Flexible Working: Amanda Weston

As part of our blog series designed to celebrate flexible working week in the UK, and raise awareness about the benefits of flexible working, I spoke to Amanda Weston, who works at the Campus for Ageing and Vitality, about her experiences working part time.

What role do you work part time in?

I’m a Clinical Project Coordinator at 60% FTE. I provide admin support to clinical trials in the field of dementia. But I’m currently on redeployment, so I’m looking for another role.

Have your hours changed over time?

A little. I started working part time 8 years ago, and began on 50% FTE. Then, in my next role, I increased my hours slightly to 60% FTE, and stayed on those when I moved into my current role. However, the next role I’m looking at will likely be 80% FTE, which may not give me the same work-life balance as I’ve enjoyed in my previous roles.

What have you done recently in your part time role that you’re proud of?

I recently finished supporting a video for clinicians that raises awareness about dementia. I’ve also helped organise a big upcoming conference at the Centre for Life about a study I support.

What advantages or opportunities has working part time brought you?

Working part time has given me a much better work-life balance and a more rounded experience of life in general. As well as being able to care for my elderly parents, I’ve got really into yoga in my time off, and I’m actually going on a yoga retreat in Turkey next week, which I definitely wouldn’t have got the opportunity to do on full time hours!

What challenges did you face while working part time?

The main challenge for me has been that it’s very difficult to secure an open-ended job on part time hours, as many research part time roles are fixed term contracts attached to a specific grant or form of funding. This can be very difficult, but you just have to remain positive that the next role will come and be confident in your own abilities.

Where did you find support while working part time?

Generally, I see myself as fairly self-sufficient, but I have found my immediate work colleagues to be a really good support. The University Registrar, John Hogan, has also been particularly supportive of my development, as he has funded my study for an AUA Postgraduate Certificate.

What would you do differently if you had your time again?

If I had my time again I would make a more decisive choice to diversify within other areas of Higher Education, to make myself more flexible. I’ve worked in the same area for 8 years now, and believe that it’s not necessarily a good thing to become so specialised within a niche sector.

What do you think the University could do to help support part time workers like yourself?

Currently, when your being redeployed you’re only able to apply for jobs at the same grade as your current role, which can make career progression harder for staff on fixed term contracts, as we often only change jobs when our contract comes to an end. It would be nice if the University altered their policy so that perhaps, if you had been in the role for a certain number of years, you would able to apply for a higher grade job during redeployment.

I’ve also been talking to Candy Rowe, FMS’ Director of Diversity, about developing a database where part time workers could register and be paired with similar people across the University to apply for a full time role as a job share. I believe this would create a lot more opportunities for part time staff.

We hope you enjoyed hearing from Amanda about some of the challenges and opportunities she’s had while working part-time.

We’ll be running this blog series for the next few weeks, so if you currently work part time at NU and would be interested in talking about flexible working, we want to hear from you! To take part, please get in contact with Georgia Spencer.

Flexible Working: Ann Armstrong

This week is Flexible Working Week in the UK: a week that aims to raise awareness about the benefits of flexible working and empower the UK workforce to be more flexible.

To celebrate, we have a blog series around flexible working, where we will be speaking to several members of staff from all around the University to find out all about the advantages and challenges of flexible working at NU.

The first blog in this series is with FMS EDI’s very own Ann Armstrong, who talks about her experiences of working part time in her role.

What role do you work part time in?

I’m the EDI Officer for the Faculty of Medical Sciences. I’ve been in post for 18 months so far. In my role, I support the Director of EDI (Candy Rowe) in her work. I’m working to embed EDI into everything that the Faculty does and ensure that the Faculty is a good place for everyone to work and study, regardless of their background or protected characteristic.

How many hours do you work and on what schedule?

I work 2.5 days a week, which are Tuesday, Wednesday morning and Thursday. It’s been important for me to work to a regular schedule as I look after my young daughter and I am the primary carer for my elderly mother, so it’s really important for both of them to know that I’ll be there.

What would you identify as your biggest success while working part time?

I’m really proud of the work I put in to the completion and submission of the Faculty’s first silver Athena SWAN application. As there was a lot of work to do on it, I chose to work some extra hours to help out. However, there was never any demand on my time. I was able to work the extra hours that I chose very flexibly, and I felt in control of when I worked and for how long. My line managers also made sure I always knew just how much my time was truly appreciated.

What advantages or opportunities has working part time brought you?

Working part time has allowed me to have a better work life balance. As a mum to a daughter it’s been really nice to be able to show her that as a woman you are still able to have a successful career as well as having time to be at home with her.

What challenges did you face while working part time?

The main challenge of working part time is that work doesn’t stop when I’m not here. There’s always things going on all the time, and that can sometimes leave you feeling as though you’re missing out on things when you’re not here. To address this, I have a formal catchup with the rest of the EDI team on the first day I’m back every week. This gives me a much greater awareness of what’s going on and allows me to do my job better.

