Thanks, farewell and best wishes from Dr Bob Gilworth, AGCAS President

06 July 2020

It has been a privilege to be AGCAS President for the last two years. That time has flown by. I think it would be safe to say that I am the first AGCAS President to come to the end of his term of office in the midst of a global pandemic and that Marc Lintern will be the first to begin his term in these unprecedented circumstances.

From an AGCAS perspective, there have been real positives in these challenging times. The resilience and creativity of member services and the AGCAS office team have been something to behold. The speed and effectiveness of HE careers services moving online has been a national HE sector success story, when good news is in short supply. I am pleased to be able to use this message to celebrate the dedication of member services to their students, graduates, institutions and partners, and of AGCAS to supporting its members. I have always been very proud to be part of our profession and never more so than now.

I would like to reflect on some things which have happened during my term of office. These are things for which I can claim little personal credit but for which I am hugely grateful to the Board members, staff and volunteers who have made them happen.

During my term of office, AGCAS has moved forward on many fronts. The student experience and graduate outcomes have become so visibly central to the purpose of higher education. In this environment, the work of HE careers services is crucial. Our members are not only concerned with student experience and outcomes per se, but also with addressing inequalities in both. AGCAS champions the work that our members do in equality, diversity and inclusion, not only with students but also with employer partners. It was good to see that the work of the Disability Task Group featured in our first public policy event, with numerous valuable connections flowing from it.

In many of the practical initiatives that they pursue, AGCAS member services can be seen as positive forces for social mobility. This has been another prominent representation and policy area for our association. The same is true of the growing recognition of the importance of place and regional labour markets in career decision making and graduate outcomes.

We have said farewell to DLHE and a cautious hello to the Graduate Outcomes survey. I don’t think it would be outrageous to suggest that the path of the latter has not been smooth. However, I can say that AGCAS colleagues have worked tirelessly to get our voice heard and to exert a positive influence in this crucial area. I know that members appreciate this effort.

AGCAS took a major step forward in introducing our own Membership Quality Standard. This has been a great success. From my day job, I know that the services in my group which have already gone through the process have found it hugely valuable. Recognising and projecting our professionalism is vital to promoting the cause of AGCAS and its members.

Countering inaccurate and outdated views of our member services has been a central theme of the Presidency for me. Academic alignment, social mobility and widening participation, and regionalisation have all become strategic themes with their own Board Directors. These are visible indicators of key agendas for modern HE careers services. The publication of ‘Getting On’ in the Hepi blue book series was a milestone in this regard. I was delighted that we were able to launch it at Heads of Service conference before lockdown – all the more so as it was in my old stomping ground of Leeds.

AGCAS has a seat at the policy table more and more often. We are ‘bypassed’ less and less. We are the ‘go to’ place for comment and contribution for many key organisations and agencies. As I write this, the UUK report on ‘Supporting Graduates in a Covid-19 Economy’ has just been released, with much AGCAS influence and input. Our work is increasingly evidence-based and our voice is backed up by continuing development in Research and Knowledge and Data Insights.

In addition to the developments that I have mentioned above, I think it is very important to acknowledge the sterling work of the Board members, staff and volunteers whose work ensures that AGCAS is a sound organisation, managing communications, content, finance, governance and risk and ensuring that AGCAS is a thriving community and engaging membership organisation. Amongst professional associations, the level of member engagement and activity in AGCAS is second to none and the envy of many.

I had hoped that the move of the AGCAS Annual Conference to June would provide a natural rite of passage for a retiring AGCAS President, with the opportunity to say farewells and hand over to my esteemed successor in person. Sadly that was not to be. However, the ‘Alternative Conference’ has been one of so many examples of the AGCAS Learning and Events offer moving effectively online to serve the needs of our members.

This message then, is my best opportunity to offer huge thanks to the fantastic AGCAS Board, the excellent AGCAS staff team and the many wonderful volunteers who make AGCAS what it is.

Thanks for having me as your President.

All the best for continuing success.