A great deal has happened since the last edition of Engage, not least a new government is now in place at Westminster, and as I write we expect to hear very soon the implications of in-year funding reviews for HEIs in England, the governance review in Scotland and the Welsh higher education stakeholders meeting planned for later in June. Northern Irish HEIs are certainly not spared funding cuts either which means that sector leaders will continue to be rising to the challenge of doing more with less.
At such times it is always tempting for organisations to reduce their development budgets but I am delighted to hear our members reporting that investment in leadership, governance and management (LGM) development as critical to their transforming agendas. Culture change, staff engagement and embedding distributed leadership are high on their list of priorities, so look out for our research publication due out in the Summer - Developing and Sustaining Shared Leadership in Higher Education: Professor Richard Bolden, Professor Sandra Jones, Dr Heather Davis and Professor Paul Gentle - a joint piece of work with the LH Martin Institute at the University of Melbourne and the Australian Office for Learning and teaching.
The Leadership Foundation also has international connections much closer to home and during the last week in May I spent a very interesting time in the Republic of Ireland visiting over ten HEIs and higher education agencies. It was good to catch up with old friends and make some new ones. We are delighted to see a growing membership in Ireland where the benefits of Irish-UK leadership interactions are seen and valued. A number of the institutes of technology may merge to become Technological Universities under the Irish tertiary education policy reforms, potentially bringing new challenges in relation to mergers and the development of new organisational forms.
We are truly delighted to see our membership currently at the highest level since 2008, and once again we thank you for that. We are not complacent about this at all and I am delighted that Dr David Llewellyn, vice-chancellor of Harper Adams University and a member of our Board, is chairing our new Membership Advisory Group, supported by Dr Lesly Huxley, our director for membership and organisational development. The Group met for the first time in June and have taken on the challenge of helping us to refine, design and rearticulate our membership value proposition. We would welcome your thoughts on this; please send them to Lesly at E: firstname.lastname@example.org.
My thanks to David and to another Board member, Professor Colin Riordan, vice-chancellor of Cardiff University, who has agreed to chair a task and finish group to develop a new self-sustaining international strategy for the Leadership Foundation. Increasingly we are being asked to work internationally supporting governments around the world to develop their higher education systems, develop new LGM and provide opportunities for international participation on our programmes and provide programmes overseas.
This summer has also seen the culmination of a lot of hard work by our Research and Innovation team with the launch of stimulus papers (Religion in Britain: Challenges for Higher Education, How can we make not break black and minority ethnic leaders in higher education?), and Leadership Insights (The personal and the political in leadership: a story of immigration, students and targets) and our first BME summit in partnership with the Equality Challenge Unitv, to action work to progress BME staff in higher education careers.
Finally, internally, we are reviewing our systems and processes to make sure in future that your interactions with us are even more streamlined!
May I take this opportunity to wish you all a very good Summer, hopefully with a break to recharge your batteries, and I look forward to seeing as many of you as I can in the Autumn.
Very best wishes
Alison Johns, chief executive of the Leadership Foundation