The ambition set by David Bell and his team to create a new agency to lead work on equality and diversity, learning and teaching, and leadership and management is now being met. The three agencies currently leading work in these areas have this month formed a shadow board to guide the creation of a new agency with a fresh approach.
Each agency has actively engaged in transition discussions over recent months, leading to the formation of a Shadow Board which met for the first time last week.
This Shadow Board is leading work to develop the strategy, business model and operational structure for the new agency, ready for its first full year of operation in 2018/19. Despite the uncertainties that many will feel in a merger process, this is an exciting time for those, like me, who are passionate about equality, excellent teaching and inspiring leadership in higher education. I am confident that the outcome of the process will be a stronger and more cost-effective core offer to higher education providers in these crucial areas.
The three existing agencies already deliver high-value programmes that have well-deserved credibility and cache, be it AthenaSWAN, the Top Management and Aurora programmes, or the successful Fellowship scheme for our educators and we are in the fortunate position of being able to build on these existing strengths that are recognised within the UK, and increasingly beyond.
The new agency will pursue a fresh approach in dealing with subscribers and other clients in higher education. The merger will provide new opportunities for working on critical agendas relating to how strategy is implemented through our people – our students and staff. This new model of working is required for what is fast becoming a new higher education landscape. Just as the mission of the Leadership Foundation and the HEA was forged in the wake of the Dearing Review and the Higher Education Act 2004 respectively, the new agency will be created as the HE & Research Act 2017 takes effect, with its emphasis on the student interest and a renewed commitment to developing a diverse set of HE providers. The new organisation will have the critical mass to respond to the challenges of this new landscape, adding greater value than could be achieved separately.
The Shadow Board recognises that the new agency will need to deliver greater optionality of services while maintaining core capabilities and strengths. This will help ensure that HE providers of all types have strategic leadership assistance to excel across key areas – not least in the promotion of equality, diversity and the delivery of high-quality leadership, teaching and learning – whilst allowing the new agency to develop optional services which respond to the evolving requirements of a diversified group of HE providers.
The new agency will harness synergies from current programmes of work that will add value for students, people working in HE, and society as a whole. These synergies can be built not only from uniting areas of overlapping activity (which do certainly exist and will need to be refocused), but also in planning new ventures and innovations.
The agency’s value proposition will revolve around combining strategic insight and thought-leadership from within our world-leading higher education sector while utilising the best that sectors and perspectives from beyond HE can bring. It is a vision that I am convinced will be actively supported by a very broad range of universities and HE providers. Our task as a shadow board is to help make this happen in the coming months.