Transforming Our Professional Services


Faculty TOPS Project - Phase one completed

26 February 2019

Over the past few months, we have come to the end of the first phase of the Faculty TOPS Project and are finalising our approach to phase two.

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The aim of the Faculty TOPS Project is to enable UCL faculties to contribute to and to benefit from the TOPS Programme objectives of providing more effective services, more fulfilling careers and greater investment in UCL’s academic mission.

In order to achieve this, faculty professional services teams (including all staff in academic departments, divisions and other academic units) need to be organised in a way that:

  • clearly benefits the delivery of UCL’s academic mission and faculty strategic plans
  • improves collaboration and partnership working across UCL
  • is as consistent as possible across faculties
  • ensures decisions are made at the appropriate level - with the required skills and knowledge
  • identifies opportunities to improve services and support
  • provides fulfilling careers for staff 

The project is split into two phases:

  • Phase 1: Designing the Faculty Blueprint Principles
  • Phase 2 stages: Self-assessment, Design and Implementation 

Each stage for phase two will be led by the Faculty Directors of Operations, facilitated by a TOPS project team and overseen by the TOPS Executive Committee and Professional Services Design Group. 

Phase 1: Designing the Faculty Blueprint Principles

Faculty Directors of Operations worked with Professional Service Leads to develop the Faculty Blueprint between May and September 2018. 

During this process we took into account:

  • Feedback gathered through engagement activity in 2017 - which fed into a series of service design and emerging ideas documents.
  • Cubane benchmarking - which highlighted disparities in resource distribution between faculties.
  • A recognition that the TOPS Programme is likely to impact faculties in different ways.
  • The current state of faculties - including existing functions and accountabilities as well as staff and student experience. 

As well as considering the types of services that should be provided by professional services teams in faculties, ideas that will be developed further by faculties in phase two, the group established a set of principles. The Faculty Blueprint Principles provide a consistent overview of how we would like a UCL faculty to operate in the future, while at the same time being sensitive to discipline-specific needs.

Faculty Blueprint Principles

1    Consistency:  As consistent as possible, as different as necessary

The Faculty Blueprint aims to drive consistency in the way faculties operate. This will reduce duplication of activity, ensure greater alignment to UCL strategies/policies and enable the delivery of integrated professional services.  

There is an opportunity to explore accountabilities, functions, business processes, roles, policies and procedures and PS strategy and where these could be consistent across faculties.

2    Specialism: More fulfilling careers for staff

The Faculty Blueprint aims to support greater specialism in professional services through introducing communities of practice and career pathways. 

And via Business Partners with a deep understanding of the needs of faculties who support strategic planning, service delivery and facilitate access to specialist advice/support from Central Professional Service as required. 

3    Coordination: Strengthening the faculty layer 

The Faculty Blueprint aims to provide increased coordination at faculty level to help reduce duplication and improve consistency, compliance and alignment with UCL strategies/policies. 

4    Empowered 

The Faculty Blueprint aims to provide greater delegated authority for faculties to take decisions that currently require approval from Central Professional Services, and greater accountability for outcomes, with increased access to self-serve over time.  

5    Integrated: We should be one (professional services) team who focus on customer service and continuous improvement.

The Faculty Blueprint aims to provide a clear view of who is accountable for delivering what function across professional services at UCL. As well as an alignment of reporting lines to support a single integrated professional service in faculties. 

6    Smarter

The Faculty Blueprint aims to provide better management information and reporting to inform better decision making and ‘smarter’ delivery of professional services, enabled by continuous improvement. 

Next steps

At the end of 2018 Helen Fisher (previously Director of Operations for the Bartlett) joined the project as Project Lead. Helen will be working on the Faculty TOPS project alongside her work with UCL East and will bring a deep understanding of Faculty Professional Services and of UCL to the project. 

Given the complex nature of this work we are working closely with faculties to ensure that all are agreed with the approach to the next phase of the project. The TOPS project team have developed a suggested approach and are currently engaging with faculty leaders to hear feedback. 

We will share further details about the project once the approach has been agreed.

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