Professional Service Directors’ Programme: leading with impact

The next iteration will start in January 2024.  If you would like to apply, please use this online form.  The deadline for applications is Friday 1 December.

The Professional Service Directors' Programme (formerly 'Impact and Influence') is aimed at Directors and Heads of Professional Services in HE, for example, Directors of Finance, Estates, HR, Student Services, IT, Research etc, who have between 1 and 3 years' experience in the role.

The programme is supported by AUA, AUDE, BUFDG, SCONUL and UHR who have collaborated with the AHUA on devising the programme's content and structure.


Those working at Director level are required to demonstrate expertise and deliver effectively in their functional areas, while aligning their activities with the academic landscape and contributing to the wider, ever-changing organisational agenda. As well as strategic intelligence and the ability to ‘read’ the political environment, they require confidence in communication and rapport building, and considerable self-awareness.

This programme has been designed to enhance and develop the existing leadership skills, knowledge, experience and mindset of early-career Directors and Heads within higher education professional services, to achieve greater personal impact and influence.

Programme Overview

Through a range of tailored activities including individual sessions, action learning and whole group workshops featuring specialist guest contributors, participants will explore what’s needed to become more effective in their roles from several different perspectives.

Learning experiences will be interactive and experiential, enabling participants to work with live studies and real challenges in readiness for applying them in practice. This approach, together with the safe and confidential environments created both online and in-person, will allow individuals to refine their skills, test and challenge their thinking, and feel confident to learn from mistakes as well as good practice.

Who is this programme for?

  • Early-career Directors and Heads of professional services who have been in role for 1-3 years. It is open to both those who are new to higher education and those with experience of the sector.

Programme Objectives

As a result of the programme, participants will have:

  • Greater understanding of the knowledge, skills and attitudes required for further success in their role and to achieve greater personal impact and influence.
  • Explored leadership through various lenses: self, teams, in the context of the academic landscape and wider organisation, and leading pan-institutional strategic initiatives.
  • Developed themselves in the moment through practical application, experimentation, reflection and direct feedback.
  • Greater self-awareness of personal style and impact, as well as appreciation of difference.
  • Clarity of thinking about areas of strength and development needs.
  • Developed a diverse network of colleagues from across the sector for ongoing collaboration and inspiration.

What the programme includes

Spread over 13 months, the programme’s combination of in-person and online experiences amounts to a total of 8 days. Dates and further details are summarised below.

Key components of the programme include:

  • Welcome and closing events, introducing you to your programme colleagues, preparing you for your learning journey together and celebrating your achievement at its end.
  • An individual coaching session with a qualified coach at the start and end of the programme to explore and review your professional development.
  • An Individual Team Management Profile and 360 Report providing personalised feedback on work preferences and how colleagues experience your leadership style.
  • A two-and-a-half-day Residential event at the Edgbaston Park Hotel designed to enable you to develop individually while connecting and building networks together.
  • Four participant-led, themed Learning Sets offering facilitated reflection and sharing of wisdom and experiences to engage you in making progress on real challenges.
  • A one-day mid-programme Workshop focused on exploring and understanding the academic landscape, including panel and café-style interaction with guest speakers from a range of academic disciplines, roles and institutions.

Dates of the 2024 Programme

  • Welcome session: online. 10th January 2024, 14.00 – 16.00
  • One-to-one session: a two hour session online. w/c 26th February 2024, times to be agreed
  • Residential programme: in person at the Edgbaston Park Hotel. 9th April 2024, 13.00 to 11th April 2024, 16.30.  Overnight accommodation will be booked for participants.
  • Four action learning sets (in person sets will be hosted by participants, to be decided during the Residential programme):
    • 8th May 2024, online, 9.00 – 13.00
    • 4th July 2024, in person with dinner the night before, 9.00 – 17.00
    • 6th November 2024, online, 9.00 – 13.00
    • 16th January 2025, in person with dinner the night before, 9.00 – 17.00
  • Workshop: in person, London. 12th September 2024 with dinner the night before, 9.00 – 16.30
  • One-to-one session: a two hour session online. w/c 10th February 2025, times to be agreed


Programme Fee: £5,950 for AHUA member institutions; £6,950 for non-members.

(No VAT as the AHUA is VAT exempt).

Programme facilitators

Rachel Holmes

Rachel has a wide range of experience in the private and public sectors, designing and delivering personal and team development programmes for clients in HE, the NHS and the pharmaceutical, legal, financial service and not-for-profit sectors. After an early career with a major publisher of psychometric instruments, she established her own consultancy in 2001. Originally a team development specialist, Rachel is also a qualified executive coach. She has worked with clients across the HE sector for the last 17 years, and is part of the pool of AHUA registered coaches providing support to both newly appointed and experienced COOs and Registrars through coaching and facilitated Action Learning Sets. Rachel is also a co-director of the AHUA’s other flagship development offering, the Aspiring Registrar and COO Programme.

Kim Newton-Woof

After a decade of working in higher education, Kim now operates as an independent specialist leadership consultant, facilitator and coach. Still operating as a trusted partner in the university sector, she also supports other sectors including, FE, health, finance, media and charity. Kim spends her days designing and delivering development experiences with and for leaders and teams. Taking a human-first approach, she uses creative ways help leaders fine-tune what they do, make different choices, and develop their own solutions. An AHUA Associate based in Southampton, Kim provides coaching services for newly appointed AHUA members, is a facilitator for the Association’s Action Learning Sets and co-director of the Aspiring Registrar and COO Programme.

What previous participants have said...

“The action learning was so valuable that since the programme finished we have maintained our set through continued sessions in person and we have also established a Whatsapp group to share experiences and keep in touch. The one-to-one coaching sessions during the programme were also extremely valuable in building confidence and recognising the positive contributions I make through the role”. Richard Stock, Academic Registrar, University of Essex

“The programme has allowed me to return to my place of work with higher levels of energy and just as importantly, fresh strategies to tackle complicated issues.  Through many years of courses and training, this programme has been the most transformational, both personally and professionally”. Liam Spillane, Director of Commercial Services, University of Stirling

“The programme provided an excellent opportunity to explore my own skills and experience, how I might use these to better effect and to reflect on next steps.  It was a really open and supportive environment, a joy to be part of, and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience”. Clare Curran, Director of HR and Organisation Development, University of Durham


Related Resources

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PSDP 2024 Application Form
Programme Terms and Conditions