HE/FE Show London – Engaged staff a blank Canvas?

Thursday 15th October was the HE/FE Show in London billed as the only show of its kind for HE and FE. Arriving at Earl’s court I was surprised to see that the train was not running and a circuitous route via West Brompton was needed. When I did get to Olympia there seemed to be no sign of the show. Had I got the wrong place? The wrong date? eventually I saw a sign point round the corner onto Earl’s Court Road. Olympia this was but BETT it wasn’t. It’s was just one small room, for a show as it was billed, about twice the size of the refectory in Fulton House. Despite it’s small size there were some interesting things there as well as plenty of not so interesting. I’ll stick with two of the interesting.

Canvas – there has been a lot of talk recently about Canvas, especially since Birmingham University switched completely to Canvas from Blackboard in 4 months last year. They have got nice shiny videos, glowing endorsements etc but as we know anyone can do that. So is it worth the hype? At the moment I don’t know. I had an interesting discussion with two of their team on their busy stand, which was probably the busiest in the show when I was there. They have an event in London on 4th November when the plan to reveal more. Have a look at the video and watch this space.


I was intrigued by the prospect of hearing Professor Peter Slee, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Huddersfield, talk about ‘An Engaged Workforce’. They reputedly have 100% of their teaching staff with HEA fellowship or a teaching qualification and it seems to be a great place to work judging by some of the awards they have won.

The Times Higher Education Best University Workplace 2014
The Times Higher Education Awards – University of the Year
The Guardian Higher Education Awards – Inspiring Leader Award

Professor Slee argued that many interactions drive the success or otherwise of their strategy. Therefore everyone needs to be able to understand and own the strategy. So the Huddersfield strategy is 2 sides of A4 – no preamble, no waffley management speak, no vanity fueled stats, just a simple strategy for all staff. There isn’t a separate document for managers and other staff. They all work from the same document and go in the same direction.

He followed this by saying that –
Bad managers tell people what to do.
People who think they are good managers explain why they want people to do what they want them to do.
Good managers involve people in designing what is best to do.

He then had three questions for teachers and managers –

Why would someone want to be taught by you?
Why would anyone want to be led by you?
If you had to apply for your own job, would you get it?

Tough questions especially the last but I think he was presenting it in a positive career development way. Everyone needs to keep developing their career and from what I can make out Huddersfield intend to empower people so that they are able to do it. CPD as a positive aid and not as a punishment.

Will our new Values based approach lead to a situation like this here at Swansea?

You will find the presentation slides here – http://www.thehigherandfurthereducationshow.co.uk/seminar/best-practice-an-excellent-and-engaged-workforce/?presentations=1

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