Professional Services at UCL

31 January 2013

Following the publication of the White Paper for UCL last year, setting out a vision for the development of our University through to 2020, my colleagues and I decided that we needed to think about developing a strategy for the Corporate Support Services.

Each of the services already had a three year operating plan, as does each faculty. We believe, however, that there are some longer-term and cross-cutting issues which needed to be addressed. Everything that we do must be driven by the academic mission, and this commitment underpins the work that we have undertaken.

We started off the process last March with a series of workshops on Values, to which we invited senior staff in relevant roles from across UCL, not simply CSS (for example faculty managers). Why start with Values? We thought that it was a good place to start because values which are genuinely held and shared will drive behaviour much more strongly than plans or strategies, and we wanted to identify a set of values which would support positive ways of working. UCL already has, of course, a set of values in the White Paper but we concluded that it would be helpful to focus on a smaller number of values with a clear and direct application to the role of staff in professional services roles.

The workshops were well attended and very successful. Following on from them we undertook further consultation and discussion, online and via events held in individual departments. On 13 December we held two events, introduced by the Provost, presenting the work so far, and inviting comment. They were attended by nearly 500 staff from across UCL, sparking lively debate in the panel sessions. Since then we have begun the process of developing strategies for key areas of development (see below) and we will be holding a further cross-UCL event later in the year.

What has come out of the process so far? Colleagues in professional service roles make a significant contribution to the achievement of UCL’s core academic mission, and in the presentations I gave some examples of staff from across UCL working together on key projects, including the merger with the School of Pharmacy, the new BASc programme, the establishment of the new faculty structure in SLMS, and the new Octagon Gallery. We want to build on the work we currently do well, and enhance it, and with that in mind, we are developing a Vision. The current draft is as follows:

“Enabling Excellence at London’s Global University. Transforming the staff and student experience through innovative solutions that provide excellent, efficient, and integrated professional services to meet UCL’s ambition.”

We are working on a small number of Values, as follows:

  • Collaborative
  • Empowered
  • Customer focused
  • Innovative
  • Mutual Respect

There will be further work over the next few months on how these Values should be demonstrated in action, and how we ensure that they are widely known and understood.

In order to signal that we are intent on a change of approach in pursuing the new Vision, we have agreed to change the name of Corporate Support Services (CSS) to Professional Services, with immediate effect.

The individual elements of Professional Services will retain their own identities (UCL Estates, HR, ISD etc) but we will use Professional Services to describe the collective of activities reporting to the Vice-Provost (Operations). There are, of course, many staff engaged in professional services in academic departments and faculties, and the offices of other vice-provosts. It is vitally important that we work together in support of UCL’s academic mission, and colleagues in those areas, in particular the faculty managers have played and will continue to play an important role in this initiative.

The next phase of work will be to flesh out a draft five year strategy, which we hope to have done by Easter. We have identified seven priority areas for action, where we believe we can deliver better outcomes than by simply pursuing actions via the various divisions within Professional Services. We have identified a lead to help develop our thinking further on each of these during the formulation of the strategy. The seven areas are:

1) Customer Service (how can PS improve the services we offer to all of our customers)

Lead: Sally Macdonald

2) Student Experience (what can PS do to help transform the student experience)

Lead: Tim Perry

3) PS Operating Models (how can PS best be structured to offer better service and VFM)

Lead: Rex Knight

4) Data-Driven Decision Making (how can we access and deliver better information and change culture so that people use it)

Lead: Mike Cope

5) Professional Development (how can we transform the PS staff experience and further develop staff capabilities)

Lead: Nigel Waugh

6) Institutional Development (how can PS best support significant institutional change or projects)

Lead: Phil Harding

7) Sustainability (environmental, financial and social (ie engagement with our key external communities))

Lead: Andrew Grainger

The presentation used in December, together with a video of the event and a record of the panel discussion is available at: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/professional-services/

If you have any comments, I would welcome them.

Rex Knight, Vice-Provost (Operations)