Conference Pathways

9-11 May

There are a hundred ways to get the most out of the UHR Conference, and with a little forward thinking you can ensure that you and your team really do get the best value from your Team Ticket. Our Conference Pathways (below) are just suggestions of how to do that. We’ve grouped sessions and themes in ways that might make sense depending on your level of experience. But in truth, these are prompts for your own thinking and investigations of the programme. Very few people will experience the conference in exactly the same way, as there are just so many options to choose between. So what is your way? It’s time to get timings into the diary and to block aside space from the normal working day. Which route through appeals to you?

If you’d prefer to download a pdf copy of the programme rather than revisit this website you can do so.

While we’ve described these pathways as ‘for senior leaders’ and other similar headings, in practice we know you’ll make your own choices of what suits you, and there is no intention here to describe one session as ‘more difficult’ than another. You might also benefit from thinking about the conference programme in terms of themes, and if so you could gain by downloading a helpful shortcut guide to these.

Recordings of the vast majority of conference sessions will be available by the week after conference for all those registered to attend.


Conference Pathway 1: Senior Leaders

The plenary sessions are probably ‘a must’ for everyone, and it is difficult to recommend one more highly than the others. Plenary 4 (3.30pm on Wednesday 15 May) takes the form of a panel session on AI in Higher Education and as one of the most obvious coming challenges that might well make it into your conference plan. Session WA3 (11.30am on Tuesday 14 May) uses a case study from Nottingham Trent to explore how to bring teams through change processes; while later that day in session BA1 brings us back to AI and to the kinds of large-scale process change that could be coming our way. At 9.15am on Wednesday 15th we’ll be announcing the winners of the UHR Awards, always a cause for celebration and an opportunity to learn for your whole team. Also on Wednesday, sessions WB1 (11am) and BB5 (12.15pm) both deal with aspects of succession planning; while LB3 (2pm) gives us the latest on freedom of speech on campus (a theme we return to on Thursday 16 at 2pm in session LC2). On the morning of Thursday 16 May we have six different themed and facilitated special interest group discussions. These are not being recorded, hopefully allowing for open discussions, and the task here is to get your specialists into those discussions so they can shape whatever emerges and connect with others working on similar projects. Session BC4 (12.15pm) gives you the inside track on UHR’s successful new ‘TrailBlazers’ programme – we’ll be running it again in 2025 and perhaps you’ll have the ideal candidate for the programme? Perhaps consider this session in conjunction with WC1 (11am) on talent pipelines? Our final plenary session is at 3.30pm with Anne-Marie Imafidon, and she’ll be looking at ‘The Perfect University HR for an Imperfect Future’.


Conference Pathway 2: Experienced colleagues with management responsibilities

There is just so much to choose from and as every team defines their roles a little differently we’ve chosen to bring a real wealth of options under this heading and you’ll decide for yourselves what works! Maybe make a choice or two from our plenary sessions as the first thing to go into your diaries? You could do worse than attend all five of course. Plenary 1 is our opening conference session with journalist and author Sathnam Sanghera (Tuesday 14 May at 10am), while plenary 2 features Arif Ahmed MBE of the Office for Students on freedom of speech and academic freedom (also on Tuesday at 2.30pm). Our first workshop sessions on Tuesday morning (11am) include session WA2 on improving staff surveys, and WA5 on the ‘Aligning Capability’ model that helps us think of our institutions as a complex adaptive human system. Perhaps Business Session BA2 (on financial planning at 12.45pm) and legal session LA2 (on the changing role of social media at 4pm) might round at your first full day at #UHR24. On the morning of Wednesday 15 May we start with the announcement of the winners of this year’s UHR Awards at 9.15am. Is your team still in the running? If not we look forward to your entry next year. Workshop sessions at 11am include WB2 on changing staff expectations of the world of work, and WB6 on meeting candidate expectations of recruitment processes. At 12.15pm session BB2 looks at a specific case study from Nottingham on acting on the results of their staff culture/people survey; while option BB3 looks at the latest research on AI in the world of work. We start the final day of conference with special interest group topic discussions at 9.30. Our final day includes a host of options including: WC2 (11am) on a digital literacy initiative from Leeds; WC4 (11am) on future-proofing the HE workforce; WC6 (11am) on bringing values and culture to life with the help of colleagues from Northumbria University; BC3 (12.15pm) on building a reward strategy that meets the needs of the wide diversity of employees at our universities; and LC3 (2pm) in which Farrer and Co will steer us through the management of sexual harassment cases.


