Halpin announces Consulting Fellow Bob Rabone

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Halpin Partnership, a management consultancy specialising in higher education, is pleased to welcome Bob Rabone to its growing team of Consulting Fellows.

Bob was recently a member of the Steering Group which produced the Financial Sustainability Strategy Group’s report ‘Understanding the Impact of Income Cross-Flows on Financial Sustainability in the UK Higher Education Sector’.

Halpin Consulting Fellow Bob Rabone

Bob is a Chartered Accountant with over 30 years of commercial experience as a Finance Director with private and public companies, operating in a range of sectors. For 12 years to July 2017 Bob was the Chief Financial Officer of the University of Sheffield with responsibility for Finance, Estates, IT, Accommodation and Commercial Services.

He began his career training with Coopers & Lybrand (now part of PricewaterhouseCoopers) before joining a medium-sized accountancy firm offering consultancy services in financial planning, funding and information technology to a range of clients: from owner managed enterprises to public companies. A common thread through all of Bob’s executive roles has been the development of clear organisational strategies during periods of business growth or change.

Bob was chair of the British University Finance Directors Group from 2013 to 2016 and contributed to several HE sector reviews, such as the Diamond Efficiency, Effectiveness and Value for Money review. A focus of his activity in the HE sector has been to aid the better understanding of financial performance and financial sustainability by funders, regulators, governors, staff and students. This focus continues as a member of the sector’s Financial Sustainability Steering Group.

Joint CEO Susie Hills commented, “The breadth and depth of experience that Bob brings to Halpin is unrivalled. He is a respected finance expert and is already delivering great value to our clients.”

Why can we ‘plan and do’ but not review?

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It intrigues me that most organisations have formal systematic processes in place for planning and building budgets, but fewer have similarly systematic processes which enable them to review their plans, assess the impact of their work and re-shape budgets accordingly.

It appears that we all find it easier to plan and put new things in place than we do to review how our plans have turned out and, if required, consider how we can dismantle and re-build things. Perhaps most leaders are by nature innovators – delivering new plans and ideas – and less likely to be focused on assessment and review. I certainly fall into this trap and can be magpie-like – distracted by shiny new toys. Yet I have learnt over time that sometimes you have to radically review your approach and re-shape your teams. Even if you are the one that built them up and your plans were sound, unless you are open to changing them you will have less impact.

Often departments build up over time incrementally. A post here, a post there, each one individually justified. The postholders work hard and justify their keep. They deliver results and they plan how they can grow their work. Reviews of these departments and their work tend to only happen when something has gone wrong, results are disappointing, a Director leaves or budget constraints are so severe there is no other way.

And yet the power of effective review shouldn’t just be used when things have gone wrong or when external forces align against us. We should constantly review our plans and consider how we can redeploy our resources in response to the needs of our institution and changes in the market. Locking resources into areas which were a priority and are no longer a priority is wasteful and distracting. It’s a luxury we can’t afford anymore, and ultimately it’s frustrating to those working in that area too – most people are fully aware of the impact they are having and whether their work is seen as a priority by their institution.

The Halpin team have become known for our work on Reviews. Our team approach reviews in a systematic way. We establish the scope and agree objectives. We listen, learn and understand the context. We explore institutional strategy and priorities. We assess the data and evidence – quantitative, qualitative and comparative. We offer observations, recommendations and options. And we peer-review our work to ensure we are drawing in the right insight from a variety of experience bases. Our work aims to take our clients towards best practice in their sector and form an actionable plan to bring about the desired change. This kind of review should be empowering to the client, enabling them to achieve their goals more quickly.

Bringing in an external review team can enable you to consider how you tackle change objectively, dispassionately. It can open up honest, productive discussion on areas which felt impossible to change. It can empower your team to bring about the changes they have been pushing for but unable to secure. It can help you to bring about a culture of regular review by modelling how it can be done in any part of your institution.

The Halpin team are not career consultants; we are people who have delivered change at senior levels in a variety of institutions. We have walked in your shoes and know what it took to bring about change. We work with care and discretion. We value the work you do and want to enable you to do it better.

