21: Episode 21: From the Civil Service to Sheffield Hallam, avoiding us and them and moving out of the covid crisis to address the civic challenge for our universities

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Episode 21 of University Registrars Talking About Stuff welcomes Richard Calvert, Deputy Vice Chancellor Strategy and Operations at Sheffield Hallam University, for an interesting conversation about the current challenges and wider issues too. Richard talks us through his long and varied civil service career, which included major stints at DfID working with some notable Secretaries of State and some major work on organisational effectiveness in the civil service and in other agencies too before ending up at Sheffield Hallam four years ago.

We learn about some of the big changes he has made since he arrived with a real focus on breaking down silos but also trying to address the unhelpful academic/professional services divide, trying to avoid ‘us and them’. Looking at wider university strategy, Richard notes that it is important to align both professional and academic strategy inputs and to eliminate much of the baggage which people bring to institution-wide discussions. The professional service changes Richard made in previous years really helped prepare ground for an effective covid response and, although each week brings its fresh challenges he feels that academic and professional services staff have responded extraordinarily well although there is still a long way to go.

We also discuss how the crisis management mode we are all in at the moment makes it difficult to think longer term which is why it is important to continue to focus on strategy development and seek to encourage colleagues to think ahead and remain optimistic for our institutions. In terms of the long term prospects for the sector Richard is also optimistic but stresses that it is vital that universities demonstrate their real value at local level and also show the value of higher education to the country. A really interesting and stimulating discussion which we hope you enjoy.

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