been busy working on that.

Given my long-standing fascination with the evolution of HEI international strategies, particularly within the UK context, I started out thinking it would be interesting to take the temperature of the sector in late 2020 and see which aspects of global engagement were being prioritised in university strategies.

I enjoyed building a picture of the state of internationalisation and global engagement within UK universities. It was noticeable that the older, still current strategies (published back in 2013 and 2014) tend to use the terms ‘international’ and ‘internationalisation’, whereas the more recent ones are more likely to use the term ‘global’. Beyond terminology, there were changes in content which demonstrate how strategies are very much products of the global and national context at the time they are developed.

Having completed this research, it struck me that the really interesting question is what the next, post-pandemic generation of international strategies will look like; and how they may differ from those that came before them.

Phase two of my research

So I decided to conduct a second phase of research, exploring that question and related issues by interviewing (during February and March 2021) 12 senior sector stakeholders (all with responsibility for or an interest in institutional strategies for internationalisation). The interview findings were supplemented and contextualised via a review of some of the numerous webinars, virtual conferences, reports and articles that have bubbled up since the pandemic started.

The resulting report

The report that I produced is therefore focused largely on future global engagement strategies, though it takes as its starting point a snapshot of what current strategies look like.

I hope that it will be useful to those who are responsible for – or involved in – developing or reviewing their institution’s strategy for global engagement in a post-pandemic landscape.

The report is broken down into three parts:

  • Context for this report: why now?
  • Current state of play: tensions and traps
  • Next generation strategies: where are we heading?

The final part is the longest. It comprises a number of chapters, each of which focuses on one of the key (interrelated) themes that emerged from the interviews.

Some of those themes sit at a more philosophical level:

  • Considering the ‘why’: drivers and differentiation.

Others are still quite ‘big picture’, but a bit more concrete:

  • Addressing global – and local – challenges
  • Negotiating new global dynamics.

There are two priority areas of focus at a more tactical level:

  • Rethinking partnership models
  • ‘Internationalisation for All’ in a digital world.

And there are two themes that are primarily about enabling the changes needed at operational level:

  • Alternative operating practices
  • New ways of measuring success.

Download options

The full report can be downloaded from the page on my website entitled Global Strategies Report – April 2021.

That page also includes download buttons for the Executive Summary and for an Overview of key questions for HEIs to ask (as they are developing and consulting on their strategy).

Dr Vicky Lewis is a Consulting Fellow for Halpin, the home of experts in higher education strategy.

University of Manchester Governance Review Info

Apr 13, 2021

Governance at the University of Manchester

The governance arrangements at universities identify responsibilities and accountabilities. The governance framework at the University is set by the University’s Charter, Statutes, Ordinances, Standing Orders and Regulations.

The Board of Governors is the governing body of the University. It carries the ultimate responsibility for:

a) our overall strategic direction

b) the management of our finances, property and affairs generally, including the employment arrangements for all staff.

Senate reports to the Board and acts as the University’s principal academic authority, under the ultimate authority of the Board. It is responsible for:

a) The promotion of research;

b) The regulation and monitoring of standards in teaching;

c) The regulation of discipline of students;

More information on the governance framework at the University of Manchester is available here. From this page, you will be able to see all key governance documents and further details of the Board, Senate and key University committees.

Why is the review taking place?

Good governance is crucial to institutional success.

The Committee of University Chairs (CUC) publish a Higher Education Code of Governance (last updated September 2020) – which states “Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) must conduct a regular, full and robust review of governance effectiveness with some degree of independent input. This will provide assurance to internal and external stakeholders and allow a mechanism to focus on improvement and chart progress towards achieving any outstanding actions arising from the last effectiveness review. It is recommended this review takes place every three years.”

The University last conducted an external effectiveness review focused primarily on the Board and its committees in 2017. Therefore, a review in 2021 is timely: the review will be more wide-ranging than the previous version, reviewing the overall effectiveness of governance, including the role of and interaction between the Board of Governors, its committees, Senate and senior management

Who will be undertaking the review?

Halpin Partnership (Halpin) is a specialist higher education consultancy, drawing on a team of Consulting Fellows who have a breadth of experience and expertise across diverse fields in the education, public and corporate sectors.

