Making family leave more family friendly

It’s no secret that juggling a family and a career is far from easy. But early-career academic researchers hoping to start a family have it harder than most. Fixed-term contracts, less-than-sympathetic funders and the need to stay ‘in the game’ make family leave a nervous time. But there are ways to make it work.

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The UK Research Staff Association recently undertook a survey of researchers on fixed-term contracts, to explore their experiences of taking family leave.

I then worked with the UKRSA – on a pro bono basis – to analyse the results of the survey.

This allowed us to identify how researchers can get the most from their family leave, without feeling that they’re sacrificing their career.

We were also able to determine some simple steps that employers can take to manage researchers’ family leave in a supportive way.

We’ve summarised the findings from our work in a short ‘top tips’ guide for researchers and their employers. You can download your free copy here or find the guide on the UKRSA website.

I’m always keen to use my skills to help with projects like this, which make a real difference to people in the sectors in which I work. If you have a project that you think I might be able to help with, please do feel free to drop me a line.

Understanding university finance

UUF ImageI’m delighted to announce that the British Universities Finance Directors Group’s new guide to ‘Understanding University Finance’ has just been published.

I’ve been working with colleagues at BUFDG for the last few months to prepare this guide, which is essential reading for all those who want – or need – to understand higher education finance.

You can download the guide for free on the BUFDG website. You can also read Matt Sisson’s blog post, explaining why the guide is both timely and important.

Huge thanks to all of the reviewers, who kindly gave of their time and expertise to help to make the guide better. And to BUFDG, for asking me to write it in the first place.

Understanding value

Higher education in the UK is looking for better ways to demonstrate the value that it creates for its students and for society as a whole. Advance HE (formerly the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education) has been working with a pilot group of universities to explore how integrated thinking and reporting can help. And I’ve had the honour of drawing out some of the insights that the project has yielded so far. Continue reading

Efficiency in a student-focused world

With universities coming under growing pressure to justify how they use their resources, efficiency is back in the spotlight. But the focus will increasingly be on how well institutions meet the needs of their students, while accommodating growing cost pressures.

Our universities operate in a challenging environment. Expectations of funders and fee-paying students are rising. Competition from traditional and alternative providers is becoming more intense. And costs continue to increase. All of which mean that institutions need to do ever more with the resources at their disposal.

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When it comes to improving efficiency, our universities have already made great strides. They have streamlined processes and eliminated waste. They have improved space utilisation and reduced energy consumption. They have shared services, pooled assets and co-located professional services staff. And they have become lean, mean procurement machines.

This is all great news, but it is no longer enough. Continue reading

Telling better stories

A while back, I had the good fortune to visit the vast cave complex at Lascaux in southwestern France. But these are no ordinary caves. They are famed throughout the world for their beautiful display of paleolithic cave paintings, created by our ancestors over 17,000 years ago. These paintings tell the stories of what life was life. How these early humans lived. How they survived. And how they died. Continue reading