Where did you find support while working part time?

My line managers have both been really supportive, flexible and understanding. They always encourage me to take any training opportunities I get. In particular, Katharine Rogers, the Director of Faculty Operations is really good at helping with career development and she regularly sends out opportunities for secondments, which makes me feel really encouraged to develop and gain skills.

What would you do differently if you had your time again?

If I had my time again I would definitely still choose to be part time. I don’t regret it at all and really value the chance it’s given me to spend time with my daughter. However, I would tell myself not to feel guilty about it. At the beginning, I felt like by only being there half the time I wasn’t pulling my weight, even though I knew I was. So if I had my time again, I would tell myself to be confident in my decision and trust that I’m doing a good job.

What single piece of advice would you give to others who want to/are considering working part time?

If it suits your lifestyle, you should go for it! You will be supported in your choice. Even though it can be challenging at times, the enormous benefits it’s given me in my family life definitely outweigh the difficulties. I would also recommend that you’re prepared to make the most of all opportunities that you’re offered and try to have a flexible, open outlook.

Thank you so much to Ann for speaking to us, and we hope she’s inspired you to request flexible working if you feel it’s something that will benefit you!

Over the next few weeks there will be more blogs from others who are working flexibly at the moment.

Or, if you currently work part time at NU, for whatever reason, and would be interested in taking part in the series, we want to hear from you! To take part, please get in contact with Georgia Spencer.

Demystifying Leadership: Why be the Director of EDI?

In the first of our Demystifying Leadership Series, which will look at what some of our senior leaders get up to and what they get out of their roles, we talk to Prof Candy Rowe, our Director of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) for the Faculty. As she steps down from being Director and the Faculty looks for a replacement, we ask what being Director of EDI was like, what she got out of leading on EDI for the Faculty, and why she would recommend it as a leadership opportunity.

Why did you apply to be Director of EDI for the Faculty?

I’d actually told myself that I definitely wouldn’t apply! I had been the academic lead for the successful Institute of Neuroscience Athena SWAN Silver Award, and also chaired the NU Women staff network. These roles took time, and I felt that I should perhaps be concentrating on my research profile to further my career. But in the end, the opportunity seemed too good to ignore. What changed my mind? I wanted a role where I could lead positive change for people, and have the opportunity to do so at a larger scale than I had before.

What does an average day look like for you?

I’m sure you’ll talk to anyone in a leadership role – there is no ‘average day’. What have I done today? I’ve chaired the Faculty EDI Committee, and for the first time had the EDI Leads from NU Med, our Malaysian campus, joining us via teleconference.

We also heard more about race equality from Vijaya Kotur (the University’s Race Equality Officer) and discussed how we could embed EDI more into some of the changes within the Faculty. I then had a catch-up with the fab Faculty EDI team, Ann Armstrong and Malasree Home, just to discuss challenges, clarify and prioritise workload and exchange ideas. I went straight into another meeting about a project being led in the Faculty by one of our Postgraduate team, Karolien Jordens, on experiences of international students here at Newcastle, and how we can improve the support we offer to our postgraduates. Following lunch, I met with colleagues from our Dental School who have won some funding for a project to diversify their student reps. This sounds like a great project, and I always enjoy chatting to people who have identified an EDI issue in their school or institute and are taking steps to address it. I always try to help if I can. In between all this, I’ve been progressing a host of other things – setting up a phone call with an EDI lead at another university to discuss Athena SWAN, helping finalise our International Women’s Day event on Friday, discussing the promotion of a new peer mentoring network for student parents, and tweeting the VC. And now it’s 3pm, and I’m writing this before I need to go and pick up my son at 4pm so he can get his homework done before he goes to a club!

What do you get out of being Director of EDI?

The capacity to change things for the better by empowering people and changing policies and practices that support people and the institution. I enjoy having a broad view of the Faculty and the Institution, which many people at my level don’t have. Working with diverse people, and building teams to deliver change – I love it that I can’t walk across campus without seeing someone I know and stopping for a catch-up.

What has been your biggest achievement?

There is no doubt that bringing everyone together to get our first Faculty Athena SWAN Award has been mine and the team’s biggest achievement. But I am also proud of other things I’ve done and been involved with. Most recently, I enjoyed working with LGBT+ reps and other colleagues to buy and raise the rainbow flag on campus for the first time, and seeing the positive impact of that. I think staff are becoming more aware of the importance of EDI: we’ve been working hard on our comms, including our blog and new Equality Matters email circular, as well as our EDI Week and Bitesize events – a lot of people have given ideas and time to make these work. And of course, all the work we did surveying the experiences of staff and student parents, and getting the institutional commitment through the ‘For Families’ project to make Newcastle University more family friendly by 2020. It’s an exciting time to be an EDI lead.