Halpin was appointed by the University of Manchester in February 2021 to conduct an independent review of the effectiveness of the University’s governance arrangements, following an open and competitive tendering process. Biographies of the review team are available below.

Following a period of open consultation, the review team will present its findings and recommendations to the Board of Governors and Senate later in the year.

University support for Halpin’s activities will be through the Governance Office:

Halpin’s response to frequently asked questions about the review can be found below.

Review Timeline

March

March-May

  • Surveys to be sent to Board and Senate and a wider short staff survey
  • Desk review
  • Interviews
  • Observations of Board, Senate and committee meetings
  • Discussion Groups with Senate, staff and students

June-July

  • Analysis of findings and development of recommendations
  • Meeting with Nominations Committee
  • Findings and recommendations to be presented to Senate (for comment) and Board (for approval)

August onwards

  • Implementation of recommendations

Review Consultation

The review consultation period will remain open from mid-April to late-May.

Virtual Discussion Group sessions for members of Senate, staff and students will be held in April and May via Microsoft Teams. Dates are to be confirmed and we will update this page in due course.

Should you wish to attend a session, please send your name and preferred session to [email protected] Spaces will be limited so we please ask that you only book a space on a session if you intend to attend. We also request that you only attend one session only.

Share your comments

Halpin is keen to hear from all corners of the University. If you are unable to attend a virtual focus group session or you would prefer to send comments regarding the governance arrangements at Manchester with the Halpin Review team via email, please do so via [email protected]

Please note, all comments are confidential to the Halpin Review team. We will record the names of interviewees and focus group attendees for the purposes of scheduling. Any comments included in our final reports will not be attributed to any individuals.

Review Team

There are several members of the Halpin team working on this particular effectiveness review. Each team member will have a specific focus or area that they will be covering in this review. More details on their remit and biographies are below.

Hanif Barma, Consulting Fellow – Finance, Audit and Risk

Hanif has extensive experience of board and committee reviews, bringing a strong understanding of board culture and dynamics, board information and board processes. He is a Founder-partner of Board Alchemy, a specialist governance consultancy and is a former Director at PwC and Founder-partner at Independent Audit.

A Chartered Accountant with an MBA from London Business School, Hanif specialises in audit, finance and risk functions. He is a former Chair (and earlier Audit Committee Chair) of St Christopher’s Fellowship, a former member of the Audit & Risk Committee at City, University of London and an Honorary Visiting Fellow of corporate governance at Cass Business School. Following our work with the London Institute of Banking & Finance, Hanif was invited to join their Audit Committee

For Halpin, Hanif has recently conducted governance reviews at the University of Bath, London Institute of Banking & Finance and Quality Assurance Agency.

Selena Bolingbroke, Consulting Fellow – Governance Effectiveness

Selena is a senior leader in higher education, with experience in central and local government in roles that have combined her interests in education, enterprise and regeneration.

Selena is a former Pro Vice-Chancellor at the University of East London, where she led on Strategic Planning and External Development and established the Centre of Excellence for Women’s Entrepreneurship. More recently, Selena was the Lead for External Engagement and Strategic Development at Goldsmiths, University of London, delivering their Civic Engagement strategy and gained over £2m of external funding to support a new Enterprise Hub.

Selena is an Associate Director of MetaValue, a consultancy practice focused on supporting entrepreneurial growth strategies in the not-for-profit sector, a Non-Executive Director of Wonkhe, a former Chair of two College Corporation Boards (Lewisham and Barking & Dagenham) a School MAT Governor, and former Chair of Cyclopark charity.

Susie Hills, Joint CEO and Co-founder – Project Director

With an unrivalled depth of knowledge in higher education fundraising, leadership and governance, Susie has advised and supported leaders and teams at universities across the UK, often during times of significant change. Susie is highly skilled at undertaking reviews of strategy, performance and structures and is in demand as coach and mentor. Susie is responsible for developing Halpin’s cross-sector governance expertise, having worked in the charity, corporate and HE sectors, and is a champion of best practice in governance. She is currently a Trustee of the Halpin Trust and, until recently, has been a member of the Board of Governors at Plymouth College of Art. In 2019, Susie was named as one of Unilever’s ’50 Leading Lights in Kindness’ by the FT in recognition of her work on kindness in leadership.