Conference Pathway 3: for those in specialist roles

The advice for those in specialist roles has to be that careful study of the programme to help you find the sessions most attuned to that role is bound to pay off. As with all colleagues, make a strong choice from our plenary sessions if you cannot make them all as they are the foundation of conference content this year. Our first workshop sessions at 11am on Tuesday 14 May include UHR’s Sophie Crouchman (session WA4) on the role of HR teams in the next (2029) REF round; and session WA1 on the future of technology in HR. At 12.15 on Tuesday there are five options to choose from including on top talent recruitment with THE (session BA3) and on establishing coaching cultures (BA4). Remember to make the most of networking opportunities throughout conference to help you track down those working on similar specialisms in other universities, including the Networking Carousel (1.30pm). Your choice of legal specialist sessions on Tuesday afternoon might be the employment law update from Mills & Reeve (session LA3) at 4pm. Wednesday morning kicks off with the announcement of the winners of this year’s UHR Awards at 9.15am. Lots to pick from throughout the day including workshop WB4 at 11am (on menstrual health and inclusive research careers); and legal session LB2 at 2pm looks at AI in the context of disability. The special interest group topics at 9.30am on Thursday 16 May might well need your specialist viewpoint to round out the discussion – our themes are freedom of speech, financial planning, pension and benefits strategy,  cost-saving people strategies, AI and HR, and inclusive recruitment. The business sessions at 12.15pm offer lots of choice and include session BC1 (the use of tech in recruitment), BC2 (using executive search to reduce your overall recruitment spend) and BC5 (data and diversity in the staff population). Your final legal session (2pm) might be from VWV on avoiding age discrimination.


Conference Pathway 4: for those newer to UHR Conferences or at an early stage in their careers

It is so difficult to provide a summary of sessions to suit people in such a variety of roles, and we’d emphasise again that our conference pathways are just prompts for you to do your own investigations of the programme and to see what might suit you this year. But how about something like this? We’ll take it as read that you will look out for our plenary sessions – these are our headline speakers for conference looking at big themes, sharing personal insights and stories, and really helping to shape our thinking for the coming year.

Why not take an international perspective on recruitment challenges from our colleagues at US partner organisation CUPA-HR (session WA6 is at 11.30am on Tuesday 14 May)? Legal session LA1 (4pm on Tuesday) looks at the challenge of helping an intergenerational workforce work together well. The UHR awards winners are announced at 9.15am on Wednesday 15 May and they always provide a host of great ideas and approaches for your own projects. There are six choices of business session at 11am on Wednesday including WB3 (on digital skills training to enable collaborative working) and WB5 (on transforming employee relations). At 12.15pm there is a further impossible choice from great options. UHR’s Emma Brookes will be turning non-reward specialists into reward specialists in session BB4, while in session BB1 we will look at strengths-based development. Legal session LB1 (2pm on Wednesday 15 May) looks at the impact of next generation technology on employee attitudes and employment law. On Thursday we start the day at 9.30am with special interest group sessions on six different current themes. Here the aim is to join in the discussion and identify colleagues from around the country that are working on similar projects to you. Perhaps you can team up to develop your own mini-support network? The Thursday morning workshop sessions (11am) include WC3 in which we look at the impact of colleagues’ moods, and WC5, a case study based on the lived experience of disability in a working environment, supported by UHR’s Sophie Crouchman.

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