Transforming Our Professional Services


Tom Rowson (TOPS Programme Director): A look back at 2019

29 January 2020

With the start of a new year, I thought I’d share some reflections from 2019 on the TOPS Programme and some of our highlights.

Tom Rowson speaking at the June 2019 PS Conference

We’ve set ourselves an ambitious agenda 

Our vision is to improve our professional services for staff, students and the whole UCL community and in doing so, to secure our position in the world top 10. Transformation is a key focus of many of our fellow universities, each finding their own way through difficult challenges and opportunities. 

We’ve been working hard to fix our underlying processes and systems, to offer more rewarding and fulfilling careers and improve value for money so we can reinvest back into the academic mission.

We currently have 16 projects within the programme and when you look across all of these projects, we are addressing a broad and complex set of issues. To name just a few, in 2020 we’ll be working to transform the way we deliver research support and administration; to introduce more effective financial processes and systems; to implement a new recruitment system; to ensure all colleagues have the opportunity to join a community of practice and access to career pathways; and to modernise how we use and access digital services so they align to our everyday experiences of using apps and technology outside of work. 

Addressing these challenges won’t be fixed by tinkering around the edges; our ambition is to transform our professional services.

And by it’s very nature, transformation is complex, challenging and can take time. It is important that we continue to work together. Our intention has always been to draw on your expertise, as the people who manage and use our services on a daily basis, to develop and embed improved services that work. So, throughout the programme we have been listening and talking with you to understand what is working well, and not so well, and to understand ways we can improve. And we will continue to do this in 2020. 

We are now 18 months into a 4 year programme (having received Council approval for our business case in July 2018) and it is important that we move at pace and build upon our momentum. I hope that in reading the highlights below from 2019 you will be encouraged by our progress and continue to contribute your thoughts, ideas and time to supporting the programme.

Our highlights from 2019

We successfully launched the PS Hub and have been making improvements to our services

After a lot of hardwork and dedication from the team, the PS Hub launched in March 2019. Over 150 colleagues from 13 different teams have now joined the Hub. Since the launch, the team have done a great job at tackling a number of operational challenges including: 

  • Improving the student experience - We cleared the backlog of 735 Portico queries and now offer a more efficient Portico helpline service. Student queries can now be resolved five days a week rather than four and from 8.30am until 5.30pm, instead of 10am to 4pm. 
  • Improving UCL’s cash flow - Since the NHS Billing Team joined the PS Hub, the team have streamlined their processes and cleared a backlog of five months’ worth of invoices which equates to reclaiming UCL spend of £10.5m.

We celebrated the one year anniversary of Unitemps

Unitemps is UCL’s own recruitment service for temporary workers.  

Since launching in October 2018 we’ve successfully worked with over 2,500 temporary workers, 550 university contacts and signed up 3,500 candidates to work for UCL on a temporary basis. We’ve also done this in way that ensures we meet the strict compliance criteria laid out by gov.uk for hiring temporary workers.

We've made an estimated saving of £1.6m through our Procurement project

The Procurement Project team have been making great progress and have delivered six out of 34 projects across Estates, Corporate Services, STEMed and ICT. These projects will deliver significant financial benefits of up to £2.7m savings this financial year.

We’ve established 18 Communities of Practice with more to come

In 2019, we established a further 10 Communities of Practice bringing us to a total of 18 spread across nine different service areas.  Over 1,500 UCL staff are now involved in a community, and since the project started in 2017 Communities of Practice have held over 120 events. We also won a national award for the best organisational development and culture change initiative at the 2019 UHR (Universities Human Resources) Awards for Excellence in HR.

We are now working towards our vision of all staff having the opportunity to join a community that is relevant to their role and career development.

We launched UCL Career Frameworks 

The Career Frameworks really bring to life the wealth of opportunities there are to develop within UCL. They provide the information staff need to plan their careers, their development and their progression. In 2019, we launched Career Frameworks for CAM as part of a successful pilot and will shortly be rolling this out to more divisions.

We launched UCL Ways of Working

We all have access to the Ways of Working framework now. It is a fantastic behavioural framework that supports colleagues to be successful and happy at UCL through sharing expectations around how we work.

We’ve been working with Faculties to understand how they can develop their operations

Through the Faculty TOPS Project, Faculties have reviewed the Faculty Blueprint against their own operations and considered where changes could be made to better align to the Blueprint.

We’ve also held a number of training initiatives with Faculty colleagues including; capacity building training and principles of process improvement.