Supporting our academic mission

Throughout the pandemic, I have been struck by the dedication, commitment and resilience of Oxford’s professional services staff. There have been countless examples of these qualities as they work to support academics and researchers in their world-leading activities and, of course, our students. And as we approach the end of Michaelmas term, I am impressed by how swiftly we have revived and reinvigorated important projects that had to be slowed or paused.

As you made clear in the Staff Survey, the last two years have taken their toll. Colleagues are working incredibly hard, while competing with outdated systems, complex structures and involved processes, and often without well-equipped professional networks to support them.


Building on our experiences
So today I am sharing plans developed by senior leaders in UAS and the academic divisions to build on the collective spirit we have fostered during the pandemic, and to address some of the challenges that have come to the fore.

We will shortly be consulting on a Professional Services Strategy, which will both showcase recent improvements in our services and help us to improve and develop them for the future.

The strategy is designed to ensure that our professional services fully support the University’s core mission of education and research. By focusing our efforts on the three themes of collaboration, quality and investing in our people I am convinced that we can make significant improvements. That means:

  • Working together as one effective team, collaborating across the University.
  • Focusing on quality: understanding the needs of all parts of the University and continually improving our services.
  • Nurturing, developing and respecting our people, and celebrating their success.

We will not be starting from scratch, and any new initiatives will depend on consultation. We will celebrate and build on the excellent work that’s already taking place, from incremental improvements in local services to broader initiatives such as the Estates Strategy, the Finance White Paper and Focus on People. Bringing these all together, and aligning behind a single plan, will make it easier to prioritise new ideas that help us move in the same direction.


A One-Oxford strategy

This is a strategy for all our professional services, wherever they are. It is absolutely not about centralisation, but about responsiveness to local needs and valuing local services, while joining up more where that makes sense – for example, ensuring effective planning between academic divisions and the UAS, enabling staff mobility to support career development, and developing leaders of the future. It is also about sharing best practice and learning from each other, with a series of service reviews tackling processes and operations of functions which involve disparate parts of the University.


Effective support and simpler processes
I would really welcome your thoughts, reactions and priorities.  My ambition is that staff across the University will recognise improvements in more coherent services. I am confident that it will result in more effective support and simpler processes for our academics, research staff and students, as well as making work more rewarding for professional services colleagues.

Oxford thrives when we work together and when we take a long-term view. By uniting around a common strategy for our professional services, I am confident we can build on our pandemic experiences, make our decisions and actions more aligned, and better reflect the spirit of One Oxford. Let me know what you think either through the consultation or by sending me an email.