Whether you work with Halpin to undertake a review or drive the review process yourself internally, building a systematic review process will be essential if you are to be able to respond to the changing marketplace. The key steps are simple:

  1. Establish the scope
  2. Agree objectives
  3. Understand the context
  4. Focus on institutional strategy and priorities
  5. Assess the data and evidence – quantitative, qualitative and comparative
  6. Make clear observations and recommendations
  7. Test findings through peer review
  8. Define options
  9. Establish action plan

Halpin delivers reviews across the higher education sector. Two recently completed projects include a Review of Council Effectiveness at University of Bath, and a Race Equality Review at Central School of Speech and Drama.

 To discuss the particular needs of your institution, get in touch.

 

25 years in international Higher Education. What’s changed?

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I realised recently that 2019 marks my 25th year in international higher education. This made me pause to reflect on what has changed over that period.

This article highlights three key changes – one at individual/operational unit level, one at organisational level and one at national/international level – and speculate briefly on what the future looks like. Observations are based mainly on the UK context, but some elements may resonate in other parts of the world.

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For #IWD2019, let’s start with watching our words

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The headline that “More FTSE 100 CEOs are called John than are women’ is certainly a striking one. A quick tally of UK university VCs tells us that it is not quite as bad in the higher education sector. (You’d need to include the Davids, Stephens, Stuarts, Nigels, Pauls, Peters AND Johns to beat the 25% of female leaders, which is still quite shocking but doesn’t quite have the same impact as the first headline).

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Building a University for Life

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 “The idea that you will be able at 18 to study something and three years later you’ll have everything you need to take you through until you’re 75 is fanciful. If it ever were true it’s certainly not true now.”

This view was expressed by Professor Kathy Armour (Pro-VC Education from the University of Birmingham) at a recent higher education roundtable event. The point is beautifully made and one that I wish schools and universities were better able to support. Given that a current 18-year-old will likely need to reinvent their professional selves at least 3 or 4 times during their working lifetime, education shouldn’t be a one-time opportunity.

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Brexit + Trump = Time for Turbo-Charged Alumni Relations

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Back in November 2016, Halpin Joint CEO Susie Hills wrote this piece, and it remains as relevant now as it was then. The smartest institutions are connecting and engaging with their international community in a meaningful and long-term way as an insurance policy against Brexit.

The winds of political and economic change are creating stormy weather for higher education institutions on both sides of the Atlantic. Both Brexit and the election of Trump have exposed deep divisions within our societies: our higher education institutions are seen to be part of the ‘privileged establishment’ for which many in our society are expressing their discontent. In both cases university staff and graduates were predominantly on the losing side of the vote, yet in the face of this divide, our universities must play their part in helping to bring communities together and tackling disadvantage.

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Winning the dash to the UCAS deadline (and the race to the summer)

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The UCAS deadline provides an intense pressure point for marketing and admissions teams – and this year the stakes are high. Fewer 18-year-olds, intense competition, the Augar review, political uncertainty…

The good news is that whilst there has to be a final dash towards the UCAS deadline, the race isn’t necessarily won or lost on that date.

At this pressured time of year, you can position yourselves to be in pole position for the next few months by taking a few simple steps:

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Halpin announces latest addition to their growing team of experts

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Halpin is delighted to announce the appointment of Rachel Killian as Senior Consultant.

Rachel is a higher education specialist with 20 years of marketing and recruitment experience gained in both university and agency settings. She applies the principles of marketing to the practicalities of student recruitment, employer branding and youth marketing. Rachel joins Halpin from people management experts Penna where she led their specialist higher education team, supporting universities with student marketing and talent attraction strategies.

Rachel Killian
Senior Consultant

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Unconditional offers. How to discount your reputation.

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The news from UCAS that over a third of students in England, Wales & Northern Ireland received an unconditional offer in the last cycle reminds us how many universities are scraping the bottom of the barrel.

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Value for money in HE – denial is not an option

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The recent report by the House of Commons Education Committee ‘Value for money in higher education’ offers vital insight into the prevailing winds in HE, and how the concept of value for money for students is going to shape universities over the coming years.

So what is the report signalling, and what should universities be doing right now?

Here are some of the key messages in the report, and some suggestions as to how you might act now to reshape your plans for 2018/19 and beyond.

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