Susie has worked with a number of clients on highly customised governance reviews including UCL, the Universities of Bath, Kent and Westminster, UUK, QAA, and the Royal College of Art.

Professor Hilary Lappin-Scott, Consulting Fellow – Senate Effectiveness and Assurance

Hilary is a Professor of Microbiology with a personal Chair awarded over 20 years ago and she is currently Honorary Distinguished Professor at Cardiff University. Hilary was a research scientist at the University of Exeter for 20 years, before moving into senior University leadership roles.

At Exeter, Hilary was Dean of the Postgraduate Faculty, responsible for quality assurance, curricula development and student experience. Hilary then moved to Bangor University where she was appointed Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation, and later moved to the University of Swansea as Senior Pro Vice-Chancellor. There she led strategic development, research and innovation, performance management, student recruitment and equality, diversity and inclusion agendas until 2019.

Hilary has a total of 20 years’ experience on three different Senates and 15 years’ experience sitting on University Councils. She was also a member of Finance and Remuneration Committees at all three institutions. Hilary has chaired university Research Committees, prepared three RAE/REF university submissions, and was also involved in establishing two Medical Schools, line managing the Medical School and Health Sciences at the University of Swansea.

Hilary is the elected President of the Federation of European Microbiological Societies (FEMS) having previously been the President of both the Microbiological Society and the International Society for Microbial Ecology. She was part of Research England’s Interdisciplinary Advisory Panel to advise UKRI and REF, led the Universities Wales Research and Engagement group and was a member of HEFCW’s Research Wales Committee.

She was also a panel member for REF2014, a member of the working group for the Stern Review and she is currently a panel Chair for REF2021.

Dame Angela Pedder, Consulting Fellow – Review Chair

Angela is an experienced senior NHS leader, with over 40 years’ NHS experience, including over 30 at Chief Officer level. Most recently, Angela was the Lead Chief Executive for the Devon Success Regime and Sustainability and Transformation Partnership.

Angela is a founding member of the Board and Vice-Chair of the South West Peninsula Academic Health Science Network. She has served two separate terms on the NHS Providers Board and has contributed to Secretary of State, NHSI and NHSE advisory forums.

She received an OBE in the 2007 New Year’s Honours List, a DBE in the 2017 New Year’s Honours List and an Honorary Doctorate for the University of Exeter in 2011.

Osaro Otobo, Consulting Fellow – Student Voice and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI)

Osaro is currently Deputy Chair of the British Youth Council and is a member of multiple education and non-profit Boards. Her areas of expertise include the student voice, student democracy in governance and EDI.

A former student at the University of Hull, Osaro was elected for three successive years to work in the best interest of students at Hull, was a postgraduate student trustee and two-term President at Hull’s Students’ Union.

From lived experiences, Osaro created the Make Diversity Count campaign, calling for all UK organisations to have a robust discrimination policy, setting out how they deal with complaints of discrimination in a more effective and transparent way. She believes in ensuring all students, especially those from liberation and widening participation groups, are supported effectively throughout their education journey. She also believes that student voices should be at the heart of an evidence-based approach to implementing change and getting meaningful, long-lasting results in the higher education sector. Osaro is currently working on a governance review at the University of Sunderland with Halpin and has also authored Halpin’s recent report ‘UK Universities’ Response to Black Lives Matter’, co-chairing the subsequent discussion webinar in late 2020.

Katie Welsh, Project Manager

Katie has extensive project management experience. Her recent governance review projects include the Universities of Westminster and Kent, Cardiff Metropolitan and Leeds Trinity. She has also undertaken a variety of projects at Halpin, including professional services reviews at Sussex and Cardiff Metropolitan University, campaign feasibility studies with the Sainsbury Laboratory, the University of Sheffield and the Royal College of Music.

She previously spent six years in the project management team at the executive search firm, Perrett Laver, responsible for the administration of senior-level recruitment processes within the higher education practice on an international scale. She worked on over 100 senior level appointments, including Chairs of Boards, Vice-Chancellor and other senior academic, professional and professorial appointments.

She will be responsible for providing administrative support for the Halpin team and the University of Manchester and will be the point of contact and coordinator of meetings and group discussions.

The Review Team will also be supported by David Allen (Halpin Consulting Fellow and former Registrar and Deputy Chief Executive at the University of Exeter) and colleagues in the Education practice at Shakespeare Martineau who will be undertaking a detailed review of the University’s governance instruments.

Useful Information

As part of the review, Halpin will be ensuring the University of Manchester is compliant with the recently revised CUC Code of Governance. We will also be drawing on good governance practice outside of the sector. Here are some useful links to the various codes of governance, as well as higher education sector specific resources relating to governance:

CUC publications, including the Higher Education Code of Governance: https://www.universitychairs.ac.uk/publications/

Corporate Code of Governance: https://www.frc.org.uk/directors/corporate-governance-and-stewardship/uk-corporate-governance-code

Charity Code of Governance: https://www.charitygovernancecode.org/en

Office for Students: https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk

Nolan Principles for Public Life: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-7-principles-of-public-life

QAA Quality Code for Higher Education: https://www.qaa.ac.uk/quality-code

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How was Halpin Partnership selected?

A public tender process was undertaken.

2. What experience does Halpin have of governance reviews?

Information on the review team and their experience can be found in the biographies above.

3. What should I do if I have questions about the review and/or would like to share my views?

The review consultation period will remain open until late May. Consultation will include interviews and discussion groups. To ensure confidentiality throughout the process, a dedicated email address has been set up where you can send your comments and questions directly to Halpin:

[email protected]

Virtual discussion groups with be held in due course via Microsoft Teams. We will update the times and dates in due course.

To attend a session please send your name and your preferred session time and date to [email protected]

4. Is the review independent?

The Halpin review team is entirely independent from the University of Manchester. The review team have no conflicts of interest in undertaking this work and the Senior Leadership Team at Manchester is not involved in the review, other than as interviewees or participants.

The review team’s main point of contact at Manchester is the University Governance Office The review team has complete access to relevant documentation and information will be provided as requested.

The Halpin review team will provide initial findings to the Nominations Committee in June 2021 and this will undertake a process of fact-checking. This will be to ensure that we have not included factually incorrect information or missed any key points of information or evidence. Any changes that are made after that point will be made at the discretion of the Halpin review team, based on the information and evidence provided and after full and careful consideration.

5. Will the findings be published, and if so when?

Halpin’s findings and recommendations will be presented to the Board of Governors and Senate in July. The University is anticipating publishing the report in full, once it has been received and presented to the Board and Senate.

6. Will the review consider governance practice from outside the sector?

The review team includes experts in governance with experience both in and outside of the higher education sector. This wider experience and knowledge will help to inform the recommendations.

7. What is the process for the review?

The review process includes a wide variety of activity to ensure engagement with the University community. The review activity is underway with the consultation phase ending at the end of May.

Both the Board of Governors and Senate will be kept updated regularly on review progress.

8. Will you share data and consultation findings with Manchester during the review process?

Sharing consultation findings is not part of the review methodology. Halpin will provide analysis of findings and recommendations, but our notes will not be provided to the University.

All data will be destroyed at the end of the contract between Halpin and Manchester, in line with our Data Protection policy as detailed here.

9. How will you ensure anonymity and confidentiality?

We will record the names of interviewees and discussion group attendees for the purposes of scheduling. All comments made are strictly in confidence and our reports will not attribute any comments to any names.

10. How can the Halpin review team be contacted?

The Halpin team can be contacted via [email protected]

Halpin Partnership has a trusted relationship with its clients and operates with sensitivity, discretion and confidentiality. We do not comment on client projects to third parties and will not be making any comments on the review undertaken for Manchester.

For any media enquiries, please contact the University of Manchester’s Media Relations team here.

If you have questions regarding Halpin and the services we offer please visit our main website at www.halpinpartnership.com or contact [email protected]

Interview: Compassionate Restructures

Mar 24, 2021

We are delighted that Michelle Leek (ML) has joined Halpin as a Consulting Fellow. Michelle specialises in strategic change project leadership delivery and is a Professor of Practice in People Growth & Culture. Until December 2020 she was Pro-Vice-Chancellor (People, Performance & Culture) at University of Cumbria. Halpin's Joint CEO Susie Hills (SH) caught up with her to talk about restructures... and to discuss if/how they can be more compassionate.

