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Advance HE, UK higher education's newly formed agency, is setting out its stall and preparing to consult with the sector on the services it provides. Its Chief Executive Alison Johns outlines its plans and aims.

 

It is an honour and a privilege  to be the first CEO of Advance HE which came into being on March 21, born from a merger of the Equality Challenge Unit, the Higher Education Academy and the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education.

We have come a long way since the Bell Review  which was the start of our merger journey and we are currently in the middle of a consultation with the sector to inform our future membership offer and the products and services that  Advance HE will provide.  There is no doubt that we will build on the excellent work that the three agencies have already achieved and will strive to continue to equip our HE colleagues for whatever the future holds.

From our early soundings we anticipate retaining many of our flagship programmes such as Top Management Programme, HEA Fellowship, governance-effectiveness, Athena Swan and Race Equality Charters and Aurora.  We also expect to continue providing leadership in the sector, for example, by identifying and mobilising good practice in ‘What Works’ and projects such as integrated thinking and reporting, which looks at how universities can align their stakeholders and strategy to have a more holistic view on how they create and demonstrate value.  These things bring together elements of leadership, governance, teaching and learning, equality, diversity and inclusion which supports the rationale for our three way merger.

I personally see Advance HE’s key function is to support individuals and the sector more broadly in translating policy and other drivers for change into practice. We aim to be the ‘go-to for how-to’ organisation in the sector, solutions-focussed and evidenced-based. As well as consulting with key people in universities I am also talking to funders in the home nations, mission groups, FE providers of HE and private HEPs.

In May, Advance HE will provide a transitional membership offer for the academic year 2018-19. A comprehensively revised and enhanced value proposition, to include a membership model and services, will be launched for 2019-20 after a separate consultation in autumn 2018.

As for what there is still to do, we are recruiting additional board members at present and working with the current board to finalise our offer to the sector. The chairman of the Advance HE board, Nigel Carrington, has been closely involved with shaping and forming Advance HE and the new complete board will be announced within the next few months.

What will be critical in the coming months is for the sector to help us co-create Advance HE. We want to be sure that we are meeting your needs.

We think that one way we can do that is by providing a strong membership offering – a core of support which can be supplemented by optional, additional “pay as you go” products and services.
A key objective is winning recognition that having a core membership offering will secure the sustainability of that collective resource for the sector in the future.

I am confident that Advance HE will become an important part of the HE landscape to enable and champion higher education providers on a range of issues.  The higher education sector should rightly expect strong support from people who know it inside out and who can convene the best minds and practical experience to deliver solutions needed for a new HE world. We are looking forward to meeting those future challenges together.

Advance HE is formed from the merger of Equality Challenge Unit, the Higher Education Academy and the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education: https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/. In the coming months, Alison Johns will be speaking about the new agency at Going Global and the Leadership Summit.

Alison Johns
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