The value of international cooperation in higher education HR

At this year's UHR (Universities Human Resources) Conference in Newcastle, which took place on 9-12 May, the ACU and HR Global Innovations gave a joint workshop entitled 'The future of HR in Higher Education; taking a global perspective', which emphasised the commonality of HR challenges in universities around the world. The workshop was designed to encourage international collaboration, particularly through the ACU HR in HE Community, and get feedback on a range of opportunities for new initiatives, including international study tours, while showcasing the HR in HE Community to UK HR Directors.

HR in HE Community Steering Committee Member Elizabeth Baré, from the LH Martin Institute in Australia, helped to deliver the workshop. Here she gives us some of her learnings and insights from the conference.

Elizabeth Baré LH Martin Institute

My first highlight from this conference was the initial keynote by Professor Gareth Jones, who has moved between business and academia in leadership and HR roles. Asking the audience 'Why should I be led by you?', he challenged many of the assumptions of traditional leadership development approaches.

Successful leaders, he said, should:

  • Sense situations
  • Take symbolic actions to demonstrate change
  • Embrace crises as they are opportunities
  • Reveal weaknesses
  • Generate closeness, but retain distance for dealing with difficult situations
  • Tell stories as a compelling communicator
  • Use emotions to liberate the energies of others
  • Be authentic

His message was, 'if you want to be a great leader be yourself more with skill'. It was a great presentation and I recommend you look at it on YouTube

Matthew Elliot (People Director, Virgin Money) told us the story of the merger of Northern Rock (a long-standing finance company) with Virgin Money and how it was guided by a strong customer focus, which he said characterised the Virgin brand. Referencing the philosophy 'every one's better off (EBO)', which argues that a good workplace experience and engagement underpins excellent customer service, he explained what he had learnt, citing stories about strengthening engagement and inclusion. If you're interested in hearing more about this, you can see Matthew Elliot's presentation here.

A presentation by Professor Janet Beer, Vice-Chancellor, University of Liverpool, highlighted the current HR challenges in UK higher education, in particular gender and inclusion. Professor Beer's presentation can be seen here

I also found the workshop run by CUPA-HR delegates, David Blake and Pamela Prescod-Ceasar, on the State of American Higher Education – post-US presidential election fascinating. Reflecting on the need to provide stability and continuity for staff and students in periods of disruptive change, both speakers provided insights into the importance of communication, allowing discussion and reaction, and of keeping the business running as usual. UK participants discussed their own reactions to Brexit. It was a great example of how much in common we all have and how much we can learn from each other.

I am always impressed by the innovativeness and professionalism of our UK colleagues. It is worth going to international conferences like this as there is always something new to learn. To understand different perspectives is always valuable.

For more information and the ACU and HR Global Innovations workshop presentation, please visit

ACU HR in HE CommunityThe ACU HR in HE Community's next international conference will be hosted by the University of Waterloo in Toronto, Canada, between 23 and 27 September 2018. The theme will be 'Universities of the Future: Global Perspectives for HR' and will also look at the common challenges facing HR professionals in universities around the world, giving different perspectives from across the Commonwealth.

If you're interested in joining the HR in HE Community, please email

Last modified on 13/09/2017
Tags: ACU HR in HE Community, Member Communities, Canada, Human Resources