Michelle Leek Headshot.jpeg

Michelle Leek


SH: Universities have had to respond to the double challenge of Brexit and Covid and this has resulted in many institutions going through staffing restructure processes. What do you think we are learning about restructures as a sector during this period?

ML: It has indeed been a challenging time for the sector, and I think that we are continuing to learn so much about the challenges of leading and managing change, the speed of change, and the impact of this, especially at this time, on our staff and students.

Some universities have faced financial challenges and seen a decline in overseas student recruitment or challenges recruiting to specific courses, as a result of Brexit and or Covid. As such have needed to review services and restructure accordingly. From this we are learning much more about managing restructures, in particular about the effects and impact of going through such change, whilst working remotely.

As an example, through this past period, ways of working have been impacted significantly and for many, home and work boundaries have become blurred with many colleagues juggling work with home schooling and caring for others. From this, we are learning more about the holistic nature of such change and the personal impact, which this has on individuals work and home life.

We are learning just how challenging it can be to address such sensitive matters and strike that balance of taking forward the restructure, whilst ensuring that staff are sufficiently connected and that we understand enough about individual circumstances to really support staff through such change.

Also, I think we are gaining a more in-depth understanding of the nature of the support, which Managers need, to enable them to approach these matters in the most appropriate way, which may range from developing capability, to creating the capacity to ensure appropriate time is given to this.

And a final point on learning is about taking the time to really think about of getting the content tone and balance of communication and engagement right so that colleagues understand the whole restructuring process, how it is likely to impact them, how their voice can be heard, and where they can access help and the support as needed.

SH: What do you think some of the guiding principles should be when an institution undertakes restructure?

ML: For me it is very simple: for individuals to be treated with respect, concern and dignity throughout the whole process.

  • To be open, honest and transparent, throughout.

  • Keep communications, simple, regular and ensure colleagues know how to feed into the process or raise matters.

  • Ensure the rationale for change (business reasons) is clear and jargon-free.

  • To be clear and to emphasise that it is not personal; it is a business decision and is about the need for the role.

For Managers, they must understand their role in the process and be equipped and enabled to confidently approach it with empathy, where they understand and are prepared to listen (and really hear), with kindness and understanding and are confident how and where to signpost staff for advice and support.

And, to ensure that all legal guidelines and internal policy/procedures are applied throughout.

SH: Remote working adds to the challenge of undertaking a restructure. What good practice have you seen in handling consultation processes remotely?

ML: I have mentioned some earlier, however a few points to add. I have seen it to be beneficial where we have had more regular contact and updates with touch points scheduled in.

Where we have been able to hold face-to-face conversations via electronic means as a preference, where this has been possible.

Being open to and offering more flexibility around timings and traditional methods of consulting, and also where support has been tailored to online accessibility and delivery, especially whilst working remotely.

SH: And poor practice?

ML: None of the above, resulting in lack of engagement, poor morale and motivation, confusion, leading to internal grievances and employment tribunal claims.

Clearly any redundancies which result from a restructure are being made at a time when the job market is very challenging.

SH: What can institutions do to support any staff who are leaving to find new roles elsewhere?

ML: I think that it is really important for colleagues to understand the options and support available not just internally (such as Employee Assistance Programmes), but also through the government agencies (such as the Job Centre Plus), as well as to have an understanding of the current rights and benefits including the impact of the furlough scheme.

For me, ensuring that staff feel confident about their experiences, their skills and what they can offer is critical. As such, institutions need to find ways to really help staff to articulate their successes, and make key contributions to enable staff to genuinely understand their worth and significant contributions/successes achieved.

Most institutions are likely to do this as standard. However at times such as these, I think that a personal approach to support for colleagues, in conducting a job search, how to effectively use social media, how to develop a strong CV, preparing for interview techniques, coaching, will all be beneficial.

SH: The staff leading a restructure process are also experiencing the challenges of covid themselves – how can we support their well-being during the process?

I see that HR will play a role in supporting managers both in terms of ensuring that they have the confidence and skills to deliver the changes and also to coach and mentor them where relevant through the relevant procedures and processes.

In my experience, running regular ‘check in’ sessions with both HR and Managers when going through this type of process has proved to be really beneficial, to ensure that they feel supported whilst being able to respond to questions or concerns in the moment.

