Aurora is a women-only leadership development programme created by the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education in the UK. The aim of the programme is to help address the under-representation of women in senior posts in higher education.
The Aurora programme is targeted to all women up to senior lecturer level or professional services equivalent in a university or higher education college. The programme is aimed towards women who are ambitious for a career in the sector and interested in exploring leadership and management as an option for progression. It is designed to introduce fundamental leadership skills in 4 workshops (1 workshop = 1 day) with networking opportunities and guest speakers at each event. Furthermore, on-going support is ensured through action learning (1 day scheduled for this as part of the programme), online resources and institutional level support including mentoring and institutional Aurora Champions.
In 2016-17, the University produced 5 funded places on the Aurora Programme which commenced in London on 8 March 2017, with attendance on 4 further dates: 29 March 2017, 26 April 2017, 24 May 2017 and 28 June 2017.
We were able to catch up with Dr Victoria Nolan on her success in the programme. She has kindly provided us with her experiences with Aurora.
Who are you?
I am the Project Manager for Understanding Society (the UK Household Longitudinal Study), based at the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) at the University of Essex. My role involves project planning, coordinating, tracking and reporting across the eight directorates and a range of other subprojects that make up the Study, and liaising with project stakeholders, funders and data users. I also have line management responsibility for two members of the Understanding Society team.
What’s your view of Aurora?
Aurora is an excellent programme for developing leadership and management skills, and for learning about your personal strengths and weaknesses as a leader and skills that can be developed further. Aurora is helping me to identify ways of improving my workplace behaviour to develop into a better leader, which is helpful both now, and as my role may develop in the future.
Aurora is also helpful for networking and meeting colleagues from around the University, and also from other universities across the country. We are learning a lot from each other and are making connections which will endure after the course itself has finished.
How is Aurora helping you?
The Aurora programme is really helping me to develop leadership skills that I can put into practice in my day-to-day work. I am learning about my identity in the workplace, techniques for “being heard”, different styles of leadership, and developing a presence within the team. We have gone on to learn about managing credibility, profile and influence, and building effective networks. We are developing “Action Learning” techniques to identify and find ways of resolving challenges that we face at work.
What does Aurora bring to the table? Why should people do it?
Aurora is useful as it is provided externally to the University hence, enables networking with a broader range of people, but is bounded by being focussed on higher education professionals, so all the delegates share fairly common experiences. The training days are well-structured with a combination of presentations from successful female role models within the industry, and group discussions where delegates can share their experiences and discuss challenges and possible solutions.
I would recommend that people apply for the Aurora scheme as it is a well-structured, interesting and useful course which covers a broad range of skills, and provides advice and guidance for better understanding your workplace self and gives you the tools to develop your leadership skills further in the future.
What does it mean to be a Successful Aurora Delegate?
I was very pleased to be chosen to take part in the Aurora programme. It is encouraging to be recognised as someone with future potential and I am pleased to be given the opportunity to develop my skills further within the context of this programme. Once the programme is finished I am certain I will have developed personally and been able to take some essential leadership skills back to the workplace.
You can find more information for the Aurora Programme here.