Birmingham Professional Review FAQ

What is the VC Review of CoSS Professional Services?

All University of Birmingham services, including academic departments and professional services are reviewed as part of the Vice Chancellor’s Integrated Review Process every five years. The review focusses on identifying areas of strength and opportunities for future development.

CoSS Professional Services underwent the review process in June 2016, with a final report which included commendations and recommendations released on 18 August 2016. A summary of the report can be found on the One Stop Shop.

As a result of the review, an action plan was produced to support implementation of the review recommendations. To ensure delivery of the key actions, we have initiated the CoSS Professional Services Review Project.

The review identified many areas of strength and specified “PS in CoSS are delivering a high quality service and operating as an integral and critical part of the academic mission” and it is this upon which we hope to build.

What is the CoSS Professional Services Review project?

The CoSS Professional Services Review Project has been initiated to ensure delivery of the key recommendations of the VC Review. The project will seek to determine the operating model for CoSS Professional Services which most effectively enables the delivery of the four pillars of the Strategic Plan (Education, Influence, Research and Resources).

What is the vision for the project?

We will ensure that our structures across the College are consistent, clear and simple. Our professional services staff working across the College will build capacity that enhances our ability to deal with changing demands.

We will offer comprehensive support and training opportunities to ensure our people feel valued. This will enable better succession planning and highlight the wide range of career progression opportunities available to our staff.

What has happened so far and what's yet to come?

December 2017 to February 2017

Project team and initial work streams were initiated following the outcome of the Vice Chancellor’s Review of CoSS Professional Services

Work streams were led by College Board members and staff volunteers were invited to participate. Over 50 staff input into the proposals and recommendations, these working groups produced a series of high level recommendations to achieve greater consistency across the College.

These proposals were then prioritised and condensed to key areas focusing on Structure, Process and Culture.

March to May 2017

Detailed work to understand the implications of the recommendations took place through:

  • Focus Groups
  • Survey
  • Individual meetings and small workshops

Attendance at focus groups was open to all and >100 staff participated.

Change Champions group established and training programme developed.

May 2017 to June 2017

Survey initiated following the completion of focus groups.

Senior structure proposal to be presented to College Board.

Continuous Improvement Group initiated and initial process reviews agreed. Practitioner groups will be identified to lead the process improvements.

Small working groups will be set up to plan career and expectations implementation.

July 2017 to September 2017

Implementation of:

  • Senior structure
  • Continuous improvement group
  • Expectations framework
  • Career Development and Progression framework

Implementation plan shared on One Stop Shop and feedback session for those who came to focus groups.

Practitioner and working groups continue.

October 2017 onwards 

Reviewing, measuring, feedback, lessons learnt.

Practitioner groups.

Implementation will complete, however embedding some of the cultural aspects will take longer to realise.

Lessons learnt review will take place.

What are the key areas of focus?

The initial recommendations fell into three categories initiating 3 work streams; Processes, Structure and Culture.


The processes work stream, led by Julie McLynn Operations Manager for the School of Government and Society, focuses on identifying key processes and implementing a working group to streamline and enable best practise across the college.


The structure work stream, led by David Allsop Operations Manager for the School of Social Policy, focuses on developing a structure for Professional Services which enables cross college working and better aligns existing roles to the strategic framework. The proposed senior structure will be chaired at the College Board Away Day on 7th April, thereafter consideration is to be given to the overall shape of the college.


The culture work stream, led by Keith Portman Operations Manager for the School of Education, focuses on engaging broadly with professional services staff through the use of focus groups and surveys to improve career development opportunities and develop a shared culture through a CoSS Vision and Values.

Job Descriptions

Job descriptions across the College of Social Sciences are currently under review to identify commonalities between similar roles and areas of standardisation to encourage cross-college working and improve flexibility and resilience, the review will not affect existing staff.

What were the outcomes of the focus groups?

The outcomes of the focus groups around career development, values and expectations have been noted below.

In addition Angela Storer and Subina Begum will be attending local team meetings, if you’d like any further information please feel free to get in contact.

