I love how the festive season allows us to spend long time around the table savouring food with family and friends and the chance to watch good old favourite movies. I could not possibly find a better way than a film to reflect on my first ‘good year’ at the Council of Deans.
In ‘A Good Year’, London banker Max Skinner (Russell Crowe) moves from a hectic life in the City in London to the south of France in lovely Provence to look after his late uncle’s house and vineyard. The change in his lifestyle and character is dramatic and reaches the usual happy ending with falling in love surrounded by breath-taking vineyard views. Although my good year at the Council has not offered a dramatic change in scenery, it has offered a change in perspective.
In my previous roles before joining the Council in December 2016, I led reviews and change programmes in much larger organisations, directing teams up to a 100, having corporate budget responsibility of over 80 million. In this role, I moved to leading a team of ten and a budget of just under one million. This was a particularly interesting viewpoint as everything looked suddenly smaller in scale while I suddenly felt ‘too big’ to fit in (think Alice in Wonderland…). However, it quickly became clear to me that the organisation’s impact has little to do with its small size headquarters in London. The Council’s heartbeat lies with its vast and diverse membership. With 83 universities and 100,000 future health professionals being educated at any one time, I was back in my comfort zone.
The scale of influence was one of the most positive changes for me. Having been in senior roles in public bodies before, I could easily get frustrated with the constraints of legislation and process that can often be challenging to creativity. At the Council, the power of having a voice through engagement with our members is the most valuable tool in policy making. Being able to influence change in policy, articulating the value of higher education to the economy and public services and the contribution of research and evidence to society have been my favourite gifts in this role.
It has not been an easy year, but challenge is what keeps us upbeat as a team in the office. The first year of the implementation of the funding reforms in healthcare higher education meant that I constantly needed to keep the focus on impact, working with our members, government and key partners to ensure a smooth transition and a sustainable settlement for our sector. Significant diversion between countries and different perspectives amongst the professions meant I needed to look at the bigger picture every time using a different lens.
2017 was also the year when the Council developed its new strategy, consolidating the good work over the last years, celebrating 20 years of policy and influence work. The Council welcomed a new Chair, Vice Chair, Treasurer, Scotland Convenor and the newly established Council of Deans of Health Wales. We strengthened our portfolio approach and ensured we engaged members across the board in all areas we have set as a priority widening the conversation from workforce and funding to research, Brexit and regulation. We developed the first ever Student Leadership Programme and learned that the simplest way to showcase our impact is by having our students being co-creators of their learning, empowering them to become strategists and leaders from the beginning of their education journey. We took a more business-like approach to how we deliver services for our members, ensuring we act upon feedback at our events and are held to account for the delivery of our services. We engaged in influencing HEFCE funding and policy, changes to NMC and HCPC standards and took a more proactive approach in ensuring all our professions have a strong representation in the Research Excellence Framework.
Looking ahead to 2018, we will be celebrating 70 years of the NHS, reflecting on the contribution of healthcare higher education to workforce strategies, while we continue to engage with changes in the regulatory agenda in higher education and healthcare, looking at a reviewed relationship with our global partners and a stronger voice in research.
None of these would have been and will be possible without the commitment and drive of working as a team: our members, elected Executive and staff. I wish you all a very happy and even more creative new year.