14-16 May 2024


We are delighted to announce in detail the programme for the UHR Conference 2024, 'Thinking Ahead: Future Imperfect'. For those who have attended a UHR Conference before you'll see much that you recognise, with top speakers and workshop sessions spread across all three days, the announcement of the winners of the UHR Awards for 2024 (on Wednesday 15 May), chances to spend time with other delegates, and more. This programme is subject to minor change only, but we don't expect much alteration.

So now is the time to start adding favourite sessions into your diary. You can attend as much or as little of the conference as you wish. Look out for each day's plenary sessions, choose your workshops when these run concurrently, and make the most of your Team Ticket in whichever way matches your needs. We are very grateful to all of the sponsors of this event including our headline partners NTT Data Business Solutions, and Shakespeare Martineau, and we'd urge delegates to make full use of the business sessions and other opportunities to interact with our partners. Catch up with your key account contacts and find new services and providers for all your core HR activities.

If you are short for time and looking for sessions that cover a specific subject or specialism, then you can download a helpful shortcut guide.

If you would find it easier to download a copy of the programme rather than revisit this website, you can now download a PDF version of the programme.

Tuesday 14 May

9:00 - 9:55
Registration - register for conference using the personalised RingCentral link sent to you in the days ahead of conference. Please note RingCentral is the new brand name for the Hopin platform which we have used previously.

9:55 - 10:00 - Conference Welcome

A warm welcome to the UHR Annual Conference 2024 from our Conference Host, Kim Frost, and our UHR Chair, Naina Patel.

10:00 - 11:00

The opening plenary to the Conference, with journalist and author Sathnam Sanghera, will allow us the privilege of hearing his own story, his focus on history and its catalysing impact for greater inclusivity in society. In Sathnam’s own words:  I'll talk about how my life was transformed through education. My prospects weren't great as someone with severe mental illness in my family, growing up on benefits, and working as a child labourer in Wolverhampton. But books and teachers saved me - grammar school, and then university. The skills I learned there led me into journalism and enabled me to explore the history of British empire through my work. This history made me aware of how racial diversity is linked to the history of British empire in Britain - it's the key to both understanding it and improving it. In turn, this history has opened my mind to a transformative idea that could revolutionise society and the universities it encompasses - the idea that opposite things can be true at the same time. It's the key to diversity, tolerance, intellectual freedom and a lot more.

With Sathnam Sanghera, Journalist & Author

11:00 - 11:30
Break & Networking

11:30 - 12:15 Workshops Block A

The key focus area of this workshop is the exploration of staff surveys and the concept of "warm data" - a powerful tool for enhancing the human connection within university environments. 

Attendees will gain insights into how the University of Leeds have used a recent employee engagement survey to serve as a dynamic lens, offering a comprehensive snapshot of diverse generational employee experiences in a university setting. 

This was used as a crucial instrument within an ongoing employee voice strategy providing the opportunity to produce what is termed as “warm data”, which includes recognizing repeating patterns and generational reflections across various University contexts and systems. 

The session will discuss how the integration of warm data with traditional metrics can empower HR professionals to provide more informed and strategic input to and how it can proactively contribute to shaping the future of universities.

With Sam Crossley, Organisational Learning Insights Partner, University of Leeds

As the technology for managing staff surveys continues to evolve, the University of Hertfordshire decided it was important to harness some of these benefits to enhance the management of its staff surveys with a continuing focus on understanding more about the experience of staff, what is important now and making sure our action plans for change will continue to move us in the right direction.

In this workshop we would like to share some learning which could be useful for any university considering the same type of project. 

Having achieved 70% participation in both our staff opinion and pulse surveys, we will share and discuss the importance of different communication methods, dealing with confidentiality/anonymity concerns, sharing and discussing results and using the outcomes to inform the next survey question design.

With Stephanie Cowell, Learning & Organisational Development Business Partner, University of Hertfordshire

As HR professionals in the sector we are continuing to work through an era of constant change that shows no sign of letting up. Our challenge as HR teams is to predict, adapt and respond, whilst retaining the ‘human’ side of HR which is at the heart of our organisation.

In summer 2022, the HR Leadership Team at NTU took a moment to reflect on where we were, our priorities for the future, and what this meant for how we approached our roles in an ever-changing future.

Guided by consultants at Tailored Thinking, our HRLT collectively explored the opportunities that could be taken from adopting agile approaches to work, crafting our roles, and using a digital canvas tool to better understand the purpose and strengths of our teams.

Along the way we saw unexpected benefits, and some familiar roadblocks, but have ultimately seen a positive shift in mindsets both within HR and beyond.

