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Open Call for Applications to the Aurora Leadership Development Programme for Women

Deadline for Applications: 17 December 2021


We are again looking for nominations for the national Aurora Leadership Development Programme for staff who identify as women (Advance HE). Since its launch in 2013, we have supported 76 talented women from across the University through the programme.


This year we are inviting applications for our maximum institutional allocation of 15 places. We welcome applications from women from all staff groups (academic and PS) and from all functions and Faculties. The Aurora programme is designed to support women into leadership roles rather than for those who are already in a leadership role. Therefore we welcome applications up to senior lecturer level or professional services equivalent who wish to develop their leadership skills and potential.


Aurora is a key initiative to address the under-representation of women leaders in Higher Education. The Aurora programme aims to enable a wider range of women to think of themselves as future leaders, providing a positive experience of leadership and encouraging participants to recognise their talent and capabilities, develop the skills they will need and to ‘step-up’ to future leadership posts.


What Aurora Covers

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 will attend 4 development days (at approximately monthly intervals); peer support through action learning sets (ALS’s) organised and delivered locally, and will be paired with a senior Manchester mentor, many of whom are Aurora Alumni themselves.


University of Manchester Aurora Champion and Aurora Alumna, Dr Rachel Cowen (University Lead for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion), will support the application process by fielding expressions of interest. Rachel says: "Aurora was a powerful and career enhancing experience for me affirming by beliefs in my leadership potential and giving me the confidence as a part time academic to apply for a senior leadership role. It’s a privilege to champion the programme so that it can enable a diverse range of women to step up to leadership"


Feedback from our past Aurora Alumni also endorses the quality of the programme and its impact on participants:


“It was amazingly helpful that it takes a gendered approach to leadership. In this respect it attuned me to a good understanding of how I can get my voice heard effectively.  I loved the fact that I was part of a huge cohort of women working on the same programme and that together we are changing leadership in HE to be inclusive of women”

“Thank you for the support of the Uni of Manchester to attend Aurora – it was life changing”

“It was extremely helpful in articulating issues of power and leadership within a HE context. I really feel that it gave me a tool kit to support me in any of the areas of managing and leading that I’m likely to encounter and I use my toolkit regularly already”

Selection criteria and application process

Faculty and central funding has been secured for all 15 aurora places (NB all the sessions are offered online. If face-to-face networking is undertaken, travel will be arranged by participants and costs will have to be met by their School or Department). A panel will be convened to review applications comprising of academic and Professional Services Equality, Diversity and Inclusion leads.


The successful applicants will need to demonstrate the following:

  • Be committed to developing and enhancing their careers. They should be ambitious for a career in Higher Education and interested in exploring leadership development as one option for progression
  • Have endorsement from their Line Manager and Head of School or Department to participate in the programme, including attendance at all four workshops, ALS day, and to working formally with their Aurora mentor (mentor/mentee pairings will be arranged immediately following participant selection)
  • Readiness to embrace the mentoring relationship and actively work with their mentors to address their personal development needs
  • An explanation of why this is a good time for them to participate in the Aurora programme;
  • An interest in issues facing leaders in Higher Education and at Manchester, and a willingness to work to remove barriers to career progression for women and other under-represented groups


In addition to the points above, the panel will be looking to diversify the 2021/22 Aurora cohort ensuring participants are drawn from diverse backgrounds and roles and particularly encourage applicants from areas where women are currently under represented. The range of previous leadership and management development and experience that applicants have had will also be considered.

When is a person not right for Aurora?

A person has developed beyond the content of the Aurora programme if they can already confidently use their influence to motivate others to deliver on University goals and targets.

These individuals may be better to suited to our other leadership and management programmes, details available through Staff Learning and Development.

How to Apply

If you would like to apply for Aurora please read the information to check your eligibility and complete the application form Aurora Application Form 2021.

This should be sent by email to by the closing date of 17 December 2021.


Informal expressions of interest can also be made to, (Rachel Cowen, Aurora Champion). Further information about the programme is available through the Advance HE website.

Aurora Programme 2021/22 Timetable and Dates


We have provisionally booked 15 places on the 'North of England' cohort which launches on 3rd February 2021. If absolutely required, participants can potentially select from alternative locations across the UK and Ireland, subject to availability.


Timetable of face-to-face sessions