3.2 Supporting the competence development and well-being of the staff

Assessment of the audit team

The UL needs a more strategic approach to competence development

One of the support areas of the UL strategy is to support staff development. The UL has conducted several initiatives during the previous strategy period and from there on lately the Digital University and ULTRA (a project from the Recovery and Resilience Plan 2022–2025) to enhance support for staff development. In addition, international mobility is encouraged.

Based on the audit visit, faculties and academies have introduced annual discussions with staff and are conducting surveys to identify development needs. These discussions are considered when planning future training. However, the interviews indicated that the practices vary between faculties and academies, and it was not clear to the audit team if development discussions are carried out systematically and at a sufficient level in all faculties and academies.

Through staff training, the UL has facilitated employee development of specific knowledge and skills necessary to monitor and assure quality, i.e., courses in ICT, digitalisation, and communication. Based on the audit visit, it could be seen that there are a wide range of courses available for academic staff to support their pedagogical skills and other courses for administrative staff to support competences that they need. There are also opportunities for administrative staff to take part in Erasmus exchange programmes. However, attending courses is optional in most of the faculties, and there appears not to be a systematic follow up on participation and impact of the training. Based on the audit interviews, lack of time and incentives affect participation, and practices appear to vary a lot between faculties and academies.

The UL has recognised the need for a competence model for its staff. The audit team stresses the need for an institutional approach to competence development. In addition, the staff should systematically have time and opportunities to attend some staff development and training. Audit team recommends making staff development and training compulsory for teaching staff including full professors. The audit team encourages the university to use the recently introduced SAP for monitoring staff participation in competence development training and ensuring that the training is set at a sufficient level. In addition to pedagogical skills, the training could more address future skills, such as teaching entrepreneurial skills to students. The training could also be further aligned with the strategic goals of the university.

A systematic approach to measuring and developing staff wellbeing is needed

One of the strategic development areas of the UL strategy is to promote an accessible, inclusive, and equal academic environment. The UL’s strategic goal is to become an academic institution that serves as a role model in respecting diversity. In addition to national laws and EU regulation, the UL has its own regulations for the recruitment of researchers and professors. HR rules for recruitment are at the university level, and there are committees concerning hiring processes with external members to ensure fair treatment of all applicants. The habilitation process is transparent and open, and it applies across the university. According to the audit visit, some faculties have challenges to attract enough qualified staff to work at the university and in teaching positions.

The university has an equality plan for the strategy period 2022-2023 that addresses gender equality. Based on the audit visit, it could be clearly seen that the UL actively promotes gender equality through the participation of its members in research. However, based on the university’s self-assessment and audit visit, diversity, equality, and inclusivity could be better integrated in managing and developing the activities of the UL and its faculties. This is necessary for the UL to become a truly global player, promoting SDGs and helping society to transform itself into a society of the future. For example, it is unclear how the strategic activity of adopting a public commitment from the staff and students to proactive and consistent conduct in embracing diversity takes place.

According to the audit visit, staff wellbeing is maintained through good working conditions and working tools, different discussion sessions, meetings, lectures, information sessions and workshops, renewed teaching methods, various informal meetings, and events, such as celebrations and sport activities. As mentioned, all faculties conduct staff surveys annually and the results of the surveys are used to improve the wellbeing of the staff. On the other hand, based on self-assessment report and audit visit, it was not clear who is responsible for staff wellbeing at the university level. Both HR and quality management seem to have some responsibility, but the audit team found no evidence that the roles are adequately determined and get the attention they deserve.

Collecting and using data at the university level could be further improved. There is lack of data about psychosocial stress at university, which makes it difficult to take necessary measures or ensure staff access to the right activities. In the fierce competition for talent, and to make academic careers more attractive, the audit team recommends that human resources including staff wellbeing remain high on the management’s agenda.