Career Development 23/03/2017 14:30 – 16:00

The common themes from across the Career Development workshops was around the lack of awareness, visibility and availability of opportunities such as secondments which are not sufficiently advertised. Attendees felt it would be a good idea to create new channels to raise awareness of opportunities dedicated to career development making information readily available. Platforms such as team meetings, notice boards rather than emails were a popular method of raising awareness.

Attendees also wanted more consistency in support from management around career progression as well as consistency in the PDR process focusing on two-way discussion around development.

29/03/2017 10:30 – 12:00
31/03/2017 10:00 – 11:30
Values 31/03/2017 14:30 – 16:00

Attendees were supportive of the proposed values and identified what the values mean to them, how it can be defined, what the barriers are to achieving them and how these can be overcome.

Some of the barriers identified was around fear of being discouraged, frequent change, disengagement, lack of confidence, lack of clarity over expectations, set ways of working as well as lack of recognition and communication. The groups identified ways in which these barriers can be overcome through intangible and tangible means.

Intangible means:

  • Encouragement by managers/colleagues
  • Recognition – recognise when values are upheld
  • Acknowledge what matters and what doesn’t
  • Clarifying goals and expectations
  • Building trust
  • Supporting colleagues and teams

Tangible means:

  • Embed values into job descriptions, induction, PDRs focusing on values and expectations
  • Embed values through recognition and incentives such as GEM awards, vouchers, flexi-time, early leave, employee of the month/week
  • Team meetings to be proactive in encouraging, praising and reminding staff of values they should embody
  • Change management training, creating a culture of change
  • Prioritise internal promotion, encourage and support it
03/04/2017 14:00 – 15:30
04/04/2017 10:30 – 12:00
Expectations 05/04/2017



10:30 – 12:00

During the workshops staff identified the expectations they feel are clear and unclear within their roles. The PDR and probation process was identified as a clear expectation as staff felt they were clear on what was expected of them. However the group expressed their lack of clarity around academic versus professional services expectations and felt expectations around behaviours, the strategic framework and change should be embedded in the framework.

Attendees expressed having a shared goal would make having an expectations framework worthwhile as well as having greater consistency in managers developing their staff. They also identified tangible means in embedding the expectations framework to make it a reality, as noted below.

  • Test and review the framework
  • Use a single hub rather than using emails to find information relating to expectations framework, secondments, vacancies, training courses etc.
  • Make the expectations framework available on the intranet and embed in the recruitment, job descriptions, interview, induction, PDR process
  • Make it relevant and applicable to each individual
  • Communicate it well and through multiple channels

Some of the expectations staff wanted to see around the different categories have been summarised below:

Career Progression + Development

  • Support in funding external training opportunities


  • Honest and open communication from managers
  • Regular and clear communication on change
  • Sharing of strategic decisions

Behaviours and Values

  • Leading by example

Download the presentation slides from the sessions here:

Feel free to get in touch with one of our champions if you have any questions or feedback you’d like to put forward.

How will decisions be made?

College Board will make decisions based on the recommendations of the work streams at key points throughout the project.

Who are our champions?

  • Andy Newnham
  • Angela Poultney
  • Anna Llewellyn
  • Caroline Hetherington
  • Daniel Sean Hayes
  • Emily Barrett
  • Kate Salter
  • Louise Fearn
  • Louise Rudge
  • Madeleine McGarrie
  • Margaret Jelleyman
  • Nasir Adnan Hanif
  • Samuel Murphy
  • Mandy Dhaliwal
  • Rhiannon Kathryn Morgan
  • Natalie baker
  • Jeevan Shoker
  • Guvinder Kaur Rajania
  • Ben Clarke

How will this affect me?

This project is not about reducing the level of Professional Services staffing we have nor is it about having to deliver budget savings.

We are looking at how we can best deliver Professional Services with our existing resources.  This may mean that we identify areas where we can work better together across the College, or where there is duplication in activity which could be delivered more efficiently through a different way of working.

Please do take the opportunity to feed in any ideas you have around where and how working in CoSS Professional Services could be improved through the online suggestion box or by email to Angela Storer, our Change Manager ( or Subina Begum, our Project Officer (