How L&D staff have risen to face the challenges of a new dynamism

in Higher Education

by Paul Gray, Marketing Manager at GoodPractice

On the 23rd and 24th of April 2015, Learning & Development staff from across the UK will arrive in Edinburgh for the Staff Development Forum spring conference. The great and good from higher education will be in our city to attend an event which has the theme of ‘Exploring 21st Century Organisational Culture’.

GoodPractice is again delighted to be a sponsor of this event. Our Chief Operating Officer Owen Ferguson is running a session on ‘Agile | not just a pretty face’, which is well worth attending.

As someone who worked in management within both higher and further education in Scotland for 16 years, I cannot help but reflect upon the changes that have taken place across education over the period.

Brave new world

I started just as the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 was put into place. As anyone working in higher education will say, this incorporation led to the creation of many “new” universities which have radically changed the face of UK education.

Aside from the impact on learners, with increased access to degree level education, it created a whole new raft of challenges for L&D staff in higher education.

New structures were created. New processes were introduced, which were driven by legislation and the introduction and expansion of a group of “support” functions such as marketing, HR/OD, finance, registry/administration, international student recruitment, commercial development and much more besides…

No longer were polytechnics and colleges run by their local authorities. They became self-governing, wholly independent institutions.

A restructure, and again, and again

Over the next twenty years we have witnessed a real dynamism injected into organisational development in the UK’s HE sector. The continual restructuring of universities becomes  commonplace, with faculties, colleges, schools and departments being re-organised and re-shaped at, arguably, a rate that is not witnessed even in the corporate sector.

A group of new leaders and managers, in both academic and non-academic areas, arrive annually in every university. From lecturing staff moving institution for career development and promoted posts, through to the creation of new research-funded projects and even the movement of staff into the sector as specialists in data management, business development and finance. A wide and varied group of new leaders and managers need care and attention.

Not only is it a challenge to meet the needs of this diverse group, but to do so in a physical environment which places managers across large campuses and challenges them to lead teams with very different roles, inconsistent contracts and wide range of working practices.

The challenge of supporting leaders and managers

A Head of College will have academic staff, research professors, teaching academics, technicians, administrative support, student recruitment and commercial teams plus an estate to manage. This would be a challenge for any experienced leaders, but is often faced by someone who was elevated because of their academic esteem as a microbiologist!

And that is just the leaders at the top of the tree. Let’s not forget the hundreds more leading smaller groups and teams.

The challenges to staff working in L&D and OD in higher education are as vast as they are diverse. From the staffing challenges posed by preparing for the recent Research Excellence Framework Exercise, to recruiting specialists to deal with the UKBA Tiered Regulations for international students. So many changes have taken place that require L & D support.

To you all, I doff my cap.

GoodPractice in Education

At GoodPractice, we work with over 20 HEIs across the UK, providing toolkits for leaders and managers. We have become particularly expert in introducing our resources to institutions that haven’t used these tools before.

Having recently introduced our toolkit to the University of Portsmouth, their L & D advisor Zoe Irvine commented:

‘GoodPractice has a good understanding of Higher Education and the unique pressures, in particular ensuring resources are relevant to academic, research and support staff. As a customer, they provide the right level of contact, keeping me abreast of new developments and offering a quality service.”

Our dynamic platform gives people the flexibility to access just-in-time resources whenever they need them – at home, at work or while on the move

GoodPractice has been able to add real value to the work of our L&D partners in education, and that is something we are very proud of.

Welcome to Edinburgh

So, to everyone coming to Edinburgh next week, be welcome, and have a chat with one of the lovely GoodPractice team at our drinks reception on Wednesday night, or at the event on the Thursday and Friday.


About me

I worked in further and higher education for over 16 years, in both marketing, international student recruitment and commercial development roles. The bulk of this time was spent at Glasgow Caledonian University and, latterly, the University of Glasgow. I also worked in two further education colleges and was Chair of Scotland’s Colleges Marketing Community of Practice for two years. I have been a recipient of HEIST, FE First and Scotland’s Colleges gold awards for marketing and digital work. I have been Marketing Manager at GoodPractice since October 2014.