With Charlotte Axon, Lead People Scientist, Tailored Thinking; and Louise Edwards-Holland, Director of HR, Nottingham Trent University

REF2029 may seem like the distant future, but it will be here before we know it and HR teams need to ensure they are prepared! In this session we will explore the critical role that UHR members play in REF exercises; revisit learnings from REF2022 and delve into what “research culture” really means, and why it’s critical that HR colleagues are part of the conversation. Join us to hear from guest speakers with expertise in REF, research culture, policy and much more to prepare yourselves for the future of research evaluation.

With Sophie Crouchman, Strategic Projects and Research Manager, UHR; Anna Grey, Director of Research and Innovation Services, University of Dundee; and Dr Mark Whelan, Research Culture Manager, Queen Mary University of London

The workshop will give participants the chance to use the Aligning Capability (AC) model and approach and apply it to a current challenge they are facing. AC has been in use and development for over 6 years and has a range of practical applications and uses. It draws on and synthesises a number of other theories and frameworks but it’s focus is on making a real-world difference. It encourages users to look at organisations differently – as complex adaptive human systems – and draws their attention to the level of alignment between specific system facets that have been found to be most influential on the development capability to deliver outcomes that meet need.

The session will explain the theoretical and research background to the model and approach, but the focus will be on “giving it a go”.

With David Harris, Director of People Culture and Wellbeing, University of Bradford

During the 2022-23 academic year, voluntary turnover for U.S. higher education staff was the highest it has been since CUPA-HR started tracking turnover in 2017-18. During this session, we will highlight findings from the 2023 CUPA-HR higher education employee retention survey including the campus positions most likely to turnover during the next year, reasons employees are looking for other opportunities, overall employee well-being and satisfaction with the higher education work environment, and the strongest predictors of employee retention. We will also share our recommendations to address these challenges.

With Robyn Salvo, Associate Vice President for Human Resources and Chief Human Resources Officer, Monmouth University & Chair-Elect for the Board of Directors, CUPA-HR; and Kelli Shuman, Associate Vice President for Human Resources and Chief Human Resources Officer, Elon University & Treasurer for the Board of Directors, CUPA-HR

12:15 - 12:45
Break & Networking

12:45 - 13:30 Business Sessions Block A

In the realm of higher education, the integration of AI into HR functions presents a transformative paradigm, empowering HR teams to revolutionise their processes. AI, when harnessed through SAP SuccessFactors, brings unprecedented efficiency and accuracy to administrative tasks. From recruitment to employee development and performance management, AI can optimise every facet of HR operations. 

In talent acquisition, AI enables smart candidate sourcing and screening with skill and career path recommendations plus job description and interview question generation, in addition to fostering precise candidate matches through sophisticated algorithms. 

Moreover, personalised learning paths and adaptive training experiences will elevate employee development, ensuring a tailored approach to everyone’s needs. Join our UHR discussion as we showcase the opportunities that AI can bring to your HR team to help navigate challenges, drive inclusivity, and unlock unparalleled efficiency in shaping the university workforce of the future.

With Kirsty Adamson, Senior Account Executive; and James Shipway, Practice Director, both of NTT DATA Business Solutions

Working alongside universities to provide financial wellbeing support to all staff has never been more critical given these uncertain times. This can release the pressure on HR departments in relation to staff concerns. We will present the key features and benefits of our longstanding partnership with many universities within the UK.

Our Money Health service has been designed to support University staff with their key financial planning needs. We believe that the foundation of financial wellbeing is education and awareness. From an informed basis people feel more in control and are empowered to make better decisions about their finances.

We work with University HR teams to design and deliver bespoke programmes focused on financial wellbeing for all employees.

Along with tailoring specific content for the relevant groups, we optimise ways in which to engage people with our Money Health service (webinars / one to one’s).

Case studies will be shared to clarify how we have assisted universities around the UK and the key learnings taken from these.

With Andrew Fenwick, Wellbeing Director; and David A Smith, Partner, Chartered Financial Planner, both of Evelyn Partners

It has always been important to hire the best talent, but what that talent looks like is changing. Teaching staff must now be able to adapt to fast-changing technologies. Interdisciplinary research requires flexibility and new communication skills. Leaders must have a vision that goes beyond academic excellence. In this session, Jane Embley will share advice and insights on how to make your university attractive to the very best talent, and how to create an environment that supports and retains them. 

With Jane Embley, Chief People Officer, Northumbria University; and Lewis Tuthill, Regional Subscriptions Director, Times Higher Education

Have you been working on establishing a coaching culture across your University and are disappointed at the results you’re getting?

Would you like to understand how to set up your coaching programmes to deliver measurable and sustainable results?

Have you invested in high-quality coaching skills training but not seen the cultural change it promised?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions or just want to find out more about embedding a coaching culture in your organisation then join us.

During the session, we'll share with you TWO of the BIG MISTAKES that nearly all organisations make when they start to embed a coaching culture, and why these activities will never move the culture needle…

…and the ONE SECRET CATALYST that needs to be in place to accelerate achieving the goal of an organisational-wide coaching culture.

