Crystal ball

Future HE Professionals: Insights and Resources

Learn about the Future HE Professionals project undertaken by the Association of University Administrators (AUA). Dr Andrew West, Strategic Adviser to the AUA, introduces the project, its methods, and how to access its valuable insights.

What is Future HE Professionals?

Future HE Professionals is a wide-ranging project, sponsored by the AUA Board of Trustees, which seeks to answer several questions:

  • What do future trends in the workplace mean for professionals working in higher education?
  • How are professional roles changing in this context, not to mention the additional impacts arising from the coronavirus pandemic?
  • What are the likely development needs to support new ways of working in the future?
  • What role should professional organisations have, alongside HE institutions and individual professionals, in anticipating and responding to these trends?

To date, the project has consisted of three phases:

  • Background research
  • A large scale survey of those working in HE professional services in the UK, which attracted more than 2000 responses
  • A wide ranging stakeholder consultation, which included members of AHUA.

The Future HE Professionals project will inform the next phase of AUA’s development as a professional organisation.

But its findings also offer valuable insights for the wider higher education sector.

Insights offered by Future HE Professionals

The project has revealed consistent messages about the broad trends impacting on the nature of professional work over the next decade.

Survey respondents were invited to comment on future work trends, and the associated professional development implications.

Several issues were highlighted:

  • Rapid advances in technological innovation, such as automation and artificial intelligence.
  • The balance of institutional opportunity versus personal responsibility in professional development, and the concept of career pathways for HE professionals.
  • Challenges around professional agility in a future of significantly increased cross-functional and/or multi-skilled working.
  • The management behaviours required to foster flexibility and adaptability in the future.

We have since reflected on the likely implications in higher education, particularly within professional services.

The timing of the project in relation to the coronavirus pandemic enabled us to incorporate some real-time reflection. We considered the ways in which several future trends in professional work might be accelerated, or decelerated, in the post-COVID ‘new normal.’

Resources offered by Future HE Professionals

If you are connected to the HE professional services community, you will find much to interest, provoke, and challenge you in the outputs from Future HE Professionals.

The outputs include further insight into the macro-level trends identified in the survey results.

We have also set out a series of discussion prompts and a slide deck, to help institutions, organisations, and individuals to engage with the material.

These draw upon findings in the project to:

  • Inform institutional planning
  • Support managers
  • Help individuals to reflect on their professional future.

You can explore all reports and materials on the Future HE Professionals website.

Explore the Future HE Professionals website

Join the discussion

On Tuesday 24 November 2020, AUA is hosting an online conference with opportunities to reflect further on the theme of Future HE Professionals. Further details about the programme and booking will be available in the coming weeks.

About AUA Consulting

Future HE Professionals was delivered as a project by AUA Consulting, a consulting practice “of the sector, for the sector.”

Consultants are practitioners in higher education administration and management. For clients, this means we combine the benefits of an external perspective with sector-specific expertise.

Any financial surplus derived from AUA Consulting is reinvested to support the AUA’s charitable objectives – connecting and developing HE professionals – in support of the HE sector.

Find out more about AUA Consulting

Dr Andrew West has a career in HE professional services spanning thirty years. He is the former University Secretary at the University of Sheffield, and now Strategic Adviser to AUA.