Who do you talk to about challenges or when the going feels tough?

Oh, all sorts of people – depends on the challenge! Like any job, it has its ups and downs, its successes and frustrations. David Burn, the PVC, is often someone who I turn to for support on advancing key issues for the Faculty – he’s always supportive, especially in times of need. But I also have a network of academic colleagues to talk about more personal career challenges, and a fantastic EDI team, both here in the Faculty and across the institution. I found a lot of people to be very supportive and offer me help and advice when I need it.

What have you learned through this role?

Lots. As I move into a new university-wide role, I can see that having been involved in strategic planning and delivery of projects makes a difference to my confidence in taking on a new position. For the first time, a leadership role feels quite do-able (maybe I’m not stretching myself enough!). I’ve learned a huge amount from the professional staff I’ve worked with, including the value of visualising processes, managing projects, and delivering change. I’ve also learned how to work strategically on decision-making committees, and the value of my own contributions to discussions and decisions. I’ve learned that I enjoy leadership roles, especially those that are new and that give ample opportunity to build something from scratch. And reading this, maybe I am starting to overcome my Imposter Syndrome too…

Have you enjoyed it – would you recommend it as a leadership role?

Definitely – I’ve met some brilliant people in this role, and been lucky to work with some great staff and students on EDI projects. It has been a lot of fun, and in fact, I’m going to miss the team I work with, and the opportunities to improve working cultures in the Faculty. Having said that, I’m not abandoning EDI entirely, I will still be leading on EDI issues in my new role as NUAcT Director, and remain co-Chair of the For Families project. If you’re thinking that this sounds like a fun job and one you’d be interested in doing, I’d definitely go for it. You’ll learn a lot about how the Faculty and Institution works, and your own abilities – you’ll be empowering yourself as well as the people around you.

The job description and details of how to apply have been sent to academic staff in the Faculty. If you think you would like to apply, please send a CV and covering letter to Marian Phillipson by 18th March 2019. Informal enquiries can be made directly to Prof David Burn, Pro-Vice Chancellor of FMS.

LGBT+ Research and Teaching at NU

Following the success of their first LGBT+ research showcase in LGBT History Month,  ‘Celebrating LGBT+ research at Newcastle University’, the steering group of Rainbow@ncl (the University’s network for LGBT+ staff and PGRs and their allies) wants to find out more about research and teaching across the institution that’s relevant to LGBT+ lives and cultures.

They’d like to create opportunities for colleagues and students with related interests to share expertise and ideas, and to use their social media presence to increase the visibility of the richly various work underway across the university.

You are therefore invited to share information about any LGBT+ related content in UG and PG modules you teach or projects that you offer to/carry out with students; and in your research, whether for a post-graduate degree or as a member of staff.

Please send any information you would like to share – including links as appropriate – to the Rainbow Network Assistant, Luke Green. Luke will collate it and make it visible via the network’s webpage.

They also plan to organise another showcase event: if you would be interested in taking part – to talk about research and/or teaching – please do let Luke know.

Or, to find out more info about Rainbow@ncl, read all about it from their Chair, Gareth Longstaff, or take a look at their NU Connect page.

Faces of the Faculty





We are pleased to announce that we will be hosting an exhibition to showcase the diversity of successes that make our Faculty of Medical Sciences what it is.

Nominations are now open!

‘Faces of the Faculty’ celebrates and promotes the accomplishments of individuals in the Faculty of Medical Sciences whose stories of success inspire others.

Ideas of ‘success’ can be different for all of us and we want to celebrate the diversity of the individuals at the heart of our faculty and their impressive journeys that have got them to where they are now. By sharing poignant stories and achievements, we aim to inspire the next generation of researchers, technicians, academics, administrators and university support staff.

Who can I nominate?

Everyone is welcome to nominate a member of your School, Team, Institute or Units and tell us why you think they should be one of our ‘Faces of the Faculty’. Whether they are a member of staff or a student, their grade or year of study does not matter.

Nominations must be submitted using this form by 31st May which includes a citation of no more than 200 words, detailing the reasons for the nomination.

What will happen after I nominate someone?

All nominations will be considered by a Panel representative of the faculty and its diversity, after which, those selected will be informed.

Twenty individuals will be selected for our ‘Faces of the Faculty’ exhibition in the Medical School (date TBA) and profiled on the project’s webpage. An exhibition launch and programme of events will be announced closer to the time.

If you have any questions, please get in touch with Elizabeth.Amies@newcastle.ac.uk

We look forward to receiving your nominations. Thank you.

Terms and Conditions:

  1. Nominated individuals must either be a current member of staff (Academic/Technician/Professional Support/Principle Investigator/Post Doc. etc.) or a current student (Undergraduate or Postgraduate) at Newcastle University.
  2. You can nominate yourself or another individual.