You’ll take away from the session a 5-step model, that if implemented, will guarantee your success.

With Laura Ashley-Timms, Chief Operating Officer, STAR® Manager

Exploring the unique challenges of managing successful transformation and change in the higher education sector, and tactics for overcoming those challenges.

With Emma de la Haye, Head of Training, Prosci Europe

13:30 - 14:30
Lunch & Networking Carousel

Grab a sandwich, grab a coffee, and join us on the Networking Carousel, where we pair delegates up for short conversations that help you identify future project partners, gain an informed second opinion on your current challenges, or maybe help you think through what we've been learning so far today.

14:30 - 15:30

Arif Ahmed is the Director for Free Speech and Academic Freedom at the Office for Students. Join Arif in the second plenary session as he explores the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Act 2023 and how it will impact the work of the OfS and human resource professionals within Higher Education. He will also discuss the breadth of areas that are covered by the act and its impact on different aspects of an employee's experience. There will be plenty of time for questions and discussion.

With Arif Ahmed MBE, Director for Free Speech and Academic Freedom, Office for Students

15:30 - 16:00
Break & Networking

16:00 - 17:00 Legal Sessions Block A

There has never been a time when differences in the life experience of employees has been so pronounced. Attitude to work, levels of sophistication with technology and methods of interacting with each other can be oceans apart. Then there is the rise of AI in the workplace. These factors can create tensions, employee relations difficulties and risk claims of discrimination. Shakespeare Martineau will guide you through this thorny area, equipping you with the tools to ensure you are inclusive and get the best from your age diverse, multi-generational workforce, whether they engage with faxes, TikTok, or ChatGPT. The session will be delivered through the medium of an interactive case study, and will highlight common pitfalls, some salutary tales from our own experience of advising clients, as well as an overview of the case law.

With Helen Dyke, Legal Director; Emma Glazzard, Associate Solicitor; and Esther Maxwell, Partner, all of Shakespeare Martineau

In this session we will look at some of the ways in which social media is now being used in universities and the implications for staff including:

 (1) Where social media usage is a work requirement - the differences between generations re: familiarity/interest etc.

(2) Where social media is not a work requirement - the different generational impact where restrictions/limitations are in place and whether this impacts on being an employer of choice for some groups.

(3) The increased impact of social media on employer-brands (i.e. external coverage of internal culture) and on internal matters (e.g. using social media to raise awareness of industrial relations/HR issues).

(4) The free speech/equality implications from social media usage – particularly the impact on academic freedom and the HE specific recent changes.

(5) The student-staff relationship issues that can arise from social media – including issues raised in the OfS sexual harassment/misconduct work. 

With Matthew Alderton, Bettina Rigg and James Tait, Partners, all of Browne Jacobson LLP

We will provide an update on the latest developments in employment law and how these will affect the higher education sector. This will include a focus on flexible and atypical working; freedom of speech; equality and discrimination – including the latest on religion and belief, reasonable adjustments, and menopause; and unfair dismissal.

We will also scan the horizon for forthcoming  changes, significant cases to be decided and legislative changes in the pipeline - for example, holiday pay, sexual harassment, and what the outcome of the General Election may mean for employment rights.

As well as explaining the key legal changes, the session will outline the practical implications of each change for universities and what HR can be doing to prepare.

With Nicola Brown and Alex Russell, Partners; and Siân Jackson, Principal Associate, all of Mills & Reeve LLP

Wednesday 15 May

9.15 - 9:30 - Welcome Back & UHR Awards for Excellence in HR
Ready to go with notebooks in hand at 9.15 on the dot? Looking back to yesterday's first day of conference, what do you take away for future use? We start this morning with lots of positivity as we announce the winners of the UHR Awards for Excellence in HR. Was your project or team shortlisted? Who will take the prizes in 2024?

9:30 - 10:30

Drawing on her extensive UKRI funded research into the world of work, Marianna Fotaki's session will focus on how changes in the public services landscape are shaping the way we work, the concept of 'affective labour' and importance of relationality in co-producing services and how the marketisation of public services has affected the nature of our working relationships. Marianna's research centres on ethics and power imbalances in the workplace, shaped by her personal emphasis on creating impactful work which empowers staff and consumers of services.

With Marianna Fotaki, Professor of Business Ethics, University of Warwick Business School

10:30 - 11:00
Break & Networking

11:00 - 11:45 Workshops Block B

At ENU, succession planning has been on the agenda for a while, imperfectly. Utilised once a year when considering workforce planning, and often not revisited until the following year. In 2022, we revisited our approach to succession planning and workforce planning as a whole. Thinking ahead was our priority – embedding succession planning to ensure that it was kept on the agenda, and revisited regularly in order to enable us to better think (and plan) ahead by: identifying succession gaps; by allowing us to identify, develop and build strategies to retain potential future leaders, as well as individuals who could fill other business-critical positions; and by allowing us to proactively think about what might need to change in roles in the future and what actions need to be taken in talent acquisition to be more proactive in recruiting with succession in mind. Our Succession planning session will be a walk through of our journey, outlining considerations, learnings and wins and also how we plan to take succession planning forward.   

