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Campus Conversations


Campus Conversations are hosted by members of the Senior Leadership Group (SLG),they will give an update on any key University developments, and thereafter provide you with the opportunity to talk about the issues highlighted or raise questions/provide feedback on work ongoing across the University or beyond.

Details of the last Campus Conversations and what was discussed can be found below: 


​Date ​SLG leads ​Campus

​27 April 2018 Prof Andrea Nolan, Principal & Vice Chancellor
Kerry Dewar, Director of People and Services
Prof Brian Webster-Henderson, Dean of Learning & Teaching
Dr Gary Hutchison, Dean of School of Applied Sciences

0930-1030 Sighthill 1D04

1115-1215 Merchiston H5

1400-1500 Craiglockhart
Lindsay Stewart​

Sighthill | 9.30-10.30pm | 1.D.04 
Reflections on engagement survey
Andrea: All managers have their individual team reports. I feel disappointed and sad. We were making progress but some staff feel that things aren’t quite working. We want to make this a great place to work, over the last few weeks I’ve been in listening mode; probing without being too intrusive. We don’t want to rush into things, our commitment is to deliver the engagement strategy. I’ll be out out and about over the coming weeks.
Kerry: Communications is a key challenge for us. What’s been apparent is that at an SLT level, we assume things have cascaded. We are trying various comms channels to help us get key messages out. We’d like to encourage people to let us know what the right thing to do is.
Engagement survey: lack of confidence in the University strategy and ULT
Andrea: This is why we’re going out to find out more on this. When we speak to people they say their objectives align to the strategy, so it’s important to understand more. We’re still not sure what the lack of confidence in the ULT is – that’s why we want to hear more. Lack of confidence might be that we don’t go out and give an update on strategy. It was communicated but we need to explain where we’re going along the way, and why we are doing things this way.
Updates on initiative progress
Gary: Regarding teacher education, we’re discussing the accreditation process. We recently had an event around teacher education training. This group of teachers are going to support us in training. We’re prioritising the three sciences initially. We’re looking at ways of encouraging more males into teach, it seems to be a more female led industry.
Andrea: We’re planning to launch physio into our courses. One of the key Government directives is to improve health and social care, and we’re looking to provide a more rounded education for our health professions here at Napier. A private film studio is looking to set up out at Straiton and we are considering partnering them. This is a significant investment commitment. There are equivalents of this type of college in the US, just to get learnings we are talking to them about return on investment and risks, but we’ll look at it and take it to the University Court.
Aligning promotions into academic pathway
Brian: There are four pathways. We’ve made 55 appointments since launching this. There’s more we can do to promote this but we’ve seen a significant difference.
Gary: There are 140 staff in my school, last year we had a high input, there are more and more colleagues being promoted as a result.
Andrea: I’m chair of the programme, the panel works really well, all academics including externals from other universities on the panel, we’re on the right path.
2018/19 planning process
Kerry: It’s looking like we won’t hit our surplus target for this year. We need to have the right initiatives in place to grow the University. Our aim is to achieve 5% surplus. When we have our budgets finalised we’ll start to cascade them.
Andrea: Next year the University will get a 0.34% uplift in our income. Our salary costs make up just over 60% of our cost base this year. We’ve been investing in areas that will boost income generation. Hopefully the international situation will shift, but this is a very challenging time.
Gary: As a school, we’re planning, there will be demands on this campus. We’ve been asked to take a higher number of nurses in the School of Health and Social Care. We still do have loads of people applying here, we do have some courses oversubscribed. So we have the challenge of having the right courses for the numbers applying.
Andrea: We don’t have clear answers, but we do need to be ready for the transition. We are getting more resource/income from within the UK. We won’t really know anything accurately until March next year, but we’re planning best we can.
Gary: We’re disappointed and take things personally with the scores. Staff morale has been impacted due to scores. It’s difficult for students as they feel they’ve got qualifications from a University that’s low in the league table. It affects students as they have a lack of confidence in getting a job once they’ve left.