Managers and HR also need to understand the specific support is available to them, which may be different to that offered to staff, as well as how they can access this during a restructure. Both Managers and HR tend to feel that they need to have all of the answers, and I think that it is important that they are reassured to understand that this is not a requirement or indeed necessary, what is more important is that they know where to get an answer and are able to confidently agree to come back with it at a given time.

An area, which I personally believe more focus is needed, is in ensuring that support is available for the staff who remain in their roles, and consideration to the changes or impact this might have on them from both a personal and professional perspective.

Research is emerging which is suggesting that six years following on from a restructure decreased levels of motivation and trust still exist with remaining staff.

As such I think more can be done to help those who remain, by seeking ways to maintain motivation and morale for members of the team/department/service(s), beyond the restructure as they adapt to new ways of working.

SH: Is it possible to deliver a compassionate restructure? What would this look like?

ML: Whilst any restructure can be stressful, in some cases inevitable, and has the potential to negatively impact those who are both directly and indirectly affected, I absolutely believe that it is possible to deliver a compassionate restructure.

For me it is very much about HOW the restructure and change is conducted, and ensuring that people are at the centre of decisions, communication and those who are conveying key messaging show concern and a genuine understanding.

Through the approach and engagement, you would see illustrated ways of displaying genuine trust, integrity, dignity, honesty, in fact I am confident that these attributes will feature in many organisations' values and ways of working through normal business.

I genuinely believe that, if a colleague can leave an institute through a restructure and feel confident and proud of what they have achieved in their time at that institute, and can feel valued and possibly even want to return to the institute if an opportunity arises in the future (which I have witnessed on numerous occasions), then that has to be a positive sign of the way someone has felt having gone through such a process.

Finally, whilst challenges such as restructures arise in life, even though we might emphasise that the potential redundancy is not about the individual but the role, in reality we are dealing with human beings. In my view, if individuals first understand the reasons why change is needed and this is delivered with concern, if they are given the opportunity to ask questions, are treated with kindness, respect, honesty and dignity, and understand what support is available and how to access this, then this goes towards delivering a compassionate restructure.

In my view, as a leader of change I believe that you can still achieve the business objective, genuinely care and be interested in people. They are not mutually exclusive!

If you would like guidance on retructures and how to make them as compassionate as possible, Halpin's home of experts is here to help you. Get in touch today

Michelle Leek, Halpin Consulting Fellow, was speaking to Susie Hills, Joint CEO of Halpin.

What’s going on in HE Fundraising?

Mar 08, 2021

This is the main question I kept being asked by Directors of Development in Universities.

For a sector that is normally very open and discursive, and has strong personal relationships, I was struck by how much of a barrier Covid has been in promoting wider understanding of what is going on in fundraising. Certainly, the lack of in-person conferences has led to a shortage of opportunities for fundraisers to come together and share stories.

As fundraisers we love news, and the new. We love to hear what is happening, but tough lockdowns and the need to plough on has stopped our ability to take a breath and look up.

So we put together a couple of online roundtables to get a group of fundraising professionals together to chat about what they were seeing, what was happening, and to get a chance to learn from others' experiences.

New People!

Some of the delight in doing this was simply seeing a whole group of new faces – even, major shocker, some people you may not have met before!

As always with these conversations, I was struck by how much we have in common as fundraisers, however old and grand, or new and disruptive your institution is.

Live Art

We thought it might be fun to produce a piece of artwork to summarise the discussions, so here they are - I encourage you to take a look.

Sketchnote - roundtable 26th Jan 2021_page-0001.jpg

Sketchnote - roundtable 28th Jan 2021_page-0001.jpg

Our issues?

If you look at both of the sketch notes, all the issues from the last year are there, from furlough to Black Lives Matter, budget cuts to fundraising successes, the joys and sorrows of homeworking, and the need to keep the good from the last year, as well as moving on.

"All we have to do, is keep talking"

This famous encouragement from Stephen Hawking has never been more relevant. I hope you enjoy the sketch notes, I hope they provoke some conversations, and I look forward to even seeing some of you in person by the end of spring. Here’s hoping!

Shaun Horan is Joint CEO of Halpin, the home of experts in higher education fundraising.