With Chloe Keith, People Partnering Manager; and Pamela Smith, Head of People and Performance, both of Edinburgh Napier University

Utilising recent experiences of multi- generational staff engagement at the University of Cumbria as a case study, the workshop will draw on the practical steps taken to develop a progressive, innovative and forward-thinking people strategy and employee value proposition. With inclusivity, wellbeing and future ways of working at its heart the University of Cumbria’s People Strategy is something we are collectively proud of and are keen to share with the wider UHR community.

With Paul Boustead, Managing Director, Phoenix OD & HR Consulting Ltd; and Zoë Pluckrose-Norman, Director of People & Culture, University of Cumbria

Many organisations have committed to developing the fundamental digital skills of staff, in an effort to keep up with the ever-evolving digital collaboration tools. With the shift to hybrid and online work environments post-pandemic, paired with varying skill levels, generational differences, and budget limitations, designing and delivering programmes to upskill staff on digital tools is no easy feat. Drawing on University of London’s large-scale “Digital Skills for Collaboration” training programme as a case study, this session will provide dual perspectives. Firstly, it will address the challenges of crafting impactful staff training, such as skill assessment, stakeholder engagement, and impact assessment. Secondly, it will feature insights from a manager who actively participated in the programme, offering firsthand experiences and reflections on the training. We will tap into theories, tools, and practices that can enhance intrinsic motivation, help create meaningful learning aligned with organisational strategy, and support a culture of continuous learning.

With Laura Brammar, Deputy Head of the University of London Careers Service; and Ishanki De Mel, Learning and Development Advisor, both of University of London

In this workshop, we will address equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in research careers by focusing on menstrual health and (peri)menopause.

The purpose of our interactive workshop is to raise awareness on menstruation and peri/menopause, which are still poorly understood and significantly overlooked especially in the workplace. The workshop will provide practical tools to better support employees experiencing menstruation and peri/menopause in a wide range of work contexts and environments, in order to improve their sense of belonging and thrive in their chosen career paths. We will also explore how technology interacts with these issues at work, discussing challenges and opportunities.

We invite participants to think more creatively about accessibility, diversity and inclusion at work through problem solving activities based on experiential evidence, to reflect on implicit bias, stigma and environmental alterations.

The workshop content is evidence based and has been co-produced with individuals with lived experience and stakeholders. The speakers all have expertise in menstrual health and disability inclusion at work.

With Dr Nima Ali, Assistant Professor in HRM & Co-Investigator, EDI Caucus and Chiara Cocco, Heriot-Watt University - EDI Caucus

The Employee Relations team at King’s College London was newly established in May 2022.  Since then they have grown from strength to strength transforming the University’s approach to employee relations cases. Lorna Adair, Head of Employee Relations, along with an amazing team of dedicated ER Consultants and ER Coordinators, have been embedding best practice ER at King’s with a view to using informal dispute resolution where possible. You’ll hear all about their endeavours to influence managers at all levels to resolve ER issues at source without the threat of referring it to HR. As the team celebrate their 2 year anniversary, join this session to find out more about the rollercoaster ride the team have been on, and continue to be on, at King’s!

With Lorna Adair, Head of Employee Relations; Gulcin Polat and Jessica Rehinsi, Employee Relations Consultants, both of King’s College London

COVID has significantly impacted the recruitment market and made it extremely difficult to attract talent. It was evident at that time that our processes were not fit for purpose and hindered our ability to recruit. We reviewed our entire recruitment process, looking to see how and when information was captured and if it was needed. We also procured and implemented Eploy, a complete cloud-based platform, combining Applicant Tracking, Recruitment CRM, Talent Pools and Analytics into a unified web-based platform. This has significantly improved user experience and can be configured to meet future needs. Our new ways of working have reduced cost per hire and time to hire and have revolutionised the way we attract and recruit talent by improving efficiencies and using Talent Pools and Analytics to meet future demands.

As we have learned so much along the way we would love to share this with you!

With Sam Swinton, Head of HR Operations, University of East Anglia

11:45 - 12:15
Break & Networking

12:15 - 13:00 Business Sessions Block B

Join us for an illuminating conference session that tackles the seismic shifts in the modern workforce and makes a compelling case for a paradigm shift towards strengths-based workforce approaches as a strategic response. In this interactive session, our expert speaker explores the evolving nature of work and will unveil the key principles and methodologies behind harnessing individual and team strengths for peak performance. Discover how cultivating a strengths-based culture boosts employee engagement and inclusion whilst propelling professional and personal growth.

