Provost Update: Inspiring diversity and ambition
Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Shearer West explains two projects that will need your input to ensure their success.
The people who work at this University are what make it such an outstanding and unique place. That is why I am devoting my second Provost’s blog to two projects that will make a difference to people: how we support, reward and value them, and how we recognise and encourage greater diversity in our workforce. Academic Career Pathways and Excellence through Diversity will both seek considerable staff engagement and wisdom to ensure their success.
Being an academic in the 21st century comes with enormous responsibilities; teaching, research, societal impact, good citizenship and leadership are all more demanding and complex than they were in the last century. In my view, it is therefore more important than ever that we have clarity in our expectations of academic staff, that we recognise the contributions they make to teaching, research and leadership will vary at different stages of their careers, that we can be transparent in our expectations in what is an increasingly competitive global environment, and that we support talented and capable people to achieve their career ambitions.
The Academic Career Pathways project will gather the views of experienced leaders in the University to help us refresh and clarify our career framework, establish transparent expectations, consider what constitutes appropriate evidence of achievement and whether our academic titles are meaningful within a global higher education landscape.
While career progression provides goals and incentives for staff, diversity enables us to be a more open-minded, creative and forward-thinking university. A significant amount of recent research demonstrates that diverse teams lead to higher performing organisations, but I also passionately believe that the principles of diversity should be prioritised in an open, democratic society. Diversity does not just comprise gender, ethnicity and other protected characteristics (essential though these are) but also belief, background, nationality and life experience.
We have an excellent track record in this area, with Athena Swan and Stonewall awards, as well as commendations for our equality and diversity initiatives from national bodies such as the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). But we could do much better to bring on our talent pipelines, to eradicate implicit bias in all recruitment and promotion processes, and to fuel creative problem solving for the greater benefit of everyone and the success of the University.
Excellence through Diversity builds on an earlier pilot which saw 13 academic and professional service departments endeavouring to put diversity at the heart of their thinking in a variety of innovative ways.
These are crucial projects for Sheffield at this especially challenging period in our history. We would value input from as many people as possible and will be holding a number of focus groups throughout May and June specifically on Academic Career Pathways.
Professor Shearer West
Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor