These are exciting times for railway research and education. Strong growth world-wide in railway systems, together with development and deployment of new technologies, mean that there is a significant demand for new research & development programmes.
The Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE) is one of the world’s largest rail-focussed academic centre with over 140 academic staff, professional services staff and students. BCRRE is also lead partner in the £92m UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN) and home to one of UKRRIN’s four Centres of Excellence: the Centre of Excellence in Digital Systems.
All this means there is a wide variety of support activity needed, especially for the senior leadership team of academic and professional services staff. This post will provide support in particular to the research-oriented activities of BCRRE and its activities across UKRRIN.
Summary of Role
The focus of this role is to provide high-level administrative support to the Academic Director and other members of the senior leadership team of BCRRE, leading on key activities such as monitoring research proposals, outputs and deadlines across the academics involved in the Centre. Working closely with the BCRRE Centre Administrator, this post is an integral part of delivering research support to the academics and professional services in BCRRE. The post holder may occasionally deputise for the BCRRE Centre Manager and/or Centre Administrator during periods of, e.g. holiday.
The post holder will be responsible for providing key support to the BCRRE Director and will engage proactively with colleagues to deliver excellent customer service to facilitate BCRRE’s research. The post holder will have primary responsibility to maintain accurate records of research activity and associated management of resources and budget accounts.
Main Duties / Responsibilities
The post holder will be/come familiar with the operations and activities carried out in BCRRE, UKRRIN and CEDS and become fully conversant and up-to-date with legislation, regulations and University/School policies relating to these activities. This is a wide and varied role where no two days are likely to be the same.
Typical duties will include:
- Support to the academic director of BCRRE, liaising regularly with the director to identify priorities, including diary and email management.
- Working with the Director of BCRRE to ensure the progression and delivery of administrative procedures and University requirements in relation to research matters. This includes the development and maintenance of appropriate databases and spreadsheets, obtaining and collating information (from internal and external sources), maintaining and establishing effective filing systems and initiating administrative processes as deemed necessary.
- Provide advice and guidance to Principal Investigators, academic staff and related professional services staff, on research-related matters, including information about research projects’ progress, location of template information and signposting towards the appropriate support service from the university (e.g. to the appropriate costing process).
- Developing and maintaining accurate records of staff, PhD students and BCRRE activity. Responsibility for ongoing HR-related activities in BCRRE, including arranging PDRs and dealing with fixed term contract paperwork. Dealing with all aspects of Research staff and PhD student applications and new starters, including induction.
- Developing and maintaining a database of contacts and relationship management system for industrial contacts/collaborators
- Develop and/or apply expertise in monitoring and reporting research activity, including using PURE; provide advice and reports accordingly. Manage a data base of academic research interests and update accordingly.
- Supporting recruitment activities for research staff, including liaising with HR Services and Recruitment Services to confirm job descriptions, project funding and appointment durations.
- Developing and maintaining research proposal boiler plate information. Compile and complete parts of the application/pre-tendering/tender/reporting documentation for funding proposals/projects. Including drafting and editing text, as appropriate to the document.
- Developing and maintaining file management for BCRRE research activities; including an electronic research journal library pertinent to BCRRE activities.
- In conjunction with the Project Officer, maintaining budgetary control of research grants, tracking expenditure, following up contract requests, providing advice on project accounts.
- Support preparation of research applications, tenders and bids, including liaison with Research Finance, HR, Contracts, Business Engagement and other relevant academic/PS staff from across the College/university.
- Work closely with colleagues in Research Finance, HR, Contracts, etc to speed up the commencement of research projects. Including monitoring and supporting the process of contract and sub-contract negotiation and financial approval.
- Proof-read and ensure appropriate and high-impact formatting of final application/tender documentation in line with University branding guidelines and funder requirements.
- Organise meetings, workshops and training events for BCRRE
- Maintain databases and filing systems for areas of designated responsibility, ensuring a complete, navigable and accessible record of all activity relating to applications/tenders, active projects, PhD student applications and progress and staffing. Interrogate these databases, create and generate reports pertinent to research and knowledge transfer activity.
- Take and disseminate high-quality minutes at key meetings, sometimes external to Birmingham.
- Contribute to the continued development and improvement of BCRRE’s systems
- Provide support, if required, to other BCRRE administrative activities, e.g. education administration at busy times.
- From time to time projects and key activities may be allocated by either BCRRE senior staff or from the School of Engineering.
- Previous experience in University administration, including good literacy and numeracy as evidenced by appropriate qualifications.
- Knowledge of areas of designated responsibility and their associated organisations structures, processes, external context and norms of operations
- An interest in the disciplinary areas of BCRRE and an ability to gain an appropriate level of understanding in these areas over time
- Excellent communication skills, including an ability to write and speak clearly, concisely and tactfully, and in a grammatically-correct manner
- Good team working and relationship-building skills across a diverse population of administrative, managerial and academic colleagues
- Strong IT skills across all core Microsoft Office products.
- Experience in University of Birmingham processes and applications, including BIRMS, BOXI and teaching-related systems such as Canvas.
- Able to make sense of and re-present numerical and statistical data with confidence, clarity and accuracy. Experience of budget management and interpreting financial reports.
- Able to understand a problem, think laterally to identify solutions and confidently propose a preferred solution.
- Able to extrapolate and absorb best practice into personal working style and approach.
- Able to use own initiative and to understand when matters should be referred.
- Excellent attention to detail and adherence to deadlines, and an ability to work calmly under pressure
- Ability to negotiate, mediate and deal effectively with sensitive or difficult issues.
- Experience of working collaboratively as part of a wider team to deliver operational or strategic goals.
- Ability to manage a broad ranging workload with challenging and competing deadlines and to deliver to agreed timescales.
- Strong customer service skills and ethos.
- Commitment to own continuous personal development and training.
- Ability to work flexibly and adapt approach for different environments.
Informal enquiries to Jenny IllingsworthJ.S.Illingsworth@bham.ac.uk
Valuing excellence, sustaining investment
We value diversity and inclusion at the University of Birmingham and welcome applications from all sections of the community and are open to discussions around all forms of flexible working.