Brian: It’s disappointing to see the ratings going down, colleagues don’t come to work to do a bad job. We’re looking at technologies to become more current/advanced. We’ve also done some consultancy this year – we’re looking at feedback from students to help us understand it better. There is a lot going on behind the scenes – we do want to be one of the best universities in the UK.
University league tables
Andrea: We did have a really good look at this a couple of years ago, the indicators and metrics that make up the league tables hand on heart we’re not spot on with everything. This year – our NSS and in particular our employability scores impacted us badly. However it is worth understanding that we can drop 20 – 30 places on a ranking such as employability with a minor shift from e.g. 95.4 % to 94.9% – the curve is shallow.
Kerry: We do need to get better at student comms. We’ve recently invested in this and appointed someone to do student comms – we need to get more feedback from students.
Estates strategy
Gary: I lead the development board for Sighthill. We’re looking at the estates strategy for the next 25 years. Our plans to relocate the School of Engineering and Built Environment to Sighthill are on hold while we recruit a new Dean of School. Once appointed, the new Dean will develop a clear academic vision for the school which will enable us to assess the estates’ requirements to support the school over the medium to long term.
Andrea: We’ve paid off our loans as we’re borrowing funds from the banks. We have the funds to draw down to help us invest in the properties. Engineering is our number one priority, they’ve not had investment in recent years.
Merchiston | 11.15-12.15pm | H5
Backfilling staff
Kerry: There’s not a general policy on not replacing staff, but what we’re doing is looking at efficiencies. So we’re reviewing each role on a strategic fit and cost by cost basis.
Andrea: We still have the same number of staff as we did three years ago. It hasn’t changed much. Our salary costs have increased by 4% in the last year and likely to do the same next year. We’re working very hard on the income line, the Government is giving us 0.3% next year so we need to flex our budgets and where we have identified flex is in international and online to promote growth.
Engagement survey reflections
Andrea: We can understand much of the feedback on the ULT and leadership team but there is some feedback we don’t quite understand. Objectives aligning to strategy had a high score, but a significant percentage of people say they don’t feel they understand the vision. Also not being academically led is one we don’t understand too. We’ve started speaking to people to understand more and there will be more meetings to understand what we could do better, what could make our people feel better. We understand that there’s a feeling of being ‘surveyed’, new things being implemented and not being consulted. If there are things that we’re creating that are a bug bear then we need to know about it.
Feedback from the group (Paul): People just want to feel trusted to do the job they’re here to do, there’s not a feeling of autonomy. Workload is definitely a problem; research is a challenge when teaching goes up.
Gary: We need to look at the processes in schools and share best practice across schools.
L&D opportunities
Kerry: If people complete their MyContribution it will give us a better overall picture of L&D requirements, we’re trying to develop a modular approach.
Craiglockhart | 2-3pm | Lindsay Stewart
Parking at campuses
Suggestion made that if travelling to another campus for a meeting during the day – could we make visitor spaces available. Currently if staff use these (with a parking permit) they get a ticket.
Kerry: We need to apply fair policy, we will take this to Susan Groat to look into.
Kerry: We’re in the first year and in some areas it’s working well and in other areas it’s a stretch to do it. It will take time to embed across the University.
Communications and media training for ULT
Kerry: We try to get out and about as much as possible, there are only seven people in the ULT so we rely on cascade via line managers. We don’t want people to feel like we’re suppressing information.
Some feedback from the floor on communications: the Bones is hard to read, the tone of voice on comms needs worked on, some communications come across as divisive e.g the one on fixed term holidays.
Andrea: We’ve been looking at mental health and linking this to stress. This is quite high in the Higher Education sector across the board. Our staffing levels haven’t moved in the last three years, even though it might feel like it. There are 147 IT systems across the University, so we need to look at using technology more effectively to simplify workloads and improve our processes to help reduce stress. Staff turnover isn’t very high in the University.
Next strategy
Andrea: We’ll start looking at this in September/October this year. Discussions will carry on into the second semester next year into 2019 and we’ll know more about Brexit in January 2019.