Through compelling case studies and insights, learn how strengths-based development not only addresses the challenges posed by workforce changes but also fosters resilience and adaptability within leadership and teams. Gain practical strategies to identify, nurture, and amplify the unique strengths within your team, creating a workforce that is not just equipped for change but thrives on it. 

With Holger Bollman, Director; and Carley Brown, Consultant, both of Strengthify Ltd

The University of Nottingham (UoN) has a 2030 Global Strategy to be a university without borders, where they embrace the opportunities presented by a changing world, and where ambitious people and a creative culture will enable them to change the world for the better. Their 8,000 strong employee workforce is the key to successfully delivering this Strategy. To engage their workforce means to listen and act on their feedback.  
Helen will share how giving more autonomy, developing analytic and insight capability and offering more ownership to managers and leaders is building a culture based on evidence-based decision making, breaking down assumption and enabling teams and departments to co create actions together therefore having a real impact on the employee experience at a local level. Phase one has seen some promising results with the employee feedback loop connected to continuous improvement.

With Lisa Hughes, Senior Organisational Development Consultant; Jane Tidswell, HE Director, both of People Insight; and Helen McNamara, Director of Organisation and People Development, University of Nottingham

As the era of AI rapidly approaches, reskilling will become the responsibility of every leader and team manager in the future of work.

This workshop will share research around job design, and how we can apply this in a practical way in order to re-think the future of work and re-skill in a people-centric way. Delegates will explore counterintuitive ideas and potential pitfalls for overuse of AI. We will share a practical ‘hands, head and heart’ framework for helping to shape decisions about how to redesign work:
Hands - how will this impact productivity
Heads - how will it impact cognitive dimensions of work
Heart - how will it impact motivation, meaning and purpose

The session will be supported by the latest research and case studies.

With Rob Baker, Founder, Tailored Thinking

There is overwhelming evidence that Reward has rocketed up the agenda for many institutions as an integral element to addressing challenges with recruitment, retention, and the employee experience. This session will deliver a crash course that will empower you with the essential knowledge of where we are now, how we got here and where we might go next. Whether you just want to learn enough about this critical field to inform your current role, or if you are interested in getting involved in projects at your institution that involve pay, benefits or pensions, you will benefit from this session through:-

  • Understanding the evolving landscape of Reward within the higher education sector.
  • Gaining insights into the role of Reward in attracting and retaining top talent in higher education.
  • Delving behind the scenes to discover the work of the average reward team and how it connects to other areas of HR & OD.
  • Leaving with actionable takeaways and resources to embed in your own practice so you can support your institution with the challenges ahead.

With Emma Brookes, Strategic Projects and Research Manager, Universities Human Resources (UHR)

How to use various forms of assessments to support succession planning and leadership development in academic leaders. Identify strengths, gaps and areas for development in internal leadership cohorts, how to enable academic leaders to become ‘people leaders’ through the use of assessments and coaching. How to use assessments to increase self-awareness around individual leadership style and how to work collaboratively with peers in a team environment.

With Manne Guron, Director/Senior Psychologist; and Holly Lynch, Psychology Consultant, both of Veredus

13:00 - 14:00
Lunch & Networking Carousel
Grab a sandwich, grab a coffee, and join us on the Networking Carousel, where we pair delegates up for short conversations that help you identify future project partners, gain an informed second opinion on your current challenges, or maybe help you think through what we've been learning so far today.

14:00 - 15:00 Legal Sessions Block B

In this highly interactive and discursive session we will share our experience on advising HE clients on complex scenarios relating to:

  • controversial facial recognition technology being used to trace an individual to the organisation, report that individual’s activity outside work and how the employer should respond
  • demonstrating a commitment to preventing sexual harassment in the workplace to the generation starting their careers in the post MeToo era as well as complying with the new statutory duty due in force in 2024
  • the need to balance strongly held beliefs about diversity & inclusion, climate change and socio-political issues whilst preserving freedom of expression and a culture of mutual respect
  • respond to Gen Z workers’ desire to work flexibly and new legislation expanding existing flexible working rights in 2024

With Trish Embley, Head of Client Training Employment; and Rebecca Stephen, Legal Director, both of Pinsent Masons

This session, led by lawyers from Weightmans LLP, will explore where considered use of AI can streamline practices and improve engagement of managers and other staff alike. Over 185 million working days are lost annually due to sickness or long-term absence so we will be primarily looking at impact in the field of disability, whilst recognising that the principles are also capable of wider application and considering examples. We will also consider where and how targeted use of technology can impact on  institutional HR effectiveness and/or employee relations. We will consider scenarios, using real life examples from practice including within HE, and will offer both legal and practical guidance.
Aspects we’ll consider will include:
• efficiency vs. possible loss of empathy
• “computer says no…”
• the audit trail
• ease of use
• data concerns
• potential for bias
We’ll provide opportunities for questions and comment and the sharing of experience in a safe space. 
With Lauren Barchet, Solicitor; and Melanie Steed, Lead Employment Lawyer for Education Sector, both of Weightmans LLP

The tension between equality and freedom of speech is an ever growing issues in the Higher Education Sector.

