Allow us to (re)introduce ourselves to our members…

By Andy Fryer, UCEA’s Head of Communications and Membership
13 May 2021

In late March, with our weary eyes blinking into the flickering lights of hope as we emerged from the winter lockdown, UCEA hosted a 90-minute ‘Getting the most from UCEA membership’ webinar. More than fifty members joined us at the first such event in more than a year and we tried to deliver as much ‘about UCEA’ as possible in the limited time slot. While the event was initially aimed at individual members who were ‘new to sector’, we soon realised that many of our longer serving colleagues had moved into new roles and had also signed up, interested to learn more about UCEA’s ever-evolving range of services.

For those who couldn’t make the event, the areas of our work which we covered included HR policy advice, the multi-employer pay negotiations, our research, surveys and benchmarking on reward and workforce issues, sector pensions support, the employment of clinical academics, health and safety, and communications support. A great deal to cover in the short time available so, following the success and popularity of this online GTMFU (just when you thought you knew all the HE acronyms!), we are already planning to host another one soon.

After more than a year of holding our successful events, meetings and working online it could be easy to forget the obvious and hidden merits of face-to-face alternatives. When we can be assured of the safety of running events in person again, our member events and meetings programme will offer a range of formats designed to increase the accessibility (and affordability) to as wide a group of participants as possible. Without the meeting and greeting opportunities at events and meetings and the occasional treasured campus visits, this blog is an attempt to encourage members to get to know UCEA’s valued staff, both old (steady!) and new. As will be the case at your organisation, many of us have yet to meet some of our own new colleagues in person and not just via a laptop screen. 

I am not going to (re)introduce all my colleagues and what you should be contacting them for when a page on our excellent website does that for us. But what I do hope is that members appreciate how 19 of us (seven of whom are part-time) deliver such a wide range of services to our 170 member organisations. The ability to keep constantly attuned to members’ needs and anticipate the changing external environment has been a key challenge that UCEA has risen to thanks to the officers working with members through so many different remote channels. 

I am not going to urge you to try and understand how we are all committed to be agile in developing and delivering our new strategic plan when our CEO’s recent blog does that for us. The strategy sets out what UCEA will deliver for our members over the next 30 months, taking us to September 2023. But it also does what it says on the tin, explaining how UCEA will be agile in adapting to changing needs and challenges – just as we have proven over the past fifteen months. 

I am not going to remind you how we disseminate material to members, from Updates to bi-monthly Employment Bulletins and Pensions Newsletters, weekly news headlines, ad hoc Briefings, reports, guidance notes, ‘toolkits’, infographics and occasional confidential emails but I have just done so! Furthermore, I’m going to encourage you to email or, provided you have access to the members’ area of the website, you can manage your own mailing preferences via the ‘My Profile’ section of the website. 

I am not going to tell you about the range of information contained with the material listed above. This is a blog, not a slog. 

Our Managing Staff Return to Campus guidance brings together key themes, including psychological transition, change management, hybrid working, line management, leadership, health and safety and legal issues. This was introduced by our Deputy CEO in her blog, The end in sight? Managing staff return to campus, explaining how the guidance's rich information, useful examples and case studies help reiterate key basic principles and bring these to life. 

And while the guidance was (and still is) a well-received comprehensive resource for members UCEA has of course been holding up a mirror too - addressing our own return to ‘Woburn House campus’ alongside the eight other HE agencies with whom we share the building. A number of us have now taken-up the long-awaited opportunity of returning to our office space once a week, while others have had good reason to continue to deliver services effectively from home. And over the coming months, just like our members, we will no doubt face challenges and hurdles as more colleagues return to the building, with a keen eye on the external Covid situation. 

Regardless of where we are, we will, in line with our strategic plan, continue to adjust and deliver membership services. But we do look forward to seeing many of you soon…and not in the never seen but often worn tracksuit bottoms.