Strategic Review of Professional Services
Information about the ongoing strategic review of the University’s professional services
Professional services, wherever they are in the University, are struggling with increased demand and workload, driven by increases in student numbers and research activity, an increasingly complex regulatory and funding environment, and a range of other factors.
There is broad consensus that our professional services, despite the dedication and efforts of our staff, are not as effective as they might be. Incremental efficiencies are increasingly hard to find and have not tackled the root causes of some of the issues.
The University is therefore carrying out a strategic view of the strengths and weaknesses of our professional services across the University with a view to considering how the design and structure can best support our academic mission in the most effective way.
About the review
The strategic review of Oxford’s professional services model is designed to:
- Assess the strengths and weaknesses of the current model
- Provide an evidence base to build a collective understanding about where there is (and is not) a case for change
- Help build a consensus about the strategic direction for any future changes that might be needed
It is aimed at helping the University achieve the Professional Services Together ambitions - a University-wide approach to evolving our professional services, in support of our mission of teaching and research.
The review was commissioned by the Services Subcommittee, and is being managed by a working party chaired by the Registrar, with representatives from University Administration and Services (UAS) and all academic divisions.
The scope is professional services in all parts of the University (for example, UAS, GLAM (Gardens, Libraries and Museums), divisions, departments). Colleges are out of scope.
Fit with other key developments
The Strategic Review has launched at a period of significant change at the University. It is designed to complement a range of other developments in the following ways:
- Digital Transformation: the review is likely to identify priorities for our digital transformation ambitions (for example, better support for automated processes, in support of more effective professional services
- Vice-Chancellor’s Review of Pay and Conditions: both initiatives are intended to improve the working environment for our professional services staff
- Inflation Mitigations, and financial pressures: more efficient services likely to free up funding to support Oxford’s academic mission
The review comes under Professional Services Together – complementing the framework, tools and resources provided by the People and Change Programme, and the rolling programme of individual service reviews commissioned by the Services Subcommittee – helping achieve our wider ambitions in the key areas of people, quality and collaboration.
About the analysis phase
The analysis phase took place during Trinity term 2023 and over the summer. It involved:
- Quantitative analysis of internal and external data to provide an overview of the current professional services landscape at the University, benchmarked against other universities where appropriate
- Listening exercises with over 100 colleagues: including structured interviews with academic and professional services leaders as well as group sessions with a range of academic, UAS, and divisional and departmental colleagues
The analysis phase was not intended to propose changes to our ways of working or structure. Instead it sought to describe the current position and start exploring the strengths and weaknesses of alternative models.