In this session we will review the legal requirements and focus on the strategy and practical steps that institutions can take to manage those tensions as well as the legal and reputational risks using case studies drawn from our experience working with HEIs to inform our guidance.

With Nicola Bennison, Robert Gray and Chris Mordue, Partners, all of Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP

15:00 - 15:30
Break & Networking

15:30 - 16:30

This Plenary Panel session is an opportunity for delegates to engage with all things AI and digital. Our expert panel members will bring academic and practitioner expertise in outlining the world of work in the future and in engaging with your questions on a range of issues from the skills we need as HR professionals to new roles and career paths for our staff and the learning required to enable enhanced delivery models of learning for our students. AI is already shaping working lives, and the ways in which HR teams can shape the adoption and use of AI technologies to ensure the human is always at the centre of the process will be key to the acceptance of these technologies.

With Professor Liz Bacon, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Abertay University, Dundee; Rod Bristow, Visiting Professor, UCL Institute of Education; David D’Souza, Director of Profession, CIPD; and Dr Surlina Yin, Cloud HCM Development, Center of Excellence, Oracle

Thursday 16 May

9:25 - 9:30 - Welcome Back

Join our conference host, former UHR Chair Kim Frost, to kick off the final day.

9:30 - 10:30 Special Interest Topic Discussions

Universities are facing a perfect storm in balancing competing beliefs against the strengthened obligations to uphold freedom of speech. This frequently involves complex balancing acts between the Equality Act, the EHRC article rights, academic freedom and the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Act 2023. Gender critical views and decarbonisation are just two example of how this is playing out with no platforming and disinviting.

We will facilitate discussions to encourage attendees to share their experiences of these issues including what has worked well and what less so and to explore what attendees anticipate will be future challenges given the changing expectations of the student body. 

We will ensure that the discussions reflect the relevant legislative background.

With Matthew AldertonBettina Rigg, and James Tait, Partners, all of Browne Jacobson LLP

This session is designed to promote discussion around the fears and concerns HE employees have around the cost of living crisis and its implications for their mental & financial wellbeing. The presenters will ask questions to get delegate feedback on concerns, worries and the main issues around wellbeing and finances.

They will then start a discussion around what potential solutions are currently in use and ask if we can ascertain their effectiveness.

With Andrew Fenwick, Wellbeing Director; and David A Smith, Partner, Chartered Financial Planner, both of Evelyn Partners Financial Planning Limited

The sector spends a significant amount on pensions – a benefit that is generally under-appreciated by all but the older employees.  

We will use this time to consider pensions from the ‘people’ perspective, and specifically the younger generation.  How can you make sure the pension spend is valuable and valued by those early in their working life when they decide how to ‘spend’ their income?   We will explore ideas to improve communication, to help their decision-making.  

We will share insights from our research and provide an opportunity to share experiences and thoughts on how to engage younger generations in their pension.  And explore, is the current approach providing what universities need for this cohort?

With Will Aitken, Director, Reward and Benefits; Sophie Ash, Director and Higher Education Lead; and Florence Templeton, Consultant, Reward and Benefits, all of Isio

With pension contribution increases, funding constraints and increased uncertainty in the sector against a backdrop of significant political change, universities are considering ways to save costs.  

This session will provide you with the opportunity to explore some of the options your universities may be considering in order to save costs – whether voluntary severance schemes, use of subsidiaries, withdrawal from national pay bargaining, restructuring, or other options.  We will share our knowledge and expertise from the projects we have supported other universities with, focussing on the key strategic, practical and legal considerations. 

With Nicola Brown, Clare Grice, Alex Russell, Partners; and Siân Jackson, Principal Associate, all of Mills & Reeve LLP

This session will explore best-practice approaches to integrating AI and digital technologies to the people function and how HR can remain sustainable, future-focused, and value-added to the institution. It will provide immeasurable opportunities for delegates to explore the possibilities of digital technologies and AI and how they influence people strategy and operations both in the UK and US. Delegates will gain confidence in knowing how they can adapt their service to be value-added, get the best from their teams and myth bust some common misconceptions around the introduction of AI.

