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Advancing leadership skills within RGU

Aurora cohort 2019
Dr Pauline Bremner, lecturer and head of year four of the BA (Hons) Fashion Management course at the School of Creative and Cultural Business, and Laura Ginsberg, Academic Quality Officer, write about advancing their leadership skills through a recent collaboration project.

Sometimes within a large organisation it might seem difficult for individuals to make a real difference, to create something new. Living RGU’s values of ambition and collaboration, Pauline and Laura joined forces in a recent project which led to the university becoming the first in Scotland to achieve SISA self-accreditation status from SIE.

Pauline and Laura first met after successfully applying to join the Aurora Advance HE women’s leadership programme in the October 2018 cohort. The Scotland-wide programme explored four key areas associated with leadership success; Identity, Impact and Voice, Power and Politics, Core Leadership Skills and Adaptive Leadership Skills. The Aurora away days involved valuable development workshops (interactivity, small group work, individual reflection, sharing of experiences and learning from role models).

Around the same time an opportunity arose for RGU to pilot SISA across the university, which Pauline successfully led within her School. Fast forward to 2019-20 and SISA has expanded considerably with over 500 RGU students going through Level 1, 2 and 3 of the scheme, made possible by the collaborative efforts of Pauline, the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group (EIG) and others to grow the initiative institutionally.

RGU’s strong working relationship with the SIE provided an opportunity to develop an autonomous in-house Level 1 accreditation process. The project brought Laura on board on behalf of the Department for Governance and Academic Quality (GAQ) to lead on developing a new accreditation process, quality assurance processes and documentation. Through knowledge sharing sessions, publication of guidance, training sessions and regular communications, Laura and Pauline, assisted by the SISA Steering Group, led RGU to be the first university to be a SISA Level 1 accrediting body.

Pauline said: “Being a lecturer with RGU for 24 years, I found the Aurora programme very useful as it gave me insights into leadership styles, zones of influence and how to make women’s voices heard. Apparently in meetings women are the last to be heard, our voices are too quiet!

“In allowing me to reflect on my role in this way it gave me clarity on taking the SISA scheme and developing it from my School across the university. Aurora had given me the opportunity to expand my network both within and outside the university, and having Laura, a fellow Auroran, aided in this collaboration, as she has led on various aspects of the project now as I hand over to EIG.”

Laura added: “Working on the SISA scheme project enabled me to implement the leadership skills learnt on the Aurora programme and to develop my confidence in cross-departmental activities. Jointly leading on the in-house accreditation alongside a fellow Auroran has been an added bonus as Pauline and I are both able to reflect not only on the end goal successes, but the journey we have taken together to get to this point. Support from the department and line management has also been important for me as I was invited to take part in this staff development opportunity and have been encouraged to continue to do so. I look forward to continuing SISA within the university with Pauline and the EIG as we implement the in-house accreditation process for 2020-21 this month.

“We hope to see many staff taking up the opportunity of gaining a SISA Level 1 accredited module to enhance the student experience.”

Pauline and Laura said they are incredibly proud of the achievements of RGU students in the SISA scheme and hope their story will encourage others to be ambitious, engage with offers of leadership staff development and most of all to be confident to collaborate across schools and departments. Together we can make a real difference.

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