The HEA Executive Development Programme: What a difference it can make, by Professor Blair Grubb

“In terms of a development experience the Executive Development Programme is the best I’ve ever been on, by a country mile. It has a freshness, integrity and credibility that is just unrivalled.” – Professor Blair Grubb, Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education), Faculty of Health & Life Sciences, University of Liverpool.

Professor Blair Grubb, Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education) at the Faculty of Health & Life Sciences, University of Liverpool, was one of those who took part in the Higher Education Academy’s second Executive Development Programme, EDP 2, which ran from April 2016 until February 2017. Here he talks about the positive effect that the Programme has had on his own professional development.

There were two reasons why I was so keen to take part in the HEA’s Executive Development Programme. Firstly, I had only just moved to the University of Liverpool when I initially found out about the Programme. I’d previously been Head of Department at another university in the Midlands, then I moved to Liverpool two years ago as Head of School. At that time I wanted to do some leadership training and two members of staff at the university had taken part in EDP 1 and thoroughly recommended it. Secondly, I was promoted very quickly after I came here, moving from Head of School to Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor within about nine months. That’s when I thought ‘I really must do this leadership training’ because I was, in effect, making two jumps within a short period of time. That made me contact Caroline Ackroyd at the HEA and I managed to secure the last place on EDP 2.

I’d done plenty of in-house training over many years at universities, and to be honest the quality of that in-house training was sometimes disappointing. It can be limited in scope and the individuals delivering it are sometimes lacking in relevant experience. The difference with the Executive Development Programme is the leadership. Philip Martin, who designed it, has an excellent network and the high quality of the individuals which he brings into the Programme to speak to the people undergoing the training was something I hadn’t previously experienced. The scenarios and workshops were all very real, recreating the same kind of situations that I was starting to encounter at work or I’m likely to encounter in the future. To sit down with a group of like-minded individuals and have that time and space away from a working environment to go through some of these issues was so valuable. The problem-solving skills that I needed to develop have indeed developed, and I’ve been able to apply them here in my work.

In terms of a development experience the Executive Development Programme is the best I’ve ever been on, by a country mile. It has a freshness, integrity and credibility that is just unrivalled. I’m glad to have been a part of it and shared those experiences with other academic leaders from different institutions united by the same day-to-day challenges and scenarios. I think any of the Deans, Associate Pro Vice-Chancellors or equivalent positions who took part in EDP 2 would probably agree with me on that.

The third cohort of EDP will start in June. For more information about the course and what is involved in the programme.

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