With Lucy Dixon, Principal Consultant; and Emma Ogden, HR Consultant, both of SUMS Consulting

Inclusive recruitment in higher education creates a diverse organisation which reflects the student body and enhances the fairness and validity of teaching and assessments.
Join our discussion on:

  • Inclusive interviewing – how inclusive interviews allow candidates to showcase their full potential.
  • Understanding privilege and how it impacts recruitment
  • Role design – how to remove barriers on your job descriptions to ensure they are fit for purpose and inclusive

With Diane Duberry, Client Relations Manager; and Bita Heffernan, Divisional Manager (HR and Finance), both of TPP Recruitment

10:30 - 11:00
Break & Networking

11:00 - 11:45 Workshops Block C

Retaining talent in this current market is tough, one idea is a leadership programme, investing in the talent. But how do you know it's worked and how do you keep that talent engaged? This model we’ve developed does exactly that. 

With Amanda Herrity, Deputy Director of HR, Edge Hill University

This session will share the story of a pilot  digital literacy initiative, working with colleagues across Cleaning Services at the University of Leeds. Guided by institutional values of compassion, integrity, inclusion and collaboration but ultimately driven by our humanness; this story has a beginning, a middle and is yet to find its end. In a world of multigenerational workers, with a pace of unprecedented technological advancement how do we create our futures and think ahead? Firstly, we slow down; we look through the rear view mirror to see who is with us and more importantly who is missing. We look forward to sharing where we started – what made the difference – and where we are when we come together in May. As an interactive process we are excited to share what that version of the future will be – imperfectly perfect and based on humility, compassion and a drive for inclusion and togetherness. 

With Harriet Boatwright, Learning and Development Advisor; Rachael Clark, Project Officer; and John Dodds, Head of IT (Business Relationship Management), all of University of Leeds

Join us to explore how the Open University are measuring colleague mood monthly across the whole workforce and how this has and continues to evolve across our pre-identified 11 categories.

We will give an overview of our pulse survey and the technology we have used inhouse to understand the mood of colleagues and analyse the data (including free text comments) through Artificial Intelligence.

Find out how colleagues respond to real time results dashboards and how we plan to use the data to inform decision making and drive action.

With Sam Dick, Strategic Communications and Business Partnering Lead; and Andy Eagle-Weston, Senior Colleague Engagement Manager, both of The Open University

In an era where the jobs of the future are yet to be defined, it is imperative for higher education institutions to equip their workforce with the skills, knowledge, and behaviours necessary to thrive in an uncertain landscape. This workshop aims to explore practical strategies to futureproof HE staff by leveraging the Association for Higher Education Professionals' (AHEP) Professional Framework. 

We will begin by collaboratively exploring the key trends that are impacting the HE sector and the ramifications for the future of work in HE. We will identify the adaptable competencies crucial for an uncertain future and engage in the components of the Professional Framework to foster an exchange of ideas about nurturing a culture of self-efficacy in professional development.

Through interactive activities, participants will apply the Framework to hypothetical scenarios, fostering collaboration and equipping attendees to guide their institutions toward a resilient and prepared workforce.

With Dr Ella Popper, Head of Professional Development, Association of Higher Education Professionals

Claire Jagger is Associate Director of Organisational Development at the University of Nottingham, where she is responsible for providing strategic leadership for the delivery of organisation and people development to meet the University’s strategic objectives.

In this workshop, Claire will discuss her lived experience of disability, exploring the challenges she has faced and what she has learned about herself and others on this journey. This session will be facilitated by UHR colleagues and is designed to be an open and honest conversation about living with disability and how this impacts on working lives .

With Sophie Crouchman, Strategic Projects and Research Manager, UHR; and Claire Jagger, Associate Director of Organisational Development, University of Nottingham

Organisational cultures are built on values... but rarely the ones we spend so much time developing and communicating. Nor, often, are they the right ones. Far too many organisations fall into the trap of describing what they feel makes them 'great' rather than what is needed to make them 'better'. We use words like Collaboration, Trust and Inclusivity in our value-sets, but fail to put any weight or expectation behind them. In this session, Owen Cook will share some of the latest thinking and research around employee value sets, and, co-presenting with an HR lead from Northumbria University, share a case study example of the critical need to help people absorb, interpret and localise active value sets, in order to ensure they land, stick and deliver the desired impact.

With Owen Cook, Head of Programmes, The Culture Builders; and Lorraine Masters, Director of Organisational Development, Northumbria University

11:45 - 12:15
Break & Networking

12:15 - 13:00 Business Sessions Block C

Alison, Juliet and Jennifer will demonstrate the impact of reimagining the application process to increase the quality, diversity and inclusion of candidates through new technology that actually makes the process more human.

Like many aspects of the HE sector, technology is transforming the way we identify, select and secure leaders for the future. Advancements in technology provide us with a unique opportunity to break down barriers, provide deeper insights and secure talent from a wider, richer, more diverse pool of candidates. 

Drawing on GatenbySanderson’s extensive experience recruiting senior leaders in HE, this session will provide practical insights into removing barriers to application and assessment through the use of technology.   

