Raising standards

Professor Susan Price, Vice-Chancellor of Leeds Metropolitan, tells us about the university’s culture of continuous improvement

Leeds Metropolitan has always been strongly committed to providing high-quality service to its students and staff, and in recent years has increasingly focused on links between the two.

The University has become the first in the UK to achieve both the Investors in People (IiP) Gold Award, as well as the Government’s Customer Service Excellence (CSE) Standard.

The Government developed the CSE Standard to offer a practical tool for driving customer-focused change. The Standard assesses those areas that research has indicated are a priority for customers. Leeds Metropolitan became only the second, and largest, HE institution to achieve the Standard in June 2013.

Originally developed by the Government, IiP is a framework for achieving organisational improvement through effective people management. Leeds Metropolitan became one of just 7% of Investors in People nationwide, to gain the Gold standard in November 2013, also achieving the IiP Health and Wellbeing Award for the first time. Notably, these awards have been achieved during a period of change and financial constraint across the higher education sector.

Success has not been reliant on investment of significant new resource and has, instead, focused on regularly reviewing existing practices, identifying and addressing gaps in provision, and ensuring that the key principles of excellent customer service and people management, were embedded throughout the University. 

This included looking in detail at both the student and staff experience in terms of a customer journey and key touch points along the way. It also involved a review of the range of services and opportunities available and ensuring that these are being presented in a holistic and engaging way.

Leadership and management

A common link across the two standards has been the emphasis on strong leadership – in particular the role of senior managers in inspiring staff to actively engage in continuous improvement. Leadership and management development is a key focus for the institution. As an accredited Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) Centre, the University offers in-depth development to different levels of leaders across the institution. There is also an established coaching strategy which has included training a group of internal coaches, and establishing a reciprocal partnership with local authority and health partners in the region.   

A collaborative approach

The focus on collaboration included establishing cross-institutional stakeholder groups to encourage local buy-in and the opportunity to share good practice. Both the CSE and IiP groups were made up of senior staff from each area of the University who were in a position to implement and influence change directly in their faculty or service.

In the case of the Health and Wellbeing Award, the University had also established local Safety Health and Wellbeing Advisory Groups which undertook a self-assessment exercise against the Standard criteria. This was an effective way of identifying areas of strength as well as those which required further development and generating local commitment to taking action.

What next?

We are committed to continuous improvement and have set up a Continuous Improvement Unit and Board to build on the learning from both Standards. These quality frameworks have provided a valuable roadmap in enabling the University to deliver its strategic priorities and will continue to underpin its approach as it moves forwards.

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