Looking Towards the AHUA Autumn Conference: Respite, Reflection and Readiness

The AHUA Autumn Conference takes place on 16th September 2016 at Birmingham City University. Our host, Christine Abbott, looks ahead and considers the topics and themes that will likely shape the event.

All generations have totemic moments. For our generation I suspect it will be Brexit. And just as my parents could always remember where they were when they heard that JFK had been shot, I suspect that most of us will long remember where we were when we first heard the result of the EU Referendum – and more importantly, what we felt.

If, like me, you had spent the previous evening at the THE Leadership and Management Awards Ceremony, then you may have first heard the news on a hotel room TV, maybe in the early hours. The contrast between the exhilaration and optimism of the evening and the emotions of the next day could not have been more stark. “The morning after the night before” took on a whole new meaning.

Making sense of the turbulence around us, trying to bring order and system to that which appears disjointed and messy is something Registrars and Chief Operating Officers excel at. So there is now plenty of scope for our talents in this new post-Brexit vote world. And even without Brexit, the arrival of the HE Bill, the introduction of the TEF, and, possibly, the Counter Extremism Bill, will surely put these skills to the test.

All of these turbulences make the date of the annual AHUA one-day conference – 16th September – extremely timely. We will meet at Birmingham City University, before the new term (or semester) has got fully under way, and when colleagues are (one hopes) refreshed from a summer break. You may even have managed to finish a novel or two.

We will have the opportunity to discuss this turbulence, its impacts on HEIs, our responses and our responsibilities. As usual there will be a range of sessions to stimulate thinking. Darren Henley, Chief Executive of the Arts Council England, will open the conference reflecting on the contribution of Universities to the creative industries – in their broadest sense. Always an engaging speaker, Darren will reflect on his personal and professional experience, including his significant involvement with Universities throughout his career.

Our workshop sessions will provide opportunities to share experience and good practice. One of the workshops will focus on the question which is particularly pertinent at present – which is the role of Registrars and COOs (whatever their particular job title) in today’s HE context and how these roles are changing, how we best develop staff for these roles.

To round off the conference we will hear from Nick Hillman, Director of HEPI. Few people are better placed than Nick to provide informed and authoritative comment on the state of Higher Education in the UK today, the challenges and possible futures.

At a time of such national (indeed international) and sector turbulence, uncertainty and change, the AHUA can provide crucial support, networking, information and informed opinion. The Association, like its members, looks outward, anticipates change and supports its members in dealing with that change.

The AHUA conferences, both the residential conference, held this year in the wonderful surroundings of Cambridge, and the one-day conference in September, are key opportunities for members to access this vital support – from external experts and from peers.

This year’s Autumn conference follows in the mould of its predecessors in providing what promises to be a thought provoking programme in a relaxed and supportive atmosphere. I look forward to seeing you there!