Developing future leaders for higher education


The University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) is celebrating International Women’s Day 2021 (IWD) by sharing the experiences of women taking part in Aurora, a unique leadership development programme.

The University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) is celebrating International Women’s Day 2021 (IWD) by sharing the experiences of women taking part in Aurora, a unique leadership development programme.

International Women's Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The campaign theme for International Women's Day 2021 is 'Choose To Challenge'. A challenged world is an alert world. And from challenge comes change.

Aurora is an Advance HE programme that seeks to support women and their institutions to fulfil their leadership potential through thought provoking activities, collaborative problem-solving activities and motivating stories supported by inspirational women role models. Participation embeds strong networks of women across the sector to share best practice, insights and experiences. 

Since its launch in 2013 more than 7,000 women from nearly 200 different institutions across the UK and Ireland have participated in Aurora.

UWTSD’s Learning and Development Manager Sara Mills said: “I feel very proud to have been able to champion Aurora for UWTSD over the past 5 years. In this time over 40 staff have engaged with the programme as participants, mentors or role models and it’s exciting to see our internal Aurora network grow! We believe greater diversity can be achieved by taking a collaborative, positive approach to understanding and empowering female leadership and that’s what Aurora is all about.”

UWTSD Women who have participated in the Aurora programme over the past 5 years share their experiences below and explain why it’s such an important programme for the University…

“Having been both a role model and mentor for the Aurora programme over a number of years I have enjoyed hugely the opportunity to work with a range of future female leaders from our sector. It has also meant that I have benefited personally as part of my own leadership journey, and I continue to reflect on conversations and discussions from this programme as part of my own professional development…

The Aurora programme is hugely beneficial for the university…not only does it facilitate long term external networking opportunities for our potential future female leaders, but it also explores in a safe environment the particular challenges faces by women in the HE sectors. Aurora champions inclusion within our community and fosters a culture that empowers diversity at the very highest level of our universities.” Alison Harding (Executive Head of Libraries and Learning Resources)

I had the privilege of participating in the Aurora programme as a role model.  It has provided me with the opportunity to actively network and is an effective forum and ‘safe space’ for sharing best practice, bringing fresh perspectives and new ways of working to your own practice…

It is important to have the Aurora programme at UWTSD as it can be the catalyst for helping both academics and professional staff, regardless of what stage they are in their career, with the confidence to progress and advance in their careers…to help realise their ambitions and to help many address the ‘imposter syndrome’ that so many women feel. It is also a way of validating your existing knowledge, skills and competencies which can only serve to improve your overall performance for the benefit of not only yourself but of the Institution as well.” Claire Blanchard (Partnership Team Leader, Institute of Management and Health)

“If you have the opportunity to take part in Aurora, it’s certainly one you should take. Whether a participant, role model or mentor, the programme is excellent. It builds confidence, resilience and is an amazing opportunity to learn from so many talented professionals from all areas within HE. It provided a space to reflect on myself, my practice and develop strengths. I now belong to another strong community of women that had a chance to learn and grow from each other’s experiences.

It’s so important for UWTSD to continue to empower staff through programmes like Aurora, in benefits the person as well as the business. Finally, Aurora doesn’t stop on the last day, it continues to be a network of support, information and other opportunities. Should any member of the team wish to talk to me about my experience as a participant, role model or mentor, please do get in touch.” Kelly Williams (Executive Head of Operational Estates and Facilities)

“In these incredible busy times, having time to reflect on ourselves is a luxury many of us can ill afford, as we balance work, life and family commitments.  Being on the Aurora Programme gives us time to self-reflect, identify personal strengths and challenges and provides opportunities to discuss these with other like-minded programme attendees.  The programme is made up of a number of learning days and self-development days.  You will also have an institutional mentor who can help support your professional development.  Attendance on this programme helps to identify your own voice and give you confidence to influence change.  It’s a win, win outcome for both individuals and the institution.  In supporting this programme, the University demonstrates its commitment to developing leaders and promoting gender equality in higher education.  It provides opportunities for employees to shape the culture and working practices of the institution.” Claire Godden, Executive Policy and Planning Officer, Corporate Data.    

“Participating in the Aurora programmes gives women a critical insight into leadership and encourages women to advance their careers.  It is always a privilege to be a mentor for aspiring female leaders on this programme. The combination helps aspiring women to build their confidence, create important connections and seek out new opportunities which ultimately will mean more women in leadership roles.” Maggie Inman, Assistant Dean, Institute of Management and Health.

“Last year was my first opportunity to support the Aurora programme as a role model…the programme aims to develop and inspire future leaders within Higher Education and the content includes insightful sessions that develop your self-awareness as a leader and also opportunities to learn from other successful leaders from your region. In addition to the excellent content, the programme enables you to network with colleagues from other Higher Education Institutions within your region. At the last session, a group I supported have gone on to develop a ‘what’s app group’ that shares insights, good practice and is very supportive. Having these opportunities to develop skills and also to develop our networks are essential if we aspire to be future leaders.” Sarah Loxdale (Lecturer and Programme Director, Wales Institute of Professional Practice and Applied Research)

“Having the opportunity to join the Aurora Programme highlights UWTSD’s commitment to gender equality and ensuring women have the opportunity to stay, grow and develop within this institution. The networks that Aurora has created, along with the development days, provides a valuable introduction to leadership and the wider community of women leaders in the sector. Stepping into a virtual room of over 100 women, hearing their stories and backgrounds is encouraging and is helping me to find my voice and I look forward to the sessions yet to come.” Bethan Wyn, Coleg Cymraeg Branch Officer at UWTSD


Note to Editor

The Aurora programme focuses on core areas associated with leadership success: 

Understanding organisations and the sector. 

Developing leadership behaviours, skills and knowledge. 

Identifying and overcoming barriers and obstacles. 

Growing confidence and a leadership identity. 

Building networks, coalitions and support processes. 

Aurora participants attend 4 online development days (at approximately monthly intervals); peer support through action learning sets (ALS), and are paired with a mentor from the University, many of whom are Aurora Alumni themselves.


Further Information

Rebecca Davies

Swyddog Gweithredol Cysylltiadau â’r Wasg a’r Cyfryngau

Executive Press and Media Relations Officer

Cyfathrebu Corfforaethol a Chysylltiadau Cyhoeddus

Corporate Communications and PR

Mobile: 07384 467071