Coventry UniversityProgress, change and explore new ways of working

Progress, change and explore new ways of working

Coventry University

Coventry University’s Faculty of Arts and Humanities is hiring future leaders who will embrace multidisciplinary collaboration and hybrid learning

Coventry University’s response to the coronavirus lockdown was a swift one, quickly shifting all of its teaching, learning and assessment online. The switch has been so successful that it is now planning how it can offer students a rich, hybrid learning experience as lockdown measures are eased. 

“We will never go back to a hard distinction between face-to-face teaching and online. The use of social learning platforms was already part of our approach,” says Shaun Hides, academic dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. “We completed the whole assessment cycle for all students – even in practice-based courses such as fashion and performing arts. We have worked with a partner to develop a platform to put all of our degree shows online and we’re moving fast towards offering hybrid learning throughout our offer from now on.”

The faculty is used to embracing change. In 2015, it grew in size by about a third after the university amalgamated two departments from another faculty under the arts and humanities umbrella. At the time it created several associate head roles in its new schools as secondments, which it is now looking to make permanent. “The appointments have been successful both for the schools and the individuals, who have gone on to take up promotions and new opportunities either internally or externally,” explains Dr Hides. 

There are eight roles in total, comprising of one deputy head of school role and seven associate head of school positions. The deputy head role is key to operational delivery and the ideal candidate will be someone who is used to innovating and who has an eye for detail. The associate heads of schools report directly to head of school and also have reporting line to associate deans, meaning they also work on projects that sit across different university faculties, such as student experience and international engagement. Two of the associate head roles focus on research, and successful candidates will both support early career researchers and ensure that the university’s research centre’s activities are embedded in its teaching and learning. Another associate head will oversee quality and accreditation in the School of Art and Design, with a goal of expanding its portfolio of courses.  

The faculty will hire candidates who are happy to take up the challenge and who are now seeking a leadership role. “Wanting to lead school teams in a portfolio of activity is a key attribute,” adds Dr Hides. “There’s a real sense of mission at Coventry to progress, change and explore new ways of working, and to do so with energy and pace.”

New ideas can be put in motion quickly, whether that’s a new course or different format, so candidates need to be comfortable with working at pace. Coventry’s desire to move quickly was demonstrated in how it reacted to a small percentage drop in overall student satisfaction in the 2019 National Student Survey, falling two places from 13 to 15 in the rankings. A taskforce from across the university, including associate heads of student experience, swiftly intervened and, between August and October, targeted improvements had already been made. 

An exciting prospect for the new deputy and associate heads of schools will be participation in Coventry’s City of Culture year in 2021. Both Coventry and the University of Warwick were principal partners in the bid and are collaborating on related research. There is funding for engagement and research projects on relevant City of Culture topics, and all schools will have a clear brief for how they will be expected to engage through the year. “For all three schools in our faculty it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” says Dr Hides. “It will be a unique City of Culture year because of the coronavirus, with greater emphasis than ever on local engagement and more community-driven initiatives. So it’s a huge opportunity for new colleagues in those schools.” 

Looking further ahead, a £66.5 million redevelopment is in the pipeline for the faculty, creating a new, state-of-the-art facility where students can experience immersive technologies such as augmented and virtual reality. This will bring students and teaching staff together from across both the faculty and the rest of the university. Similarly, its new associate heads of school will be expected to adopt a multidisciplinary mindset. “Coventry has a reputation inside the sector for being a little bit different,” says Dr Hides. “We want people who can successfully manage an area of key activity, but more than that, those who can lead and motivate others.”

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