During this interactive session, participants will reimagine the future of selection and assessment, and consider new approaches to designing an inclusive recruitment process.

With Alison Elton, Principal Consultant, Education Practice; Juliet Jukes, Senior Consultant, Education Practice; and Jennifer Tester, Senior Consultant, Leadership & Talent Consultancy within Education, all of GatenbySanderson

Attendees will be able to gain an understanding of best practices on how to bring recruitment in house, work better with recruitment firms and look at examples from universities in the UK and the United States that have done this successfully.

With Mark Holleran, Managing Director, TalentEdu

In this interactive workshop we will review how reward strategies can be targeted to the different needs of a diverse workforce.

With Tanya Clements and Claire Dalaya, Reward Consultants, both of ECC 

2024 saw the launch of UHR’s new talent development programme TrailBlazers, designed to identify and showcase the tremendous breadth and depth of emerging talent that we have in Higher Education. 

This session will feature a number of this year’s cohort who will share their lived experience of the event and we look forward to the 2025 programme. 

With Leatham Green, Transformation Director, Oracle

Join Eleanor, Scotty and a special guest as they walk you through the business intelligence tool designed for higher education HR professionals. This tool empowers users to effectively answer business questions about diversity and intersectionality within their provider’s staff population. 

In this session we will explore the insights that the tool can give you and demonstrate how to access these insights. You will come away from the session with an understanding of how and why the tool was built. You will also learn how this tool, and business intelligence more generally, can unlock your use of data to have evidence and data-driven conversations with your colleagues and turn insights into actions

With Scotty Dixon, Business Intelligence Consultant; and Eleanor Jarvis, Senior Product Owner – Business Intelligence Content Products, both of Jisc

13:00 - 14:00
Lunch & Networking Carousel
Grab a sandwich, grab a coffee, and join us on the Networking Carousel, where we pair delegates up for short conversations that help you identify future project partners, gain an informed second opinion on your current challenges, or maybe help you think through what we've been learning so far today.

14:00 - 15:00 Legal Sessions Block C

As universities navigate the ever-changing digital landscape it is important to address the needs of a multi-generational workforce and ensure generational fairness. With the number of age discrimination claims on the increase, we will look at how universities can avoid potential pitfalls and foster a fair, inclusive and legally compliant workplace for everyone.

This session will focus on the issues that can arise with older workers and those approaching retirement.  We will explore some of the common issues that can give rise to age discrimination claims using case study examples and providing top tips for avoiding claims.

With Jane Byford, Bob Fahy, Michael Halsey, Partners; and Katie Hurst, Senior Associate, all of VWV

The Government’s Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill became law 11 May 2023, giving students and academics more freedom to speak freely about potentially controversial topics. On the one hand this allows for free and open debate on complex and sensitive subjects in a constructive way. On the other, it can lead to complaints and potential reputational damage for the institution.
One year on from the introduction of the law, we will look at how universities manage the careful balance between free and open debate on complex and sensitive subjects, versus managing the institution’s own reputation and ensuring content, especially on social media, is appropriate.
We will cover: examples of lawful freedom of speech including examples of when speech/statements may over the step the mark. We will discuss how to deal with those cases, particularly if there is a need to balance competing rights and responsibilities.

With Ashley Norman, Partner; Anne Palmer, Legal Director; and Kelly Simpson, Knowledge Lawyer (Employment), all of Bevan Brittan LLP

With increasing focus from the Office for Students on how universities should handle sexual harassment allegations involving students and in a post #MeToo world for employers everywhere, how sexual harassment allegations are handled by universities can have a significant impact on internal culture and external reputation. However, many people in HR and in management feel uncertain and nervous when faced with such serious allegations within the workplace. In this session, we will draw on our experience as advisers and as independent investigators to guide you through key issues, relevant regulatory issues, the interplay with the criminal justice system and the potential pitfalls to give you the confidence to deal with sexual harassment allegations raised by anyone within your university.

With Kathleen Heycock, Partner; and Alice Kendle, Senior Associate, both of Farrer & Co

15:00 - 15:30
Break & Networking

15:30 - 16:30

In her closing session, Anne-Marie will draw on work across Industry, Academia and Entrepreneurship to inspire and uplift the audience. As creator of social enterprise Stemettes and Co-Chair of the Institute for the Future of Work, she'll provide tactical pointers on futureproofing the profession and share insights on how we might build for an uncertain and imperfect future full of students, academics and educational institutions. Finally, she'll explore the role equitable practice has to play in a future fit for society.

With Anne-Marie Imafidon, Social Entrepreneur & Computer Scientist

16:30 - Conference Close

Join our conference host, former UHR Chair Kim Frost and our current UHR Chair Naina Patel, as we bring #UHR24 to a close and reflect on the past few days.

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