The HUMANE Winter School: a European network of value

I was really pleased to participate again in the most recent HUMANE Winter School. This is a week-long intensive training course for up and coming senior administrators.

Started in 2003, it has become one of the best programmes around for developing the leadership potential of outstanding administrators. Most importantly though it brings together 40 administrators from all over Europe (and beyond) with participants from the UK, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, South Africa and China.

The largest representation this year was from the Netherlands which I think says something about the Dutch commitment to international higher education development.

A valuable European network

HUMANE is a 20 year old European network of university administrative leaders which offers a range of interesting events each year. HUMANE, which stands for the Heads of University Management and Administration Network in Europe, was set up in 1997 with the aim or grouping all heads of university administration in Europe in a network, devoted to professional development by sharing best practices (there is a short history of HUMANE available here).

There are some 170 members in 26 different European countries and is headed by Esa Hämäläinen, Director of Administration at the University of Helsinki. Given the current Brexit trajectory of the UK, it seems to me that finding whatever ways we can in higher education to maintain connections with other European institutions is an absolutely necessary step and HUMANE offers one means of achieving this.

The Winter School is one of the signature events in the HUMANE calendar and aims to develop the leadership potential of talented senior managers by making them fully aware of the concepts and practices of strategic management in a European context, and the importance of integrating academic matters, finances, human resources, governance, leadership and communication strategy in the elaboration of university strategy.

The Winter School focuses on leadership and management skills in the context of the “big picture” of glob

al higher education. The programme is equally sensitive to the uniqueness of the practice of management in a university setting. This is not just “yet another” management course. Participants will gain experience in making informed choices in decision-making processes.The Winter School uses the experience of HUMANE and EFMD members to give unique first-hand insight into general problems. The geographical and cultural spread of our members ensure that this discussion is not system-specific.

The programme is highly intensive, including plenary sessions and practical work in small groups based on international case studies. The case study focus in the last three years has been the internationalisation strategies of two institutions, the University of Nottingham and Maastricht University.

I’ve enjoyed presenting on this with a particular focus on Nottingham’s campuses in Asia and it’s been terrific to see how the participants engage with the material, working incredibly hard in teams to respond to one of the case studies and then present to another team who play different roles as part of a university executive board. Their case study submissions and presentations are assessed by a selection of old hands, including former Winter School participants, and feedback provided in front of the whole group.

The work though is of a pretty consistently high standard as you might expect from this kind of group and the insights provided never fail to impress. It really is good to see the intensity and dedication of the case study groups and the intelligent analysis, commentary and response to the data they invariably deliver.

Many of those who have participated in the Winter School over the years have progressed to senior leadership positions in European universities and continue to engage in the programme. There is also a thriving alumni network too which brings together everyone who has completed the annual Winter School and now has nearly 500 members from several hundred universities in 25 different countries.

From Winter to Autumn

This autumn there is also the second running of the Asia-Pacific School at the University of Hong Kong which focuses on managing international strategic partnerships in higher education and builds on the success of the Winter School.

As the historic shift to the east impacts ever more directly on European higher education, the Asia-Pacific School will focus on international strategic partnerships between higher education institutions from the Asia-Pacific region and from Europe.

International strategic partnerships between institutions of higher education in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region and Europe are becoming increasingly complex, operating across nation states, cultures, sectors – both private and public – many involving third party stakeholders and sponsors. The experience of international strategic alliances and partnerships can be a mixed one in terms of the near-term and long-term value that they add to the reputation and to portfolio of institutions and the extent to which they are consistent with national priorities and policy.
There is a strong case for a greater understanding of the critical success factors for managing sustainable “future-proof” Asia-Pacific/European strategic partnerships and overcome the management challenges they present.
How are strategic alliances and partnerships actually built and managed in HE? How do they evolve and mature? What are the different models and the pitfalls? To what extent is a proper assessment made of the potential reputational and financial risks. How are the risks and opportunities identified and managed collaboratively and institutionally? What does the future hold for such partnerships in an emerging world of massive on line education?

The Winter School, the Asia-Pacific School and the HUMANE network in general, will undoubtedly continue to offer a vital means for continuing European engagement, dialogue and support. So, no matter what the future turns out to be politically for the UK and whatever Brexit actually means in practice, I do think that this network, and many others like it, will continue to sustain a meaningful relationship across European universities.

One response to “The HUMANE Winter School: a European network of value

  1. Paul – great to see your support and advocacy of this important network and its development programmes. In a post Brexit world this network offers a means of staff establishing and maintaining strong inter-institutional inks across Europe and beyond and with a considerable track record in doing so. Phil Harvey

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