Tag Archives: The Aurora Programme

Why might the Aurora Programme be for you?

Over the last few years, our Faculty has supported over 20 staff to attend the Aurora Programme, a flagship women-only leadership programme run by AdvanceHE to develop higher education leaders of the future. As we open up our application process for this year’s programme, we hear from Louise Reynard, one of our Aurora alumni, about what she got out of the programme, and the positive impact it’s had on some of our staff.

Despite over 4,600 women from over 171 higher education institutes having attended the course since its inception in 2013, I hadn’t heard of Aurora before it was mentioned by my unit head. I attended the course in 2016/2017 in Edinburgh, at the same time that I was transitioning from being a research fellow to being a lecturer with my own group. I found the course incredibly useful, not only because of what I learned about management and leadership, but because of the people I met, both attendees and speakers.

My favourite part of the course was the Action Learning Set; this involved 8 of us in a small room (with lots of cake!) taking turns to discuss our work related challenges and helping us identify our own solutions and future steps. My action learning group included a librarian, an HR manager, a law lecturer and a humanities professor, amongst others. Despite all being from different universities and having completely different jobs, it was amazing how many challenges were shared. The other people in my action learning group were really supportive and it was relief knowing that I was not unique, and that there were other people having the same leadership challenges as me. My action learning group have kept in touch, emailing regularly and meeting up once a year, usually over cake! Every current and previous attendee that I have spoken to has enjoyed and gained a lot from attending the course, as have other attendees from Newcastle:

‘Without this training I was at a point where I was considering giving up my Leadership role, instead I have identified solutions to reduce my workload and to focus on development of my leadership skills. I have a framework for doing that now.’

‘[I am] More confident in my role and more assertive in what I think can be/should be achieved. I’ve also applied and been successful for a promotion recently which I may not have done otherwise. I certainly wouldn’t have felt able to negotiate my salary before Aurora.’

‘I feel more empowered and I am able to recognise my skills and achievements and sell myself better’.

‘I have a better understanding of my own emotions around leadership and that my insecurities are natural, I am better at recognising and acknowledging my achievements and skill set.’

‘My confidence has also increased in that I am more comfortable in my role even when I don’t have the answers.’

‘I joined the first cohort in 2012 and have stayed active within the programme ever since. It has had a huge impact on my thinking, my networks and my personal development and I would encourage you to apply.’

If you are interested in applying, or even just want to find out a little bit more about the scheme and whether its right for you,  come along to the Aurora afternoon tea, where you can chat to alumni of the programme and get help with applying. The afternoon tea will be 2-4pm on 9th July in G.21/22, Devonshire Building – please email your OD rep to let them know you’ll be attending.

I hope to see you there!

‘Northern Lights’: Developing a new Aurora alumni network

Jane Richards kicking off the meeting about the new network

This month, we brought together women from across the University who have attended the Aurora programme, a leadership programme to help address the issue of women being less represented in senior roles. There are more than 40 Aurora alumni at Newcastle University, with over half of those coming from our Faculty. Here, Jane Richards, our Deputy Director of Faculty Operations, tells us more about what she got out of Aurora, and why she is taking the lead in setting up a new group at the university for participants and alumni from the programme.

I attended the programme when it was still at the pilot stage in 2013/14. I was asked to participate by our Registrar to help test the water, along with an academic colleague. I presume that I was chosen because I had been identified as having leadership potential, and so was both flattered and enthusiastic about participating.

That pilot year was an interesting one. A particular highlight of the programme was the ‘Learning Set’, which involved a group of us meeting to help each other approach particular problems we had back at work. I was struck by how similar our issues were, in that regardless of our background, discipline or planned career path, we all felt hampered by our environment in achieving what we wanted. And we didn’t all want to be Professors, PVCs or Registrars. Some of us wanted to be the best we could be in a small pond, and it was important to recognise that that’s alright too. Good leaders are essential at all levels in the University.

I remember my action from the Learning Set was to knock on doors and ask for a pay rise… I won’t tell you the result! But my colleagues pointed out that my male colleagues wouldn’t think twice about doing it. “What’s the worst thing that can happen?”, my Learning Set asked me, and it has been my mantra ever since.

I was inspired to get this group together for a number of reasons:

  • To give something back to the University for investing in me
  • To identify a powerful voice for women in leadership at the University
  • To create a community of alumni and potential entrants to Aurora (some of us are from the same Schools and didn’t even know each other, even when we’d been in same Aurora cohort!)
  • To support other women into leadership
  • To celebrate the impact of the Aurora programme

I have been thinking about organising the group for a long time, as I have been a role model and mentor for a few years without sharing my experience with other role models and mentors. We can learn from each other and make a difference if we pool our knowledge: we can be better at what we do.

Our first meeting set the principles and purpose of the group, and I was encouraged that I had done the right thing by getting this group together. As I suffer like many others with “imposter syndrome”, I had worried that others would not share my vision. We all recognised the need to support each other and new participants and applicants. We all also wanted to be part of the community.

We have decided to meet more regularly, to welcome new participants, to encourage alumni to become mentors, to look for funding for our events, to be ambassadors for women into leadership and to make the selection process for applicants more transparent. The University has invested time and money into our development and we feel strongly that re can provide returns on that investment.

Wish us luck!